The Annunciation of the Lord reminds us of the importance of hope, especially in these perilous times. The words of Mary, the Mother of God, provide us with the example of life for our lives: “May it be done to me according to your word.”
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
25 March 2020
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. I know, it’s kind of hard to see today as a celebration, given the fact that probably every public celebration of the Mass in the U.S. is closed due to COVID-19. But we do have many reasons to celebrate. We have lots to be thankful for. We have much reason to hope even though we’re living in what are perilous times.
You see, in the Annunciation, in what the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary, and in her words of response, we enter into the great promise of God: salvation; restoration; the kingdom of heaven; eternal life; perfect happiness.
The gospel today reveals that Mary is the chosen one, the pure and sinless Virgin, filled with grace, who brings salvation into the world. Gabriel addresses her by her title: Mary is hailed as “full of grace.” The Greek used here is kecharitomene, which can be translated as “already been filled” with grace. Mary is the chosen one from eternity to be immaculately conceived, filled with grace and insulated from all stain of original sin. She is the Father’s creation of love: the pure, innocent, and sinless Mother of the Word made flesh, the woman who gave birth to the Savior who became man and entered the world as the “way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6).
Mary is told she will bear a son, and his name will be Jesus, which means “God saves.” It is in this name—Jesus—the name above every other name (Phil 2:9-10), that we find the reason for our hope. Christ has come into the world, that those who believe in him may have eternal life, that the world might be saved through him (Jn 3:16-17). Those who are in Christ and die with him will also be raised by him (cf. Rom 6:4,8). Those who partake of his flesh and blood will have eternal life (Jn 6:54). Those who give themselves over to Christ and live as he lived will never die the permanent death found in hell.
In Mary’s response to Gabriel’s annunciation, we find a statement of faith that exemplifies the life of discipleship and trust in God. In her fiat, Mary’s “let it be done,” she gives us the rule of life: unite your will to my Son’s. To unite our will to the will of Christ is the primary goal of our life here below. It must become the motive for our thoughts, attitudes, behavior, and actions. Becoming one with Jesus must be at center stage.
When Mary responds to Gabriel’s annunciation and says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38), we must too enter into that statement of faith. We must make it ours.
I know, COVID-19 is in many ways scary. It’s serious. Lots of people are dying. And things will get worse. But Christ has defeated death. That’s what we must remember. That’s what’s true. It’s fact, not fiction. Knowing this, we can be thankful, always, regardless of our situation in terms of physical health. We should thank God for whatever comes. We should understand that, in all things, Christ works for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28). The promises of Christ—salvation and eternal life—are certain because they are God’s promises. With God, noting is impossible (Luke 1:37).
The important thing right now, is to follow in Mary’s footsteps. If we have neglected to do so, fallen into mortal sin in some way, then repentance is in order. Today is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). If you’ve lapsed in your practice of the Catholic faith, if you’ve fallen into mortal sin in some way, arrange to receive the sacrament of confession. Do it now. Most priests are offering the sacrament. It’s usually as simple as finding out when it’s available at your local parish.
Times like these remind us of our mortality. They call us to reflect on the prospect of death and judgment. The Church has always stressed the necessity of examining our conscience in the light of God and reflecting on our last hour. It is only recently that these things have in many ways been set aside. Times like these move us to recall the essential importance of remaining in a state of grace and in God’s friendship. Mary teaches us the importance of that kind of life by her perfect example. Although her heart was pierced by the sword of sorrow and she had to endure watching her son slowly die the death of crucifixion, she never gave up hope.
She understood that, in Christ, death does not have the last word. Its power is broken.
Photo Credit: Luca Giordano / CC0
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.