Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hail Mary, Full Of Grace, The Lord Is With You!

The LORD spoke to Ahaz: Ask the LORD for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or the highest heights. But Ahaz said: I can’t do that! I won’t make demands on the LORD!”
 Then the prophet Isaiah spoke to him: Listen here, ruler of the House of David! It’s bad enough for you to annoy your people; must you also annoy your God? Well, the LORD is going to give you a sign just the same. This is the sign: A girl who is still a virgin will become pregnant. She will give birth to a son, and she will name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us!” (Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10)

Brothers and sisters: It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, O God.' "

First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:4-10)

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end."
 "How can this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "Let it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38)

A student of language and literature, even one who knows nothing about the Scriptures, will recognize that the visit of an angel to Zechariah announcing the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:8-20), and this passage, announcing the birth of Jesus, are the work of the same author. But a closer examination reveals that the two episodes are quite different one from the other. Zechariah was a temple priest, standing at the altar of incense, in the Holy of Holies within the Temple of Jerusalem. Mary was a country girl from Nazareth, about as far as you could get from the centers of power. There is also a difference in demeanor between them. Both ask similar questions; but the tone of voice is very different. Zachary asks “by what sign shall I know this”, as if asking for proof of the authenticity of the message. Mary’s concern is not about proof, but about process: “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” If she were a modern teen, she might have said, “I accept. But I would like to know how this is going to happen.” The answer the angel gave to her is one she will gladly share with us. Gabriel’s greeting, “The Lord is with you” is one she will gladly share with all her children. Doing God’s will is not accomplished by any strength Mary possessed on her own. As it was with Mary, the vocation of every disciple of Jesus is to trust that despite all the failings, doubts, worries and fears you might have, God is with you!

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