What is it like suddenly to hear your name called out when you’re walking down a street? I guess it depends on who is calling you. If it is the voice of a stranger, you’re going to feel surprised. You may even panic and want to run!

As Luke tells it in today’s gospel, Mary was troubled but she didn’t run. She listened to Gabriel and was calmed when he said: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” What a compliment!

Mary’s life, from her very conception, was holy and pleasing to God. She had no reason to fear. The Blessed Trinity (through Gabriel) now calls her name and invites her to say yes or no to becoming the mother of the Messiah. Mary’s surprise gives way to joy and acceptance: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.

Through salvation history, God calls and we respond. Sometimes it’s life-altering, sometimes not. But three things are constant: God will call, he will honor my freedom to decline, and he forever promises: Do not be afraid, I am with you!

—Fr. Paul Faulstich, SJ spent many years in India and is now doing pastoral ministry at Loyola University in Chicago.