25 March, 2020. The Annunciation of the Lord

1st Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10

To doubting King Ahaz, Isaiah promises a child to be called Immanuel

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And Isaiah said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanu-el. Take counsel together, but it will come to nought; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”

Responsorial: Psalm 39: 7-11

Response: Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will

You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings,
but and open ear.
You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I.
In the scroll of the book it stands written
that I should do your will.
My God, I delight in your law
in the depth of my heart.
Your justice I have proclaimed
in the great assembly.
My lips I have not sealed;
you know it, O Lord.
I have not hidden your justice in my heart
but declared your faithful help.
I have not hidden your love and your truth
from the great assembly.

2nd Reading: Hebrews 10:4-10

Why Christ came into the world: to do the will of God

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me;  in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.  Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),  then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

The virgin Mary will conceive by the Holy Spirit’s power, and give birth to Jesus

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
May your words, O Lord be on my lips, and in my heart. May they guide me on life’s journey and keep me near to you.

The Handmaid of the Lord

We celebrate today the divine message or Annunciation to Mary and the divine beginning of her pregnancy, dated exactly nine months before December 25th, the birthday of her son Jesus. As a community of faith we gladly celebrate with Mary the conception of her son, the long-awaited Messiah. An angel named Gabriel, whose name means God is powerful, brought her the message that would seal a new Covenant between God and mankind, uniting the divine and human in the person of Jesus Christ.
Gabriel’s message was puzzling, since Mary was living chastely, and wonders how she can conceive a child without human intercourse. How could this promised event take place? She wanted to love God above all things, and had up to that point been a dedicated virgin. How is she meant to become a mother, she wonders. The angel’s promise helps Mary to understand: “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The all-powerful God will make her the Mother of the Messiah, miraculously.
Saint Leo the Great wrote some beautiful lines about the Incarnation that took place. “The Son of God enters this lowly world. He comes down from the throne of heaven yet does not separate himself from the Father’s glory. He is born into a new state, by a new birth. He was born in a new condition, for, invisible in his own nature, he became visible in ours. Beyond our grasp, he chose to come within our grasp. Existing before time, he began to exist at a moment in time. Lord of the universe, he hid his infinite glory and took the nature of a servant. Incapable of suffering as God, he did not refuse to be human, capable of suffering. Immortal, he chose to be subject to the laws of death.”
The bishops at the second Vatican Council wrote a lovely reflection upon today’s feast: “By her belief and obedience, as the new Eve the Blessed Virgin, without knowing man but overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, brought forth on earth the Son of the Father, putting her faith not in the word of the ancient serpent, but in that of God’s messenger.” (Lumen Gentium, 63). Today we celebrate not only her belief and obedience, but the shining grace of God that has made her spiritual mother to us all.
This feast is rich in spiritual promise. The word of God came to a special person, in a definite place, Nazareth in Galilee.. It was Mary whom God chose to carry the destiny of all humanity. It was to her that God’s Son was entrusted for all of us. This story ends by declaring that “Nothing is impossible to God.” The coming of our Saviour depended on the consent of this particular woman in this particular place and time, and also on the consent of St Joseph, to take her as his wife.
Mary’s Yes to the message led to us all receiving the grace of salvation. In a certain sense, during the annunciation Mary represented us all. We all needed her to say “YES” to God in our name. And Mary said, “Let what you have said be done to me.” St Luke shows her as the ideal disciple, who hears the word of God and keeps it. Because of her response to God, she becomes a blessing for all the human race. If we can in some way join in her response to God’s word, we too will be channels of blessing for others.

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