NAZARETH - Please find below the homily of Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, for the Solemnity of the Annunciation. His Excellency has presided the Holy Mass on this occasion in the Grotto of the Annunciation Basilica in Nazareth.
((To watch the Holy Mass, please click here.))
The Solemnity of the Annunciation
Nazareth, March 25, 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the Lord grant you peace!
We will have to go back a few centuries to find a Solemnity of the Annunciation in the humble tone of today, almost clandestine. And perhaps it is fortuitous because we can celebrate it, even if in such a limited form. In other parts of the world, it is not possible in this form. For us, these are new situations, which we have not known even in times of war and for which we are not prepared.
I think we all have so many questions and concerns in our hearts about what's happening. We are confused by this terrible news that has affected the whole world and by the serious consequences that this crisis has on our lives, knowing that it will be even more severe in the uncertain future that we face.
We are here now in front of the House of the Virgin, therefore let us be questioned by Her, being accompanied by the passage of the Gospel just proclaimed. And let us, through this passage, ask ourselves what is announced to us today and how we can speak in such a dramatic context of good news and salvation. I want to reflect on two brief considerations.
1. The first is to believe that nothing is impossible for God (Lk 1:37). In the today’s Gospel passage, we find two impossible situations. The Virgin Mary who becomes pregnant without having relations with a man (Lk 1:34) and Elizabeth, elderly and sterile, who has already reached the sixth month of pregnancy (Lk 1:36).
Both situations, we said, are humanly impossible, but they took place through the work of God, without human intervention. By the work of God, life has sprung forth, where life could not have been conceived.
What does this suggest to us?
In our age, human intelligence and social development have changed the world in a radical way; today we can do things that until recently seemed impossible and unreachable in scientific, economic and commercial matters. In short, scientific progress makes us more powerful every day and continually opens us to ever greater and wider perspectives in all areas of our personal and social life. Perhaps, we trust more and more in ourselves and in our abilities. We feel almost invincible.
And then comes a virus, which upsets all our certainties. In a few days, the entire economic-financial system of the world, international, personal, social relations, global trade... all have collapsed or in any case, are strongly challenged.
Fear has taken over from the feeling of empowerment because now we are afraid, everything has stopped. We have lost trust, we fear all forms of contact and above all we are afraid of what may happen in the future, full of uncertainties concerning health, work, children, parents, and so on. Trust in our strength alone is challenged and we suddenly feel powerless.
The Gospel passage invites us to look up and trust God. Perhaps we have put the Provident and Almighty God a little too far aside. We thought we were the only architects of our destiny, and that we didn’t need anything or anyone else. Instead, it is not so. We need God because alone we are lost. And the awareness of the presence of God in the life of man and of the world also leads us to believe that nothing is impossible for God, that He does not leave us alone. He gives birth to life even where it is no longer humanly possible.
In today’s Gospel, the Virgin Mary teaches us to have faith. To believe is to recognize that this invisible hand of God still works and reaches right there where humans cannot. To believe also means to live in this difficult and dramatic situation today with Christian hope, which is the attitude of those who decide to live in love: they do not shut themselves up in themselves, but offer their lives, saying “yes” even in the most intense times. To believe therefore is to listen, to welcome, to trust, and to offer oneself. The difficulty of the present time and the consequent disorientation that goes with it, do not nullify our firm certainty that God does not abandon those who love Him and that we are not alone. We know and believe that the "one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11).
Here today, in front of the house of the Virgin Mary, we wish to renew our faith in God’s provident work and say, together with the evangelist Mark: “I believe, Lord; come and help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24).
2. The second and equally important indication that we learn from the Virgin Mary is to accept to enter the time of gestation, a time of patience, silence and waiting.
The things of man are done in a moment, the things of God need time and take place slowly: because what is born new requires a long development.
Man consumes time voraciously, while God’s time unfolds over long distances: it digs deep, lays deep foundations. It is the time of all the necessary seasons so that the seed bears fruit.
We can imagine that the Virgin Mary’s pregnancy was equally nourished by patience, faith, silence, listening, prayer, and walking. And it brought Her to see and recognize around Herself the places and events where the very hand of God did something new: in Her cousin Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-45), in Her husband Joseph (Mt 1:18- 25).
We do not understand everything today, we are unable to adequately interpret what is happening and this is perhaps one of the elements that confuses us most: not being able to decipher and decode the dramatic present moment, to possess the interpretative key that allows us to control current events and the present time.
The Gospel teaches us to let this experience breathe, decant, that time makes a serene and clear understanding of present events grow and mature. Only in time will we be able to better understand and see His presence and work. Now we cannot give “history” to what is happening; we need to let time reveal what has happened, to make the heart's intelligence grow by listening to the silence of God. In the pain and joy of the days to come, we will re-read these events and I am sure we will find a Word that helps us to reveal it, to dwell on it with a meditation that makes it daily life, new.
For this reason, the certainty that nothing will separate us from the love of God, the security that derives from His faithfulness, cannot fail, and nothing, absolutely nothing, and nobody can ever separate us from the love of God.
We may think that the Gospel of the Annunciation is a Gospel far from our life, too big for our small life. But it’s not so! The dynamic of this event, the dynamic of a God who wishes to intervene in man’s life and simply asks that he let it be done to himself, is the dynamic of faith, of our daily relationship with God, which not even the drama of the present moment can put in doubt.
We ask the Virgin Mary for the gift of trust in God’s work in us and in the world. Trust in God will give us new life, just like the child born in the womb of the Virgin, just like the life born from the sepulcher. Even there: the hand of man gave death, and only the hand of God could restore life. And so, it happened.
With Mary, then, let us confidently entrust ourselves again to the plan of God.