And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. (Luke 1: 28-29)
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘troubled’ as concerned or worried feelings about a decision. Is this the meaning of its use in scripture as we apply it to Mary and the greeting she received from the angel Gabriel? Could there be a more positive use of the word in which we may apply it to our lives today, to give it more clarity; to welcome God’s kind of ‘trouble’ in our life?
Years ago, long before I had any inkling of becoming Catholic, I visited some of my family who had recently converted. Struggling as I was to understand their decision, and for the sake of unity and the search for truth, I accompanied them to Mass with my two boys. As the liturgy unfolded, I felt lost and confused, not unlike a deer in the headlights. In my heart of hearts, I wanted to understand my brother’s conversion, and to see and know why this thing he called the ‘Eucharist’ seemed to be the source and summit of the Mass.
As the time drew near for the faithful to rise and move reverently forward to receive this bread and wine, my anxiety and confusion grew. I could remain sitting where I was and everyone would know I didn’t belong there. Since I did not want to stand out, I did not know what to do. Quietly, sensing my apprehension, my sister-in-law leaned over and whispered in my ear, “You can go up for a blessing. Your boys have done it before. Just cross your arms over your chest and the priest will give you a blessing.” My boys had gone up for a blessing? When did this happen? Surely if my sons could go up and receive a blessing, I could too, and I would not be ‘found out’.
I left my seat, crossed my arms and found myself following the slow line of faithful. I had no expectations. If anything, I would describe my thoughts as being completely skeptical.
I watched as my boys received a blessing from the priest and thought as my turn came near it would all soon be over and I would be safe in the pew. Before I knew it I was standing in front of a dear old priest, and as he looked on me, arms crossed as if protecting myself, he gently placed the Host back in the ciborium and traced the sign of the cross on my forehead as he asked God to bless me. That’s when it happened; I became troubled in my soul,
There are no words to accurately describe what was happening to me. I did not understand, nor did I believe, but in the depths of my soul I desired truth and that was enough of a crack in my defence to allow God to get to work. As the priest touched my forehead, I trembled as tears welled up.
Why in the presence of the priest did I suddenly become troubled in my heart and soul? The clear answer was only a small hint pointing toward the Eucharist. Repeatedly I heard the words, “Pay attention. There is something great here. Pay attention!” I knew then that there was something far greater to the Eucharist than just a wafer; more than bread and wine. As I made my way back to my seat, I shook, I cried, and I prayed God would reveal to me what just happened. I became troubled.
Gabriel’s announcement troubled Mary. What does that really mean? When I remembered this event years ago at Mass, I I knew being troubled was not a fearful thing for me but one in which questions arose, spurring me on toward the truth of the Real Presence. It was a disruption of the status quo, arousing me from my stupor and sending me on a journey. I had to say yes to and desired to see through. Mary experienced a feeling of being troubled but she chose to live with complete abandonment to God and with great expectation and joy that His promises would be fulfilled.
In these days from Christmas to Epiphany, let us empty our hearts so theLord will trouble us with anticipation and desire for the truth. May we see the Christ child in the Eucharist and allow Mother Church, Mother Mary to place Him lovingly in our hearts of straw. May our hearts not be troubled with fear, but with the upsetting of the status quo and may we welcome the joy which He desires to bring to our world. Joy, for the Lord, has come!