Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test."
Then Isaiah said: "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
The Annunciation story is full of splendid promise, radiant with a bright future. God's messenger tells of a coming Saviour: "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High… He will reign forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Setting these lines alongside all the other echoes of joy in Luke's opening chapters, and we have the happy prospect of a God who wants every human being to be saved – to have a share in God's own endless fullness of life.
Luke's account concludes with Mary's total response of acceptance, "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me." Greatly favoured, she responds generously, with her whole life, to the grace she has received. For St. Luke, Mary is not simply the mother of Jesus; she is the perfect disciple of Jesus. Like him, she gives herself over to God's purpose for her life.
Today's gospel suggests that Mary had to struggle, to discern and come to terms with God's purpose for her life. She was disturbed by the words of Gabriel and had many questions; at the birth of Jesus she would ponder as well as treasure the words of the shepherds. When Jesus was twelve years old she would puzzle over and treasure his words to herself and Joseph. She pondered and reflected, to discern what God was asking of her. We are all trying to be disciples, inspired by the example of Mary. Like her we struggle at times to know what God wants for us in the here and now; we try to give ourselves as generously as Mary did, even in the midst of our many questions. She shows how one can be faithful without fully understanding what God is doing in our own lives and in the lives of others. As we take the path of discipleship that Mary took, looking to her to help us, we ask her to pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death.