The Path of Humility – The Annunciation of the Lord
Attention shoppers: It is nine months to Christmas! This is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, the announcement of our salvation.
We hear the Gospel story of the Angel Gabriel appearing to a perplexed Mary and asking her to bear a son, to be named Jesus. This fulfils the earlier prophecy of Isaiah: “The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, for God is with us.”
The feast of the Annunciation is a joint celebration of both Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Mary shifts from confusion to a confident availability. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.”
Her obedience to God is offered in humility. The Annunciation to Mary is up there with the most common themes in religious art.
Pope Francis invites us to imitate Mary’s obedience, “by lowering ourselves on the road of humility in order to allow God’s love to emerge and be clearly seen.” In other words, my ego gets out of the way so that God’s grace shines through.
Both Mary and Joseph showed this quality. Mary did not understand everything being asked of her. She entrusted her soul to a deeper acceptance of God’s dreams for the world.
Joseph also lacked complete understanding, but he had a heart-felt knowledge that he was being asked to take on the great responsibility of caring for Mary and her child.
The quality of humility is summed up in Psalm 40 at our Eucharist today: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” Mary is presented today as an obedient and faithful woman who generously agreed to be the Mother of God, thus cooperating freely in the plan of salvation.
In a previous post, in which I wrote of the humility in the leadership of Pope Francis, I offered two definitions of humility. They are worth offering again.
C.S. Lewis reminds us that, “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Again, can my ego get out of the way? And the African American poet Maya Angelou suggests that, “humility is knowing your place in the world. It’s understanding that you are not the first person who has ever done anything important.”
Mary and Joseph knew their place in the world and were at ease with it. As he grew up and aged and approached his passion, Jesus showed this same gift of humility in his loving acceptance of what was happening by saying “Into your hands I commit my spirit.”
The great irony of the humility of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is that their mutual availability is extremely significant. Humble and yet important! The word humility comes from the Latin humus, which is translated as “soil” or “ground.” Humility makes us real, and comfortable with being real. The Holy Family was real!
Pope Francis says that the path to a deeper relationship with God is marked by “a humble heart, a meek heart, an obedient heart.” We need to avoid the risk of associating humility with weakness. It doesn’t mean that I hide in a corner and don’t speak until invited.
When I am truly humble, I know that I’m not speaking up or doing something because of my own need to be in front. It’s because I know that I am imbued with the Spirit of God and do not need to fear.
As we celebrate the Annunciation, let’s take time to reflect on how available we are for the work that God asks of us.