Reflection – Feast of the Annunciation
March 25, 2021
Sister Nicole Kunze, Prioress
Unexpected encounters happen to us pretty much every day. I’ve come to believe that unexpected, unscheduled encounters or meetings are the main work of my day as prioress. In the Gospel story of the Annunciation, we are bystanders to one of the greatest ‘unexpected encounters’ of all time. The angel appeared to Mary and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Mary was ‘greatly troubled’ by the message and pondered what sort of greeting it might be. Mary’s response certainly seems reasonable to me. Her facial expression must have shown some fear since the angel replied, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” Easy for the angel to say, right? What would have been going through Mary’s mind at the time?
What will Joseph think? Is this for real?
What will my family say? What is being asked of me?
We can be fearful of many things. I have a fear of heights. Don’t ask me to ride on a ferris wheel. Some people have a fear of snakes or deep water. This wasn’t the kind of fear Mary was feeling at that moment. Mary’s fear had to do with the future and all the changes that were to come about from this announcement from the angel.
What fears are you facing right now? What fears are we facing right now? Based on conversations I’ve had with some of you and my observations, there are a variety of fears coming up from within us:
A fear of declining health and illness, a fear of ministry change, a fear of family changes, a fear of losing control in various aspects of life, a fear of change, a fear of not changing, a fear of dying, a fear of the future. Fear can be real, it is real. Some fears can be reduced or eliminated while others cannot. Other fears can be a creation of our minds with little grounding in what’s really happening. I think this type of fear can be the most troublesome because it can be the most difficult type of fear to bring down to a manageable size. Fear can paralyze us or it can motivate us.
I believe Mary offers us an example of how to face our fears. Mary listened to the angel’s explanation of what was to happen. It doesn’t seem like she gave an immediate response, though her facial expression may have given her inner thoughts away. Did she sit back and think about it, pray about it? We don’t know, there isn’t a time stamp on Luke’s writings telling us whether this story was all from one encounter between them or from a collection of several meetings. But given what we have come to know about Mary from other stories in the Gospels, I tend to believe Mary was a deep thinker, letting the situation or the conversation sit within her as she discerned what to do.
Mary wasn’t afraid to ask the angel a question – “How can this be…?” In the face of fear, we need to ask questions, seeking clarification or understanding. Do I know everything about the situation or am I making assumptions? We need to seek help and advice from others. Mary eventually went to spend time with Elizabeth to offer her support and I’m sure she received the same in return. We can’t do it all alone, and I say that as much for myself as I say it for any of you.
Mary’s response in the end tells us what we need to know. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Again, did she respond immediately or did Gabriel give her a few days to think it over? We don’t know. Regardless of when Mary responded, the important note is that she responded affirmatively, letting go of her fear, not letting it dictate what she was going to do or not do. She trusted the Lord and had faith in his plan. May we follow Mary’s example as we face the fears in front of us.