The Annunciation of the Lord – 25 March
The Annunciation (from Latin annuntiatio), also referred to as the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Annunciation of Our Lady, or the Annunciation of the Lord, is the Christian celebration of the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation. Gabriel told Mary to name her son Jesus.
Gospel – Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
Holy Father’s Homily – 25 March 2017
We just heard the most important announcement of our history: the Annunciation to Mary (cf. Luke 1:26-38) – a dense passage, full of life, which I like to read in the light of another announcement: that of the birth of John the Baptist (cf. Luke 1:5-20). Two announcements that follow one another and that are united; two announcements that, when contrasted, show us what God gives us in His Son.
The annunciation of John the Baptist happened when Zechariah, the priest, ready to begin the liturgical ceremony enters the Sanctuary of the Temple, while all the assembly is outside waiting. The Annunciation of Jesus, instead, happened in a lost place of Galilee, in a peripheral city and without a particularly good reputation (cf. John 1:46), in the anonymity of the home of a girl called Mary.
A contrast, that doesn’t count for little, which indicates that the new Temple of God, the new encounter of God with His people will take place in places that we generally do not expect, in the margins, in the periphery. There, they will meet, there they will encounter one another, God will become flesh there to walk together with us from the womb of His Mother. Now He will no longer be in a place reserved for a few while the majority remains outside in expectation. Nothing and no one will be indifferent to him, no situation will be deprived of His presence: the joy of Salvation began in the daily life of the home of a girl of Nazareth.
God Himself is the one who takes the initiative and chooses to insert Himself, as He did with Mary, in our homes, in our daily struggles, full of anxieties together with desires. And it is in fact within our cities, our schools and universities, squares and hospitals that the most beautiful announcement we can hear is fulfilled: “Rejoice, the Lord is with thee!” It is a joy that generates life, that generates hope, that is made flesh in the way we look at the morrow, in the attitude with which we look at others. It is a joy that becomes solidarity, hospitality, and mercy towards all.
Like Mary, we can also be at a loss. “How will this come about” in times so full of speculation? There is speculation about life, about work, about the family. There is speculation about the poor and about migrants; there is speculation about young people and about their future. All seems to be reduced to numbers, forgetting, on the other hand, that the daily life of so many families is tinged with precariousness and insecurity. While grief knocks at many doors, while so many young people grow dissatisfied due to the lack of real opportunities, speculation abounds everywhere.
The dizzying rhythm to which we are subjected certainly seems to rob us of hope and of joy. The pressures and the impotence in face of so many situations seem to wither the mind and make us insensitive in face of the innumerable challenges. And, paradoxically, when everything is accelerated to build – in theory – a better society, in the end there is no time for anything or anyone. We lose time for the family, time for the community, we lose time for friendship, for solidarity and for remembering.
It will do us good to ask ourselves: How is it possible to live the joy of the Gospel today within our cities? Is Christian hope possible in this situation, here and now?
These two questions touch our identity, the life of our families, of our countries <and>of our cities. They touch the life of our children, of our young people and they exact on our part a new way of situating ourselves in history. If Christian joy and hope continue to be possible we cannot, we do not want to remain before so many painful situations as mere spectators who look at the sky hoping that “it will stop raining.” All that is happening exacts from us that we look at the present with audacity, with the audacity of one who knows that the joy of salvation takes shape in the daily life of the home of a girl of Nazareth.
In face of Mary’s bewilderment, in face of our bewilderment, there are three keys that the Angel offers us to help us to accept the mission that is entrusted to us.
- Evoke the memory. The first thing the Angel does is to evoke the memory, thus opening Mary’s present to the whole history of Salvation. He evokes the promise made to David as fruit of the Covenant with Jacob. Mary is daughter of the Covenant. We also are invited today to remember, to look at our past so as not to forget from where we came, so as not to forget our ancestors, our grandparents and all that they went through to come to where we are today. This land and its people have known the grief of two world wars and sometimes have seen their merited fame for industry and civilization polluted by unruly ambitions. The memory helps us not to remain prisoners of discourses that sow fractures and divisions as the only way to resolve conflicts. To evoke the memory is the best antidote to our disposition in face of the magical solutions of division and estrangement.
- Belonging to the People of God. Memory enables Mary to appropriate her belonging to the People of God. It does us good to remember that we are members of the People of God! Milanese, yes, Ambrosians, certainly, but part of the great People of God – a people made up of a thousand faces, histories, provenances, a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic people. This is one of our riches. It is a people called to welcome differences, to integrate them with respect and creativity and to celebrate the novelty that comes from others; it is a people that is not afraid to embrace the confines, the frontiers; it is a people that is not afraid to give hospitality to one in need because it knows that its Lord is present there.
3.The possibility of the impossible.
“Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37): thus ends the Angel’s answer to Mary. When we believe that everything depends on our capacities, on our strengths, on our myopic horizons, when, instead, we are ready to allow ourselves to be helped, to let ourselves be counseled, when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become possible. These lands know this well that, in the course of their history, have generated so many charisms, so many missionaries, so much richness for the life of the Church! The many times that, overcoming sterile and divisive pessimism, they opened themselves to God’s initiative and became signs of how fruitful a land can be that is not closed in its own ideas, in its limitations and in its capacities and opens to others.
As yesterday, God continues to seek allies, He continues to seek men and women capable of believing, capable of remembering, of feeling part of His people to cooperate with the Spirit’s creativity. God continues to tread our suburbs and streets. He pushes Himself in every place in search of hearts capable of listening to His invitation and make it become flesh here and now. Paraphrasing Saint Ambrose in his comment on this passage, we can say: God continues to seek hearts like Mary’s, willing to believe even in altogether extraordinary conditions (cf. Esposizione del Vangelo sec. Luca II: 17: PL 15, 1559). May the Lord make this faith and this hope grow in us.