In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 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; he will be called Son of God.
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception by which God allowed no stain of Adam’s original sin to touch Mary. So he prepared her to bear his son. Today’s Gospel recounts the familiar scene of the Annunciation. It is the Gospel passage that is most frequently read in the liturgy, and probably the Gospel scene most frequently represented in Christian art. Many recall it daily in the Angelus. This is most appropriate.
The scene puts before us the central mystery of our faith, the Incarnation of the Son of God. Our first reaction is adoration of Jesus within the womb of Mary. Then we consider the words of Mary herself, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (or will). This surrender to God’s will grow and characterize Mary throughout her life up to the death of Jesus on the cross. We pray that God will give us a share in the same readiness to do his will that he gave to Mary. So we will also in our way bring Christ into the world.
—Fr. Bob Bireley, SJ, is a member of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, WI.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
—The Magnificat prayer