One of the spiritual practices I really love is scripture meditation in the style of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius wrote the Spiritual Exercises used by Jesuits for spiritual direction and formation. He invites us to engage our minds and our imaginations as we read the text. For our reading today, I would like to encourage you to invite the Holy Spirit to engage your imagination as you read the text. Or, even better, listen to the text aloud as someone in your household or online reads it for you.
In this passage, we see young Mary discovering the unique plan that God has for her. Mary’s response always seemed supernatural to me: “Let it be with me just as you have said.” I always found that incredibly brave. But as I engage this passage with my imagination, I wonder at the tone in which she may have responded:
- What if Mary was scared and trembling as she said that line?
- What if she said it in a teenage tone of exasperation - the biblical equivalent of “Fine!”? It would not be the first nor last time that a person was resistant to what God asked of them.
- What if she was giddy and excited at being chosen for this task?
- What if she was sad about how this was going to affect her and her reputation with Joseph and the community?
Does that change how you view her? Does that make her response less brave or remarkable? One of the things I have struggled with over the years is “difficult emotions.” As someone who has always been described as sensitive, it took me a long time to embrace the full depth of our emotional range and to give value to emotions like anger and sadness. I find in spiritual direction that people want to give the positive answers (God will take care of me, God loves me, etc) while their body or emotions are giving the opposite reaction. “God loves me, but God didn’t protect me during that awful car accident.” It is possible and very human to have multiple emotions at once. I believe that God wants us to come with all our emotions, positive and negative. God can handle our yelling, our anger, our sadness, our tantrums.
As I look at Mary’s example, I see that regardless of how I read it she is still remarkably brave. Even if she was scared or frustrated or sad or happy, she moved forward with grace. We can be scared while moving forward with bravery.
I’m afraid. I don’t feel bold or courageous today. Help me remember that bravery isn’t the absence of fear; it’s doing the right thing no matter what. Give me a courageous heart. I know that You will be with me. I am not alone. You are greater than any enemy or obstacle I face. Help me to take a stand, to not give up, to push on, and to step forward today, knowing that You are trustworthy and You are my strength.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Prayer by Heather C. King