Saturday 25 March 2023 The Annunciation of the Lord
The Lord spoke to Ahaz and said, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself coming either from the depths of Sheol or from the heights above.’ ‘No,’ Ahaz answered ‘I will not put the Lord to the test.’ Then Isaiah said: ‘Listen now, House of David: are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men without trying the patience of my God, too? The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’
Psalm 39 Here I am, Lord! I come to do your will.
You do not ask for sacrifice and offerings, but an open ear. You do not ask for holocaust and victim.
Instead, here am I. In the scroll of the book it stands written that I should do your will. My God, I delight in your law in the depth of my heart. Your justice I have proclaimed in the great assembly. My lips I have not sealed; you know it, O Lord. I have not hidden your justice in my heart but declared your faithful help.
I have not hidden your love and your truth from the great assembly.
Bulls’ blood and goats’ blood are useless for taking away sins, and this is what Christ said, on coming into the world: You who wanted no sacrifice or oblation, prepared a body for me. You took no pleasure in holocausts or sacrifices for sin; then I said, just as I was commanded in the scroll of the book, ‘God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.’ Notice that he says first: You did not want what the Law lays down as the things to be offered, that is: the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin, and you took no pleasure in them; and then he says: Here I am! I am coming to obey your will. He is abolishing the first sort to replace it with the second. And this will was for us to be made holy by the offering of his body made once and for all by Jesus Christ.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
The liturgy of the Word on this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord seems to be about, “Coming to do Your Will.” So, what does it mean, to do the Will of God?
Matthew 7: 21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.“
John 6:40 says, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Doing the Will of God is the aim of our faith journey. God’s will is that you trust his Son and grow in your relationship with Him and as you grow, that you would love your neighbour as you love God, for love of neighbour is on the same level as love of God. Maybe the two are the same thing?
1 John 4:20, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”
As we “look to the Son and believe in him” we enter into a life of discernment in which we understand that the Will of God is not a static thing but a fundamentally evolving relationship. A relationship that we are constantly seeking to understand and navigate. It begs for our transformation.
Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
This is the meaning of the text in Mark 3:35 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” Seeking and following God’s lead requires us to deepen our own ties of kinship with one another. What connects us in kinship is the thread of trust that requires us to look beyond ourselves to a dependence beyond the me, but inherent in the we. It’s not about self-sacrifice, but about transcendence of self. And that raises the question about why Jesus needed to be sacrificed for our redemption.
Was it the Will of God that Jesus die? Is that really what a loving Father wanted for his Son? Or was it the Will of God that Jesus love, and that death was the consequence of his total love of the Father?
The idea that Jesus had to die to fulfil his Father’s Will, in order to redeem what was due to God because of the sinfulness of humanity so divine mercy could flow, is known as the “satisfaction theory” developed by the 11th century theologian Anselm.
We can equally understand the Will of God as something not so pre-determined, but rather evolving and taking shape as God accompanies humanity on its journey. The question is not that Jesus had to die, but rather that Jesus had to love, and love no matter what direction humanity tried to take God in. God is eternally faithful in his love for all his creatures. Doing the Will of God is a matter of ongoing discernment that opens us constantly into what is the most loving thing to do.
The beginning of the First Principle and Foundation of Ignatius Loyola says, “God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls. God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose. From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end……”
Doing the Will of God is caught up in whatever serves this purpose. Mary’s words, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ model this willingness to place God at the centre of life. She becomes an agent of incarnating God’s love that takes over her life and makes her life at the same time.
Each moment of our lives we are also invited to trust Jesus, to believe in him, and seek to know him. Through him we come to know the ways of the Father. God wills that we would build a planetary community in imitation of his love and thereby praise, reverence, and serve him. So let us be transformed by the renewing of my minds, and take on the mind of Christ.