"This is the paradox of what happened after Mary said yes: everything turned out wrong—and, then again, everything turned out right." (Heather King on The Annunciation, Magnificat, March 2012)
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Then Again, Everything Turned Out Right: Learning to See His Resurrected Body
From the fall of 1976 to the spring of 1977, I was in my second year of college, at Temple University in Philadelphia. I decided at some point during that year to transfer to the University of Scranton, a Jesuit institution a couple of hours to the north. During the summer prior to that transition I participated in a Newman Center retreat at the Jersey shore.
We were gathered in a room filled with tables, chairs, and booths, listening to a speaker talk to us about something, I don't remember what, when a thought popped into my head, as clear as though someone were standing right next to me, leaning into me, and speaking it directly into my ear: "Go over to that priest and ask him to pray over you and bless you for the ministry I've called you to and on which you are about to embark."
"What?!" I silently but vehemently questioned the invisible speaker.
The voice repeated its instructions.
"I can't do that. He'll laugh at me, or scold me, or something."
Again I heard, "Go and ask to be blessed."
My heart raced and I began to feel like crying.
I made my way over to the booth where the priest was sitting and slid in next to him. He looked at me questioningly but with a smile. I leaned toward him and whispered what I had heard, or what I thought I had heard.
I was amazed when he simply put his hand on my shoulder, bowed his head, and quietly prayed aloud for me.
"Everything turned out wrong...." I could write a long, long list of all the things that any reasonable person—whether he or she believes in annunciations or not—would easily say "turned out wrong" in the thirty-five years since that priest unquestioningly prayed that blessing in response to my questionable request. When I am alone I can easily descend into rehearsing that paralyzing list in my mind and tagging it as evidence, if not proof, that there was no annunciation and no blessing after all—or at least that I ruined any benefit intended or provided.
The most effective weapon I have found for defending myself against such deterioration has been meditating on the Mysteries of the Rosary, especially the ones that are called Joyful.
The Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary that her Creator wanted her to be the mother of Jesus is known as the First Joyful Mystery. "How can this be?" and "Let it be done unto me according to your word" are the responses attributed to Mary in this conversation. Her question comforts me as much as her yes. It makes sense to me that Mary, especially at the foot of the cross, could have questioned her faith in the Angel Gabriel's words to her on that ancient pivotal day. There were many, I'm sure, who told her that her son's life was a failure. Maybe some even accused her of having filled his head with crazy ideas.
"...and, then again, everything turned out right." The final set of Rosary Mysteries is called the Glorious Mysteries—the hardest ones for us to believe. The first three are the Resurrection, the Ascension of Jesus to His Father, and Pentecost. Mary reportedly was present at all these events, and if she had even a crumb of doubt in her, surely it would have been gone at her first sight of His resurrected body.
The list of what has "turned out right" in my life is much harder to conjure than the list of what has (or seems to have) gone wrong. But as Easter approaches, that's the list I'm feeling called to write—or at least to write as much of it as I am able to know. Because, I think, it is in that list that I will see the proof that Jesus is indeed who the Angel Gabriel told Mary he would be; it is in that list that I will recognize, in myself and my life, His resurrected body.