Homily, Solemnity of the Annunciation
March 25, 2017
Fr. Charles Fox, Spiritual Director, St. Paul Street Evangelization

Today, especially in those pockets of the Church where the new evangelization is (rightly!) emphasized, a strong nomenclature has developed about what it means to be a Catholic. We hear the call for “intentional” disciples, “dynamic” Catholics, “rebuilt” parishes, and so on. And there is a lot of good in these concepts. We do need to be, in the words of Pope St. John Paul II, “new in ardor” as we live and share our faith today.

But sometimes we can get ardor mixed-up with aggressiveness or self-assertion, and so we should never forget that the first Christian act, the first act we see Our Lady perform in today’s Gospel, is what we might call a passive-act. Mary is *available*. Mary *receives* the message of the Archangel Gabriel. Mary is not proactive but *reactive* when she speaks those words which made the whole Christian life possible, because they welcomed Christ into the world: “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Saint John Paul II called this receptivity to God’s word a hallmark element of the “feminine genius”. It is the very opposite of aggression or self-assertion. It is the very opposite of a sinful act. It is the way you act when you are “full of grace”. It is a model for every one of us who are disciples of Jesus Christ.

Our Lord tells us in Luke’s Gospel that “out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks” (6:45). Only a heart as full of grace as Mary’s was could say what she said. She was holy in an utterly unprecedented way, and so she could say “yes” to an utterly unprecedented proposal from God.

Yet each of us has her or his own “yes” to say to God. And we might worry that since our hearts *aren’t* full of grace, that we still haven’t completely let go of our sins, we won’t be able to do it. Or we won’t be able to live out the “yes” we’ve already said to God. Sometimes, a few years after we have committed to a vocation—to marriage, the priesthood, or to the consecrated life—we can be tempted to doubt our “yes”. We can be tempted to doubt whether we really meant it, whether we were even capable of meaning it, or whether we’re capable of staying faithful.

Pope Benedict XVI has some words of consolation for us. He writes, “The mystery of the grace that takes place in Mary does not create a distance between us and her and make her unapproachable, turning her into an object of mere (and therefore empty, meaningless) wonder. On the contrary, she becomes a consoling sign of grace, for she proclaims the God whose light shone on the ignorant shepherds and whose mercy raised up the lowly in Israel and the world. She proclaims the God who is ‘greater than our hearts’ (I Jn 3:20) and whose grace is stronger than all our weakness. If John the Baptist represents the unsettling seriousness of the divine summons, Mary represents the hidden but profound joy that this summons brings” (Dogma and Preaching, 327-328).

There is a lot we could say about *how* we say our own “yes” to God, our own “may it be done to me”. For today’s feast of the Annunciation, I want simply to emphasize that you *can* say this “yes” and live it faithfully, looking to Mary’s example and trusting in her help.

[Pictured: The Annunciation, El Greco, c. 1590-1603]