“Hail, full of grace,” said the angel to the young woman.
And Mary was perplexed. She pondered the greeting.
I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this greeting too. It comes up every Monday and Saturday as the assigned meditation of the rosary. And I also heard it four times between Advent, Christmas and a votive Mass. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering it.
“Hail, Full of Grace.”
I have been learning from a priest about identity and mission. Every single person has the identity in God as Beloved Son or Daughter of the Heavenly Father. As Creator, He defines our identity. It’s relational. It’s a profound goodness, a reflection of the One who made us and not of the earthly qualifiers like wealth, beauty or performance. We can’t lose it. This discovery in and of itself is a deep place of healing in my life. And it’s taken a long time for me to grasp.
Then there is a unique identity that is specific to how the Father made us. He is infinite and has an incredible imagination. He has made every snowflake different, every fingerprint different and every single person different. We can’t be compared to others because we are unrepeatable. This is also a source of healing for me and I’m still coming to terms with it. God has made me unique and He is in the process of showing me who that is.
Mary was perplexed. She was told of some of her identity by the angel: Full of Grace. And she pondered what sort of greeting that could be. Mary was also on a path of learning her identity before God. But she didn’t fall into the traps where the rest of us get bogged down.
Mary did not fall into a place of superiority at finding she was loved more and had the most important mission of any created being. She knew well that all generations would call her blessed. But she immediately offered praise to the Lord for doing great things for her. She is greatly gifted, but never brags. She doesn’t turn into a pageant mom with her kid who is definitively better than every other kid ever born. And she doesn’t take a drop of credit for herself, instead magnifying God with her soul.
Mary also does not fall into a place of inferiority or false humility. She asks how the mission of Jesus’ conception can be accomplished if she has not “known man,” a question of mechanics. It is not, “How can this be, since I’m not good enough?” or “How can this be, because I’m pretty sure I can’t do it?” or “How can it be that I’m really lovable or wanted?”
Every time God has encountered me and told me I was His Beloved Daughter, I have been perplexed deep in my soul, but not the way Mary was. I was baffled: “What do you mean I’m loved?” “I didn’t know I could belong.” “Wait, if I’m a daughter, I have to let God be in control.” He shows me my gifts, and I balk, “I can’t do it,” and “I’m not good enough,” and “Why would He pick me?”
I had to clear many wounds out of the way before I could start to understand what God has made me to be. As such, I graduated last week from two years of counseling. The day your psychologist tells you you aren’t so crazy is a big day. I bought cupcakes. But better than cupcakes is the realization that I really am good, I really am lovable and I really can accomplish the mission God has for me.
All the hurting places of your soul can block you. Wounded and missing the mark is often the response of ordinary humanity, unlike Mary, whom God spared. She was perplexed for a moment, but she didn’t stay there. Accepting what was told to her, she immediately said, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord.” And now that I’ve come along further, I’m hoping to be like my Mom and say the same.
I pray for you and the healing of the wounds that block you from knowing who you are and why you were made. May the Lord’s golden healing light join with my love to heal your every wound, and may Mary bring you to the heart of the Father, who made you well.