Jesus is with us: Solemnity of the Annunciation

Dear Friends in Christ:

Laudetur Jesus Christus! Nunc et aeternum!

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!

Today, March 25 is the Solemnity of the Annunciation. It is now exactly nine months before Christmas Day! Today, we recall and remember the visit and the message of the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary in Nazareth (Lk 1:26-38). On that inconspicuous day in that hidden away place, the life of that young Jewish woman changed. On that day, the entire world and all of history changed too. In announcing to Mary that she was to conceive and bear a son as the prophets had foretold (Is 7:14), Gabriel spoke words that reverberate in our hearts today. Those words, pure in their truthfulness, are words that bear power and give strength. The angel told Mary then and tells us today, “The Lord is with you…Do not be afraid!” (Lk 1:28,30).

As we face the Coronavirus pandemic and all that goes with it; the uncertainty, the fear, the pain and suffering, we cannot and should not forget the assurance that the Lord is indeed with us. Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Incarnate Word, has entered creation and assumed our human condition. In doing so He brings His divine presence to our human condition. He humbly assumes in Himself our nature in its wholeness save sin. Jesus does this not for His sake but for ours. He willingly shares as God and man our weaknesses. He joins in solidarity with us in the flesh all that human life can experience. He is indeed with us in the good times and in the bad. But Jesus is not content simply to be a companion in our misery. Jesus in His love and mercy transforms us and our world through his incarnation. The Incarnation announced to Mary that what was accomplished in her very body was not an end unto itself. Rather, the Eternal Word became flesh not to change God but to change us! Creation and all humanity are changed in Jesus. The Incarnation reaches its fulfillment not at Christmas, but at Easter. Jesus became incarnate in Mary so that we might rise with Him, who rose in the silence and stillness of that morning of the first day of the week that followed that Friday of suffering and death. Jesus became our Passover at a specific time at a specific place.

The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is built over the site of Mary’s childhood home, where she lived with her parents, Anne and Joachim. It is at this place that Mary received the message of the angel. Today, we see an altar at this ancient site with the words, Verbum Caro Hic Factum Est. These words are different from the words in John’s Gospel in Latin. Jn 1:14 reads “the Word became flesh” (Verbum caro factum est). The altar inscription adds the word “hic” (here). The altar inscription reads “The Word became flesh HERE!” The HIC (HERE) absolutizes and concretizes the reality of the Incarnation of Jesus for us. This is not a mere notion or idea. It is not a fanciful thought or wish. Jesus took real flesh, in a real woman at a real moment in time in a real place. Jesus is not a sentiment and cannot be treated or dismissed as such. The presence of Jesus through his Incarnation is a real presence, not a virtual presence. For these reasons the angel Gabriel is able to tell Mary and us in total confidence and surety, “Do not be afraid!” Why? Because Jesus is with you! God, the Father is with you! God, the Holy Spirit is with you! Where is Jesus? Where is Jesus in the midst of this pandemic in the midst of all that is going on in the world and in our lives? HIC – HERE! Jesus is here with us.

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever!