Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Luke.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Good News Reflection: he right hand of God
The story of the Annunciation in today’s Gospel reading reaches the high point when Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.” A handmaid is someone whose essential function is to assist. Assist! Not: Take charge of. Not: Become the Savior of. Not: Be such a good priest or lay minister or religious brother/sister that people admire you and give you credit for a job well done.
An assistant is often called the employer’s “right hand” or, more literally, an extension of the employer’s hand. When I’m given an assignment by God, such as “write a book” or “give a retreat” or “add something new to the website”, my first inclination is to kick into high gear with all the skills and enthusiasm that God has given me. Although this seems holy, it is not.
And when I see someone lost in the darkness of sin and God nudges me to intervene, my strong sense of caring drives me into action, and if I don’t see results fast enough, I assume that it’s because I’m not trying hard enough and must push into higher gear.
None of this is being a handmaid of the Lord. It’s me being me, stretching out my own hand to see how far I can make it reach. Let’s consider how Mary modeled the assistant’s job:
(1) She responded first with great faith in her master.
(2) A good handmaid listens closely to what the master wants. Mary said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” She was a good listener.
(3) She left the consequences of her “yes” in God’s hands. She did not make her “yes” conditional, as in “Okay, but make sure the townsfolk don’t stone me.”
(4) Her consent came from true humility. She accepted the value that God gave to her, yet she knew she could do nothing valuable without him. She gave herself to God completely, knowing that she had something to give while also knowing that God’s goodness was far greater than her own best efforts.
(5) Mary united her will to the intentions and actions of God. The Father would redeem the world through his Son; Mary intended to redeem the world through her Son in accordance with his plan as it unfolded. The Father would let his Son die for our sins; Mary let go of her Son as she watched him suffer, even though she didn’t yet understand the plan.
Mary is still God’s handmaid for the redemption of the world. She assists God whenever we need his helping hand in our lives.
How can you serve as God’s hand for the people around you? Observe and listen to what he is asking you to do today and say, “Lord, let it be done to me according to your will; I am your handmaid (or handyman).” And then give your Master the credit for a job well done.
For more on this, read the Good News WordByte: wordbytes.gnm.org/ministry-how-to-be-handmaid-of-the-Lord/ or order it for your parish or prayer group from Catholic Digital Resources: catholicdr.com/calendar/december/guadalupe-handmaid/.
Jesus, You can reach my brothers and sisters every time I proclaim: “I’m the slave of the Lord. Let His will be done.” Thank You for giving me the gift of being Your slave for the salvation of others. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica