I thought I knew her — Mary, the mother of Jesus. I had read her stories so many times that I was sure there could be nothing new.

And so when I came to her again this past week, came to her with the intensity that comes when you have to explain a person to others, I was at a loss. So much has been said about her. What more could there be?

And so I began to pray.

Not to Mary, as some traditions would teach. But to Jesus, her Son, her Lord.

“Jesus, what do you want us to learn from Mary?”

Was it her response to your incredible plan? Her willingness to serve from within a scandal? Her deep spiritual bond with Elizabeth? Or the faith she had as she watched her boy die a torturous death?

Are these the things you want me to learn from Mary?

Maybe. But there seemed to be something more. Some other truth from this woman who carried God in her womb that He wanted me to learn, to share.

So I went back to the pages of her story once more. Those pages I thought I could recite from memory. And as I read, I saw the glimpses of something else going on in the story of the pregnant teenager from Nazareth.

“Greetings, favored one.”

Favored one. That’s what the angel Gabriel called Mary. Favored one. What was there about Mary which earned the Lord’s favor?

It perplexed Mary, too, the text says. So the angel repeated it, this time with feeling.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”

What would it be like to be favored of God, I wondered? To be singled out and redeemed for his purpose. I scoured scripture to discover the secrets of God’s favor. Abel was favored over Cain; Noah was favored out of a wicked generation. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, even the Israelites. All were favored by God.

But then why Mary?

It seems God’s favor from Abel through Mary was his way of keeping his covenants and preserving his plan of redemption. The scandal of Mary’s pregnancy was just one of many scandals in a long line of God’s picking and choosing to eventually deliver His Son to earth. Some call it the scandal of particularity — that God would favor, prefer, choose one over another to accomplish his purposes.

But it wasn’t about Cain or Joseph or Mary, really. It was about God, and what he was accomplishing.

Because in His time, his favor would rest on the whole world. He would choose us, yes us!, over His Son, the sin of the world dripping off of Him there on the cross. God would favor the world and choose us from every nation and language and family while He turned his back on His Son.

The mystery of mysteries was solved. God doesn’t actually believe in picking favorites. In choosing one, he was making a plan to eventually choose all!

He favored Mary in Nazareth more than 2,000 years ago so that he could favor Charity in Indianapolis today!

Favored, indeed!