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March 25, 2009

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

"To do your will, O my God, is my delight."

The Mother of God, Mary most holy, prayed with the words of Psalm 40, and her prayer was authentic. From the moment of her conception in the womb of Saint Anne, she was obedient. There was no sacrifice, oblation, holocaust, or sin-offering that the LORD asked of her. She wanted to give herself and nothing less. The Blessed Virgin Mary responded from the depths of her heart, "Behold I come." It was here delight to do the will of God, and his law was in her heart. She never failed to announce his justice in the vast assembly, nor did she restrain her lips, as well the LORD knows. She kept not his justice bottled up inside, hidden and safe. The Blessed Mother spoke freely of her LORD; she proclaimed his kindness and truth in the vast assembly. Psalm 40 proclaims the real joy of human life is to give yourself over to the LORD and his glory. As Mary, the Theotokos, gave herself over to the will of God, so too, our only delight is to surrender to his word and his will.

The so-called king, Ahaz hesitated to bother the LORD. He was feigning humility when he responded to the Prophet Isaiah, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!" Isaiah pushed him a little bit further; rhetorically speaking, he spoke of how the King wearies the people and now he is wearing the LORD. Do you really want to do this? Do you want to weary the LORD God Almighty? The Prophet Isaiah appeals to his identity as the corporate personality, the house of David. He has responsibility to make a choice for the nation. Will he choose God or will he choose some false god? Such verbal pressure only makes the heart of the king even more resistant. He refuses to seek the LORD. He tries to straddle the fence. It doesn't work. The LORD speaks without hesitation and with great clarity, "the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us!" This promise echoes through history and brings gladness to every heart that seeks the face of the LORD. Even the heart of the unfaithful king is touched by the good news of Emmanuel. He is touched with fear and not with gladness. The powerful in every age would prefer a distant and uninvolved God.

Some scholars suggest that King Ahaz was coming back from the place where desperate families sacrificed their children. Perhaps that's why he was so startled and tongue tied to meet the Prophet. Perhaps his conscience was beginning to work, and he discovered that it is impossible for the blood of any bull, goat, or even a son to take away sins. Only the Blood of the Lamb can cleanse and purify the human soul so capable of such horror. The Letter to the Hebrews takes this text from Psalm 40 and uses it to unfold the drama of the incarnation. It is the self-sacrificing love of the Son of God that far outweighs the sacrifices, offerings, holocausts and sin offerings of the temple priesthood. This Great High Priest is delighted to do the will of his Father. The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus is offered once and for all upon the altar of the cross, and that offering is made present in the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist. Indeed, in his free-will offering we are consecrated by sharing in the consecrated Bread and Wine. Like Christ and his mother, Mary, we find our greatest delight in doing the will of the Father.

Every time an angel of the LORD appears it seems that he has to say, "Do not be afraid." The sight of the LORD's Messenger is overwhelming and terrifying. This one, the Archangel Gabriel, comes with a message to match his frightful appearance. He announces to the Virgin Mary, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." To be filled with the self-gift of God is to be full of grace; indeed, such a one is filled with the LORD. This is repetition for the sake of clarity. For any faith-filled Jewish girl this is not possible. How can I be full of grace? How is it that the Lord is with me? Such a powerful union is so rare and so impossible. How can the Lord whom the heavens and earth cannot contain fill me? This kind of theological language is so foreign, what could it mean? As the Angel continued the very thing Mary feared the most was announced. Indeed, she is invited to become a mother. Her womb is about to be filled with the very Son of the Most High. When the Virgin questioned the Angel about her not having any relations with a man, he responded that the Holy Spirit would come, the power of the Most High would overshadow, and nothing is impossible for God. More powerful words were never spoken. In these angelic words the Blessed Virgin put complete trust and she responded, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." This response was inspired by the same Spirit who inspired the Son to become one with us. It is the same Spirit who hovered over the Word throughout eternity and now hovers of the Lord Jesus for all of time. This Spirit inspires us to cry out "Abba, Father" and we are enabled to cry out, "Jesus is Lord". Such is the voice of the Lord upon our lips when we pray with Psalm 40, "It is my delight to do your will."

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O.S.B. Vocation Awareness

O.S.B. Vocation Awareness