He Will Be With You

By Marc Massery

Why exactly was the Blessed Virgin Mary “greatly troubled” (Lk 1:29) in the the Gospel reading for this Sunday? 

Some have wondered if Our Lady was troubled because of the sudden appearance of the angel. After all, wouldn't you feel afraid if you were all alone and a celestial being appeared to you? While this explanation of why Mary was troubled may have some truth to it, there’s a deeper reason.

When the angel appeared to Mary, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The Scripture continues, “But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be” (Lk 1:29). Mary was troubled “at what was said.” She pondered the “greeting.” So it was the angel's words that troubled her — not so much that the angel appeared at all. But what was so troubling about what the angel said? 

According to Dr. Edward Sri, the phrase “the Lord is with you” meant something in particular to Mary. Throughout the Old Testament, when God called someone to an important task, He let them know that He would be “with” them. When God called Moses to confront Pharoah, He said, “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12). When the Lord called Joshua to lead the people to the Promised Land, God said, “I will be with you” (Josh 1:15). When an angel called Gideon to confront the Midians, the angel said, “The Lord will be with you” (Judges 6:12). These words would have tipped Mary (who knew the Scriptures well) off — that the Lord was calling her to an important task. 

Mary was perfect, but that doesn’t mean she was exempt from the distress of being human. Remember Jesus on the eve of His crucifixion? He sweat blood at the distress of knowing what God was calling Him to do. Moses, likewise, had hesitations about confronting Pharoah with a speech impediment. When the angel called Gideon, he responded, "but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?" (Judges 6:13). Mary was troubled for similar reasons. Though she never doubted, she knew she had a struggle ahead of her. Though Mary felt troubled, by the end of her brief conversation with the angel, she said, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary chose to rise above her natural human feelings and accept the Lord's call. 

It took a little time, but after Mary accepted the Lord’s will, she experienced great joy. When Mary arrives at her cousin Elizabeth’s a short while later, she proclaims one of the most joyful canticles in all of Scripture:

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name … (Lk 2:48-49)

When the Lord calls you to a particular task, don’t get discouraged if you feel troubled at first. Mary and Jesus both know how you feel and have felt that way themselves. You do, however, have a choice. You can feed your troubled feelings and even try to run from the Lord, like the prophet Jonah. Or you can accept what the Lord is asking of you, despite your hesitations. When you unconditionally accept whatever the Lord is calling you to do, He will give you the grace you need to persevere. He will be with you.  

Image: Artist Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510)

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