AD SENSE

Annunciation of the Lord, March 25

 Annunciation of the Lord, March 25

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10 / Hebrews 10:4-10 / Luke 1:26-38  

Albeiro Vargas from Columbia became a “father” when he was only a nine-year-old. He was touched by the poor old people around his town. He formed an association of children called Guardian Angels to improve societal treatment of the elderly and create a model for strong intergenerational relations in Colombia through a program that brings children more closely and more regularly into the lives of older people. Beyond the direct engagement of the inter-generational participants, Albeiro pushes for reforms in legislation and national policy that will shift the current societal attitude towards the elderly.

For example, he has initiated lawsuits against children who have abandoned their elderly parents and waged a successful campaign for the enforcement of a nationwide tax supplying revenue to nursing homes. 

“How is it possible?” was the same question many people asked when they heard this story. With God everything is possible. St. Augustine was quoted as saying: God does not ask of us the impossible. He may ask us to do the difficult thing, but He will make it possible.  

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the proclamation of the Good News of salvation.  It is not only a joyful event but also a very profound event in God's plan of salvation.  Yet for Mary, it was not just an event; it was for her a mission.  And if she said "Yes" then it was going to be a life-long mission. And it was going to be difficult.  But God assured her it was not going to be impossible.  Mary put her faith and trust in God as she accepted her mission.  We live in difficult and fragile times. We have wars here and epidemics there and all sorts of things everywhere.  Trying to believe and live out the Good News is not only difficult, but seemingly impossible.  Believing that there can be peace that there can be joy, that there can be love, can be difficult.  But let this celebration of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Good News of our salvation, remind us that difficulty is not synonymous with impossibility.  We join Mary to say "Yes" to God because we want to believe that God is greater than any difficulty and impossibility. 

We celebrate today the solemn feast of the Annunciation. “Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” said the old missal. That was correct, in a way, for the angel came to announce glad tidings to Mary. “Annunciation of the Lord,” says the new missal. Yes, this is the day that the good news is announced that she will become the Mother of Jesus. It is Jesus who is announced. He will be “God-with-us” (1st reading), who comes to do God’s will by being with us and saving us (2ND. reading). It’s Jesus’ day, but it’s also Mary’s day. With the same disposition to serve God and people as Jesus had, she says, I am fully ready to serve – “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” May these be our words too.    

Commentary   

The scene of the Annunciation with its key figures—Angel Gabriel and Mary—is perhaps one of the most depicted Biblical events in art. But, if I had an artistic talent, I would love to depict the scene with Mary alone, focusing on the simple but profound final statement of the event in Luke: “And the angel left her”.  Gabriel came to her with the most momentous of tasks and waited and waited for her consent. Mary was troubled at heart and had a few doubts. Gabriel offered clarifications. Mary still did not understand what it all entailed, but she surrendered herself totally to God’s plan. But the moment Mary said her “Yes”, the angel left her. There would be no more annunciations or manifest interventions from heaven. No angel would visit her again. There would be no miraculous rescue when Herod threatened to kill the child. No heavenly aid would come to help her find the child Jesus lost in the Temple. After the Annunciation, Mary would have to ask her path and live out her yes in the dark light of faith. To her remit, she did it to perfection. Blessed is she among all women and men who have walked and will walk the face of the earth.   

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Encountering Christ:

1.      “Fiat”: Mary’s Fiat was “a full ‘yes,’ total, for all her life, unconditional,” said Pope Francis (Angelus, December 8, 2016). “Mary’s ‘yes’ opened the way to God among us. It is the most important ‘yes’ in history, the humble ‘yes’ that overturns the arrogant ‘no’ of the origins, the faithful ‘yes’ that cures disobedience; the willing ‘yes’ that overturns the egoism of sin,” Pope Francis added. She was full of grace and completely conformed to the Father. Mary strove at every moment to fulfill God’s will in her life. We are less perfect, but must strive to give our “yes” to God as does our Mother Mary. “Sometimes, however, we are experts in the half-yes: we are good at feigning that we do not understand what God would like and what our conscience suggests to us,” Pope Francis says (ibid.). We grow in our capacity to say “yes” by becoming full of grace. When we avail ourselves of the sacraments, adhere to our Lenten sacrifices, and love others the way Christ does, our half-yes become “fiats” for the glory of God the Father. 

2.      Nature of Freedom: Pope Benedict wrote that the lowest type of freedom is choosing between right and wrong. The greatest freedom is to know the grace that God gives and offer it right back to God. This is what Mary freely chose to do, to know that she had received grace beyond measure–“Hail full of grace”–and to offer it right back to God by her “fiat.” It was a choice made out of the greatest possible freedom because she was choosing to do what God desired. 

3.      Christ Bearers: Mary brought the God-man into this world through her “yes” to the angel. He encouraged her with the words, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” We are offered a multitude of opportunities to bring Christ into this world—to give of ourselves in kindness, to swallow our pride, and incarnate Christ through our own personal “fiat” to God’s will. When we do so, we can take the words of the angel as our own encouragement: “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.”

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The angel speaks to Mary 

"You shall bear a son, the Son of God. " A college student composed this meditation on Mary: "Today I saw a water lily growing in a pond. It had the freshest yellow colour I'd ever seen. The lily—a precious treasure— was unconcerned about whether anyone noticed its astounding beauty.

"As I sat there, watching it unfold its petals noiselessly, I thought of Mary pregnant with Jesus. She, too, was a precious treasure. She, too, was unconcerned about whether anyone noticed her astounding beauty. "But to those who did, she shared a secret. Her beauty came not from herself, but from the life of Jesus within her, unfolding its petals noiselessly."

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What role does Mary play in our own spiritual life? "Hail Mary . . gentle woman . . . peaceful dove . . .teach us wisdom, teach us love." Carey Landry

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Today's feast of the Annunciation is an important event in the Church because nine months later, the Church will be celebrating the feast of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. The feast of the Annunciation invites to enter, with Mary, into a quiet contemplation of the promise of salvation, which was first pronounced by the prophet Isaiah, and which was later accepted by Mary and fulfilled and manifested in Jesus. But for now, we are invited to be with Mary, to hear her say "Yes" to the Lord and to the acceptance of the promise of salvation.

In other words, like Mary, we also need to let Jesus grow within us, we let Jesus become "greater" in our hearts, as we become lesser and lesser of ourselves. The feast of the Annunciation reminds us that we are sinful and we need to be saved from the clutches of the evil one and we need Jesus to come into our hearts and to be made flesh in our lives in order to be saved. And that is the meaning of the celebration of the feast of the Annunciation. Like Mary, we say "Yes" to salvation and we say "Yes" to Jesus. When we truly mean what we say, then Jesus will be able to enter into our hearts and be the center our lives. Yes, we must continue to be faithful to the "Yes" to Jesus. One of the ways we can do this is to have a deep devotion to Mary, either with the Rosary or some other form of Marian devotion. With Mary, we say to the Lord: I am the servant of the Lord, let what you have said be done unto me.

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Believing in God means responding to others. like to recite the creed but tend to limit it to God and ourselves. We are fond of identifying ourselves as believers but are apt to exclude others from our identification. We are pleased to receive the sacraments but are prone to see them as only a one-on-one relationship with God. By believing, we are automatically confronted by God's needs, i.e., the needs of others. Believing in God means responding to others. 

For the prophet Isaiah, King Ahaz was the perfect example of non-belief and hence nonresponse. In an earlier meeting (Is 7:9) he told the king that if his faith was not firm, he would not be firm. By refusing to respond to the prophet and thus to the people's genuine need (not bringing in the neo-Assyrian king), the king manifested his lack of faith. Ahaz could accept Yahweh but not Yahweh's concern for others. Ile exemplified the very opposite of the principle that believing in God means responding to others.

For Luke, Mary was the perfect example of belief and hence response. By not having Mary ask for a sign, he demonstrated her faith—a faith which Elizabeth re-echoed: "Blest is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her would be fulfilled." By responding in faith to the angel's message, Mary responded to God's plan. To be the mother of the Messiah meant to be the catalyst for effecting God's plan. By accepting God's command in faith, Mary accepted a commitment to the community. At Pentecost, therefore, she naturally found her place as a member of the prayerful community (see Acts 1:14). In Luke, Mary typifies the task of the Church: believing in God means responding to others. 

Husbands and wives who continue to meet their mutual needs by devotion and fidelity demonstrate their faith. Parents who see their role as Providing for the total upbringing of their family prove their faith. Leaders who see the community's problems as their problems give evidence of their faith. Those who lavish love and affection on the discouraged and despairing show their faith. All such people see their faith response as a response to the needs of others. For them, believing in God means responding to others. 

Eucharist is not a gathering of isolated individuals. It is the assembly of believers who relate the bread and the wine to the needs of the entire community. To admit in faith the Eucharistic presence means to demonstrate in action the Eucharist concern—other people. In Eucharist, believing in God means responding to others.

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Liturgical Prayers  

Penitential Rite:

-Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me, LHM

-in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight, CHM

-Behold, I come to do your will. We have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all., LHM 
 

Opening Prayer   

Our faithful God and Father, you are indeed our “God-with-us.”  Your Son became one of us, human, born of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary.  He came to serve and she was the humble handmaid.  Make us deeply aware, Lord, that salvation began with service.  Make us ready to serve in love, as Mary did, together with Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord for ever. 

 Intercessions

On this solemnity of the Annunciation, let us pray with Mary for the needs of the Church and of all people. 

 – That the Church may always accept and carry out its vocation of proclaiming the Word of God faithfully and with zeal, we pray: 

– That with the Lord we may reach out with goodness and tender care to the weak and those suffering, we pray: 

– That those who have to take important decisions regarding the future of their life may, like Mary, see how they can best serve God and people, we pray: 

– That we may all become unaffected and humble enough to let God do great things through us, we pray: 

– That all in our Christian communities may be open enough to God’s Sprit to accept any task God asks of us, we pray:  

Lord God, hear us as we ask you that with Mary, we may seek your will in all we do. Grant this through her Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.     

Prayer over the Gifts   

Lord our God, here are bread and wine as signs of our willingness to be available to you and to our neighbour.  As Jesus could come among people because Mary was ready to serve, so may your Son now be alive among us because we open our hearts to you and to those around us, together with Jesus Christ our Lord.     

Prayer after Communion:

Lord God, our Father, you have announced also to us today that your Son came among us to be our life and joy.  He has been with us as your living word and our bread of life.  May we grow in his life and, like Mary, by his word bring a message of liberation and happiness to those in search of life and meaning.  We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.     

Blessing

“Here I am to do your will,” says Jesus. “Here I am as the handmaid of the Lord,” says Mary. May these be our words too. They are beautiful, but they are not easy. May God be our strength, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  needs, i.e., the needs of others. Believing in God means responding to others.