Daily Reflection
March 26th, 2007

Mary Ann Zimmer

Theology Department
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Annunciation of the Lord
Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10
Psalm 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11
Hebrews 10:4-10
Luke 1:26-38

Today we celebrate the wondrous feast of the Annunciation. We witness once more Mary’s courageous decision to put her whole self on the line for the sake of God’s saving action in history. This year, as we celebrate this joyful feast, we are less than a week away from the first reading of the passion and the events that follow in Holy Week. We see today the hopeful beginning of the story that will climax at Easter but only after passing through the passion.

As theologian Elizabeth Johnson notes we find elements of this vivid Annunciation story elsewhere in Scripture. Such stories recount the commissioning of prophets or the birth announcement of persons who will play a special role in God’s saving work. There is always fear expressed in these stories. God’s messenger responds to this fear with the promise of the overshadowing and protective Spirit of God. What stands out as a unique feature of the Annunciation account is the explicit affirmation by Mary that she chooses what God proposes. The prophets spoke God’s will--Mary will embody it secure in the promise of God’s presence. (See Truly Our Sister)

I once believed in a naïve form of the protective power of God with me. I felt secure in God’s love and sure that nothing could harm me. Eventually, however, reality intervened. I was particularly challenged by the slow degeneration of both my parents as Parkinson’s disease robbed them of movement, dignity and serenity. They were the model of fidelity to God who did not, as far as I could see, protect them. Nor was I protected from a kind of endless, grinding grief at their deterioration.

After years of prayer that consisted mostly of raging protest, I eventually came to the vivid realization that God had not protected Jesus either. The only sure bet is fidelity. Nothing that could happen should be read to mean that God had abandoned them, me, us—the fullness of the pattern of Jesus’ life would eventually play out.

God’s call comes to all of us in the midst of the full spectrum of joy, suffering, grief and new birth that is present in our own individual, family, communal, national and global lives. May we hear what God is asking of us, present our fears honestly and choose to put ourselves on the line for the sake of our salvation and that of our world. We are sustained in this by the overshadowing and fruitful Spirit of God.

Note: Today’s reading from Hebrews encourages us to marvel at God’s saving will embodied in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. A note of caution is needed, however, since texts like this have been used by Christians to justify the notion that God has rejected the Jews and their salvation. As the bishops affirmed at the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate) and the United States bishops have confirmed, Christians mistakenly deny God’s fidelity when they assume that God no longer honors the covenant with Israel. Click here to read the U.S. bishops' text.

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