“Hail, full of grace!”

The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated today becuase March 25th fell during Holy Week this year.  The gospel reading is, naturally,  from Luke describing Mary’s encounter with the archangel Gabriel (Lk 1:26-38).  The angel is sent to Mary’s home in Nazareth.  He greets her, she is troubled, and then he tells her about whom she will conceive and what is to be the child’s role.  Mary, as virgin, wants to know how this pregnancy will happen.  Gabriel explains that it is through the Holy Spirit that she will be of child; he also makes her aware of the miracle that took place with her cousin who, though past child bearing years, is advanced in her pregnancy.  After all this, Mary consents to her call to be the mother of the Son of God.  The angel’s first words of greeting to Mary are in the headline.  And what a salutation it is!  An angel, a higher order creature, hailing a human being, calling her “full of grace.”  This girl, set aside from all eternity to be offered the opportunity to bring the incarnate God into the world, is greeted in such an amazing way that she doesn’t know what to think about this message.  Yet, because she is full of grace (i.e., no sin — original or personal — has ever disturbed her perfect communion with the will of God) she has complete openness to the message of the angel.  This results in her allowing this wondrous thing to happen to her.  A great model for us.  We will likely not have an angelic messenger ever greet us in this spectacular fashion.  But, like Mary, we should always strive to be aligned with the Lord’s will for us.  None of us can claim to be sinless from the moment of conception as Mary was, but by eliminating sin and vice from our lives, we capacitate ourselves more and more to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  Even so, setting our wills aside in favor of God’s will can be a scary proposition.  We, along with Mary, cannot know the full implications of abandoning ourselves to God.  But “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.” (Luke 8:50, Mark 5:36).  When Mary was approached by Gabriel, it is as if the whole world held its breath waiting for her response.  No other call will ever be as dramatically history altering as this one.  But each person created by the Father has a unique role that only he can fulfill.  Let us be attuned to it always and follow it unhesitatingly.  Whether we are asked to change one life or the world, we must do our part for the body of Christ, the Church.

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