If ever there was a “wild and crazy” juxtaposition in the Scripture readings from the U.S.Bishops’ Conference, it is today. To be honest, however, there are two different sets of readings: one from the “regular” lectionary calendar and one from the calendar of feasts. Today we honor the Blessed Mother Mary, mother of Jesus, as she is remembered in the prayer dedicated to her. It is the feast of the Most Holy Rosary. (Lots to learn on the internet about the provenance and development of that devotion.)
In the daily lectionary readings we have the very familiar story of Jonah and the whale (JON 1 &2) where Jonah tries everything to get out of completing the mission he has been given by God and ends up in the belly of the whale. It’s a cautionary tale, to be sure, and the moral is the futility of dismissing God’s uncomfortable directives. (To be fair to God, Jonah was saved by being harbored for a time in the belly of the whale and spewed out in the end after which he gave in to the mission he had been given…but that comes in a later chapter.)
The reading for the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is the story in Luke’s gospel of the Annunciation of Mary’s call to be the mother of Jesus. There seems to be no hesitation in her affirmative response to this incredible message brought to her by an angel. (traditionally translated as: “Be it done unto me according to your word.”) The gospels are like shorthand, I think, and there are places where I would wish for a more complete description of the stated event. It seems unfair to have such a brief conversation (LK 1: 28-38) for such an important event. One translation (J.B. Phillips) that seems to speak more of who Mary is has always been my favorite. Mary says, “I belong to the Lord body and soul. Let it happen as you say.”
While Jonah was busy sleeping in the hold of a sinking ship, trying to avoid God, Mary was practicing the love that directed her entire young life and enabled a consistent response to something she didn’t really understand but was willing to trust. A telling juxtaposition…and something upon which to reflect when we are faced with a difficult assignment from God.