Mary at the Annunciation: Model of Discernment

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1897

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1897

Mary, God’s Mother and mine,
you joyfully and fully responded to God’s call in your life.
Help me to respond to God’s plan for me with all my being,
as you did.
                                                                                                               – prayer taken from Discern It! app 

Happy Feast of the Annunciation! I was so deeply into the spirit of Lent and preparing for Holy Week that it was a bit of a shock this morning to pray the Gloria at Mass this morning…but how fitting to pray this canticle of praise on the feast of the Incarnation, the feast of Mary’s “yes” to becoming the Mother of God!

This is one of my favorite images of the Annunciation because it seems to capture Mary at a very ordinary, prosaic moment in her life, while at the same time emphasizing the mystery of the announcement–the angel Gabriel is brilliant but we cannot even distinguish the shape of his figure. At some point, I hope to offer here a guided meditation on discernment in the light of Luke 1:26-38 with this painting of the Annunciation. But for today as I seek to live in a spirit of discernment, I will carry in my heart Mary’s attentive gaze, her hands clasped in prayer, and her head tilted in wonder as she begins to grasp the radiance of God’s love for her and for all humanity.

The Co-Author Relationship: God and I

Sunset at AssosDiscernment doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but in the context of our relationship with God. Discerning God’s will only makes sense if we have or seek a vibrant relationship with God. Whether we are trying to discern a major life choice, or live in greater conformity to God’s will, the best way to grow in that relationship and to become attuned to God’s voice is to spend time in prayer.

The title of this blog pushes this foundational principle a bit further: that we believe that God co-authors our life with us! If we believe that the Holy Spirit is directing our life, that God and I are “writing” our life story together, then it becomes even more important to spend time with God. Any time spent in prayer is important, but a quieter, more contemplative approach to  prayer will help us to learn how to listen to God in the light of God’s saving love. (More about listening in prayer later.)

One of the challenges of the Christian life is a temptation to try to earn God’s love, rather than trusting in God’s love. We don’t want to allow our discernment to be colored by this temptation. A true partnership, being a true “co-author” is a relationship of trust. Doing God’s will is not about proving ourselves, nor about trying to control our life and relationships. Instead, truly seeking to do God’s will is being like Mary, whose “yes” to God came from her ongoing relationship with God. At the Annunciation, Mary recognized God’s Lordship in her life, but she also recognized that her consent and her love were essential in collaborating with God’s salvific plan. She could only say “yes” the way she did precisely because of her relationship with God. Mary trusted God completely: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.”

When we truly seek to live God’s will, we recognize that this includes growing in our relationship with God. A true attitude of discernment allows God to take the lead, to set the parameters to our story, and to invite us deeper into the great adventure of our life.

Pen_UncappedTo Journal About:

  • How would I describe my relationship with God?