Br. Bernard Jean Delcourt, OHC
Annunciation – Tuesday 25 March 2014
|The Annunciation, by Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1859 - 1937|
Philadelphia Museum of Art
“Let it be with me according to your word.”
Mary’s words to the angel Gabriel encourage us to acknowledge our blessed powerlessness in facing God. They encourage us to seek God’s will as the only justified actions to undertake.
The Annunciation shows that nothing is impossible to God. And it shows that God seeks us as partners just as we are amidst the life we live no matter how mundane or not.
The Annunciation to Mary is the beginning of a mystery. It starts the mystery of the Incarnation. It forever changes our relationship to God. And we are still in the midst of that Incarnation.
With the Incarnation, God the omniscient, the omnipotent, breaks into the very particulars of human existence. The Holy Spirit overshadows a young virgin, a Galilean. God intervenes in her life to be himself born in a human family; the family of an unexciting descendant of David.
God chooses as partner a non-dominant person of her society. In a society where older males hold sway, God chooses a young maid whose marital status makes her particularly vulnerable to social opprobrium.
And what Mary gets to hear from Gabriel is puzzling in so many ways that it is a wonder that Mary only asks one question of the holy messenger.
The announcement is totally outside of the realm of everyday life for Mary. Mary might wonder about the titles such as “Son of the Most High.” She might wonder about the political claims such as “God will give him the throne of his ancestor David” or even “he will reign... forever”
But instead, Mary retains the good sense to start with first things first; “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” She even pre-supposes that her pregnancy is not to occur through the agency of Joseph, even though Joseph could deliver the Davidic lineage. Mary gathers that there is immediacy in this godly intervention -- or is it an invitation?
The angel Gabriel’s answer to her question of how this is to be leaves the door open to even more questions than it answers. But Mary has already gathered that questions will not solve this mystery. She has intuitively understood God’s agency in all this and is already resolved to be part of it. Her choice is in how she reacts to this godly intervention. She could brace and resist or soften and accept.
“Let it be with me according to your word” is her response. And hopefully, we too, soften and respond to life’s little and large annunciations to be partners with God.
Mary is a shining example of embracing our powerlessness in order to accept the power of God in our lives. Through her ready acceptance of God’s agency in her life, she ushers in eternal life for all. It is through her frail humanity, and that of her yet-to-be-conceived son, that God chooses to save humankind.
In the mystery of Incarnation, frail, messy, unreliable human flesh is invited to participate in the desires, the hopes and the life of God himself.
In embracing the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and conceiving Jesus in her womb, Mary is an active, willing participant of the Incarnation of which we are an ongoing part.
And today, we are nine months ahead of Christmas. At Christmas, we celebrate another milestone of the Incarnation, the birth of the Child Jesus into the world. But by the meanders of the liturgical calendar, in a few weeks’ time we will relive Jesus’ passion and his resurrection. But do not believe for an instant that Holy Week and Easter will bring an end to Jesus’ incarnation.
The Incarnation did not come to an end with the earthly death of Jesus. Through his death and resurrection, the Incarnation was made a reality for all believers and those they pray for.
With the institution of the Eucharist and the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the Incarnation was expanded extravagantly to include each and every one of us.
The very present Body of Christ continues to be made evident in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. In both those sacraments, we are made part of the corporeal body of Jesus Christ in the world. The Annunciation we celebrate today also announces our participation in the Body of Christ.
In the words of Teresa of Avila:
“Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which is to look out Christ’s compassion to the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless humans now.”
So come forward this morning and receive Christ’s body and blood in you. Become ever more what you partake in, the Body of Christ in which you were already awakened through baptism a while ago. Come, taste and see that your hands are the hands of Christ. And, as Mary, let your heart seek and consent to God’s will always.