Annunciation of the Lord
Solemnity transferred to Mon. 31 March 2008.
Chapter Sermon by Fr. Mark.
It is a happy coincidence that the feast of the Annunciation sometimes occurs in Easter Time. It serves to remind us that no feast can be separated from the saving deeds of Jesus that we have just celebrated in Holy Week. Each feast of the year truly contains the whole dying and rising mystery of Christ.
During the eight octave days of Easter the gospels continually present us with encounters of the risen Christ with his disciples. The transposed solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord to Mary can also fruitfully be interpreted within similar parallel meetings between the divine and the human. What an encounter with God Mary had through the intervention of the angel Gabriel: “The power of the Most High will overshadow you”, Gabriel tells her and she becomes pregnant with Jesus! Her womb is opened and the Son of the Most High, the Saviour, is conceived within her body. This life, nurtured in darkness, bursts forth to be the Light of the world. This life, entombed in Mary’s womb, becomes the risen Lord.
But even so, Mary, the first of the disciples and the mother of God, at first receives the angel’s message as one “greatly troubled” and questions the angel, “How can this be?” – These are surely typical human responses. The gospel account shows us how our ways can be completely changed into the ways of God. What transformed Mary from the frightened and questioning young woman we saw at the encounter with Gabriel into the confident though still reticent but firm believer that we have come to see and treasure in the life of the Church and its tradition? This is the same type of question we have seen being asked of the disciples in the face of the death and then of the resurrection of Jesus. What transformed them from doubting followers to believing disciples? And the ultimate question for us in all of these events is, what transforms us?
The first reading in the Mass of the Annunciation relates to a similar dilemma. God offered Ahaz a sign; Ahaz refuses to ask for one and thereby clutches to his own way of thinking. Mary, in spite of being troubled and with questions in her heart, comes to submit to “the power of the Most High.” Her answer (“I am the handmaid of the Lord”), transforms her. Jesus ends his earthly life by doing his Father’s will, and by offering himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our salvation. This act of self-giving allowed the Father to raise him up. Mary in her acceptance of God’s will anticipated Jesus’ own response to the Father. But it was he who, when he had accepted the Father’s plan of salvation for mankind, gave her earlier response its full significance and purpose.
When our Lady replied to Gabriel’s message from on high: “May it be done to me according to your word,” she begot Jesus in the flesh. When Jesus said to his Father in his final hours, “Let your will be done, not mine.” we were raised us up with him to the heights of heaven.
The dimension of the resurrection, therefore, comes into play when we celebrate Gabriel’s greeting to Mary in this Easter Season. His words, “The Lord is with you” become pregnant with the added and fuller meaning that it is the risen Lord who is with us.
By accepting God’s will in our own lives as both Jesus and Mary did in theirs we will truly encounter the risen Christ. And our Easter Alleluias become our way of saying, with Mary, “May it be done to me according to your word.”