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Center for Action and Contemplation
Responding to the Call
Responding to the Call

A Moment of Surrender

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Contemplative teacher Mirabai Starr writes that prophets often protest their Divine call before saying “Here I am” to God:

Not all prophets do as they are told. Not at first, anyway. When the call comes, most of them turn left and then right: “Who, me?” they murmur. If the call is a true one, the voice of the Holy Spirit will roar: “Yes, you!”

Even then, the prophet will haggle with the Holy One. “There must be someone better suited to speak for the Divine.” But the God of Love is a patient God. The God of Love calls once, twice, three times. Only then does the prophet square her shoulders, gird her loins, open her hands, and say, “Hineni. Here I am.” [1]

Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson describes Mary’s prophetic calling:

Luke’s artistry welds the announcement of Jesus’ birth to the call of Mary as a woman commissioned by God. Biblical scholars point out that in this scene she is engaged for a prophetic task, one in a long line of God-sent deliverers positioned at significant junctures in Israel’s history.… Replete with angelic voice, fear and reassurance, message, objection, and sign, this is a story of Mary being commissioned to carry forward God’s design for redemption. The announcement of her impending motherhood is at the same time her prophetic calling to act for the deliverance of the people. She now takes her place “among those prophets called to give word and witness to the hidden plan of God’s salvific activity not yet seen by other members of the community of faith.” [2] Her affirmative response to this divine initiative sets her life off on an adventure into the unknown future. The divine presence will be with her through good times and bad, and ultimately the community will remember her life with gratitude.…

Miriam of Nazareth [is placed] in the company of all ancestors in the faith who heard the word of God and responded with courageous love. Now like Abraham, she sets out in faith, not knowing where she is going. Now like Sarah, she receives power to conceive by this faith, considering the One who promised to be worthy of her trust. Listening to the Spirit, rising to the immense possibilities of her call, she walks by faith in the integrity of her own person. Inspired by Spirit-Sophia, women who make their own decisions before God claim her into their circle. [3]

Mirabai Starr reflects on Mary’s response:

Look at Mother Mary. A working-class Jewish teenager. Unmarried. She receives an uninvited visit from a vast winged being, who fills her room with his radiance and hands Mary her sacred instructions. “You will be a vessel for the incarnation of the divine here on earth,” he declares. “And it’s going to hurt like hell to be his mother.” Mary trembles, but she stays present. And then she says yes. “Hineni. Here I am. Thy will be done.” [4]


[1] Mirabai Starr, God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Rhinebeck, NY: Monkfish Book Publishing, 2012), 41.

[2] Richard J. Sklba, “Mary and the ’Anawim,” in Mary, Woman of Nazareth: Biblical and Theological Perspectives, ed. Doris Donnelly (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), 124.

[3] Elizabeth A. Johnson, Truly Our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints (New York: Continuum, 2003), 250–251, 258.

[4] Mirabai Starr, Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2019), 81.

Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Jenna Keiper, Untitled Bosque, Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 10, and Untitled 8. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.

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