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Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Opening Prayer: Lord on this beautiful feast day, help me to grow in my love for Mother Mary as I reflect on her “fiat.”
- “Fiat”: Mary’s Fiat was “a full ‘yes,’ total, for all her life, unconditional,” said Pope Francis (Angelus, December 8, 2016). “Mary’s ‘yes’ opened the way to God among us. It is the most important ‘yes’ in history, the humble ‘yes’ that overturns the arrogant ‘no’ of the origins, the faithful ‘yes’ that cures disobedience; the willing ‘yes’ that overturns the egoism of sin,” Pope Francis added. She was full of grace and completely conformed to the Father. Mary strove at every moment to fulfill God’s will in her life. We are less perfect, but must strive to give our “yes” to God as does our Mother Mary. “Sometimes, however, we are experts in the half-yes: we are good at feigning that we do not understand what God would like and what our conscience suggests to us,” Pope Francis says (ibid.). We grow in our capacity to say “yes” by becoming full of grace. When we avail ourselves of the sacraments, adhere to our Lenten sacrifices, and love others the way Christ does, our half-yes become “fiats” for the glory of God the Father.
- Nature of Freedom: Pope Benedict wrote that the lowest type of freedom is choosing between right and wrong. The greatest freedom is to know the grace that God gives and offer it right back to God. This is what Mary freely chose to do, to know that she had received grace beyond measure–“Hail full of grace”–and to offer it right back to God by her “fiat.” It was a choice made out of the greatest possible freedom because she was choosing to do what God desired.
- Christ Bearers: Mary brought the God-man into this world through her “yes” to the angel. He encouraged her with the words, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” We are offered a multitude of opportunities to bring Christ into this world—to give of ourselves in kindness, to swallow our pride, and incarnate Christ through our own personal “fiat” to God’s will. When we do so, we can take the words of the angel as our own encouragement: “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.”
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me to imagine this moment when you became man. Mary was alone in her house, maybe in her bedroom, and the angel appeared to her. Because of her docility and simplicity of soul, she recognized your voice deep in her soul. The conversation with the angel was a conversation with you. Her “yes” to the messenger was a “yes” to you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will ask myself in the words of Pope Francis, “Today, what ‘yes’ must I say to God? Let us think about it. It will do us good.”
For Further Reflection: Read the entire address by Pope Francis for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2016.
Father Joshua West is a Legionary of Christ priest serving as chaplain at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.