Let It Be According to His Word

Monday of this Holy Week, March the 25th, was the Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord, exactly nine months prior to the Feast of His Holy Nativity. In such a case, the celebration of the Annunciation is appropriately transferred to the Monday following the first week of Easter, since the Cross and Passion of Our Lord and His Resurrection from the dead take precedence over all other observances. Nevertheless, the date itself did call to mind the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary (St. Luke 1:26-38). And it struck me that St. Mary’s response, “Let it be to me according to Your Word” (St. Luke 1:38), expresses well our theology of vocation.

Such things were on my mind already, as they often are, but stemming especially from a Bible class I was privileged to attend this past Sunday, dealing with our callings and stations in life as God’s Christian people. The class also considered the similarities and differences between those various callings and stations and the Divine Call to the Office of the Holy Ministry. I found the conversation and discussion to be very interesting, and it was still resonating in my thoughts as I contemplated the unique and singular vocation to which the Blessed Virgin Mary was called.

With respect to the Call to the Office of the Holy Ministry, it is uniquely “Divine,” not as though pastors are somehow better or holier than other Christians, but rather because the Office itself is uniquely necessary to the life of the Church. That is to say, the preaching and administration of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament – which are the distinctive and definitive functions of the Office – are constitutive, definitive, essential, and fundamental to the very existence, life, and well-being of the Church. Indeed, the Ministry of the Gospel is to the Church what the Word of the Lord was to St. Mary in the Annunciation, as pastors are sent to the Church as messengers of Christ Jesus in much the way that the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

But the callings and stations of every Christian are from the Lord, and they are holy, good, and right, in so far as they are in harmony with the Word of God and received in holy faith and holy love. Such callings are holy in themselves, because they are established and given by the Lord; and the Christians who receive and carry out those callings are holy, as well, because they are the baptized and believing children of God.

The first and foremost calling of every Christian – of pastors and laity alike – is the calling to be a child of God in Christ Jesus. That is a matter of your identity and of your relationship with God and with those whom He has placed around you in this body and life – within your home and family, within your congregation, and within your community. Whatever you are called and given to do, you go about it all as God’s own child, baptized into Christ. And that makes all the difference in the world, even when your particular calling and station appear entirely mundane.

Pastors and laity alike are subject to difficulties, disappointments, and discouragements. And in the face of those challenges, which can easily become real temptations to doubt and despair, it is particularly helpful to hear and heed the beautiful example of St. Mary’s confession of faith and confidence in the Word that she was given. Your calling and station in life are clearly different than hers, yet it is the same Lord who sends His messengers to speak His Word to you, who calls you by the Gospel to be His very own, and who stations you in precisely the place that He has chosen for you. In that place, in whatever your work may be, “Let it be according to His Word.” That is to say, not only that you “consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments,” that you do what you should, refrain from what you shouldn’t, and confess your sins where you have failed and fallen short, but also and especially that you cling to and trust His Word of the Gospel, His free and full forgiveness of all your sins, and His sure and certain promise that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). It is in such faith that we take up His Cross and follow Him in the hope and confidence of His Resurrection; for His Word is never powerless but living and life-giving!