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Annunciation Second Sunday

Season of Annunciation

Second Sunday: Luke 1:26-38
THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF JESUS’ BIRTH

INTRODUCTION

After Mary’s discussion with Angel Gabriel, she expressed her willingness to accept any hardship for her vocation as mother of the Son of God. That was a free-will consent, and a hard one to decide. Mary had no foreknowledge of the hardships and the glory to follow. Yet, she gave her consent trusting the Lord, without waiting to consult Joseph, her friends, or relatives. Mary committed fully to her call. She undertook the sufferings with patience and did her glorious task in humility, starting with her service for Elizabeth.

BIBLE TEXT

(Luke 1:26) In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent (27) to a young virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. (28) The angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” (29) Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. (30) But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has favored you. (31) You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus. (32) He will be great and will 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 (33) and his reign shall have no end.” (34) Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” (35) 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 child to be born will be holy and shall be called Son of God. (36) 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. (37) With God nothing is impossible.” (38) 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.

INTERPRETATION

(26) In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent…

In the sixth month
Six months have passed since Angel Gabriel announced John the Baptist’s birth to Zachariah. That announcement opened a new era for the new covenant that Jesus made with humanity for his Father. So, the calculation of time starts from there.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God.
The Bible mentions three angels by name:

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 cure of human bodies. This angel restored sight to Tobit when he became 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 chapter 12. This angel is also a messenger of God. God sent Angel Gabriel to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus, who would wage war against Lucifer (Genesis 3:15) 

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 Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-38), and to Evangelist John in Patmos. (Rev. 1:1-2). Though not specified in the Holy Bible, according to the Jewish tradition, Gabriel is one of the seven archangels.

To a town of Galilee called Nazareth
Nazareth was a village in Galilee where people knew one another. Joseph, from Bethlehem, moved to Nazareth seeking a job. He was a builder and there was no job opportunity in Bethlehem. Mary’s father Joachim was from Nazareth, and her mother Anne was from Bethlehem.

According to non-Biblical books, Mary’s parents Joachim and Anne were childless. God gave them an extraordinary child in their old age, as it happened to Abraham’s wife Sarah. Joachim and Anne had promised to God that they would entrust their child to the Temple for the Lord’s service. So they brought Mary, when she was three years old, to the Temple and offered her as they had promised 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 betrothed her to Joseph, whom God had selected to marry her. So, Joseph took Mary from Jerusalem to Nazareth.

Nazareth in Hebrew means branch. Jesus from Nazareth was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah in 11:1. “From the stump of Jesse a shoot will come forth; from his roots a branch will grow and bear fruit.” Nazareth was such a small village that when Philip introduced Jesus of Nazareth to Nathaniel, he asked: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

(27) To a young virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

To a young virgin
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 while living there from age three. Hence, she asked Angel Gabriel, how she, a lifelong virgin, could give birth to a child. This was also the fulfillment of another prophecy: “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). Thus, the virgin birth became a prophetic sign of the Messiah’s arrival. The Catholic Church and some other churches teach the perpetual virginity of Mary.

Who was engaged to a man named Joseph
The apocryphal writings present the story of Joseph’s marriage. These writings are unauthorized books. So, they may be true or myth. However, they help us connect the gaps in the Biblical narratives. According to the apocrypha, when Joseph was 40 years old, he married Salome (Melcha or Escha). They lived together 49 years 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 brothers and sisters of Jesus mentioned in the gospels (Mark 6:3; Matthew 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). Joseph’s role, though married to Mary, was to protect her life and her virginity. However, God called him also as the Redeemers’ foster father.

Joseph, of the family of David
Though Luke gives the genealogy of Mary tracing back to King David, here he states that Jesus’ legal father was also from the lineage 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 God met this promise in David’s son Solomon, it was only partial. Its fulfillment came only in Jesus. Because of this, Jesus has another title, the Son of David.

The virgin’s name was Mary.
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 because of Pharaoh’s order. However, when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, Mariam was also known as Mara Yam meaning “Mistress of the Sea.” Miriam was the leader of women when the Israelites crossed the Red Sea while God drowned Pharaoh and his soldiers. According to St. Ambrose, Mary of the New Testament leads us through the sea of the world to the new promised land, heaven.

(28) The angel came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Hail full of grace
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, caused death by her disobedience. Mary, the spiritual mother of all the faithful, brought life to the world. So according to Serarius, “Ave” means life.

God created Adam and Eve free of sin. Similarly, God allowed the New Adam, Jesus and the New Eve, Mary to be born free of sin, so the original sin did not affect them. Only a non-contaminated container can hold a sterile medicine for treatment. So also, God created Mary free from the original sin so she could carry the Son of God free from stains of sin. Hence, she was full of grace in body and soul to become the new ark of God’s divine presence in her womb. For that reason, the angel greeted Mary, “full of grace.”

The Lord is with you.
Angel Gabriel clarified why Mary was full of grace. God specially chose Mary in His eternal plan of salvation. God the Father has favored her. The Son of God would take flesh in her womb. The Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. So, the angel clarified how the Lord was with Mary uniquely.

(29) Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean.

The unexpected visit of the angel shocked Mary. A surprising call to a responsible position can disturb any person. Mary might have been seeking the grace of God. The angel affirmed that she was full of grace and that the Lord was with her. She tried to believe it herself.

(30) But the angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has favored you.”

