As I study the Lord’s birth announcement of Jesus to Mary

Dear Friend,

As I study the Lord’s birth announcement of Jesus to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), my spiritual kinswoman Elizabeth has formulated the question on my mind: “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43) I think Mary has visited me through the Gospel to wake me up to matters of justice and mystery.

Regarding matters of justice, Mary reminds me that my Saviour “has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden.” (Luke 1:48) Mary lives in an obscure town in an occupied country. When she makes an offering “she cannot afford a lamb… [so she offers] a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” (Leviticus 12:8 and Luke 2:24) And she is a woman.

Beginning with the Gospel writers, many have noticed Jesus’ high regard for women and their high regard for him. A group of women traveled with Jesus and his disciples, and they “provided for them out of their means.” (Luke 8:1-3) While the disciples fled from Jesus as the time of his arrest and crucifixion, “the women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb, and how his body was laid.” (Luke 23:55) And the first preachers of the resurrection were women, most notably Mary Magdalene. (All four Gospels)

Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, combined with the testimonies of women to Jesus and also recent news reports, have led me to do something I almost never do: sign an on-line statement. The statement is called “#SilenceIsNotSpiritual: Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women and Girls.” In summary it states:

“We are experiencing an awakening today. The rise of the recent #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements have awakened the world to the nature and extent of violence against women and girls. For too long the voices of women and girls who suffer violence have been marginalized, ignored or silenced. The global Church has been slow to speak up and take action. But silence is not spiritual. Action is not optional. More than 100 leaders from across the world are calling upon the global faith community to stop standing by and start standing up for women and girls who experience violence. We face a defining moment as a Church. Will we shrink in fear and despair or will we join the cry of the vulnerable, echoing their voice and defending their courage?”

I believe that through Mary and her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), our Lord can give us eyes to see and ears to hear biblical calls to justice, including justice “for women and girls who experience violence.” And through Mary pondering Jesus in her heart (Luke 2:19 and 2:51), our Lord can awaken also to the mystery of every human being in relation to God.

In an illuminating article, a religion teacher named Nichole M. Flores describes how Mary has inspired countless women to magnify the Lord and lift up the lowly. Like her Son, Mary does not fit neatly into any ideological category. Instead, she guides women to experience God in their complex and multifaceted identities. According to Flores, Mary “comes not to orient women to men but to orient women to Jesus Christ.”

The mother of our Lord orients us all to Jesus Christ in fascinating ways. And in her best moments, she offers a compelling example to all Jesus’ disciples. For the sake of both justice and mystery, I hope we will all join Mary in saying, “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Love,