Annunciation Second Sunday

Announcement about the birth of Christ. (Luke 1:26-38)

INTRODUCTION

After her discussion with Angel Gabriel, Mary expressed her willingness to take up any hardship for her vocation to be the Mother of the Son of God. That was a free-will consent, and not an easy one to decide. Mary had no fore-knowledge of the hardships and the glory to follow. Yet, she gave her consent trusting fully in the Lord, without waiting to consult Joseph, her friends or relatives.  Mary was hundred percent committed to her call. She took up the hardships with patience and did her glorious task in humility, starting with her service to Elizabeth.

Bible Text

(26) In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, (27) to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. (28) And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” (29) But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. (30) Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. (31) Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. (32) 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, (33) and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (34) But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (35) 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. (36) 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; (37) for nothing will be impossible for God.” (38) 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.

 Interpretation

In the sixth month (Luke 1: 26)

The month was counted from the day Angel Gabriel announced to Zachariah about the birth of John the Baptist. That was the opening of a new chapter for the new covenant that Jesus was going to make with humanity for his Father.

Angel Gabriel was sent from God (Luke 1: 26)

There are three angels specially mentioned by name in the Bible:

(1) Michael in Hebrew means “Who is like God.” Michael presides over the prayers and offerings of the faithful.
(2) Raphael means “The Medicine of God.” Raphael presides over the healing of human bodies. He restored sight to Tobit when he was blind. (Tobit 11: 7-15).
(3) Gabriel means “The Power of God.” Gabriel presides over the conflicts and wars of the faithful as in Daniel 12. He is also a messenger of God. Here God sent Angel Gabriel to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus who would wage war against Lucifer.

Angel Gabriel appeared four times in the Bible communicating God’s message to His faithful servants: to Prophet Daniel (Ch. 10), to John the Baptists’ father Zachariah (Luke 1:5-20), to mother of Jesus, Mary (Luke 1:26-38) and to John in the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:1-2). Though not specified in the Holy Bible, according to Jewish tradition, Gabriel is one of the seven archangels.

Nazareth (Luke 1: 26)

Nazareth was a small village where people knew one another. Joseph, originally from Bethlehem, moved to Nazareth for job because he was a construction worker. Mary’s father Joachim was from Nazareth in Galilee and her mother Anne was from Bethlehem. So, Mary was also born and brought up in Nazareth.

Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne were childless and God opened the womb of Anne in her old age to give an extraordinary child as it happened to Sarah, wife of Abraham in the Book of Genesis. Joachim and Anne had promised to God that they would entrust their child to the temple for the service of the Lord. So, they brought Mary, at the age of three, to Jerusalem to offer her as promised by them before her birth. While Mary grew up in the temple, her aged parents died. A girl could not continue in the temple from her puberty. So, between the age of 12 and 15, the priests of the temple betrothed her to Joseph who was divinely selected to marry her. So, Joseph took Mary from Jerusalem to Nazareth.

Nazareth in Hebrew means branch. Jesus from Nazareth is considered as a fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah in 11:1. “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Nazareth was such a small and insignificant village that when Philip introduced Jesus of Nazareth to Nathaniel, he asked: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

To a virgin (Luke 1: 27)

According to the apocryphal book, The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary, the blessed mother had made a vow of virginity at the temple of Jerusalem during her life from three to 12/15 years of age. That was why she asked Angel Gabriel, how she, a lifelong virgin, could give birth to a child. Catholic Church and some other churches teach the perpetual virginity of Mary. This was also the fulfillment of another prophesy: “Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). Virgin birth became a sign of the birth of the Messiah.

Betrothed to a man named Joseph (Luke 1: 27)

The story of Joseph’s marriage is given in the apocryphal writings. These writings are not officially approved canonical books. So, they may be true or myth. However, they help us to connect the gaps in the life story of Jesus. According to the apocrypha, when Joseph was 40 years old, he married Salome (Melcha or Escha). They lived 49 years together and had four sons and two daughters. The youngest was James the Less, also known as “the Lord’s brother.” This story helps us to understand the connection of ever Virgin Mary and the brothers and sisters of Jesus in the gospel. (Mark 6:3), (Mathew 13:55-56).

 “A year after his wife's death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Judah a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age. Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph, and two years later the Annunciation took place.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08504a.htm). The role of Joseph, though legally married to Mary, was to protect her life and her virginity. However, God called him also to be the foster father of the redeemer.

