Readings for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible
Reading 1 Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10
In the first part of this reading King Ahaz is offered a sign by the Prophet Isaiah. However, Ahaz refuses the sign because it would indicate that God was intervening on the prophet’s side and he did not want to do that.
The sign that would be given in spite of the King’s refusal is the oracle we understand referring to the perfect realization of the promise of a Davidic Dynasty in the birth of the Messiah – Christ Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary.
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
The Psalm of thanksgiving in this selection is focused on the key elements of today’s feast. We hear first of God’s desire for obedience, above sacrifice and burnt offerings, and then acceptance of God’s will.
Reading II Hebrews 10:4-10
The first strophe from the selection in Psalm 40 above is quoted here by the author and applied as if it were the Jesus addressing God, the Father. The intent is to stress that the Hebrew practice of animal sacrifice does not find favor with God and that Jesus sacrifice of his own body is the one and only sacrifice acceptable.
Gospel Luke 1:26-38
In Luke’s Gospel we are given the actual story of the Angle Gabriel coming to Mary and telling her she has found favor with God (the eternal implication of this statement is made clear in the greeting which presupposes knowledge of Mary’s entire existence). Over her concerns she is told of her burden and privilege.
Not understanding Mary accepts her role and is told that the Holy Spirit will be the agent of the life within her and utters those amazing words: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
The solemnity of the Annunciation usually falls within the Lenten season and has the profound affect of enhancing our zeal to conform ourselves more closely to the Blessed Virgin as she completely submits herself to the will of God. On this high feast day, however, we find ourselves still bursting with the joy of Easter. Coming here it takes us even higher in our commitment to follow her Son.
While cultural situations have changed and the present day stigma of having a child out of wedlock is not what it once was, we can still appreciate what Mary was accepting when she said to Gabriel "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
It stimulates one of those questions which is right up there with the one we ask on Good Friday when we invariably ask ourselves "Would I have been shouting; 'Crucify him!'" Today we ask ourselves; "If it had been me, would I have said yes?" We ask ourselves this question knowing that in Mary's time, adulterous women were stoned to death.
Oh, and we know from the story, Mary knew those consequences. We can almost hear her inner voice when she tells Gabriel; "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" She knew all right.
Can you imagine a young girl today, even a very spiritual one, having a visit from an apparition that tells her – "You have been selected to become pregnant at the hand of God." What do you think would happen? Well fist she'd probably go and tell her parents –
"Guess what mom and dad, I've been chosen by God to get pregnant." And after dad picked mom up off the floor and told her she was stupid for having had premarital sex, they would probably start taking about adoption or worse.
So perhaps the girl goes and tells her boy friend, same thing – "Guess what Joe, God has picked me to get pregnant." Joe's response - "Hey it's not mine." And that's probably the last we see of Joe.
Things have not changed that much. This was an amazing event. When we think about the likely answer to the question posed above, the scenario could easily have been – Joseph rejects Mary's explanation, goes and tells the local elders, and Mary is stoned to death the next day.
This extraordinary event gives us not only an example of faith in God but an example of faith and love for one another. Mary could not have made the choice she did if she did not believe that her parents would believer her incredible story and that Joseph would be understanding of her unparalleled role in God's saving work.
Today we celebrate indeed. God has increased our Easter Joy, extending our solemn celebration by one more day The Mother of God has once more brought us an example of faith we can aspire to.
Please Pray for Esther.