Annunciation of the Lord
Dear brothers and sisters,
May the Lord give you peace!
This year we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation a little late, on account of it coinciding with Easter. But this is also a providential opportunity to understand what the Lord wants to tell us. We usually celebrate this solemnity during Lent, while this year it is on the very liturgical day of Easter. We are in the octave. For eight days, that is, we celebrate the same day: Easter, the resurrection of Christ. The Incarnation of God, which we celebrate today, has as its purpose the resurrection of Christ. Today, therefore, we celebrate on the same day the two main events of the history of salvation, which are linked to one another: the Incarnation and Resurrection!
Today’s Gospel passage takes us back to the book of Genesis. We are all very familiar with the story of creation. God created man for his joy, asking him, however, to remain faithful. But man preferred to listen to other voices, the voice of the serpent, and to walk away from God, by disobedience and sin. And so when God looks for him in the garden, He no longer finds the man. The first question of God throughout the Bible is just: “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9). Before sin, there was familiarity between God and man. In the garden which He created for man, God came down for a walk (Gen 3:8). That’s an ancient way to describe this familiarity. But sin interrupted this relationship. God no longer finds the man; actually, the man hides because he is afraid (“I heard your voice in the garden: I was afraid, because I am naked, and I hid myself”(Gen 3:10). There is no more trust.
And the history of salvation consists in nothing other than continually taking back the lines of this relationship with the Lord, the effort to rebuild trust, fidelity to the covenant, and to recreate that familiarity.
Today’s Gospel is the answer to this yearning for familiarity. Mary does not hide like Adam and Eve in the garden, and she enters into dialogue with God. When God look for her, her answer is not fear. There is certainly disturbance in her, there is alarm, because she feels the burden of this disproportion, between her and God. But she does not stop there, this does not prevent her from listening. The request of God involves many problems from the human point of view: who could have understood such a mystery? Joseph would have repudiated her, there would have been a scandal… there were many and valid social and family reasons for declining this request.
Mary, on the other hand, lets herself be convinced by the truth of God, by what God tells her, and that is simply not to be afraid: “Do not be afraid, because you have found favor with God”(Lk 1:30). As fear is the fruit of sin, trust is the fruit of grace. This is the new thing, the new creation that God accomplishes in Mary, a woman able to trust God again.
So Mary says “yes”, and she says “yes” to be that for which man had been created in the beginning, that is, to be the place of the Word, ground that welcomes the Word of God.
Today’s Solemnity tells us that this passage from fear to trust, from solitude to relationship, is possible only by grace. It is not possible for a likely effort by humanity that, by itself, succeeds in re-establishing a just relationship with God, but because God chooses a creature and makes it capable again of a full relationship with Him, a relationship free from the consequences of sin. A creature capable again, of simply trusting.
With Easter, Jesus will complete the work begun work with the “Yes” of Mary. With her obedience to the father, she re-establishes once and for all the new creation and gives the world a new life.
The Gospel of today, therefore, speaks to us of a “yes” to faith and also to trust in what seems humanly impossible. It speaks of a “yes” to listening, despite the disturbance. It speaks without fear of a “yes” to life even when this will create problems of all kinds.
These are important life indications for all of us and especially for our families. This year, our Church has begun a process of reflection and help for the Christian life of the family. I think this reflection should start from here, from Nazareth and from the Gospel of Nazareth.
Today’s Gospel tells us that relationships in every family, but also in every community, must start from trust. There is no familiarity without trust. It also tells us that we need to say our “yes” every day. Saying “yes” to God passes through the “yes” to the other: to the brother, to the sister, to the husband, to the wife, to the children, to the parents. A yes that goes beyond human fears.
Mary did not take into consideration what others might have thought and was not even afraid of entering into a plan about which she knew nothing regarding the future. I believe it’s the same thing for every family. When a family begins, no one knows what the future life of that new reality will be like. But you trust each other, because you love each other and this lays the foundation for the future.
Mary teaches us to say “yes” with a boundless trust in what will come, because she trusts God. It will not be easy. She will be told almost immediately that “a sword will pierce your soul” (Lk 2:35). But she will remain faithful to her initial “yes”.
It is a teaching for us today too. Learning to have trust means not trying to possess the plans of one’s own life or that of others, of wanting to have everything under control, to have dominion in human and family relationships… No! Mary said “yes” and then let the Lord carry on that plan that was not hers, but of which she was a part. Mary therefore teaches us to know how to work for plans that do not belong to us, to develop the plans of those we love, without possessing them. Mary teaches us a great freedom, which we are called to recover. There was no lack of trials, suffering and pains in Mary. But in all this she remained faithful.
None of this is possible with human power, but today the Gospel has told us that nothingis impossible to God (1:37). Looking at the Word of God we have seen that the transition from fear to trust, from solitude to relationship, is possible only by grace. It also applies to the lives of our families. By oneself, without the grace of God, it is not possible to have the familiarity and trust that build the family. It is not possible to draw the strength of forgiveness, which first reached us. It is not possible to trust other people’s plans.
We must therefore pray, to remain attached to the grace of God, and to seek relationship with Him. We ask the Lord for the grace and strength of fidelity to His plan of love for each of us, we ask for the ability to forgive each other, to not be afraid, to love each other as He has loved us.
May the Most Holy Virgin intercede for all of us and grant to all our families the joy, love and enthusiasm to repeat today once again, with trust, “yes” to the Lord, “yes” to those whom we love.
Happy feast to all!
+Pierbattista Pizzaballa Apostolic Administrator
Solemn procession and entrance