Today we celebrate “The Annunciation of Our Lord,” which is a pretty big deal.  But as I read the blurb in Holy Women, Holy Men (and thought about the name of the feast) I was struck by a feeling that we didn’t get it quite right!  I know.  That’s pretty presumptuous of me.  But let me explain.

“Today’s feast commemorates how God made known to a young Jewish woman that she was to be the mother of his Son …”  That’s how the blurb in Holy Women, Holy Men begins.  And I looked up the word “annunciation.”  It’s either an archaic term for a formal announcement of something or it’s specifically the announcement of the incarnation (Jesus becoming human in Mary’s womb) to Mary by the angel Gabriel (or the name of this feast day today, when we celebrate that “announcement”).

And what bugs me is the sense that Mary is being told what is going to happen.  I really think it’s about Mary being asked if she is willing to let this happen.  I’ve heard stories suggesting that Abraham (or, as he was then, Abram) was not the first person God asked to leave his homeland and become the father of God’s people — simply the first person who accepted God’s request!  And I’ve heard similar stories suggesting that Mary was not the first person who was asked to bear God’s son — simply the first person who accepted God’s request.  Whether either of these stories is how it actually happened or not seems irrelevant to me.  Because they seem to capture what feels, to me, like the true dynamic of the situations.  God is asking.  But God can only act if we accept.  We have to be willing to cooperate if God is going to work through us.

Holy Women, Holy Men does admit that “God made us without us, and redeemed us without us, but cannot save us without us.”  I’d probably hold out for redeemed being a synonym for saved — and the idea that we cannot be redeemed or saved without our consent, even if we were made without our consent.  The way we receive this festival feels like the festival of Mary Was Told What Was Going to be Done to Her.  And I really think we need to be celebrating the festival of Mary Said Yes.  Because God doesn’t force us.  God lives in us when we say yes.

And maybe that’s the real point.  God lived in Mary in a unique way.  She carried him in her womb and gave birth to him.  But God asks all of us to let God live in and through us.  And the real question is if we are going to say yes.

Because if we don’t say yes, it doesn’t matter what God wants for us.  It’s not going to happen.  But when we do say yes, we cannot even begin to imagine what God can do.

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