(4th in a series for National Bible Week. Reflection on Luke 1:26-38)
They knew layoffs were coming, but somehow Jim and Tina didn’t expect it to happen to them. Thirty years of loyal service dismissed in a five-minute meeting! Tina made some money tutoring but she hadn’t taught for years and jobs were scarce. Now to lose Jim’s job, just five years before retiring—he would never find an equal job at his age—what would they do? There was not enough now to live on, let alone keep their kids in college, support their aging parents, and save for their own future.
“God, why?” Jim and Tina fell to their knees. “How can this be?”
Life can completely change with a word, as it did for a young girl in Nazareth two thousand years ago. When Gabriel announced that she would bear a child, Mary must have heard it with as much shock as Jim received his news. “How can this be?” she asked. And even getting the answer, that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and conceive in her, Mary must have wondered, “Now what?” How would her fiance take the news? What about the rest of her family, and the village? What would it mean for a peasant girl to raise the future king?
“With God, nothing is impossible,” the angel assured her. Gabriel was speaking of the conception, which although humanly impossible would take place by the power of the Holy Spirit. But his words apply just as well to how God’s plan would work out in Mary’s life.
As human beings, we face many things that are impossible. Like Mary, and like Jim and Tina, we find our resources aren’t enough. We’re too young or too old, we’re not strong enough, there are no opportunities out there. For many reasons, it seems that we can’t face the things that lie ahead.
But God gives grace to those who offer him their lives. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” Mary said. As a handmaid or servant, she makes herself completely open and receptive to God’s will, whatever it might mean.
Fiat. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary must have had a will of her own, but here she accepts the impossible by offering herself to God and making herself available to work his will in her. She doesn’t fully understand the announcement or know what the future holds, but she trusts God enough to say “yes.”
Life is about to change for Jim and Tina, and they have a choice. They can wallow in self-pity and doubt. They can blame God for the change in their fortunes. They can doubt God’s work in their lives, as Zechariah did when the same angel announced the coming birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:15-25). Or they can ask God, “What now?” and allow him to create something new in their lives.
Find your story in God’s story. Read the Gospel account of the Annunciation, hearing it as God’s word spoken to you. Ponder what he says; reflect on how it speaks to your life; respond in prayer; rest in his love.
© 2015 Sarah Christmyer. This post was previously published as a reflection on EntertheStoryNow.com under the title, “Has Your Family Asked, Now What?”
Dear Heavenly Father, we are sometimes hit with news that is deeply troubling, news that—even when it is good—makes us rethink our lives and abandon our plans. Help us in all such cases to hear with your servant Mary your call to not be afraid. Bear with us as we struggle with the questions that arise. Help us follow her example and give our full assent to your will, trusting in your love and care for us. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
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Look for these daily posts during National Bible Week, November 16-20 (links will be active after they post):
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR THE FAMILY (Series introduction and reflection on Esther)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES caught in a storm (Reflection on Matthew 14:22-23)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who have been delivered – or who need a miracle! (Reflection on Exodus 14:29-30; 15:1-2, 19-21)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who are asking, “Now what?” (Reflection on Luke 1:26-38)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES who pray for the impossible (Reflection on Acts 12:4-19)
- THE BIBLE: A BOOK FOR FAMILIES that are broken (Reflection on Luke 15:11-32)
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Download these resources from the Catholic Ministries of the American Bible Society, prepared for the World Meeting of Families. Discussion Guides relate to the Scripture in this blog post:
- Family Discussion Guide
- Parish Discussion Guide
- Gospel of Luke 22-day “Journey” – Family Lectio Divina