That Greeting

The Angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Greetings favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  And Mary was much perplexed by his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  Mary may have been young, but she was wise beyond her years to be perplexed and full of wonder at the words of Gabriel.  As if seeing an Angel appear before you wouldn’t be frightening enough, this one begins with words of praise and comfort.  Clearly she was being buttered up for something, and so Mary was perplexed and full of wonder.

More than that, and perhaps more accurate to the Greek text, we might say she was troubled and argued within herself at what kind of greeting this might be.  Certainly Mary was asking herself, “What’s going on here?  What is about to happen?”  It is then that Gabriel speaks the classic greeting of the Angels, “Be not afraid,” and the rest, as they say, is history.  But I’m still struck by that greeting.  It is a powerful word from God to this young woman from Nowhere, Israel.

“Greetings favored one.”  Before any request is made of Mary.  Before she ascents to be the Mother of our Lord.  Before anything else, Mary is favored by God.  In all the hoopla over the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is easy to forget that what makes Mary the prototype of our faith isn’t that she gave birth to the Second Person of the Trinity – none of us will have that chance – but that she was a recipient of God’s grace, just like the rest of us.  She was offered the grace of God as “favored one” and everything that followed happened in response to that grace.

You might not see the Angel Gabriel standing in your living room, and you most likely won’t be asked to carry Jesus 2.0 in your womb, but every one of us has the opportunity to respond to God’s grace-filled greeting in loving service.

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