Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the whole Universal Church celebrates the occasion of the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, marking the moment when the Archangel Gabriel came to Nazareth, to the then periphery of the Jewish world and community, to a young woman named Mary, whom God had chosen to be the one to bear the Saviour of the whole world, His promised Messiah or Christ, the One Whom we would come to know as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Lord, Saviour and Master. On this day of the Annunciation, the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary to proclaim the long-awaited Good News of salvation which the Lord had promised His people, all of us, from the very beginning of time. It was truly the end of the long wait for the coming of the fulfilment of God’s many wonderful promises and assurances that He has made through His many prophets and messengers.

This Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord must be understood as the moment when the Lord became Incarnate in this world, just as the Archangel Gabriel himself mentioned that the Lord would send the Holy Spirit to overshadow Mary, and through that, the Son of God would be conceived in her womb, taking up the nature, appearance and existence of our humanity, becoming the Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate. That is why this Solemnity of the Annunciation is celebrated this day, exactly nine months to the date of Christmas, signifying the nine months of the period of pregnancy that happened to Mary, as she bore the Son of God within her, as the bearer of the Messiah and the Mother of God. It is on this day that the hope and light of this world came into the world, Incarnate in the flesh, amidst still veiled within the holy womb of Mary, His mother.

It was also then Mary’s ‘yes’ to the Lord as she uttered it to the Archangel Gabriel that made it all possible and tangible, as God gave her the freedom to choose whether to obey His will and His calling or not. Mary, being full of grace and full of faith in the Lord, responded with great love, humility and grace, in accepting the very important role that she was to play in the history of the salvation of the whole world. As we heard from the exchanges between her and the Archangel, we can tell that Mary was indeed uncertain and unsure about the path that she was to embark on, but unlike those others who refused to obey the Lord or those who fled in fear away from Him and His calling, Mary chose to obey perfectly, and committed herself to the calling that she has been entrusted with, the calling to be the Mother of God’s own Son, with the simple and humble words, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me as you have said’.

Let us all contrast what Mary had said and how she responded to what we heard in our first reading today, in how King Ahaz of Judah responded to the prophet Isaiah who just like the Archangel Gabriel, came to him bearing the Good News of God. King Ahaz rejected the offer that the prophet Isaiah made to him, as the latter told him to ask of the Lord of a sign and favour, and the King of Judah told him that he would not put God to the test. Now, outwardly this might seem as if King Ahaz was being humble before God, but what he exhibited was actually false humility and more of lack of faith and hypocrisy if anything. Why is that so? That is because this King of Judah was just like many of his predecessors who had disobeyed the Lord and His Law and commandments. He was being insincere and rather hypocritical when he told Isaiah that he would not put God to the test.

That is because his actions, as well as his continued sinful acts and constant lack of faith in God, all of those had put God to the test many times, scandalised His Holy Name and spurned His kindness and love. Thus he was truly insincere and being a hypocrite when he told Isaiah that he would not put God to the test. His wickedness and lack of faith and trust in God had brought many of the people of God into sin, and he would not humble himself before God, unwilling to believe in the words of the Lord which had been delivered to him through Isaiah and God’s many other messengers. And that was King Ahaz’s sin and failure, which can be contrasted with the way that Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and Saviour, had responded to God full of faith and trust in Him. Mary entrusted herself in the Lord and committed herself to the calling which He has given to her, even when she was still unsure of what to make of the surprising news from the Archangel Gabriel.

This is what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in the second reading today also highlighted, that what the Lord truly wants from each one of us is obedience and faith, and not merely just outward expression of faith. He does not want merely just lip service and faith that is superficial, as He wants from us true obedience and commitment, faith and dedication, like just what Mary has shown us, and which the Lord Jesus Himself, in His perfect love and obedience to His Father’s will has shown us. God values our love and obedience much more than our sacrifices and offerings, just as it is possible for one to offer rich sacrifices and offerings to God and yet had little or no love for Him. In fact, that was what many of the people in the past had done, from the time of King Ahaz and before him, and up to the time of the Lord Jesus, with many among the people just doing what they thought were obeying the Law and commandments of God, and yet, without genuine faith in God or love for Him.

Instead, they loved themselves more than they loved the Lord or each other. They placed themselves more importantly than anything else, and allowed themselves to be swayed by the many temptations of worldly comfort, pleasures and ambitions, allowing their greed and desire to distract them from the path towards the Lord and righteousness. They let themselves to be swayed and misled by their own worldly ambitions and pride, and hence, faltered in their path and journey in life. The Lord has called on them to follow Him, and yet, they closed their hearts and minds from Him, and were too busy with their many pursuits and ambitions in life that they forgot about Him and His ways. That is also why at this juncture in the season of Lent, each and every one of us are reminded not to be like those people, but be inspired by the examples and the faith showed by especially our Mother Mary, the faithful one who had dedicated herself wholly to God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as today we commemorate this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, let us all remind ourselves of the love of God and His faithfulness, His commitment to the Covenant which He had made with us all. He has come down into this world, willingly becoming Incarnate in the flesh through His Son, Jesus Christ, so that by His coming into our midst, He may be present amongst us and touch us all, and reach out even to the least and the most wicked among us. Why He had done all these? That is because His love for us is truly very pure and great, and His desire to be reconciled with all of us, His beloved ones, is always great. He has no desire to see us destroyed and crushed by our sins, and He wants us to be freed from the bondage and domination by all those evils and sins we have committed. Hence, He gave us all the most perfect gift in His Son.

Today, let us all reflect carefully on our lives and ask ourselves whether we have listened to the Lord and His words, and whether we have paid attention to His truth and His ways. If we have been stubborn and difficult in constantly refusing to listen to Him and in being disobedient, as many of our predecessors had done, then it is perhaps time for us to reorientate our lives and see the examples that Mary has shown us, in surrendering herself completely to the Lord, entrusting her life and path to the Lord, Who has called her to follow Him and to do His will. Let us all be inspired to follow the Lord in the same way, committing ourselves, our time and effort to walk in His path. Let us all be the good role models and examples ourselves for our fellow brothers and sisters all around us. This is our calling as Christians, what we are expected and called to do.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in our faith and life, and may His blessed Mother Mary, our role model and our loving mother, continue to inspire us and intercede for us on our behalf, so that the Lord may be moved to help and guide us in our various challenges and the many trials that we may have to face and overcome amidst this journey of life we have in this world. May she continue to watch over us as she has always done, and help us to come ever closer to her Son. May God be with us always and may He bless our every efforts and good endeavours, for His greater glory. Amen.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. This is why on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of Me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First He says : “Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then He says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified once and for all by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness; I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Saturday, 25 March 2023 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”