Joseph of the house of David (Luke 1: 27)

Here, Luke the evangelist tries to show that the legal or adopted father of Jesus was from the line of David as a fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant. “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son.” (2 Samuel 7: 12-14). Though this promise from God to David was fulfilled partially in his son King Solomon, it was perfectly fulfilled only in Jesus.

The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1: 27)

Miriam is the Hebrew word for Mary. Miriam in the Old Testament was the sister of Moses.  Just as Moses is a prototype of Jesus, Miriam is a prototype of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Miriam (Mar Yam) in Hebrew means myrrh, or bitterness of the sea. When Miriam was born, the Israelites had the bitter destiny to throw their children to River Nile by the order of Pharaoh. However, when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea her name was changed to Mariam (Mara Yam) meaning “Mistress of the Sea.” Miriam was the leader of the women when the people crossed the Red Sea while Pharaoh and his soldiers were drowned by the power of God. According to St. Ambrose, Mary of the New Testament leads us through the sea of the world to the Promised Land, heaven.

Hail full of grace (Luke 1: 28)

Hail means “Ave” the reversal of the Latin word Eva for Eve. Mary reversed the situation of humanity by her obedience to God. Eve, the mother of all, brought death by her disobedience. Whereas, Mary brought life to the world. So according to Serarius, “Ave” means life.

Just as Adam and Eve were created by God free of sin, so also the New Adam Jesus and the New Eve Mary were born free of sin so that they are not contaminated by the stain of original sin. Only a non-contaminated container can be used to contain a sterile medicine or equipment for treatment. So also, God created Mary free from original sin to contain Jesus the redeemer of all sinners in her body. Hence, she was full of grace in body and soul. Both Jesus by his nature as God, and Mary who carried him for more than nine months and allowed her womb to develop his human flesh, were born free from sin. Mary was filled with the grace of God, by God’s choice, to become the new ark of God’s divine presence in her womb. That was why the angel greeted Mary as “full of grace.”

The Lord is with thee (Luke 1: 28)

 Angel Gabriel clarified why Mary was full of grace. Mary was specially chosen by God in His eternal plan of salvation. And the Lord Jesus was going to be in her body in a unique way. So, the angel was right in stating that the Lord was with Mary.

Mary was greatly troubled at what was said (Luke 1: 29)

 An unexpected visit from a glorious angel was of course a shock to Mary. An instant call to a highly responsible position can be disturbing for any person. Mary might be thinking that she was seeking the grace of God. Now the angel was affirming that she was full of grace and that the Lord was with her. She was trying to believe it herself.

Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favor with God (Luke 1: 30)

 Besides Mary, appearance of an angel caused fear for some other Bible characters like Zachariah. The Angel removed her fear and assured her that the Angelic message was because she had found favor with God. Her virtue was pleasing to God and was suitable for her partnership with God. The phrase “favor with God” was also attributed in the Old Testament to Noah, Moses, and David. Now Mary finds place in that category of special people.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son (Luke 1:31)

Usually, a late-born child had been a special child of God. Sarah’s son Isaac (Gen. 11:30; 21:1-2), Rebekah’s son Jacob (Gen. 25:21), Rachel’s son Joseph (Gen. 29:31; 30:22), Samson whose mother’s name is not given (Judg. 13:1-3), Hannah’s son Samuel (1 Sam. 1:5-6, 20) are examples of late-born sons, who had special roles in Salvation History. Mary herself was a late-born daughter of Joachim and Anne.

 In Jesus’ case, it is the opposite. An early birth from a virgin, the first of its kind in the world, is God himself. Mary, a virgin as prophesied by Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14) was always a virgin mother, though contrary to the natural law.

 You shall name him Jesus. (Luke 1:31)

 esus is Joshua in Hebrew, and Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” Joshua was the successor of Moses who led the Israelites to Canaan, the Promised Land. Joshua was only a representative of God in waging and winning the war against the Canaanites who were bigger and stronger than them.  Jesus is the new Joshua who waged war against Satan, became victorious, and led his people to the new Promised Land, heaven. He is also Emmanuel, as Isaiah had prophesied, God who dwelt among us in human flesh.

