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The Annunciation: the reality of God, the reality of our humanity

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Beneath the huge and magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a beautiful chapel where one may find a small cave converted into another little chapel with iron grills to keep off people from approaching the brightly lit altar believed to be the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of Christ’s birth to Mary.

At the base of the altar are the words, Verbum caro hic factum est, “The Word was made flesh here.”

Borrowed from John’s gospel who declared Verbum caro factum est – The Word was made flesh – the one who have thought of adding the demonstrative pronoun here to declare it as the site of the Annunciation – Verbum caro hic factum est – was definitely divinely inspired to remind us that the reality of God is something deeply ingrained in our own realities of here and now, in our very selves.

Photo by author, site of the Annunciation, May 2019.

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.”

Luke 1:26-28

Only Luke has this account of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary. And true to his prologue to his gospel of “investigating everything accurately anew” about the life and teachings of Jesus, Luke tells us how the Annunciation happened with all the details like the five w’s in a news report, the who-what-where-when-why as we have heard proclaimed today.

This is very important because it tells us the factuality of the great spiritual reality that changed world history and the whole humanity when God became human, when eternity entered the temporal.

It is a beautiful presentation of this great event so profound and so touching that continues to happen within each one of us every day of our lives, of God coming to us, filling us with his grace because each of us is a beloved, a highly favored one chosen to be the indwelling of his Son, Jesus Christ like Mary.

This is the grace of this solemnity we celebrate nine months before Christmas, that God comes to us in our very humanity, always inviting us like Mary to receive Jesus, to be the vessel and instrument in fulfilling God’s great plans. We are like Mary in everything except in her being immaculately conceived – we are all poor and lowly, mostly a nobody in the society, but so loved by God!

Photo by author, flowers outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth 2019.

God comes to us precisely where we are, in our every here and now even when we are most lowly and down, when we are deep in sin and despair, in trials and sufferings, in pains and in hurts because like Mary, even before the angel came, God had already silently started working on many things to save us.

There is always God’s perfect timing when we would meet the right people who would guide and help us.

There is always an Elizabeth that God would point us to as a signpost and proof of his reality, of his wonderful plan starting to uncover right in our very lives if we would stop like Mary to listen further to his words.

Speaking of Elizabeth, recall in Luke’s account that the angel mentioned her to Mary to allay her of her fears upon receiving the good news of Christ’s coming.

So often when God comes to us, fear naturally follows. In the Bible, it is described as “reverential fear” which comes upon an experience of the Holy; it is a feeling of being so small before the almighty God (mysterium fascinans) yet deep in this fear is a joy within about to burst because of the great honor and privilege of being loved and recognized by God. There is that normal feeling of doubts of whether we can do God’s mission or not as well as the feeling of checking the reality if it is really happening at all! Once we have verified we are not dreaming, that indeed we are called by God despite our smallness, that is when we suddenly remember our fellow mortals doing the work of God.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with 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.

Luke 1:36-38

Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10

Last week I underwent a surgery. It was my first time to be hospitalized and to go under the knife. Though it was a very simple procedure, I was nervous. Very nervous in fact although I tried to keep my sense of humor especially with my doctors and nurses.

The experience had taught me so many valuable lessons that I am still “masticating” them, trying to find words on how to express those learnings and realizations.

One of those is the discovery of my humanity, of my mortality. I feel I have become more human with that experience when I finally accepted my body, when slowly I have learned to look closely at my body parts I took for granted even so ashamed to look at, with all the blood and abscess and wounds.

Hindi pala puwede na hindi tayo magkakasakit, na mahina tayo, at walang perpekto sa atin na hindi kakailanganin ang tulong ng iba.

As I learned to accept my mortal body, slowly it dawned upon me how it is the true path to letting go and let God with my spiritual and emotional woundedness for it is in our humanity when God’s reality is most felt, most true. It is only when we are faced with the real threat of “harm” or being hurt, of possibly being extinct and gone from this earth when we realize what is to be afraid and finally entrust our total self to God for whatever will happen next.

That is the gift of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that formally began in the annunciation of his birth to Mary. It is in accepting our very humanity and mortality when God truly comes, when we become one in him through Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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