God needed a sinless mother in order to be born and be present in our world. While being a celebration of Mary therefore, today’s feast is more importantly, a celebration of God’s constant presence in our lives.
The story in today’s gospel is a story that for hundreds of years has been a constant presence in the lives of Catholics in the prayer called the “Angelus”. There was a time, when at 6 am, at noon, and at 6 pm, church bells would toll to remind Catholics of the story of the angel telling Mary that she was to have a son who was to be our Savior.
Today, just as few have time to even stop to hear the pealing of church bells, few have the time to stop and acknowledge the presence of God in their lives or even of their need for a Savior. We live in a terribly hurried and stressed out world with little room and time for those moments when we can even stop and take a deep breath, let alone acknowledge God’s presence.
A couple of days ago I was chatting with the lady working at a nearby copy place and she was showing me all the new sophisticated equipment they had. “Wow. That’s great”. I said. “I bet you guys are happier with your newer and faster equipment”. “Well, not really”, she said. “It seems that the faster our tools get, the less we accomplish. And the less time we have to even breathe. It seems the better our tools get, the more stressful things get too. Isn’t that strange?”
Whether we like it or not, that is the kind of world we live in: fast-paced, efficient, product-oriented, often with very little room and time to step back and think about the more important things in life. And from all indications, that is how our world will continue to be. There’s no turning back.
But while we will never be able to turn back the hands of time to a gentler, more quiet age that was more open to acknowledging God’s presence through something as simple as the ringing of church bells, to a time when life was perhaps less harried and stressful, we can still pause every once in a while, and remember that two thousand years ago, God came to a simple young girl at Nazareth who gave birth to his Son.
Perhaps by doing so, we will be reminded that God still comes to us today, even in our terribly fast-paced lives—if only we would stop every once in a while and acknowledge his presence, invite him in, and allow him to transform our lives.