This year the Annunciation of the Lord is celebrated on the 8th of April, instead of the 25th of March because the 25th of March fell on Holy Thursday.
This story is one of the most astonishing passages of scripture to contemplate; just for a moment think of what really happened in the little house in Nazareth. In the current basilica of the Annunciation, where the Angel appeared to Mary, it reads on the altar front ‘Verbum caro hic factum est’; ‘here the Word was made flesh’. It is this feast which celebrates the point when it all started, when God became man, when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin, when the all-powerful Word became flesh to dwell humbly among us!
At the moment when Mary said ‘yes’ Jesus became flesh in order to die and save us from our sins. He took from us our human nature so as to renew us in his divine nature. This is moving especially now after Easter when we have just celebrated the culmination of the incarnation in the crucifixion and resurrection: Jesus gave himself completely for us. This was the divine plan from the beginning, and it all started in this little town in Galilee called Nazareth.
Mary is a great example for us, and shows us what faith is really about. She did not doubt, she did not hesitate, she accepted God’s will. It seems such an opposite to our normal daily human experience. In the last week we have heard the various Gospel accounts of what happened in the days after the Resurrection. While the disciples close to Jesus must have known Him very well, it is clear that they did not grasp the reality which was before them. The risen Lord does not appear to them in a way they can recognise Him. We have Mary Magdalene who doesn’t recognise Jesus who is standing in front of her at the tomb until He speaks to her. Neither do the two disciples on the road to Emmaus until the breaking of the bread. Later when the disciples are together think He is a ghost and even the third time Jesus showed himself standing at the shore of the Sea of Tiberius they fail to recognise Him.
So the fact that the disciples did live with Jesus did not mean they recognised Him, this too can often be the experience we have in our daily lives. Do we recognise Jesus when He comes to us?
But Mary is different, she must have been so in tune with God’s reality as she accepted it for what it was. She accepted to become the Mother of God. Without any apparent proof she accepted the message of the Angel. The only difficulty she had was the fact that she was a virgin, and that it seemed unconceivable to her that she was to be pregnant at that moment. But even this doubt is erased by a single word from the angel. Mary believes and says: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me”!
So when it seems normal to miss what God is really doing in our lives we can identify with the disciples who were so slow to understand that He was risen from the dead and really present to them as now He is to us. This is a great consolation, but this should not stop us trying to find Jesus. It is therefore a great consolation that Mary is always there to help us on the way to recognise Jesus. She is always in prayer with us to help us and encourage us to do the Lord’s will, to say “Yes” to Him as she did. Let us therefore pray to her, ask her help, and allow her to bring us to her Son. Then when she points Him out He can speak to us as He did to Mary Magdalene when “she did not recognise [Jesus]” but Jesus said “Mary!” and she knew Him then.
Let Mary teach us how to listen to the voice of His presence in our lives. She who said “Yes” invites us to say “Yes” in our turn.