by Marilyn Kirvin
Yesterday the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation. The Gospel for that day, “and the Angel said to Mary, do not be afraid….” is one of my favorite readings in Scripture. Over my desk I have a print that I love of the painting “The Annunciation,” by African-American painter Henry Osawa Tanner - unlike in some portrayals of this moment, Mary here looks like a woman in her early teens… and her expression is not one of fear, but of curiosity, wonder… “How can this be?” (to see it, go to http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/104384.html )
Often we think of this story as being associated with Christmas, but listening to the reading yesterday, so close to Holy Week, I thought instead of how , when she said “yes” to the angel’s invitation to bear a son, Mary could not have known that her yes would one day lead to watching her son as he was executed as a political prisoner. Mary, like all of us, could not see into the future… she only had that moment in which to respond, and so she said that yes – trusting somehow in the God who called her, and letting go of knowing and controlling, all the rest.
Perhaps I am thinking about Mary a bit more this week because last Saturday my oldest son moved to Corvallis to start school. He is excited, as am I for him, for he has worked hard to make this happen, and I think he’s as prepared as can be at this point. But I can remember holding him when he was a baby, and not being able to imagine that he wouldn’t be with me forever (fortunately, of course, living with a teenager tempers this desire for them never to leave home). And yet, when the time came, I did it, just like every parent does it, as every person does it when it’s time. It’s not that we don’t worry, of course. But we have to let go, and trust in God’s grace and mercy.
As a spiritual director, I suspect that the challenge of letting go and trusting God is a theme that comes up in almost every conversation that I have with the people who see me. It is there for women in their 60’s caring for parents with dementia, and in men whose marriages are ending. It is the challenge for people who are losing employment in this economy, those who are struggling with addiction, and those who grieve the passing of a loved one. It is even what underlies every time we are called – to parenthood, to marriage, to a new ministry or a new town, to retirement - we are also being called to letting go. It is what we hear from Jesus on the cross: Into Your hands I commend my Spirit….
As we enter in Holy Week, then, we will walk with Jesus on his journey of letting go… of his mission, his friends, his sense of closeness to God, and his very life. As we hear these stories, may we find inspiration there for our own journeys of trust, and may we know that we are not alone - that Jesus, his mother, his disciples, all those who have gone before us, and those who pray with us are on the same journey, accompanied by our loving God.