A HOMILY ON THE ANNUNCIATION OF THE LORD

December 15, 2017frjohnma

READINGS: Is. 7:10-14; 8:10; Ps. 40:7-8a. 8b-9.10.11. Heb. 10:4-10. Luke 1:26-38.

What a joyful day to gather and celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord and the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The day when the WORD BECAME FLESH AND DWELT (LIVED) AMONG US. Today we celebrate the conception day of our Lord and at Christmas, which is in nine months’ time from today, we shall celebrate His birthday. A day when the transcendent became immanent. A day when that which was far off drew nigh. A day when the infinite became finite. A day when the invisible became tangible. A day when the holy of holies became human like us in all things except sin (Heb. 4:15, 7:26). We celebrate the fact that God who is Divine and always so became human for our sake without losing His Divinity. A unique celebration of the beginning of our Church’s mystery. Our joy is further heightened and demonstrated by the celebration of the INCARNATE WORD as the principal solemnity of the Sisters of the Congregation of the Incarnate Word. So, Sister happy Solemnity of the Incarnate Word! A Religious Congregation that proudly lives and announces the mystery of the Incarnate Word.

This mystery of the Incarnate word is so important that we are reminded of it daily through popular devotions like the Joyful mysteries of the Rosary and the Angelus.

The Word of God is the core of our salvation and our being as Christians. God began the world by creating it through His word (Genesis 1). It is the Word that the Lord says in Isaiah 55:10-11 “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

This is the Word that we have come to celebrate. We have come to celebrate the spoken word of God that has become flesh since 2000 years ago and is still with us until the end of time (Matt. 28:20). Therefore, today is a day of two major activities: PRAISE and THANKSGIVING. What a great privilege! We pray that the Word of God that we have come to celebrate may bear abundant fruits in our lives, Amen.

The celebration of the Annunciation of the Lord is the commemoration of the wondrous unfolding of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. By this celebration, we unite with the Trinity to define and confirm one of the fundamental truths of our Christian faith. It was already foreshadowed in the O.T. as a sign.  So, from the first reading the promise made to king Ahaz came to its fulfillment at the Annunciation to Mary. The Annunciation to Mary was the formal beginning of “the fullness of time”, (Gal. 4:4). It was the moment when Mary was invited to conceive Jesus in whom the “whole fullness of deity” would dwell “bodily” (Col. 1:19; 2:9) Catechism of the Catholic Church # 484. This is the beginning of the mystery that John the Evangelist echoes in his prologue to the Gospel 1:14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”!

Therefore, the Annunciation is a mystery of God’s invitation to us according to our callings/vocations and it challenges us to open up our understanding “to the limitless possibilities of God’s transforming power, of his love for us, his desire to be united with us.” This celebration invites us to pray that the greatness of our Christian calling may be awakened in all hearts – the limitless possibilities  “nothing is impossible to God,” to know God’s desire to be united with us – not in another life, another place, but amid the ordinary circumstances of your life and mine. Your charism correspond to the core of this celebration – TO LIVE AND ANNOUNCE THE MYSTERY OF THE INCARNATION.

God’s greeting to Mary that we translate as “Hail Mary” literally means rejoice, be glad: it is an invitation to know joy. How easily we might think of God’s plan for our lives as somehow burdensome, our calling as beclouded with the fears and anxieties which become obstacles to so many of us today. With Our Lady we hear the angel’s words: “do not be afraid, you have found favour with God” (Lk.1:31). How much we need to hear those words again today in all our callings. In this first Joyful mystery we glimpse how God invites and does not impose, seeking our consent so that we are ready to say freely and wholeheartedly like Our Lord who was prefigured in the responsorial psalm of today, He says, “See, I have come, Lord, to do your will.”

The same is true with Mary who says: “Behold the Handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). It was this response of Mary that opened the door for Jesus. How much I pray today that every one of us may see like Mary that we have a part to play in God’s plan for our salvation. The part we have to play chiefly is to listen and respond in the attitude of Mary and Jesus.

We live in an age when it is so easy to say “No.” We say that we can make life what we want it to be – even if that’s not what it should be. How do we respond to the call of a Doctor? How do we respond to the call of a crying child? How do we respond to the tough demands of our teachers and schools? How do we respond to the call of our vocation, our apostolate and ministry? With despair, bewilderment, disappointment, fear or mistrust? We can ask the same way like Mary: “How will this be?” And interestingly, the answer is the same since 2000 years ago: “For with God, nothing is impossible.”

