God’s choice, Mary’s “Yes”
In today’s Gospel we celebrate the extravagant love of God who freely chose Mary to be the mother of his beloved Son. God’s choice of Mary made her “full of grace”. If grace is God’s gift, Mary was full of God’s gifts. There’s no point in asking what Mary did to deserve that: she didn’t do anything to deserve it, because it was sheer gift. Nobody deserves gifts; nobody is entitled to favours. Gifts and favours reflect the generosity of the giver, not the worthiness of the receiver.
The Gospel does not begin with what Mary does; it begins with what God does through Mary. When Mary is chosen to be the mother of God’s Son, God’s choice of her is not a reward for dedicated work or an answer to Mary’s prayer. Rather, God’s choice of Mary is the result of God’s freedom to choose Mary from among all women. When God chooses Mary, his choice makes her worthy, as his love has made her full of grace. This truth is reflected in the Magnificat, when Mary prays,
My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour because He has looked on the lowliness of his handmaid. And from this day forward all generations will call me blessed.
Some people suspect that because Mary was so blessed by God, this makes her no longer really human. Certainly, we recognize that Mary has a unique role to play in history: as the Church teaches, she “occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and closest to us”. (Lumen Gentium, 54) But being chosen by God for such a task does not exclude Mary from the human race; God’s choice of her does not free her from having to make her choice for God. Mary was asked to put her freedom, her whole person at the service of God’s plan.
The point of Mary being used by God in bringing Jesus into the world is not that she was a perfect person beyond reproach. Because if that was the point there is little that she can offer us other then a model of sanctity at which we can only gaze from afar.
The point of God choosing Mary is that God chose a human being to be a participant in his great plan of salvation. That God choose one of us so that God could become one of us. And that Mary had the courage to say yes to God.
The difference between us and Mary is not that Mary was chosen while we are not; rather, it is that she fully responded to be chosen for her role while we often remain hesitant and half-hearted about responding to what God asks of us.
God has chosen all of us. This great truth was expressed by St Paul when he wrote: “God chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence”. (Ephesians 1:3-6)
Like Mary, we face God’s choice of us; like her, we are challenged to say yes. If we could see ourselves as the result of God’s choice rather than as unworthy people, we might be keener to say yes! God has chosen every single person here today to be builders of this great project, this extreme makeover of creation. He has a role for each of us. He waits for our choice that puts our freedom at his service.
God’s word to Mary in today’s Gospel is a word of supreme value: “Rejoice, highly favoured”. Perhaps we don’t really believe that God favours us; maybe we have reached the stage where we don’t think we are worth anything anyway. So today, let that be God’s word to you: “Rejoice, highly favoured, for I have chosen you to be holy and to live in my presence. Yes, you! Rejoice.”
Have you heard the call of God in your life and found it difficult to say “yes”?
Can you honestly say that you feel blessed and favored by God? If not, why?