Foretelling about Jesus

1. He will be great (Luke 1:32)
Being God incarnate, Jesus is greater than all the great people ever born. He was greater than the powerful king David (Mathew 22:41-45), wiser than the wisest man on earth Solomon (Mathew 12:42), and greater preacher than Jonah the prophet who converted the sin city of Nineveh (Mathew 12:41).

2. He will be called Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32)
“Most High” was a title for God that Luke commonly used. Jesus was the direct son of God born without sexual union but by divine intervention. Since Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, he was called Son of God. Adam, who was directly created by God without human parents, was also called the son of God.

3. He will be called holy (Luke 1:35)
Since Jesus is God incarnate, he is holy. He has no sin by birth or by action.

4. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father (Luke 1:32)
This again is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7: 12-14

5. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:33)
House of Jacob means all the 12 tribes of Israel. Now these tribes are scattered all over the world and many have mingled with gentiles. Salvation is for all humanity offered through the Israelites. That is why the Church is open for all who are willing to accept Jesus as their savior.
 

Even great kings of the united Israel like King David and Solomon ruled only for 40 years. Jesus, the new spiritual king, rules over the world for eternity.

I have no relations with a man? (Luke 1:34)

Mary was wondering how this giving birth was going to happen. Though she was betrothed to Joseph, she had promised the vow of virginity, and the breaking of it was against God. (St. Ambrose and St. Augustine). She was concerned with losing her virginity to become the mother of the Savior. However, she is both virgin and mother, Virgin-Mother of the Son of God. Her doubt gives way to more revelation on the mode of the incarnation.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Luke 1:35).

 Like the first parents, Jesus was directly from God and not by sexual union. So, the conception happened through divine intervention, which was an exception to the natural law. The angel made it clear that only the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity was becoming incarnate, though all the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity were involved in the mystery of the Incarnation. The Holy Spirit was descending on her. The grace of God the Father was going to overshadow her as the Shakina cloud was overshadowing the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was lost just before the destruction of the first Temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. In the New Testament, Mary became the new ark that carried the Word of God.

 Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age… barren. (Luke 1:36)

 Elizabeth was from the family tree of Aaron belonging to the tribe of Levi and Mary was from the family of David belonging to the tribe of Judah. So, they must be relatives from maternal side. Usually the tribes of Israel won’t intermarry. However, there were intermarriages between the tribes of Levi and Judah, the priestly and the royal tribes.

 The angel Gabriel gave the miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth as a proof for Mary to believe in her miraculous virgin motherhood. Mary believed and went to meet and serve Elizabeth. Angel also indirectly referred Mary to help Elizabeth in her old age-pregnancy and to fill her and her child John with the Holy Spirit by the presence of the Son of God in her womb.

 Nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)

God is the creator and master of the universe. So, God is beyond natural law. The miraculous interventions of God were proof that everything was possible for God.

 “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary was glad that she could keep up her virginity and be the mother of the Son of God. God sought the consent of her daughter like a father asking the consent for her marriage. The time she gave consent was also considered as the time of her miraculous conceiving.

 Message:

1. Even God humbled Himself to seek the consent of Mary through His messenger Gabriel. We also need to seek the permission of others when needed. Even a favor to others can be misunderstood without proper communication. Communication in family life is important for better relationship among family members.

2. Eve said yes to Satan when he misguided her. Mary on the other hand said yes to Angel Gabriel. Both did not knew well the consequences that would follow. Let us follow the directives of the representatives of Jesus and his church than agreeing with people who might misguide us to turn away from Jesus and his church.

3. Mary was always faithful in her consent to God that she made through Angel Gabriel. She had good times and mostly bad times throughout her life. However, though mother of the Son of God, she did not complain but took up the hardships yielding to the will of God. Let us also take up our crosses and follow Jesus.

4. Like Mary, we also make consent and commitments in our Christian life. Baptism is our covenant with God in Jesus to remain faithful to God. Through the Sacrament of Matrimony, couples make mutual covenant touching the Holy Gospel committing their consent to live for their spouse until death in love and unity, in good times and bad times. The people in the consecrated life also make similar commitment with God. Let us all be faithful in our vocation to Christian life and divine call for family life or religious life.

5. Advent is a time for spiritual renewal and not a time for early Christmas celebrations. Following the message of John the Baptist who came to prepare the way of the Lord, let us produce results of repentance. We need to clean our soul to receive Jesus in our heart rather than in the cribs. More prayers, reconciliation, and acts of charity are recommended during this season of advent.