A Woman Acclaims, “Behold” – Reflection on Luke 1:26-38

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By Sister Mary-Paula C.

This is the fifth blog in our 2014 Advent blog series.

Writing toward the end of the first century Common Era, the author of the third gospel of the Christian Scriptures was a wonderful and powerful storyteller. He likely would have been influenced by both the Hebrew and Greek oral and written storytellers who wove meaning into and out of words. Luke, as he is known to us, understands that in order to capture in words the experience that, by then, followers of Jesus had been passing down for several decades, his “good news” text required a well-crafted beginning, middle, climax, and ending, which, by the way, concludes on a note of “great joy” after Jesus was “taken up to heaven.”

In Chapter One, Luke initiated his account with a colorful story of the memorable angelic messenger, Gabriel, who was sent to a young woman in Nazareth. The messenger told her that she was “favored by God” and that God was “with her” (1:28). According to Luke, it was the content of the greeting that “greatly troubled” Mary and what she further “pondered” (1:29) —a clear indication of a wise woman!

As the story goes, the messenger never really asked the question of whether or not Mary was willing to accept the call, privilege, joy and sorrow of being the Theotokos, “God bearer.” Rather, Luke’s gospel does something rather striking and surprising.

That is, Mary did not simply walk blindly into awesomely deep waters; instead, she asked a pointedly clear, practical, and direct question concerning how all of this would come to be. (Good for Luke for portraying Mary with a curious mind!) The messenger responded by informing her that the Holy Spirit would work as only the Great God Spirit can and, more so, just to appease any residual concern, Mary should investigate what was happening with her older cousin, Elizabeth, in terms of wonder and new life, even when the odds are stacked against wild possibility.

In the Gospel of Luke, Mary’s “Behold…may it be done” (1:38) is grounded in her intimate and humble relationship with her God. In the end, it is in her “Behold” moment wherein she turned and rested her future in Greater Mystery that ultimately carries the day. Luke’s story of Mary includes a woman’s spiritual life of prayer and relationship with the More, her wisdom to discern deep waters, her need for practical encouragements, and her courage to enter into the ways that God might act in her life, maybe wanting more concrete answers, but still willing to risk that the Spirit will lead and not abandon her.

Luke’s story of Mary encourages us to notice and wonder both with our minds and hearts how God is with us, to be curious and to ask pointed questions, even of God’s great messengers.

Luke’s story also calls us to notice and ponder how God is forever stirring up wild possibilities, and how God invites us into the ongoing story of wonder, inclusive of happiness and sorrows, but, according to Luke, into a life where God’s joy ultimately reigns.