Did she really say that? Did she really mean it? I keep turning back to Luke 1:38, “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’” I take a few minutes to present myself before God in silence. When my mind wanders, I return to the spirit of Mary’s words. How can my heart prepare him room?
Then it hits me.
Only as God’s handmaiden did Mary became the God-bearer.
I want to ask you: when did the New Covenant start? Where was the special placewhere God became man, “not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by the taking of manhood up into God”? It all started in the womb of the virgin Mary. She is the genesis, the cradle, the fountainhead of Christ’s humanity. She is the placewhere, as John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory.” Mary gave herself—body and soul—to God: and as God’shandmaiden, Mary became the God-bearer.
[Note: this essay was first published by Catholic Gentleman and is reprinted with permission.]
Now, the incarnation is not like a game of Monopoly. We can’t pull out the board and arrange the pieces and do it all over again. But gentlemen, I want to suggest to you that Mary was just the beginning of what God wants to do in all of us—make us God’s handmaidens. You and me. People who, like Mary, can hear Christ and then say Yes to Christ. So it is that Jesus says in Luke 8:20, “My mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
St. Paul puts it in more muscular terms. He says he is “a slave for Christ” (Rom. 1:1). The way of manliness, for Paul, is “not by way of eye service, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6).
Brothers, if we do not become God’s “handmaidens,” God’s slaves, our lives will be barren, childless, Godless. But if we imitate Our Lady, the ever Virgin Mary, and we hold nothing back—if we say only Yes! to God—we would “conceive” Christ within us, and show his New Covenant to the world.
How can we hear God’s word? He tells us: “The Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord” (1 Sam. 3:21). God reveals himself by his word. If you want him, you begin with his word. God also reveals himself through his Church. “But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). When they believed Philip they were baptized. God reveals himself through his Church. To hear God’s word, we must start by seeking him in Scripture and the Church.
How can we, as men of Christ, say Yes to God’s word? When we think only of how we might get hurt, or have been hurt, we do not risk saying Yes to God. We grasp for the wrong things (like control) and come up empty. We do not risk the Gospel, and so we never really know the Gospel. We only know our fears. But gentleman, our Blessed Mother reminds us that we were made for more than worry. Sometimes the manliest thing to do is let go.
Stop trying to run the show and start walking in faith. How easy it is to type those words and how hard it is to live them out! But it’s the only way. Soon the soul must choose: self or God, pride or humility, too high a view of one’s self or an ever-higher view of God. It’s the choice between life or death.
Let go, and lean on the One who is ultimately in command. He longs to lead you, as he led Our Lady, and to bless you, hold you, and love you—not because you’re kind-of-a-big-deal, but because he is that awesome. The Bible invites you and me to live a life that is no longer about us. Mary reminds us that life is firstly about God, not us. Her story tells us that God really is just that: God. Mary helps us to remember that true freedom is found in servitude.
Brothers, only God’s handmaidens, only God’s slaves, can be God-bearers.
In conclusion, what does it look like to hear Christ and then say Yes to Christ? It looks a lot like Mary. To be, like her, rich soil for the seed of God to grow is to be a God-bearer. For only God’s handmaidens can be God-bearers. St. Peter put it this way: “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God” (1 Pet. 2:16).
Saint Mary pray for us, that we would say only Yes to God, that we would show your Son’s New Covenant to a hurting world. Holy Spirit, come in power. O most sacred heart of Jesus, give us obedient hearts. So that, like your ever virgin mother, we may join you in bringing glory to the Father in Heaven. Amen.
Read it in the Catholic Gentleman.