Last week, through a series of scheduling issues that only folks intimately acquainted with the liturgical calendar probably care to understand, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation. (Due to the actual feast day falling in Holy Week, the celebration was moved to the week after Easter.)
Listening to the Gospel appointed for the Feast, one detail in the account in Luke 1 stood out to me above the rest: “Greetings, favored one!”
Mary. An unmarried teen mother probably around 14 or 15. Engaged to an honorable man, but pregnant. Engaged, but still, she was pregnant out of wedlock. The religious establishment of her day said she should be stoned for her transgression.
Then Gabriel shows up on the scene. He knows the details. Yet he greets her with perplexing words: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
The religious establishment said that she was disgraced and God-forsaken because God could not possibly be with her since she was a “sinner.” (We all know that God doesn’t hang around with “sinners.” Funny….this time God-in-the-flesh was hanging around inside one!)
Thankfully, God doesn’t see things like we do. And so Mary listened to Gabriel’s message.
There was no way she could do everything the religious establishment required her to do to overcome the disgrace and humiliation that religion heaped on her.
So she began to live from a place of favor. She believed what Gabriel said, and she lived her life as a favored one. She did what she did because she lived from a place of favor, not for favor. God’s messenger was clear: She was favored. She hadn’t done anything up to that point (that we know of from Scripture) to earn it, and she didn’t have to strive and stress and strain in order to keep it. She had it.
Living from a place of favor changed everything for Mary.
And it does for us, too.