Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
// Luke 1:34-38
The Lord, in His kindness, does not announce to us a new or unusual thing that He will do without simultaneously encouraging us to look at what He has already done. In order to build Mary’s faith and ground His prophecy in the truth that “nothing will be impossible with God,” Gabriel pointed out what the Holy Spirit had already accomplished in her cousin Elizabeth. When the Lord promises to do a new thing in our lives, He will point to what He has done in others’, so that whatever “mustard seed” of faith we already have present in us will be watered and able to grow by the testimony of His work.
Mary’s question, unlike Zacharias’, speaks of faith, which itself is instructive: we can present to the Lord our questions, from a place of faith, and the Lord will dialogue with us. He wants to build up our faith and, as we see time and again in the Gospels, one way He does that is by opening Himself up to our questions – even encouraging them. The Lord has no problem with us taking stock of the impossibility of a situation in our lives, so long as we are also open to taking stock of the testimony of His power at work in our past and in the lives of others. There is power in seeing that He has already done great things, that He is doing great things now, and that He will do more great things in the future.
When we respond like Mary, when we say “may it be done to me according to Your word,” we welcome the new and unusual work of God into our lives. It’s not our job to see to its accomplishment, but it is up to us whether we accept or reject that which the Lord offers to do in and for us. When we open ourselves to Him, we open up to receive the “power of the Most High” to overshadow us and birth within us the “holy Child.”
Thinking about what was promised to Mary – that she’d bear a holy Child – in relation to her reply, “may it be done to me according to your word,” it’s easy to see why God chose her to carry Jesus. Her trust and faith in what God would do, in the marvel that He’d accomplish in and through her, is childlike and thus powerful. It’s that childlike faith that revealed an innocent and holy heart in her – one very much like the Child she’d bear for all.
Because she was childlike in her faith, Mary was able to bear the holy Child. Perhaps we should see in this a litmus test: the more childlike our faith, the more we will bear the innocence of the holy Child, Christ, so that others can see Him in us.