Could Our Lady have said ‘No’ to bearing Jesus?

Could Our Lady have said ‘No’ to bearing Jesus?
Questions of Faith

It’s no secret that Catholics believe Mary is the Mother of God, a fate she learned about at the Annunciation. According to the Gospel of Luke, the angel Gabriel came to Mary as a young virgin and said: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”

Some scholars have suggested that Gabriel’s message was declarative rather than a proposal, meaning that Mary couldn’t have refused the message. This point seems compelling from reading the passage alone, but it’s important to remember that the author of Luke wasn’t recording every small detail of the conversation, but giving an overall synopsis of what happened.

Besides, we know that Mary voluntarily accepted the message because of her reply to Gabriel: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

It’s clear from Mary’s response that she isn’t coerced into bearing Jesus; she chose this option. Mary, like everyone else ever created, had free will and could have said ‘No’ at the Annunciation. Of course, God knew that she would voluntarily accept the word given to her, and gave her the grace to do so.

This is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “’God sent forth his Son’, but to prepare a body for him, he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, ‘a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary’.”

Like anyone else, Mary could have declined the message, but God knew that she would accept, much like when someone knows their partner will accept a proposal of marriage, but in a much more radical way. There’s no force or compelling involved at all.


Answering this question, of course leads to another one. What would have happened if Mary said ‘No’ to God? The short answer is that we don’t know, and there’s plenty of speculation on the matter. Perhaps God would have chosen someone else to bear Jesus, or taken a different path completely. What we do know is that God ordered the world in such a way that Mary would freely say ‘Yes’ and for that we can rejoice!

Theologians are often accused of asking esoteric or hypothetical questions that don’t have any relevance to real life but questions like these provoke thought and give a better insight into what we believe and why we believe it.

For example, this question has shone a light on the topic of free will and also how incredible Our Lady was to accept an offer that would make most of us tremble and cower.