Homily for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

25 March 2020

As we all know, during the past couple of days more restrictions have been announced so as to cope with the corona virus. Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening, we have been asked to keep the church closed. As a consequence of all the measures we are now more or less restricted to our homes and immediate surroundings.

Most planned activities have been suspended and this also applies to church activities, including the events with a focus on scripture during this Year of the Word. As you know the bishops gave this year the title ‘The God who Speaks’, thus highlighting the perspective from which we are invited to approach the words of Scripture; that we see it as divine communication.

The God who speaks needs a people who listen. Otherwise God would be talking into a void and nobody hears what is being said.

Today’s feast presents Mary to us as someone who listened to the God who speaks. We can ask ourselves as to what we can learn from her.

I am aware that Mary’s experience was rather unusual. The angel Gabriel turned up, spoke with her and gave a message from above. I suspect that most of us don’t have an experience like this.

But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t speak to each of us. God communicates with us in a more subtle way and divine communication also takes place in a variety of ways. God speaks so through the words of scripture, through other people, through art, music and the wonders of creation and in the silence of our hearts.

Saying that, I still think we can learn something from Mary’s experience. It is clear that it was not a one-way communication, but that both speaking and listening happened in a dialogue. Mary wondered about what was happening, she listened and questioned. ‘How can this come about, since I am a virgin?’. Her question prompts the angel to say a bit more. Eventually Mary accepts and opens her heart and mind to the unexpected which allows the divine to become flesh and blood in her.

This attitude of a combination of a sense of wonder, listening, probing, questioning, an open attitude and acceptance characterised Mary. Scripture and tradition have always seen her as the prime example of discipleship. So we may take her attitude to heart as we try to listen to the God who speaks and discern the message for us.

Because of the present circumstances many of us will have more time and space to listen. Therefore it could provide us with an opportunity to use this time to pick up a bible, read a bit every day and listen to what the Lord is saying in the present situation.

Following Mary’s example this can be done in prayerful dialogue, where we listen, probe, question the word, let it sink in but above all approach it with an open mind. It will bear fruit in our lives and may do so in unexpected ways, as happened to Mary.

We pray for the grace of a listening ear and a receptive heart; that we may be open to the word of God and listen to His voice. Amen