Saturday, March 25, 2006
Humility and Obedience  

May it be done to me according to your word.
Humility and obedience are two words that are not celebrated in today's culture. In fact, it is rare that the words are found in a positive light. If humility is attributed to someone, it is often couched in terms that it is a virtue only for the very holy person. Or more often the word is used in the context of describing the hypocrisy of some individual, "N's sense of humility is in sharp contrast to his lavish lifestyle." Obedience is seen as the characteristic of the mindless person who is simply following orders without question. Perhaps even more fundamentally, there is a deep misunderstanding of what these two words mean. From my own experience of how people understand these words, I found that humility is often confused with humiliation and obedience is construed to be in complete opposition to freedom.

In the Annunciation, we find a beautiful example of both humility and obedience because the Blessed Virgin Mary's response to the angel Gabriel demonstrates the profound humility and obedience that she possessed. She was able to grasp the awesome mystery of Gabriel's announcement to her and remain grounded in who she is. And despite the fact that the angel's announcement might have caused some to doubt God, she trusted the Lord and submitted her will to His.

For centuries, the Hebrew children had awaited the coming of the Messiah. Every Jewish girl would have thought what it would be like to be the mother of God's Anointed One. Now in an instance, Mary learns that she is to be the one. God has chosen her to give birth to His Messiah
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.
The Messiah is the one who will reign on David's throne, and his kingdom will have no end. Mary's son will be the very one that has been the desire and hope for centuries.

Even this is given to her as a question. An angel of God representing God Himself has come to ask Mary if she will accept. How does she respond? In humility, she requests that it happen exactly as the angel has stated it would. She responds with an affirmation filled with a deep understanding of Who God is and who she is. She is the handmaid of the Lord. This is not a put down, but a grasp of the truth. All of us our servants of the Lord Who is our creator and sustainer. Because she had internalized this truth, Mary considered herself the one who is at the service of the Lord. Also, she has a beautiful sense of trust in God. In her mind, if it is God's will, it must be the very best thing. Because of Who God is, it only makes sense to recognize that you are at His service.

Mary's initial response to the angel demonstrates this sense of obedience. Prior to the angel Gabriel's visit, Mary had consecrated herself as a virgin. In her heart, she knew that she had made a solemn vow to God in obedience to His will. Now the angel is telling her that she will conceive a son. Trusting in God completely, she asks how will this take place. This is not a question of doubt, but simply a question of understanding. Given that she is a virgin, how will God do this. And the angel replies that
he 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.
Perhaps another with less faith or a weaker sense of obedience might have thought that something was wrong. Was God changing His mind about her call to virginity? Instead, the Blessed Virgin Mary maintained complete trust that God was leading her in the Annunciation just as He had led her to take a vow of virginity.

In her humility, Mary maintained her perspective of God and herself when she received the angel Gabriel's message. Her perspective enabled her to understand the angel's words and to receive them with joy. Her joy flowed over into love, as she went to Elizabeth to share in her joy of also being a new mother. In her obedience, Mary found freedom. If she had not obeyed God's call to consecrate herself as a virgin, she would not have had the freedom to say yes to being the Mother of God. If she had not trusted that God's ways are the best, she would not have been able to offer a freely given yes to His revelation of His plans for her. By her obedience to God, she was available for a beautiful freedom that enabled in her to share in this profound mystery of the Word becoming flesh.

Posted by David at 7:10 AM  |  Comments (0)  | 


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