“How can this be?”

What is your “tone of voice” when you respond to God? In Luke 1:26-38, we find what may have been the Blessed Virgin’s tone and how it pleased the Lord.

In the sixth month,
the angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Mary said to the angel,
How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Tone of voice is always so important in what someone says. The other day we read that Zachariah showed doubt in what the angel of the Lord told him about his wife, Elizabeth, becoming pregnant despite her advanced age. And the angel of the Lord punished him. Here, the Blessed Virgin asks, “How can this be?” when Gabriel announces the good news that she will bear the Christ Child, yet he doesn’t punish her. I imagine her tone of voice to be of innocence and wonder rather than disbelief.

Throughout the Gospel stories, Mary shows great faith in her relationship with God and with her son. She must have been a very special child when she was given this news and woman as she watched her son grow.

Faith can be trying and fickle. But Mary is always steadfast, even in the most trying of times. She always gives herself up to God, trusting God’s will. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word.” Such faith! Such trust. Such willingness to let God work through her and not worry about the consequences.

Mary can be a model for us. We don’t know what God’s plan is for us, what part God plans for us in His bigger picture of the world, but we need to be confident that we fit into it somehow. And like Mary, we need to be confident that whatever that plan is, if we just give ourselves to God and do His will, He will take care of us. For Mary, the reward was to be taken up body and soul (her assumption) into Heaven at the end of her life. For us, loving God and doing His will, following His teachings, means entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. Mary as model means not resisting God’s will. It means learning what that will is and trusting Him in doing it.

Jesus talks in the Gospels about being in faith like children. Children are very trusting, very eager to please. I have a feeling that was how Mary’s faith was. And we should try to emulate that. Look up to God with childlike wonder, adoration, and love. Let that be our tone of voice when He asks of us or tells us something. Wonder and joy.


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