The Handmaid’s Story

St. Bernard once wrote a homily as if he were talking to Mary who had just heard from the angel Gabriel. The gospel says, “Mary was greatly troubled by his words (of praise for her.)” Here is my version…

Dearest Mary,
I understand you’ve been visited by an angel whose message is quite unsettling. I can imagine so! You are being asked to step into the unknown and face great hardships. With the message you have just received, your future is suddenly shrouded in mystery. You must already sense the intensity that is to come…as if stepping into a fire.

But please say “yes” to this next part of your life…It means saying “yes” on behalf of the whole world. Your “yes” must certainly inspire any woman who is uncertain about becoming a mother. You are young. Your baby will be born in a stable and then you will be fleeing persecution. Suddenly homeless and hiding in a foreign land…these are not easy things for a new mother. And yet those are only the first of the many trials awaiting you.

But your “yes” means a new beginning for all of life. So much depends on you. Thank you for being willing to step forward into the darkness of the unknown in order to bring Light into the world.

I, too, am a mother. so I understand a tiny bit of the unknowns you face. When I realized I was pregnant, I was worried about the future. These are hard times for children and for marriages. The pressures on the family are intense. And I had no idea back then that motherhood is so hard!

After my children started school, I thought I had it “all figured out” about how to be a mother! The tantrums had stopped and the children started to be successful in many things. I’m with them a lot and we have tried to pass on a strong faith. Yet, they are still tempted by worldly glitter. How do I help them resist the temptations of the world as they become more independent? How do I help them walk on the narrow path when all around them there is immodesty, self-gratification and self-absorption?

I’d like to know that it will all turn out all right. I’d like to see into the future to be sure my actions lead to good outcomes. But that is one of the lessons from your “yes” isn’t it? You gave your life to God as a servant, a “handmaid.” It means surrendering the ego while acting according to the guidance you receive. It means rusting in your Son who promised to stay with us.

Do you think if I made more room for Him in my heart, I might feel His guiding presence, too? Here’s what I’m thinking…if you say “yes” to the angel, in order to bring salvation into the world, I should be able to say “yes” to more humility, more trust and more prayer.

To give birth means letting a new life come through our bodies. It is awe-inspiring to participate in such a venture. I rejoice with you in this miracle.

Ah! I hear your “yes” now. It echoes through the ages. Did you grow in courage and wisdom with that one tiny word? I can almost see it in your face. You are accepting and embracing all that is to come…there will be wonders and wounds, joys and trials. Let it all come as it will. This journey is in God’s hands.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to thy Word.”

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