By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published December 11, 2020
Imagine if the Archangel Gabriel were sent today to deliver a message to a teenage girl. He would appear as a great winged, shining being, but she wouldn’t notice him because she’d be watching the latest stunts on TikTok.
Obviously, Mary wasn’t distracted with social media, but she surely helped her mother with cooking, getting water from the well and gardening. However, when the angel comes to visit, she gives him her full attention.
Mary shows us how precious silence, patience and compassion are in our relationship with God, especially during Advent.
We know Mary wasn’t in a noisy crowd when the angel visited her. We usually picture her in a silent room alone, because solitude is necessary to receive a life-changing message and understand the implications.
Although she says very little in the encounter with Gabriel, she does question him about the practical matter of a virgin bearing a child. After all, even if she was a young girl, she knew the facts of life!
Still, Mary knew from Scripture that the wolf can live with the lamb, the lion will eat straw like the ox–and a little child will lead them. Her leap of faith foreshadows Jesus’ words, “With God all things are possible.”
In our lives, silence can be a jewel that shines in the dark days of Advent. We know God’s voice isn’t heard in thunder or noise, but as a tiny whisper.
One friend with four children gets up before his crew awakens, so he’ll have time for quiet prayer and spiritual reading. Some folks take a long walk and turn this into prayer time.
Mary also beckons us to patience. After all, there is no way to rush a pregnancy, so Mary had to endure the nine months, just like women today. And surely at times she felt she couldn’t wait to meet the baby called “the Son of the most High.”
How impatient we can be! We want to spend a half hour in silent prayer, but after 10 minutes we’re done.
We expect God to deliver immediate directives about his plan for us, as in “It’s time to quit your job” or “Marry Penelope.” Alas, the messages don’t come that obviously or quickly.
Sometimes God may call us to something we don’t think we can do, but through patience and prayer, we discover his grace will sustain us.
Mary was already betrothed to Joseph, and no doubt she anticipated an ordinary life with him—but God called her to a totally different path.
Notice she didn’t tell the angel, “Let me talk with my parents.” Instead, she said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” She was like the disciples who dropped everything when Jesus said, “Come, follow me.”
Because she lived a quiet and patient life, Mary had self-knowledge. On some level, she knew that with God’s grace, she was up for this task. She had heard the prophecies, such as, “A virgin shall conceive and bear a child and name him Emmanuel.”
Finally, following Mother Mary leads us to compassion, especially during Advent. The first thing she does after the angel’s visit is travel to see her cousin, Elizabeth, also pregnant.
And in a moving scene that proclaims how precious life is, Elizabeth’s unborn baby leaps for joy upon encountering the newly conceived baby in Mary’s womb.
As an example of her kind heart, Mary stays with her cousin a few months, so she’ll be there when Elizabeth’s baby is born.
We can imitate Mary’s kindness by supporting Birthright Atlanta, which helps pregnant women and their babies, as shown by the motto “We love them both.”
We might also donate to Angel Tree, a ministry of Prison Fellowship, which provides Christmas presents, plus a personal note from mom or dad, for children whose parents are in prison.
The Blessed Mother was truly filled with grace when she bowed to God’s will. During Advent, let’s pray for the grace to follow her in silence, patience and compassion.
Artwork by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.