Wednesday, December 27, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent, Cycle B - December 24, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent
Cycle B
December 24, 2017      4:00pm and 8:00am Masses
Saint Mary Parish, Pylesville


The Annunciation

Today’s gospel is one of the most well-known stories in the entire Bible.

It is called the Annunciation.  It is the event that sets in motion the birth of Jesus. 

This afternoon, I want to carefully reflect with you on this passage.  So, I invite you to take your hymnbooks and open them to page 43.

No, we are not going to sing a hymn.  Instead, there, on page 43, we can see the text of this gospel passage.

I am recommending that you may want to look at this as I comment on some of the significant details that are packed into it.  Maybe we could call this a kind of Bible-study approach to today’s homily.

1. Mary as Disciple

The number one thing to notice is that Saint Luke presents Mary as the first and model disciple.

Just look at what happens.  At the beginning of the story, the angel Gabriel greets Mary and explains what is about to take place.

Now look toward the very end of the passage.  Mary responds: “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”

So, Mary 1) listens and then 2) lives out God’s message.  It is helpful to think about her response in the context of a story later in Luke’s gospel. 

Jesus is inside a house and someone says, “Your mother and family are outside wanting to talk with you.”  And Jesus responds, “My mother and family are those who [1] hear the Word of God and [2] live it.” 

So Jesus defines what it means to be a member of his spiritual family or a disciple – 1) listening and 2) living his word.  The significant thing is that Mary has already done this before Jesus is even born. 

In fact, Mary becomes Jesus’ physical mother and forms his human family because she is the first member of his spiritual family.  She is the first and model disciple. 


2. Jesus from David

Now, notice, again toward the beginning of the passage, Luke says that Mary is betrothed to “Joseph, of the house of David.”

And then, in the next paragraph, the angel says of Jesus: “The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.”  Well, from the time of King David, 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, there were many prophecies of a savior.

These prophecies began with what we heard in the first reading.  King David wants to build a house for God – a brick and mortar temple.

God responds that he will build a house for David – a house of descendants.  All the prophets who follow foretell that a savior will eventually come from this house or family of David.

So, in these verses, the gospel shows Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophecies.  And in doing this, it shows the human side of Jesus – his humanity. 

He is identified with these ancestors, beginning with David and ending with Joseph.  The humanity of Jesus is carefully established.

3. Jesus from God

Now this passage also tells us that Jesus is not just an ordinary human being. 

Notice: in the second paragraph again, the angel says to Mary: “He will be called Son of the Most High.”  And then, a few verses later, Gabriel says to Mary: “The power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

The Book of Genesis uses the same word “overshadow” to describe the work of the Holy Spirit in the act of creation.  As if this were not enough, at the very end of today’s passage, Mary says: “May it be done to me according to your word.” 

Again the Book of Genesis uses the same word that Mary uses here – “Fiat” – “May it be done,” “Let it happen”— Genesis uses this to describe God’s action in creating the world.  So the idea here is that God is doing a new creation – something radically new with Mary. 

And Gabriel, of course, gets very clear on this.  “The child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

So this child is actually the Son of God, the very presence of God with us.  He is both human and divine.


Some authors say that this Annunciation story is like a gospel in miniature.

It calls us to believe in the full identity of Jesus – human and divine.  And with this belief, it calls us to 1) listen to and 2) live out the words of the Savior. 

By doing that, we will follow the example of Mary.  We will also be members of Jesus’ spiritual family, his disciples.