Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord Homily by Archbishop Thomas Wenski
“Mary opened the door of our world to God” (Spe Salvi, 49)
We have passed the mid-point of our Lenten Observance – an observance made quite unique during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. But today, nine months before Christmas, we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord to the Virgin Mary. Today, the Eternal Word became flesh. In the virginal womb of Mary, the body of Jesus took form – that same body that would suffer on Calvary where Mary – at the foot of the cross, and on Jesus’ word became the mother of all believers.
In Spe Salvi, a beautiful encyclical on Hope, Pope Benedict wrote: “Mary opened the door of our world to God” (Spe Salvi 49). And this is essentially the reason for today’s feast day.
When people live without God or even against God the world becomes a desert – a place hostile to life. When people live as if God doesn’t matter, they build towers of Babel and walls to separate and divide and not bridges of understanding and cooperation. When people live without God, the world seems a closed-in place – without a horizon, without a future.
Only grace can save us. Pope Benedict said: “grace can irrigate society starting with everyday relationships, purifying them from negative forces, opening us to God.” Grace is the Holy Spirit’s gift to us; it is the Holy Spirit living in us, who brings us to life in Christ; it is this same Holy Spirit who “creates from many languages one voice to profess one faith”. (Preface of Pentecost) And it is this faith that allows us to see the world through God’s eyes and to recognize one another as brothers and sisters.
Lent, especially this year, finds us “fasting” from Mass and Holy Communion, “fasting” from the normal social interactions that make life not only bearable but joyful. Lent, even in the “desert experience” of social distancing is still a call to conversion – a call to be receptive to the action of grace in our lives.
On this feast of the Annunciation, we turn to the one who is full of grace, to pray that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ. In her “yes” to God, Mary opened the door of our world to God. “She became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14)”
Because of Mary’s yes, hope is reborn in the world. It is in the light of that hope that we dare to pray with Jesus the “Lord’s prayer”. The “Our Father” would be too terrible a prayer for us to pray without Mary’s help. For when we pray the Our Father we say: “Thy will be done”; we say: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. How often do we say these words – without thinking, or even hypocritically? And therefore, how appropriate that when we pray the Rosary, for every “Our Father”, we say ten “Hail Mary’s”. Ten times, we ask Mary to pray for us sinners – that our hearts be changed so that we can learn to give and to receive forgiveness.
As we deal with this pandemic, I would urge to “rediscover” the rosary – a prayer accessible to the learned and the unlettered, a prayer that was for many Catholic families over the years a mainstay of their piety. As Father Peyton, the famous “rosary priest” used to say: “The family that prays together, stays together.”
In praying the rosary, we look upon Jesus through the eyes of Mary, his mother. May this simple prayer help us to open the doors of our worlds to God. May Mary’s example – the example of her “yes” inspire us to also say “yes” to God and the power of his grace.
“Peace” was Jesus’ Easter gift to his apostles and his promise to those who would become his disciples in succeeding generations. “Peace, I leave with you; my peace, I give to you”. This year as we deal with consequences – both medical and economic of the pandemic, may “peace” be Jesus’ Easter gift to us, to our families, to our nation, and to our world.
And so, we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, make us worthy of the promises of Christ.