The angel’s appearance caused fear in Mary as it happened to Zachariah (Luke 1:12) and the shepherds (Luke 2:10). However, the angel comforted and assured her that the vision was because God found favor with her and selected her as the mother of His Son. The Old Testament presents Noah, Moses, and David as people who found “favor with God.” God included Mary in that category of exceptional people.

(31) You shall conceive and bear a son and you shall call him Jesus.

The late-born children had been special to 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 unknown (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 the salvation history. Mary, who had a unique role in God’s plan, was a late-born daughter of Joachim and Anne.

Jesus’ birth is the opposite of the late-born children. He was the son of a virgin. Isaiah had prophesied, “the LORD himself shall give you a sign: The virgin is with child and will bear a son and will name him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14). Mary was always a virgin mother, though contrary to the natural law.

You shall call him Jesus.
Jesus is Joshua in Hebrew, and Joshua means “Yahweh is salvation.” Joshua succeeded Moses and led the Israelites to Canaan, the promised land. He was only a representative of God in winning the war against Canaanites, who were larger and stronger than the Israelites. 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 the human flesh.

(32) “He will be great and will 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 (33) and his reign shall have no end.”  

The Angel Gabriel predicted to Mary on what would happen to her son:

1. He will be great.
Being God incarnate, Jesus is greatest of all the prominent people ever born. He is greater than the powerful King David (Matthew 22:41-45), wiser than Solomon, the man of wisdom (Matthew 12:42), and greater preacher than Jonah the prophet who converted the sin city of Nineveh (Matthew 12:41).

2. He will be called Son of the Most High.
The angel uses “Most High” as a title for God and “Son of the Most High” for Jesus. He is the direct son of God, born without sexual union but by divine intervention. Since Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, he has the title, the Son of God. Adam, whom God directly created without human parents, has the title, the son of God. However, Jesus is God became man, and Adam is a human with the image and likeness of God.

3. The Lord God will give him the kingdom of David, his ancestor.
This is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7: 12-14.

4. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever and his reign shall have no end.
The people of Jacob mean the 12 tribes of Israel. Exiles and unemployment made these tribes scatter all over the world and mingle with the Gentiles. Jesus extended salvation to all humanity, spread all over the world, beginning with the Israelites. So, the church is universal and open for all willing to accept Jesus as their savior. Even majestic kings of the united Israel like King Saul, David, and Solomon ruled only 40 years each. Jesus, the new king, will rule over the world for eternity.

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

(34) Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I am a virgin?”

Mary was wondering how she could give birth to a child. Though Joseph betrothed her, she had the vow of virginity, and its breaking was against God (St. Ambrose and St. Augustine). Her concern was losing her virginity to become the mother of the Savior. However, she is the virgin-mother of the Son of God. Her doubt makes the angel to reveal more in the mode of incarnation.

(35) 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 child to be born will be holy and shall be called Son of God.”

Like the first parents, Jesus originated not by sexual union, but from God. The conception happened through a divine intervention, which was an exception to the natural law. All the three persons of the Most Holy Trinity involved in the mystery of incarnation. The angel clarified that the second person of the Most Holy Trinity was becoming incarnate. For this, the Holy Spirit descended on Mary. The power of God the Father overshadowed her like the Shakina cloud overshadowed the Ark of the Covenant. In the New Testament, Mary became the new ark that carried the Word of God.

(36) 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.

Elizabeth came from the lineage of Aaron belonging to the tribe of Levi. Mary was from the family of David, belonging to the tribe of Judah. So, they must be relatives from the maternal side. The tribes of Israel did not intermarry. However, there were marriages between the tribes of Levi and Judah, the priestly and the royal tribes.

Angel Gabriel gave Elizabeth’s unusual pregnancy as a proof for Mary to believe in her virgin motherhood. That was also an indirect referral to help Elizabeth during her old-age pregnancy. Mary believed the angel’s words and went to serve Elizabeth. Her visit helped to fulfill the prophecy of the angel to Zechariah that John “will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15). That happened when Mary visited Elizabeth. 

(37) “With God nothing is impossible.”

God is the creator and master of the universe. So, He is beyond natural law. The miraculous interventions of God proved that He could do anything He wanted.  

(38) 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.

Mary was glad that she could be the mother of the Son of God while keeping up her virginity. God sought the consent of Mary like a father asking the consent of his daughter for her marriage. Marian scholars teach that Mary was conceived, the time she gave consent to the angel.

MESSAGE

1. God humbled Himself to seek the consent of Mary through His messenger, Gabriel. We also need to get others’ consent when needed. Lack of proper communication can cause problems even when we favor others. Communication is important for a better relationship in the family.

2. Eve said ‘yes’ to the fallen Angel when he misguided her. Mary said ‘yes’ to God’s messenger, Gabriel. Eve and Mary did not know 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 delightful times and terrible times throughout her life. She accepted the hardships yielding to the will of God without complaint. Let us also take our crosses and follow Jesus.

4. Like Mary, we also make commitments in our Christian life. Baptism is our lifelong covenant with God. Through the Sacrament of Matrimony, couples make mutual covenant touching the Holy Gospel, committing to live for the spouse until death in love and unity, in pleasant times and tough times. The consecrated people also make a similar commitment with God. Let us all be faithful to 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, who came to prepare the way of the Lord, let us produce results of repentance. We must clean our souls to receive Jesus in our heart rather than in the cribs. During this season of advent, we should have intense prayers, reconciliation, and acts of charity.