I know the title “Mary of Nazareth” makes sense to all of us because Mary lived in the town of Nazareth with Jesus and Joseph. I also think that we all are familiar with the story of Mary at the time of the Annunciation when she was called by the angel to be the mother of Jesus. But why would I use the term “Annunciation Woman”? Well, I believe that not only was Mary called to be the mother of Jesus after the angel’s announcement, but she was called to bring his presence to our world. I also believe that we – you and I — are being called daily to make God present in our world as well. We are being called to announce God’s good news of salvation and to be God-bearers through our daily lives. It is good for us to reflect on Mary and how she still serves as a strong and realistic model for us. We are called to be Annunciation Women (and men), to announce the good news of God’s salvation for us and others, and to announce God’s presence with us and others.
One of my favorite New Testament stories serves as a prime example of a woman who listens and responds, a woman who is open to newness and change and who grows because of her willingness to say yes. This, of course, is the story of Mary of Nazareth invited by the angel to be the mother of God. When we pray and reflect on all the gospels, we find that Mary’s life was not an easy one. She had no idea at the time of her initial “yes” at the time of the Annunciation what that “yes” would include. There is not a whole lot of information about Mary in the gospels but we know that close to the time of giving birth, Mary had to travel with Joseph to his ancestral home for a census and that they had difficulty finding a place to stay. We know she gave birth in a very minimal structure with only Joseph to assist her. We know that shortly after the birth of Jesus, she, Joseph and the infant had to flee their home and go into exile until the death of Herod took place. We know of her panic when her son disappears for a few days when he is around 12 years old. Later, she sees him as an adult ridiculed by the people of their home town and even by his own relatives. She goes through the pain of her son’s cruel capture, suffering and death. She knows excruciating sorrow as her son’s broken body is placed in her arms and then placed in a tomb. Mary’s “yes” was a committed yes. Her “yes” included pain and suffering. Her “yes” led her to eventually becoming her own son’s disciple, a disciple who was faithful in all things.
We don’t have any written record of what the mature Mary did as she saw her son teaching and healing, with one exception – at the wedding feast of Cana she encourages her son to assist a newly married couple who would face embarrassment if they ran out of wine at their wedding party. Just from this one example, it seems natural and understandable that she would help Jesus whenever possible. We might wonder, did she ever take the needy into her own home? Did she feed folks who were hungry? Did she visit neighbors and relatives who were sick? When I think of Mary, I see her doing these things. I see her as an active disciple of her son.
When we read other parts of the New Testament we see the Reign of God becoming visible through Jesus’ healing actions. He heals people of their illnesses, both physical and spiritual in nature. He was leading them to wholeness, to a sense of new life. His role in the plan of salvation was to redeem and return all creation to the Creator. This process of healing and making all things new is not yet complete. The physical, visible Jesus no longer walks the roads of Palestine or Jerusalem, or touches the lives of the people there. Following his resurrection his mission was placed in the hands of his disciples. That work of Jesus must continue until the time of the Parousia or Second Coming arrives. As baptized Christians, it is now we who have the responsibility to carry on the mission and ministry of Jesus. We have the responsibility to bring ourselves to wholeness, or as I prefer to call it – holiness – and to lead others to wholeness or holiness as well.
Those of us who are aware of our responsibility and know that we are called to be the presence of Jesus in the world can look to Mary, the Annunciation Woman, as our model. Just as she brought the presence of her God to her world, so too, we are to bring the presence of God to our world. We are called to be women (and men) who are active in the movement toward growth, healing and holiness in our own lives and the lives of others in our Church and society. We, too, can be described as Annunciation women (and men) because we are being called to be God-bearers in our world, and to announce God’s presence to others, especially by the way we live our lives. Mary knew that the Spirit of God was present and active in her life. She responded to the Good News of salvation handed on by Jesus. She knew how to respond to need, her own need and that of others. She realized that her life was not complete, that there wasalways room for growth. She was a woman who was open to newness and change because she knew that nothing in life ever remains the same. She knew her responsibilities, was committed to them and lived them out day in and day out as a committed disciple of her son. Can we say the same for our lives?
The Spirit is present within and around you. When have you experienced God’s presence in your life? When and how have you been that presence for others?
In what circumstances do you choose to be active? When have you been passive? How have these times been the appropriate way to act for a committed Christian?