I have been reading the Gospel of Luke in recent days, and I came across the angel Gabriel's pronouncement to Mary: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."
I tried to imagine myself in her position, and I envisioned a big grin on my face, feeling as if Ed McMann had just knocked on my door and announced that I'd won a million dollars. I'm highly favored and the Lord is with me. What great news.
But Luke tells us, "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be."
Mary knew that being singled out by God was a fearful blessing. She might have known it because of her ancestry. The people of Israel had been set apart as a holy people by God, and that chosen status had brought centuries of suffering and hardship. She might have known it intuitively. Regardless, Mary was afraid to be the one God chose, and for good reason. She would experience the joys of motherhood, only to watch her son suffer and die. Just a few chapters later, Simeon prophecies to her: "a sword will pierce your own soul too."
It's a cautionary story for those of us who want to be a part of the work God is doing. A blessing, yes. But a blessing that involves suffering, that involves entering into the whole of human existence–the glory and the sorrow. May I be like Mary–honest, humble, and receptive to the Spirit. "May it be to me as you have said."