The Annunciation and the unexpected

The story of the Annunciation is beloved amongst Catholics. It is here that we see Mary’s indispensable role in the story of Salvation begin to unfold. It is here that Mary teaches us that by giving our ‘yes’ to God, even when we afraid (especially when we are afraid), we can participate in God’s plan for mankind, helping His Kingdom to come.

That narrative is a little overdone. It is beautiful, and certainly true; we must follow Mary’s example, and give our fiat to God, asking for the Blessed Mother’s intercession when we feel afraid to take bold steps alone. I am certainly not questioning the goodness and truth of this lesson. It’s just that this seems to be *the* ‘teachable moment’ that gets reeled off again and again when it comes to the Annunciation.

As I prayed the first Joyful Mystery of the Rosary yesterday, something else stood out to me. We know intellectually that Mary must have been confused by what God asked of her, and that the people around her must have gossiped and accuse her of all sorts of terrible things once they knew she was pregnant. But because we know so well that this was a fundamental part of God’s plan for Salvation, have we perhaps forgotten that, when it actually happened, people didn’t know that? All they saw was a young girl, not yet married, who had suddenly and mysteriously fallen pregnant?

If that happened today, would you believe Mary’s story? Would you think that she was the axis on which the story of Salvation turns? Or would you just think that she was delusional, kidding herself, or outright lying – even blaspheming against God by using Him as an excuse for her sin?

I suspect I might think the latter. And that got me to thinking – how many times have we inwardly or outwardly questioned God’s call for someone else? Wondered whether they are simply using God as an excuse for something they want to do whether or not it is God’s will? How many times have I let someone else’s raised eyebrows or judgement thinly veiled as ‘advice’, make me question God’s plan for my life?

No one except God can tell you who you should marry. Maybe God will speak through someone you know – but you shouldn’t let someone’s unsolicited and perhaps uncharitable opinion be a deciding factor. Your non-religious friends might say, “What’s the problem? Why does it matter whether he shares your beliefs? This is the problem with religion – it divides people!”. Whilst your devout Catholic friends might say, ‘There’s no way that God wants you to marry a non-Catholic. How can you give your whole self to God if you can’t share your beliefs with your spouse?”

God has a special and unique plan for each of us, one that may seem surprising or even shocking to outsiders – as Mary’s story shows us. Mary also shows us that it’s OK to be afraid or even to question God about His plan. Ultimately, she demonstrates that if we accept a plan that may cause whispers and gossip, we can bring glory to God.

As I always say, I do not wish to suggest that any and all relationships with non-Catholics are willed by God. You need to be honest with yourself and open to God’s voice when discerning how any given relationship will impact your relationship with God. But don’t be put off by other people casting doubt on your role in God’s tapestry of Salvation.

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