Do Not Be Afraid Mary, Solemnity of the Annunciation, March 25, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Casa Maria Retreat House, Irondale, AL
Retreat for Laypeople: “Be Not Afraid”: Living our Faith with Parrhesia
Solemnity of the Annunciation
March 25, 2017
Is 7:10-14;8:10, Ps 40, Heb 10:4-10, Lk 1:26-38

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Do not be afraid Mary
    • In a retreat based on not being afraid, on living our faith with parrhesia, it’s important that we confront these words of the Archangel to the sinless Virgin Mary, who was afraid.
      • She was troubled by the words of the Angel. “Rejoice, you who have been filled with grace. The Lord is with you.”
      • She was troubled simply by the presence of the Angel in a typical human shrinking before a theophany.
      • She was troubled with why he might be there.
    • There are two types of fear in the Gospel, and in human life, a distinction lost in English.
      • Fear of punishment. Paura in Italian, medo in Portuguese, miedo in Spanish. Many times people are afraid of God. They have an image of a Lord who is waiting to send them to Hell at the first bad thought. Sometimes they’ve learned this fear from those who taught them the faith. Of an angry God who will never be satisfied with us, who will say, full of anger, “depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” This is not the fear Mary had.
      • The second type of fear is a holy awe. Timore, timor, temor. This is the “fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of all wisdom. We’re blown away by God’s presence. We realize we’re before someone so much greater. We don’t believe we belong. God’s light can be too much for us, not just because of those parts in us that dwell in darkness but also God’s infinite light is more than our finite eyes can handle.
        • We see this in the callings of the prophets and the apostles.
          • 6:1 In the year King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. 2 Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft. 3 “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts!” they cried one to the other. “All the earth is filled with his glory!” 4 At the sound of that cry, the frame of the door shook and the house was filled with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, holding an ember which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 He touched my mouth with it. “See,” he said, “now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!”
          • Jer 1: 4 The word of the LORD came to me thus: 5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you. 6 “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I know not how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the LORD answered me, Say not, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8 Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD. 9 Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying, See, I place my words in your mouth!
          • Luke 5:1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 9 For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
          • Acts 9:1 Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus.
      • We see it elsewhere in Sacred Scripture
        • Moses
          • Ex 33:17 The LORD said to Moses, “This request, too, which you have just made, I will carry out, because you have found favor with me and you are my intimate friend.” 18 Then Moses said, “Do let me see your glory!” 19 He answered, “I will make all my beauty pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce my name, ‘LORD’; I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. 20 But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives. 21 Here,” continued the LORD, “is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. 22 When my glory passes I will set you in the hollow of the rock and will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but my face is not to be seen.”
        • Zechariah in the temple
          • Luke 1:13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John.
        • Joseph with regard to Mary
          • 1:20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
        • The shepherds on Christmas day
          • Luke 2:10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
        • The Apostles at the Transfiguration
          • 17:7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”
        • The women at the tomb
          • 28:5 Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified.
        • The women when they met the risen Jesus
          • 28:10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
        • John on Patmos
          • 1:17 When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with his right hand and said, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, 18 the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. 19 Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards.
  • God comes to remove that fear and other fears.
    • Takes on our nature. He enters into our life. He yokes himself to us.
    • God-with-us, Emmanuel. He walks with us. He lived within us. He strengthens us.
    • He wants to help us learn, Like Mary, to say a whole hearted trusting fiat.
    • Paul Le Bao Tinh (Spe Salvi)
      • In this context, I would like to quote a passage from a letter written by the Vietnamese martyr Paul Le-Bao-Tinh († 1857) which illustrates this transformation of suffering through the power of hope springing from faith. “I, Paul, in chains for the name of Christ, wish to relate to you the trials besetting me daily, in order that you may be inflamed with love for God and join with me in his praises, for his mercy is for ever (Ps 136 [135]). The prison here is a true image of everlasting Hell: to cruel tortures of every kind—shackles, iron chains, manacles—are added hatred, vengeance, calumnies, obscene speech, quarrels, evil acts, swearing, curses, as well as anguish and grief. But the God who once freed the three children from the fiery furnace is with me always; he has delivered me from these tribulations and made them sweet, for his mercy is for ever. In the midst of these torments, which usually terrify others, I am, by the grace of God, full of joy and gladness, because I am not alone —Christ is with me … I write these things to you in order that your faith and mine may be united. In the midst of this storm I cast my anchor towards the throne of God, the anchor that is the lively hope in my heart”[28].
      • This is a letter from “Hell”. It lays bare all the horror of a concentration camp, where to the torments inflicted by tyrants upon their victims is added the outbreak of evil in the victims themselves, such that they in turn become further instruments of their persecutors’ cruelty. This is indeed a letter from Hell, but it also reveals the truth of the Psalm text: “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there … If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light’ —for you darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day; darkness and light are the same” (Ps 139 [138]:8-12; cf. also Ps 23 [22]:4). Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well- nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen—the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil being unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering—without ceasing to be suffering—becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.
  • God with us continuously.
    • The way we nourish that sense of consecration so that we, too, may do the Lord’s will and let our whole life develop in accordance with God’s word, is here at Mass. Through the miracle of transubstantiation, Christ becomes present here in the body and blood he assumed from Mary, in his soul he received from the Father, in the divinity with which he is united with the Father and the Holy Spirit. At the Church where I make my holy our each morning, the tabernacle is a miniature of the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, because just as in Nazareth where the Word became flesh and tabernacled himself among us within Mary, so there, too, he abides with us in the tabernacle at the altar of Mary. The marble plaques on the sides of the tabernacle help us to ponder this mystery of Nazareth and the Tabernacle: Verbum Caro Factum Est and Et Habitavit in Nobis: The Word became flesh and dwelled among us. That points to the fact that we worship in the Eucharist the same Jesus who tabernacled himself in Mary’s womb and who is about to tabernacle himself within each of us who worthily receive him. Today is the day on which we seek, like Mary, to enter fully into union with the Incarnate Word, who today took on our flesh in other to do the Father’s will and save us , so that like him and together with him we may do the Father’s will and come to experience the presence of God-with-us here and forever.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 IS 7:10-14; 8:10

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11

R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Your justice I kept not hid within my heart;
your faithfulness and your salvation I have spoken of;
I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth
in the vast assembly.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Reading 2 HEB 10:4-10

Brothers and sisters:
It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats
take away sins.
For this reason, when Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight.
Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll,
behold, I come to do your will, O God.'”

First he says, “Sacrifices and offerings,
holocausts and sin offerings,
you neither desired nor delighted in.”
These are offered according to the law.
Then he says, “Behold, I come to do your will.”
He takes away the first to establish the second.
By this “will,” we have been consecrated
through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Verse Before The Gospel JN 1:14B

The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us;
and we saw his glory.

Gospel LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“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 called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.