“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1: 26-33)
Why was Mary “greatly troubled” by Gabriel’s words?
She would have been familiar with the Old Testament. No one else had been honored by an angel with such an exalted title as “favored one” or “full of grace,” so she wouldn’t have known the expression. The Catholic Church has interpreted this to mean Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary, at the moment of her conception, was preserved by God from original sin. This was so that she would be an unblemished vessel, or “Ark of the Covenant,” in which to conceive and bear Jesus.
“The Lord is with you” (usually said by angels) or “I will be with you” (said by God) was used in the Old Testament before people were given a very important and difficult, if not dangerous, task. This was said to individuals like Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and David when they were commissioned to serve God’s people.
And Mary DID receive a very important task: She would be the mother of Jesus. Although she probably didn’t understand at the time exactly what this would mean, she was given assurance: She had found favor with God, and the Lord was with her. So, Mary was able to say “yes” to her task.
Let us, like Mary, say “yes” to the task God has put before us today!
(paraphrased from Dawn of the Messiah: The Coming of Christ in Scripture, by Edward Sri.)
Reflection by Cathy Sullivan, Applications Coordinator