Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Salvation Requires Free Will

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel invited Mary to accept God’s challenge by becoming His Mother. Of course, that isn’t how it’s written in the Bible, but that IS the essence of what took place.
Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people." Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. "And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. "Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. "For with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1.24-38)
I choose my words VERY carefully here to illustrate that God indeed invited the Virgin Mary to accept this challenge. There should be no doubt that Mary exercised her free will by her response, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” She could have said, “NO!” Thank God she didn’t…

If Mary, the betrothed of Joseph, had rejected the Archangel’s offer, we might still be under the curse of death, as God may not have taken on human flesh and become a human being for our salvation. You might say, it was only possible for God to take on human flesh BECAUSE Mary said, “YES.” If Mary had chosen her own comfort and acted in her own self interest, Jesus may not have been born. If Jesus had been born, we would still be dead today…..BUT thankfully, she said, “YES.” This explains not only the Archangel’s greeting, but also the hymn of the Feast, in which we are invited to also call out to her.
Today is the summary of our salvation, and the revelation of the age-old mystery. For the Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin, and Gabriel announces the good news of grace. Therefore, let us join him, and cry aloud to the Theotokos: "Rejoice, Maiden full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But it wasn’t only Mary’s free will that was able to limit our salvation. Just as we are invited to call out the Virgin Mary with the words of the Archangel, we are urged to mimic the Virgin Mary, and responding to God’s call for us. Using OUR free will, God allows us to join the Virgin Mary and say, “YES” to God’s invitation to follow Him into heaven. And just like her, we are required to use our free will to either submit ourselves to God or reject His invitation.

Today, on the Feast which honors the Virgin Mary’s free will acceptance of God as her master, we are reminded that our free will can either save us or condemn us. God could not save us without her free will, and God cannot save us without our free will acceptance of that salvation. Don’t let her freedom go to waste. Say “YES” to God today!

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