March 25, 2017
by Eileen Burke-Sullivan
Creighton University's Misson and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Lectionary: 545

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10
Psalms 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11
Hebrews 10:4-10
Luke 1:26-38

Praying Lent Home

Daily Lent Prayer

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

As I reflected on the celebration liturgy of the Feast of the Annunciation during the Season of Lent, it becomes evident that the Feast subtly intends to shed light on the whole mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation it makes possible.  One way we can see this is by pondering an experience of “time tension” that other feasts also presuppose, but don’t so obviously disclose.

In the early days of the Church the date that became named the 25th of March, (on the later Gregorian calendar), was celebrated as the actual anniversary of the death date of Jesus. Because of the lunar dating in the Jewish Calendar, specific dates are harder to trace, but there is early evidence to indicate that the ancient Church was aware of this annual date as early as the Churches of Paul in the 50’s and 60’s of the first Century.   

In this foundational liturgical observance by the Church the day seemed to have been identified as the day on which all the creation was emptied of sin and death (by Jesus’ death) to be filled with God’s perfect love.  The mystery of Incarnation, then, is this rich consciousness of the process of Salvation, by which God continues to bring creation out of nothing, life out of death, love out of hate, and fullness out of emptiness. 

The Church’s recognition that Incarnation is the process of salvation is made clear in the “beginning” character of the Feast as we celebrate it now – not as Jesus’ death date but his conception date (remember we celebrate his birth precisely 9 months later, on December 25) which is especially characterized by the Gospel text of the invitation to a young Jewish virgin to become join in an intimate partnership with God in this amazing process of Incarnation by conceiving and bearing the human life of Jesus.  For Mary to have the freedom to embrace this there had to be a depth of trust from her knowledge of the past (Israel’s experience of  “God with us”) and a kind of “knowing” embrace of the future. 

Ahaz, the King of Judea in today’s first reading might have the awareness of God’s past care, but is unwilling to risk the future based on it. He hides behind the injunction not to “test” God, but it is God’s prophet who is challenging him to risk the well-being of Israel on God’s plan of salvation.  By refusing to trust, Ahaz puts God’s whole plan of incarnation at risk!

I am not a great movie fan, but was recently lured into watching a wonderful new movie called “The Arrival” that plays with some of these same themes in a very modern set of images.  In the film, the future salvation of the universe depends upon the contemporary warring human community coming together to receive a present gift (also identified out of fear as a “weapon”) from aliens, of whom the humans are terrified.  The aliens know that their own ultimate good depends on humanity NOW being willing to risk communicating with each other to build unity of action and intention toward a future challenge to the whole cosmos.  The fear of the nations to risk working together is overcome by a young woman who also risks having a child that will bring her both great joy and great sorrow through an early death. 

This interplay of “time” past, present and future, grips me in my own life as I bring these insights to prayer:  dare I realistically trust God to guide me toward today’s decisions that will serve God’s work of salvation in my own life and in the Christ life of the Kingdom of God I am called to?  That was Mary’s challenge, certainly – it is the Church’s challenge.

Pope Francis has over and over asked us to trust in God’s Spirit and learn to discern God’s desire both in the here and now and for the future.  To do so means that I must embrace the life and love with which God shapes the entirety of creation.  More personally, I am called to embrace the reality of God’s care that has been provided to me, even when it hasn’t looked like tender care at the time, and with this to embrace a future of multiple possibilities that I trust will ultimately reveal God’s victory of life over death and relationship over isolation.  Dare I look around at that of which I am afraid, and risk discovering how to be incarnational – a material disclosure of God’s gift of self-outpouring and presence?

“Be it done unto me according to your word.” – Such a frightening, thrilling leap of courageous faith!  Dare the Church be so bold?  Dare I?

Click on the link below to send an e-mail response
to the writer of this reflection.

Sharing this reflection with others by Email, on Facebook or Twitter:

Email this pageFacebookTwitter

Print Friendly

See all the Resources we offer on our Online Ministries Home Page

Daily Reflection Home

Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook