The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.”
A year or so ago, I was selected to represent the staff at my school on the governors’ education committee, responsible for overseeing the education provided by the school. Since the primary focus of a school is to education, I felt very privileged to have been selected for this important post. I also congratulated myself on achieving this honour; clearly the school had recognised just how good I was at doing my job, and how special I am, to have bestowed this responsibility on me. When I attended the meetings, however, I quickly discovered that being on the committee was rather – well, dull really! I also discovered that my primary purpose was to sit still and shut up whilst the genuinely important people got on with their job!
In today’s reading, the angel Gabriel appears to Mary to tell her that she has been singled out for a very special job. He announces that she is favoured by God. He tells her that the Lord is with her. Mary is “greatly troubled” by his words. I suspect that if I encountered an angel, I would probably jump out of my skin, so Mary’s reaction, as recorded by Luke, seems quite restrained! Mary’s reaction is also a testament to her modesty. She did not puff herself up and think of how important she must be to have been chosen by God. She didn’t look down on a mere angel, as she might have done for being so highly favoured. Instead, she is afraid, and humbled by the experience. Clearly it was unexpected, and Gabriel has to reassure Mary. Gabriel comforts Mary, and tells her not the be afraid, and reassures her that she has found favour with God.
I suspect that many of us, if we were selected for a special task by our bosses, or if we met a representative of our government who told us that we had been chosen for a special activity would be full of self-importance. Perhaps we should learn from Mary, however. Maybe we should reflect on our own humility and meekness. We may have been singled out to do a specific task by the Lord, but do we think that this is because we are special in God’s eyes? Or should be we humbled by the fact that God has chosen us, mere weak sinners, to serve him in this way?