Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Isaiah 7:10-14,8:10; Psalm 40:8-9; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38

In her wisdom and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church has chosen each day’s readings to make a certain point. Often, the central theme of the readings is found in the psalm. Today is a good example; the psalm is quoted by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, who puts on the lips of Christ the words, I come to do your will, O God (Psalm 40:9). The Church puts them on our lips too, for they are much more than a mere literary theme; it is the goal of every Christian to imitate Christ.

The first reading and the gospel are also intended to go together. Some days, like today, that might seem a little less clear, but we do find some points of contact when we look at their two prominent figures, Ahaz and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ahaz was king of Judah; just 20 years old when he gained power. As we see him here, he is worried about Jerusalem being invaded by hostile kings from the north. Although God has already assured him this will not happen, Ahaz doesn’t trust God; he prefers to trust in himself and his own plans. Thus, when he refuses God’s invitation to ask for a sign, it isn’t a display of piety, but of his own arrogance and lack of faith.

Mary stands in stark contrast to this, apart from also being young and receiving an invitation from God. The king is concerned purely with earthly power; the virgin, with powerlessness. He trusts in his own plans; she in God’s. Ahaz, in false piety, will not ask God for a sign; Mary, truly pious, asks, how can this be? The pretentious king will not respond to God’s invitation, even when the sign of a virgin with child is given; the humble maiden not only responds, but consents to be the virgin mother of that child.

This brings us to the heart of the readings: The child. Ultimately, today isn’t about the refusal of Ahaz or the fiat of Mary; it’s about the Annunciation of the Lord. The Church has chosen these readings to remind us that all of us, no matter who, are invited to bring God to the world in some way. Sometimes, this comes as an invitation to joy, healing, and unity; others, an invitation to suffering, rejection, and loss. Either way, submission to God’s will requires us to be as Mary was: Living each day as part of the plan without knowing the plan, trusting God and not our own understanding, and placing no restrictions on what faith in Him makes possible, for as the angel said, nothing will be impossible for God (Luke 1:37).

We may catch ourselves thinking that when the angel said that, he wasn’t thinking of us. As our Lord and his Blessed Mother lived it, discipleship is a total commitment, body and soul. Mary couldn’t be a little pregnant; Jesus couldn’t be partly divine, or almost die on the cross. When Jesus and Mary said, I come to do your will, they meant it to the death and beyond. Not that we don’t mean it, but we know how easy those words are to say and how very difficult to live. Given enough of even the little disappointments or failures of life, our resolve can be sorely tested. Which of us is never tempted to put the cross down, to think of ourselves, and to ask, “But what about me and what I want?”

This isn’t meant as an indictment but an acknowledgment of reality. But so is this: There was only one perfect disciple: the Blessed Virgin Mary, perfected in grace from all eternity by her Son and Redeemer. The rest of us are works in progress; destined to be like her, perfected in grace, but not there yet. For us, growing as a disciple means examining ourselves, seeing where our weaknesses lie, and looking for the times, places, or events in our lives that trigger them. Even more importantly, we must remember that we don’t do this alone. Christ wants us to come to him; he has all the grace we will ever need. But we also must remember that when those who needed to be healed came to him, he still made them ask.

So then, let us pray for the humility to do what the servant would do, but the king would not: Ask. And not only ask, but accept every invitation to announce the Lord by the witness of our lives. Only in this way, as today’s opening prayer said, can we, “who confess our Redeemer to be God and man… merit to become partakers even in his divine nature” (cf 2 Peter 1:4).


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