Freedom to Surrender
I don’t know how I began choosing a word of the year several years ago. Most likely it was in the golden age of blogging and I stumbled upon the thought from someone online, as is known to happen. Perhaps it was simply hopping on a spiritual trend, but I believe that trend hopping revealed itself to be providential. My first “word of the year” was “fiat.” I saw it at every turn, that call to surrender beckoning me in quiet whispers. I had just had my second child, quit my full-time job, and life was looking not at all as I had planned. How much more could I possibly surrender?
Mary’s “fiat” would prove to be a beautiful meditation for me over the course of the year, and in truth, in the days and years since then. There are so many profound lessons packed into that one little word. How can we ever exhaust the wisdom of the Annunciation and the Blessed Mother’s response? (Hint: we cannot.) It is as classic as it is contemporary in the beauty of what it reveals to us about the invitation that is made to each of us.
As I have reflected on this exchange between Mary and Gabriel over the years, one thing that continues to strike me is the back and forth between the two. Mary does not cower away from asking questions of this messenger of God. She seeks to fully comprehend what is being asked of her. Mary’s questioning does not nullify the invitation. Her questions come from a place of faith, not skepticism, seeking to understand the mind and will of God. Full of grace, then, does not equal mindless or blind acceptance, nor is that the expectation God places on us.
Because it is an invitation and not a command, the other beautiful example for us as women is the illustration of God giving Mary agency over herself. While she was conceived without sin and so predisposed to accept God’s will, God does not presume her yes. God sends Gabriel to reveal to Mary what His will is for her in great detail – answering the who, what, when, where, and how without offense or reservation. At no time is Mary’s curiosity too much. God is God, and so could have at any time simply chosen to make it so. But God is just and honors the free will He has given us. While we do not share Mary’s immaculate conception, God offers us the same agency over our lives. He invites us into the dialogue of prayer and discernment with Him through the Holy Spirit as we attempt to uncover His will for us.
Mary, through this conversation with Gabriel, freely chooses to become the Mother of God. She didn’t have to ask St. Joseph, to whom she was betrothed. God entrusted her alone with the grace of this encounter and trusted in her ability to respond to the invitation to cooperate with His will for her. He does the same for us. Certainly, we are wise to seek spiritual counsel, but we have been given all we need through the grace of our sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit to respond to God with equal surrender and say, like Mary, “May it be done to me according to Your word.”