Monday, December 12, 2011

Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord

This next Sundays reading is one of the most pivotal of our faith. If it was a reality show, the entire audience would have held their breath waiting for Mary's answer. There would have been a swing of dramatic music, the lights would have swept in and the room would have otherwise darkened.

What will Mary say?

It was from Luke 1:26-38, and the Archangel Gabriel (Gaḇrîʼēl, God is my strength) had been sent from God to this teenage girl, Mary, to deliver a message.

As if an angel was not enough, Gabriel was no normal angel. He was an archangel. Gabriel first appears in the Book of Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel's visions. In the Gospel of Luke, Gabriel foretells both the births of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Christians of the Catholic traditions refer to him as Gabriel the Archangel because he is specially picked by God for these important missions.

In Islam, Gabriel was the medium through God revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad, and that he sent a message to most prophets revealing their obligations. He is called the chief of the four favored angels and the spirit of truth. He is called the created Holy Spirit (Islam) that spoke to Muhammad, which is not to be confused with the Holy Spirit of God in Christianity who is revered as God Himself. Gabriel is also mentioned in Bahá'í Faith texts, specifically in Bahá'u'lláh's mystical work Seven Valleys.

And as impressive as Gabriel was, he was sent to this teenage, peasant girl Mary with a message and an implied question. The message was that God had found favor with her and had chosen her to bear the Son of God. The implied question was - would she do it?

How do we know there was a question? The Gospels don't say anything about a question. But Gabriel didn't leave. Even after he delivered God's message - he waited. Even after he answered Mary's question - he waited.

He waited for Mary's answer.

And all of heaven waited with him. Even though God had specially set Mary aside to prepare her for this divine mission - it was still up to her. Even though Mary was full of grace and the answer was almost a guarantee - it was still up to her.

She could have said no.

And so Archangel Gabriel - waited.

Bring down the music, zoom in the camera, focus on Mary. The audience holds its breath.

Luke 1:38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.

And while it was not written, I am sure that there were cheers and sighs of relief and pleased smiles throughout Heaven.

But for Mary, really there was no applause, no swelling of music or dramatic lights to let her know she made the right decision. The angel just departed from her.

So it is with us.

Every day we are faced with a decision - do we accept and do God's will or something else? We have the gift of free will - what will we choose to do with it?

And we may never know the consequence of our decision. It may seem like a small thing to us but God will take this small decision and magnify it far beyond our ability to foresee. It is all over the Bible and all over history. Seemingly small things by people having far reaching consequences that could not have been predicted.

All God asks is that we trust Him and do His will. Just say, "Yes."

Give it a try - the next time you are faced with a decision, pray on it and don't be afraid.

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

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