April 8, 2013

The Gospel for Today

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

Lk. 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“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, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection (Sem. Jason Villafuerte)

“In the liturgical year, the various aspects of the one Paschal mystery unfold. This is also the case with the cycle of feasts surrounding the mystery of the Incarnation (Annunciation, Christmas, and Epiphany). They commemorate the beginning of our salvation and communicate to us the first fruits of the Paschal mystery” (CCC 1171).

Today, the Church celebrates one of the abovementioned feasts: the Annunciation. This feast is normally celebrated every March 25 (that is, 9 months before Christmas) because it is here that the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive a child. However, it was moved this year to April 8 because March 25 coincided with the observance of the Holy Week, being Holy Monday.

On our first reading, we heard that God, in his desire to save his people, himself would give them a sign that salvation is at hand: the virgin shall be with a child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!” This promise shows the faithfulness of God to his people, despite the latter’s stubbornness of heart. Nonetheless, those who hoped in this promise waited so long for its fulfilment.

“The Annunciation to Mary inaugurates ‘the fullness of time,’ the time of the fulfillment of God’s promises and preparations” (CCC 484). And so, God sent the Angel Gabriel to Mary, saying:  “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Naturally, Mary was troubled at what was said, so the angel said: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” And the angel announced that she would conceive in her womb through the Holy Spirit, and bear a son whom she shall name him Jesus.

Notice the name given: “Jesus.” It means in Hebrew: “God saves.” “At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission” (CCC 430). Man cannot save himself from his sinful stature. “It is impossible that,” his offerings, “the blood of bulls and goats take away sins,” as we heard from the second reading. Man needs a savior “who can take away sins.” “For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”

Therefore Jesus is the God who saves. However, he carried out his redeeming work not in an instant but through a mission. What was Jesus’ mission? To do the will of the Father. Thus, in the Annunciation, “Mary was invited to conceive him in whom the ‘whole fullness of deity’ would dwell ‘bodily’” (CCC 484).

Then Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” “By pronouncing her ‘fiat’ at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation, Mary was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish (CCC 973).

Truly, God’s desire to save us was fulfilled through the obedience of Jesus. “Sacrifices and sin offerings” were not anymore offered because “they did not take away sins.” It was the Jesus who became the expiation for which our sins were taken away. His will conformed to the will of the Father. “By this ‘will,’ we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus once and for all,” so goes the second reading.

With God’s desire to save us, we look at ourselves. Do we also say, as in the responsorial psalm, “Here I am Lord; I come to do you will?” As Mary said her “fiat,” how do we speak of God’s faithfulness? Being saved through Jesus Christ, How do we speak of God’s salvation? Do we delight in God’s will? Do we conform our will to God’s will?

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