Franciscan Footprints

Annunciation by Sister Mechtildis OSF - circa 1950It seemed only right to start this series with Our Blessed Mother Mary.  She has been given to us as our mother and model. So maybe her vocation story can tell us about how our discernment should go, under ideal circumstances.

What do we really know about her discernment?  There isn’t a whole lot written about it in the bible, but I think there is still much that can be learned from the account.

Let’s take a look at the account of the annunciation, Luke 1:26-38.  It would probably be best if you first read it through once, looking at it from a vocation perspective.

I’ll wait until you’re done. 

Ok, so let’s walk through the account together.

So, God sends an angel - An angel is a heavenly messenger from God.  We may not actually see an angel from heaven. God may send us an earthly messenger, or an angel may work in ways we don’t see. 

To Nazareth in Galilee – Which was really nowhere special.  By earthly standards Mary was not exceptional.  She was a poor girl from ordinary folk.

To a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph – She was not yet finally committed to anyone, but she definitely already had plans for her life.

Hail, highly favored one (or full of grace depending on your translation) – This is an honor.  She has been specially chosen. 

Do not be afraid – Ok, I am going to go out on a limb here, but, I’m going to assume that Gabriel knew what he was talking about.  I’m thinking that he said that because Mary was afraid.  Mary!  So if you are afraid when you first feel God calling you to follow Him a particular way, you’re in good company.  

Behold, you will be mother to the Son of God, the Messiah – I can imaging there was a moment of stunned silence before Mary managed to frame a question.  

How can this be? – She was still a virgin.  There is a tradition in the Church that Mary and Joseph had agreed to live in sexual abstinence even after they were married.  That wasn’t entirely unheard of with the Hebrew people back then.  This makes her question more sensible.  She was a virgin and had intended to remain one.  She may have already made a vow to God.  How was she going to conceive?

I think most of us when we are called realize that we don’t really have all it takes to do what God is asking of us.  We are lacking, unworthy.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you – Gabriel tells her that it is God’s power that will make this possible, not merely her own efforts.

Visitation by Sister Mechtildis OSF -circa 1950Elizabeth has conceived – Gabriel tells Mary the good news about Elizabeth, who was barren but is now expecting.  This illustrates to Mary what God can do, but also gives her someone she’ll be able to relate to.  Someone who will understand what she is going through.  Perhaps someone who can guide her.  We aren't expected to figure this out all on our own either.

May it be done to me according to your word – Mary humbly submits to Gods will.  I imagine she still had many questions and concerns.  Gabriel really didn’t tell her what to expect.  But Mary gave her yes, her act of faith in God.

There are probably many more things that could be gleaned from the account of the Annunciation.  Please feel free to share your observations and thoughts in the comments below.

The Annunciation isn’t the end of the story of course.  Mary’s understanding of her calling grows with what she experiences with her Divine Son, Jesus.  (Like in the presentation in the temple.)  And she will renew her fiat many times.  (As at the Cross.)  

We can expect our vocation to be a journey as well.

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