Faced with the news that she would be the mother of the Son of God, Our Lady asked, “How can this be, since I have had no relations with a man?” Even Mary had doubts, fears and questions about her call. She needed reassurance which came in the example of her cousin Elizabeth, a woman of age who was expecting her own son. With this reassurance, Mary was liberated from her fear when she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
The message is not that we do not have fear, but that despite our fear we say, “Yes Lord, Yes!” It is this response that becomes our model for discipleship.
Today we have examples around us of women who, like Mary, have embraced their call despite uncertainty and hardship. One such woman is Burmese human rights’ activist, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has lived under house arrest for nearly two decades, and has sacrificed her own freedom in her struggle to bring democracy to her country.
Just as Mary faced her own fears, Suu Kyi knows the power of fear. Yet, just as Mary had the courage to reject those fears, Suu Kyi chooses a life that, while restricted physically, brings freedom at a much deeper level. In her 1990 speech, Freedom from Fear, she said, “The only real prison is fear, and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.
When we look at the similarities between Mary and Suu Kyi, we can see the truths that transcend differences of religion, politics and culture. Commenting on the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, former First Lady Laura Bush stated, “We know that this document proclaims the rights that belong to every human being of every religion, race, class, or gender. I have met thousands of women from many nations. And I have seen that women everywhere have the same dreams. They want to be educated, they want to raise their children in peace, they want to enjoy good health, to be prosperous, and to be heard.”
Often we wonder what God is telling us. If we have the courage to hear, it is unlikely that we will be confused. The uncertainty comes not from God, but rather our discernment of God’s call for us. The angel says to Mary, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” Gabriel continues, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” God’s call for each of us is just as certain, if only we can allow ourselves to be liberated from our fears.