“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”

For the second time in less than two weeks we hear the announcement of the Son of God becoming incarnate (Lk 1:26-38).  The angel Gabriel visits the virgin Mary of Nazareth greeting her as “full of grace.”  Mary, troubled by these words, hears Gabriel go on to tell her the words above and that she is to be the mother of an everlasting king.  Not understanding how she could become a mother as a vowed virgin, Mary is told that it is by the Holy Spirit that she will conceive.  She is also told of the miraculous pregnancy of an elderly relative.  Mary responds with complete abandonment to the word the angel delivered after which the heavenly messenger departs.  Our hope and only desire should be to be able to replace Mary’s name with our names.  First the call to “not be afraid.”  This reminds of the importance Pope John Paul’s placed on these words: they were his first words as pontiff and a theme he returned to throughout his reign.  Why be afraid?  If we are not in God’s favor, if the life of grace is extinguished in us through our own definitive break with the Lord, we should be very afraid.  But this is not a paralyzing fear if we understand the depth of God’s mercy.  Like the father of the prodigal son, God not only waits for us to return but is ready to run out and meet us on the road back to help us along the rest of the way.  The confessional is the medicine box where we meet the Lord and can hear from the priest, acting in the person of Christ, the words of absolution.  And the graces that come from this sacrament and all the other sacraments serve to strengthen us to resist temptation and avoid sin in the future, so we must have the firm purpose of amendment to see this through.  When we are in right relationship with God then there is no reason to fear anything the world can throw at us: “[N]either death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things,nor future things, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).  Then we can hope to hear the words: “Well done, my good and faithful servant….Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).

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