Wednesday, 3/25/2021, The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
God Is with Us, the Prophecy
First Reading Commentary: Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10
Ahaz was king of Judah which is one of the twelve tribes of Israel. God told Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz refused saying that he would not tempt the Lord. Then Isaiah said, “Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?” Isaiah went on to prophesize Mary and Jesus by saying, “…the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means, God is with us!”
When first reading this Scripture, one can be left with the misconception that Ahaz was thinking that he would be disobeying the law by asking God for a sign. The law did forbid tempting God. But if you read Isaiah 7:1-9, you will see that Ahaz had other ideas. In fact, Ahaz was looking to conquer Jerusalem.
God was giving Ahaz an opportunity to believe in Him by allowing Ahaz to ask for whatever he wanted—nothing was too small or too great. But Ahaz refused because he did not put his faith in God.
When Isaiah spoke, he addressed himself to the house of David and told the people three things. First, it was wrong for the people to be fighting among themselves. Second, it was troubling to God for the people to be fighting each other. Third, God would give a sign and that sign would be the Virgin giving birth to Emmanuel.
We know that Emmanuel lived in the person of Jesus Christ and that the Virgin Mary was His mother. We also know that Christ made a new covenant promising the Kingdom of Heaven and that He reached out to all people everywhere and instructed His disciples to do the same.
We can compare the world today to the time of the Israelites when Isaiah made the prophecy of the Virgin and Emmanuel. Everyone in the world is chosen by God by being a child of God and we are all promised the Kingdom if we place our faith in God and live by His Commandments. But there is conflict among people on all levels all over the planet.
Too many of our leaders in the world today are like Ahaz and too many people in the world today are like Ahaz. Even though we know that nothing is beyond God, we try to fix our own problems in our own way. In the brokenness of our humanity, that often results in conflict and anything but peace. We end up with worldwide chaos because we put faith in politicians and fail to put our faith in God.
Like the people of the House of David, who were given a prophecy of the coming of Emmanuel by Isaiah, we have been given the prophecy of the second coming of Christ by John in the book or Revelation. What John sees and reveals in Revelation, is promised by Christ in His promise of the Kingdom of Heaven. We should beware, especially during these troubled times, because there is one thing that God never does—God never breaks a promise.
The Sacrifice Made the Sacrifice
Second Reading Commentary: Hebrews 10:4-10
In St. Paul’s writing to the Hebrews, he says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins. He reminds us that Christ paraphrased Psalm 40:7-9 by telling us that He came to replace sacrifices of the past and to do God’s Will.
St. Paul is telling us that there is only one sacrifice that can take away the sins of the world and that sacrifice was fulfilled when Jesus gave His own life on the Cross. We all know what happened, but do we take enough time to meditate so that we can completely understand the supreme sacrifice that Christ made? Is it even possible for us to completely understand it? God, the Father who is our Creator, sacrificed His Own Son for our sake and the Son willingly agreed to be sacrificed just so that all people could have the same opportunity of being with God in paradise.
There are people who suffer religious persecution in the world today but most of us do not have to do that and even those who are persecuted don’t have to take on the weight of all, of the sins of the world. We don’t have to be scourged at a pillar or wear a crown of thorns or carry a heavy cross or be nailed to that cross, die on that cross and then have a lance thrown into our side after we are already dead.
The lesson for us from Paul in Wisdom today is that no sacrifice could ever be good enough and there is only One who could ever make the sacrifice. The sacrifice is not just a promise. It is a covenant—contract that has already been fulfilled by the One who was the sacrifice.
That is awesome! That is how much our God loves us. All we have to do is say, "Thank You" by giving God praise and by repenting for the sins we commit.
Hail Full of Grace! The Lord Is with You
Gospel Commentary: Luke 1:26-38
We celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord on March 25th. True, it is nine months before the day that we celebrate the birth of Christ. But there is more to it than that.
Everything about Christ from the promise of His coming to the fulfillment of the promise of His second coming is: good news—bad news. The coming of Christ is all about the sinfulness of mankind—bad news and the salvation from sin—good news. Christ paid the price for all of us to have that salvation with His life. During Lent, we focus on the price that Christ paid for loving us so much.
The coming of Christ on earth is the fulfillment of the promise that the Father made in Genesis 3:15. Christ is the offspring of the woman promised by the Father and Christ does crush the head of the serpent by defeating death on the cross. It is God keeping His promise with all of us and it is good to remember that as we repent for our sins during Lent. It is important for us to understand that if God can give Himself in the person of the Son for our sins, we can set aside a special time to say, "I'm sorry."
That is what Lent is all about and the Annunciation is an important event to remember during Lent. Although Mary did not understand it at the time, it is at the Annunciation that she was told that she would be the woman in Genesis 3:15.
Gabriel appeared to Mary and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled and wondered what sort of greeting this might be. What made Gabriel’s greeting troubling for Mary? It was her humility. Why would she, in her lowliness, be given such praise? This was her question and cause for concern.
So, Gabriel told Mary not to be afraid because she was in God’s favor. Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and bear a son who would be named Jesus and be called Son of the Most High. This Son would be given the throne of David and rule over the house of Jacob and that there would be no end to His Kingdom.
This is the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, the Annunciation. Gabriel told Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that the power of the Most High would overshadow her and therefore the child would be called holy, the Son of God. Then Gabriel gave Mary a sign. He told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, who was beyond child bearing years, was with child and in her sixth month. Gabriel then told Mary that nothing was impossible for God.
Mary’s becoming the mother of Jesus and her cousin Elizabeth being with child was news to Mary. God’s ability to do anything was not news to Mary because she was a woman of great faith. And so, she responded, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary made herself available to God’s Will and surrendered herself totally and completely to be used by God in whatever way that He so wished. In other words, Mary became a slave to God.
I consider this to be the greatest “Yes” of all time. Even though, it was the Father’s plan from the beginning in Genesis 3:15, Mary had to open her heart to the Holy Spirit and say, "Yes" or Christ would not have been born.
You may ask, if it was God’s plan, why did Mary, have to say, "Yes?" Mary is unique because she was born without original sin, but she was just like the rest of us because like us, she had a free will and it was in her free will, that she said, Yes."
Did Mary know what she was getting herself into when she agreed to be the mother of Jesus? Did she know the pain that would come to her by watching her Son die on the Cross? More importantly, did she even stop to think about what would happen? Did Mary even care?
I believe that the answer is “no” to all of these questions, especially the last one. Mary did not have time to care because she had too much faith in God. She did not have a worry in the world. God asked, and because of her faith in God; she said, "Yes." It is that simple. When I ponder these questions, I think of the song, “Mary Did You Know?”
There was another great “yes” before Mary’s. It came when Abraham agreed to sacrifice his son and Abraham was rewarded beyond measure by God. One of those rewards was Jesus being a descendant of Abraham. There was another great “yes” after Mary’s. It came when the Son said, "Yes" to the Father and carried out the Father's Will by going to the cross.
That is three great yesses and there are three persons in the one God. You may think that God’s plan is complete. But I say, “No it is not.” There must be another yes which has to come from you and me. We have to say, "Yes" in order to enter into the Kingdom. When we do that, the Father’s plan will be completed, one person at a time.
There is no better place to be and no better company to be with than with those who are in heaven. Do you say, "Yes?" Or, I could consider the name Emmanuel and ask, God is with us but are we with God?