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A Belated Annunciation

Luke 1:26-38

I wrote this reflection in January, to publish on March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation. But I’m struggling this week. My COVID vaccine absolutely knocked me out. While I hate to publish late, this is one of those posts that’s just going to have to be better late than never. Thanks for reading 🙂 Here goes:

One of the things I love about our faith

Our Faith is so smart! Even the liturgical calendar is smart. There are exactly nine months until Christmas, which is why today (ah-hem …a few days ago, actually), we mark the Annunciation of the Lord’s birth by the angel Gabriel. Today’s gospel is often associated with children’s Christmas plays, but for us today, it falls within Lent. Why?

I think one reason that we read about the Annunciation during Lent is to be reminded of exactly who Jesus is. Jesus is fully God and fully human. The early Church Fathers coined this as the “hypostatic union” of Christ’s divinity and humanity that was present from the very moment of Jesus’ miraculous conception in Mary’s womb.

Fully Human Fully Divine

At Mass, we are reminded of the unity of Christ’s humanity and divinity when the priest pours the water into the wine and prays quietly, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Once the two liquids are mixed, they cannot be separated from one another.

The Church Fathers wrestled through decades and councils about how to articulate the incarnation, that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14), in spoken and written language. After all, how can one write the profundity of a miracle in mere human constructs? If these learned men struggled, imagine how tremendously graced Mary must have been, when as a mere teen, she understood who and what she would carry in her womb and gave her resounding “yes” to God, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Why does any of this matter?

There is so much to meditate on in this passage, but I hope you’ll remember two things: First, Jesus assumed the fullness of your humanity, in all its weakness, because he loves every bit of you. There is nothing about you that is outside the reach of God’s mercy or redemption. Second, if you feel overwhelmed or afraid that you’re not living up to what God (or anyone else) asks of you, go to Mary. Pray her fiat “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). She knows what it means to move from being “troubled” (Lk 1:29), to assenting to God’s will.

              Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

Offer today’s concerns to Mary.

Pray one Hail Mary slowly.

Lent Devotional 2021
Download your copy of A Time to Grow: A Daily Devotional for Lenten Pilgrims here.
Photo by AntĂ´nia Felipe on Unsplash
Advent, Blessed Mother, Discernment, Gospel, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

Signs and Wonders of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe: Saturday of the Second Week of Advent

Saturday 12 December

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Luke 1:26-37

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


Mary said “yes,” and her yes was huge! How did she get there? It wasn’t a blind yes that lacked thought.  Initially, she was troubled at the angel Gabriel’s greeting to her as “favored.” She listened to the angel’s words that she would bear a child who would be the son of God.  She considered Gabriel’s words very carefully, and she pondered. 

She was unsure about the mechanics; she asked for clarification about how this could come to be as she was a virgin.  As the angel explained how all this would unfold, Mary must have been terrified, but she moved forward in her discernment beyond her feelings.

The angel also gave her a sign she could hold onto for strength and comfort. Signs are special favors from God. We don’t ask for signs in order to believe, but through the eyes of faith, sign are a helpful nod from God that give us a little boost of confidence.

For Mary, Elizabeth’s seemingly implausible pregnancy was a sign. The angel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, well past her childbearing years, was also pregnant. This was a sign that nothing is impossible for God.  When Mary expresses her obedience and accepts the angel’s words, she says “yes” and had all she needed to move forward in faith. Mary had faith, she discerned, was obedient, and received a special sign that gave reassurance.

Discernment is prayerful consideration. It is a Christian approach to decision making.  Discernment varies depending on both the decision to be made and who is making the decision, but some things don’t change. First, it is prayerful. Mary first listened.  When we discern, we listen to what God is revealing in our hearts through prayer.  If you have the luxury of time, you can also listen to those close in your life whom you respect, such as a spouse, a friend, or a priest. 

In discernment, from listening comes questioning.  This is where you form your inquiries, and do an examination.  You may go back and forth between listening and questioning, but eventually every Christian comes to prayer in discernment. In the Gospel, Mary pondered, and questioned, and the angel then gave her the sign.  We receive signs in prayerful discernment.

There is confirmation during a prayerful discernment, but discernment doesn’t end when the decision has been made. This is key, because if you stop the discernment prematurely, you will miss the sign.  As simple human beings we need signs as a bit of reassurance. We experience God with our sense, and signs help us to do that. Signs are little graces of discernment. Signs are usually visual to satisfy our need to see to believe. 

St. Therese of Lisieux relished in signs.  She saw them everywhere. She saw the snow on the day she professed her vows as a special sign from God. Carmelites are powerhouses of prayer, discernment, and seeing signs.  In fact, Therese wanted to work tirelessly after death, in part, to deliver signs to the prayerful: “to send down a shower of roses from the heavens…” She wanted to be an active participant in the delivery of God’s graces. 

Marian apparitions, like the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Saint Juan Diego, are themselves a huge sign!  On this Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, ponder her signs that brought millions to the church. 

Imagine the discernment of San Juan Diego and the clergy, and how through Our Lady of Guadalupe, the indigenous people of Mexico saw the signs they needed to see from the clothes she wore, to the stars on her mantle, the reflection in her eyes, to the literal shower of roses that Juan Diego and the Bishop Zumarraga experienced when Juan Diego displayed his tilma, revealing the miraculous image.

Prayerfully consider your next decision, look for a sign, and walk boldly forward in that decision in peace.

Meditation

Lord, Help me to discern like Mary did as I face important decisions in my life.  Allow me to remember that as a beloved daughter of Christ, prayer is always an integral part of decision making.  After my decision is made, help me to see the sign you send me to give me hope as I continue to walk forward on the path to holiness. Amen.”

Dollia Lemus