In the Second Reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews interprets Psalm 39 in the light of Christ’s Incarnation:  “When Christ came into the world, he said:  …”Here I am (Behold), I have come to do your will, O God'” (Heb. 10: 5-7). Before the mystery of these two “Here I am” statements, the “Here I am” of the Son and the “Here I am” of the Mother, each of which is reflected in the other, forming a single Amen to God’s loving will, we are filled with wonder and thanksgiving, and we bow down in adoration.

My dear brothers and sisters, it is clear that we owe God so much for the gift of His Incarnate Word which has transformed us and the whole universe. How can we repay the Lord for His goodness?

We can super thankfully thank God for the wonderful gift of His Incarnate word by the quality of our response to the Word through the attitude of Mary. We need to go to God, the way He came to us. So, let us humbly follow the footstep of the Church. This is so because from the theological standpoint of the Church, there are two principles governing her operations – the Petrine principle and the Marian Principle. The Petrine principle (from, Peter the rock) is hallowed by the Word, Sacraments and Ministers. These are the fruits of the redemptive mission of Christ. While the Marian Principle is blessed by the Marian profile of Mary who is the first disciple of Christ and one who has distinguished herself by living the ecclesial life. Thus, “She is the model of the Christian and ecclesial life.”  Popes Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II assert that both principles are co-extensive but at the same time co-jointly work to save humankind. It is against this background that, “Addressing the newly created Cardinals in 2006, for instance, Pope Benedict XVI referred to Pope John Paul II’s emphasis on the Marian principle and then reminded the Cardinals that the Church’s Marian principle in the Church is “even more fundamental” than the Petrine principle to which it is united.

How can the Marian principle be “even more fundamental” today than the Petrine principle? It is a call for us to imitate Mary who lived according to the Word and her authentic life was recognized by her Incarnate Son – the Incarnate Word of the Father – “While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Luke 11:27-28).

Having received the message from the Angel, the first thing that Mary did was to go “in haste” to the house of her cousin Elizabeth in order to be of service to her (cf. Lk 1: 39). This is a laudable initiative on the part of the Virgin Mary and her actions were characterized by genuine charity, humility and courage. More so, she was motivated by faith in God’s Word and the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, those who love forget about themselves and place themselves at the service of their neighbours. Here we have the image and model of the Church!

My dear Sisters and brothers, when I was growing up, one of the surprises of my childhood days was going into an empty hall sometimes dark, calling my sister’s/brother’s name only to discover that ‘somebody’ takes up my words and they are repeated almost endlessly into eternity. As my age of favour, wisdom and reasoning became magnified, I realized that it was called: echo. Surely you may have had a similar experience!

The announcement of the coming of Emmanuel by Angel Gabriel is an invitation to every Christian to pick up the refrain everyday of our lives. We are to be Gabriel’s echo – repeating to our world till the end of time: Jesus is coming! The message of annunciation invites us all to go out preaching every day of our lives that Jesus is coming soon. We are invited as the heralds of God to go out into the whole world announcing that Jesus is on the way. We are invited to announce this to the world by our deeds and words. And as St Francis of Assisi would suggest: ‘preach always but when necessary use words’. Our preaching today as Christians suffers great setbacks because of the apparent contradiction between the message of the preachers and the life of the preachers. Like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), we preach the vanity of worldly things and yet we go violently after these things to amass them; and yet we preach to the world that these things are not really important since God is coming soon and very soon. Let us stop lying to the Incarnate Word and the world that He dwells.

O Christian soul, we are the Angel Gabriel of our time, men and women who appears in the world for a short time to deliver an eternal message – that God is coming – and then like the angel we disappear.

We know those angels who appeared to deliver these messages and who in a short while made their point and disappeared: For example we have St. Maria Goretti who was stabbed to death at the age of 11. We talk of St. Agnes who was beheaded at the age of 12. What about St. Barbara who was scourged and stabbed to death at the age of 12 and St. Teresa of the Andes who spent about 9 months in the monastery before dying of fatal typhus at the age of 19 having touched so many souls.

May God make us credible announcers of his kingdom in our age in which many Christians live as if God is dead and will come no more. Let us be the echoes of God! We are the great announcers of God in our time. Rise, my dear brothers and sisters and go forth on this great Solemnity of the INCARNATE WORD.

My dear sisters of the Incarnate Word, May the Virgin of the Incarnate Word pray and intercede for us, through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

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