Here in the middle of Lent, on March 25, we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation, reading the same story we read at Christmas, the Annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a son who will be the Savior of the world. It seems odd and strange news to Mary but she gets used to the idea and faithfully bears the child through the pregnancy, through the difficult birth, and then accompanies him through his life, even through his death. She says yes to the angel Gabriel but certainly has no full understanding of all that will come about. It will be even harder than she imagines yet the journey will reveal the grace of God to all people and nations.
So, where do you think you’ll be in nine months? What is beginning to be formed in your life today that will be born more fully later on? What new sort of insights might you be considering that will change your life? What are you being asked to bear privately that will come to light in the months to come? Those are harder questions to ask because we really don’t know where we will be nine months from now.
Maybe it is better to ask the questions a different way, without getting caught up in how we think things may turn out later. What is beginning to be formed in your life today? What insights and feelings are you having? What are the difficulties that you bear? What joys are you beginning to feel? What are the pains you are being asked to bear? What sort of voices are you hearing and how are they making you feel?
As we look at the Annunciation we see that Mary asks Gabriel some questions. Basically she asks him how this will all turn out. And he tells her not to worry so much about how it will turn out and encourages her simply to trust God and accept her current situation.
That’s always a good question for us: What is going on in our life that we are struggling to accept? Acceptance may sound pretty simple, and it is, but we have to sort through a lot to get there. Mostly we have to let go of the fear of where all this is going to lead. Sometimes when I read the Annunciation story it sounds like Gabriel is saying: Okay, Mary, this is how it’s going to be. You’re having a baby and that’s that. You can make this easy or you can make it difficult. What’s your decision?
The things that are in our lives are the reality we must accept. Most every day I hear someone say about their particular situation, It is what it is, as they try to come to a place of acceptance. We can’t often change our situations and it’s so easy to get caught up in the fear of how it is all going to turn out.
Knowing the end of the story, we can perhaps more accurately understand what Gabriel means. Okay, Mary, here’s how it’s going to happen. You’ll have a son. It will be hard because you’ll be rejected. But you’ll love that son and have some inkling of wonder and awe. Then you’ll be devastated and the very worst thing you can imagine will happen. You’ll question everything. And then something new and wonderful will be revealed.
We might hear the same voice in our own lives if we are attentive and if we are able to accept our lives as they are given to us today. Something is being born in us. It’s not easy but it will reveal goodness. Most probably we are eventually going to go through the worst possible thing we can imagine. And then we will see the great wisdom of God revealed. God’s plan for us is taking shape.
It’s okay to worry and obsess about what is going on in our life right now. Most of us seem to need to go through some of that in order to realize that we can’t change it and may as well accept it. Acceptance isn’t the absence of struggle. It’s what comes after we have struggled. It’s what comes when we realize we are where we are and we can’t really do anything about it. It’s what comes when we struggle but then quit struggling. There we find a kind of peace.
Your situation today is the beginning of something, something perhaps hard and difficult, but something that will reveal God’s grace for you and for others. Listen to the angels: try not to be so afraid that you miss out on the little joys along the way or miss the guiding voices. The Christian message is that the end is always good, no matter how difficult the journey along the way. With that hope even the hard times in life are part of the good we experience.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.