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Sunday:       Annunciation of the Lord
Date:         March 25, 2010.
Year:         C
The readings: [Is. 7:10-4, 8:10; Heb. 10:4-10; Lk. 1:26-38]
The message:  Of His Kingdom there will be no end.
Total words:  1174

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** The readings follow the sermon.

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass that commemorates the Annunciation of the Lord. Normally this Feast is remembered on March 26 th during the Liturgical Calendar. This year, because March 26 fell on the Easter Vigil, the Catholic Church move it forward to April 4 th. Next year, this Feast should be back on its regular day of celebation.

This special Feast commemorates the moment when the angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would give birth to the Child Jesus. [Is. 7:14; Lk. 1:26-38] It was the moment when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that the incarnation of God would be fulfilled through her. This was the official announcement that the Word of God would become man.

For centuries prior to the birth of Christ, God's chosen people had been waiting for the promised Messiah. As we heard during the First Reading, [Is. 7:10-4, 8:10] around the years 742 to 715 B.C., God spoke to king Ahaz through Isaiah. King Ahaz was told to ask the Lord God for a sign, any sign that he wanted to have. But king Ahaz refused to ask God for a sign, indicating that he would not put God to the test. Consequently, the Lord God chose a sign of His own to give. God said, "Look, the young woman, is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel." [Is. 7:14] "Immanuel" [Mt. 1:23; Is. 7:14] means "God is with us."

In the Douay English Translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible of 1609 A.D., it states, "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel." This older Version of the Holy Bible states the words "a virgin" versus the words "the young woman" that are found in the newer version of the Holy Bible.

This promise of God that was made to king Ahaz came to its fulfillment at the Annunciation to Mary. The Annunciation to Mary was the formal beginning of "the fullness of time", [Gal. 4:4]. It was the moment when Mary was invited to conceive Jesus in who the "whole fullness of deity" would dwell "bodily". [Col. 1:19; 2:9] (Catechism of the Catholic Church # 484)

The apparition of the angel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary took part in a small town in the mountains of Galilee. There, the angel Gabriel came to the Virgin Mary, a descendant of the royal blood of king David. At the time, Mary who was living in her mother's house, was engaged to be married to Joseph who also was of the same royal blood.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." When Mary heard these words, she was confused because she did not know who the angel was, why he had come, nor the meaning for this kind of salutation.

The exact meaning of the word "grace" in Greek implies more than "fullness"; it implies "instrumentality." It was a calling to the Blessed Virgin Mary to become an instrument of the Lord God. It was a calling that demanded a "Fiat," total submission, unconditional trust in the Divine Providence.

The angel told Mary not to have any fear for she had found grace [favour] with God. Behold, she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son who shall be called Jesus. As foretold in the Scriptures, He shall be great. [Lk. 1:32; Ps. 86:10; 96:4] He will be called the Son of the Most High. [Lk. 1:32; Gen. 14:19; Sir. 24:2] The Lord God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David. [Lk. 1:32; Is. 9:7] He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. [Lk. 1:33; 2 Sam. 7:12, 13, 16;] And of His kingdom there will be no end. [Ps. 24:7, 10; 97:1; Gen. 21:33; Dan. 12:7] History tells us today that all these things have come to pass for the glory of God.

From these prophetic words, the Virgin Mary understood the message to mean the announcement of the coming Redeemer. But how could this be since she was a virgin who had vowed her virginity to God? Why should she be chosen among all women to be the mother of the Messiah?

To remove Mary's anxiety and to assure her that her virginity would be preserved, the angel Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High shall overshadow her. To further support the birth of the Child, the angel informed Mary that her cousin Elizabeth who was of old age, she was presently pregnant and she also would have a child. In response to the angel's Annunciation, Mary gave her "Fiat" by saying, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word."

As was said earlier, the Name Immanuel means, "God is with us." Also, in Hebrew, the name Jesus means: "God saves." When the angel gave the Name of Jesus at the Annunciation, he gave the Lord His proper Name that expressed His identity and His mission. [Lk. 1:31] For God alone can forgive sins. It is God who, in Jesus His eternal Son made man, "will save his people from their sins." [Mt. 1:21] Through Jesus, God summarizes all of His history of salvation on behalf of men. (C.C.C. # 430)

Through Mary at the moment of the Annunciation, Jesus entered the world in His human nature. Through Mary, He became a member of the human race. Through Mary, Jesus was given to the world for the salvation of mankind.

Through Mary, an Immaculate Virgin, Jesus received His human form to become the perfect sacrifice and sin offering according to the Divine will of God the Father. Through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus came an end to the imperfect sacrifices and sin offerings of bulls and goats. For these, offered according to the law, were imperfect in nature.

Now that the former law, the Covenant of the Law, has been permanently abolished, the second, the Covenant of Grace, has been established. And so, by God's will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. For it is not by our own doing or the doing of our best friends, nor by our works or the works of our best friends, that we are saved. Salvation is a free gift that has been given to us through Jesus Christ.

In summary, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord reminds us to commemorate the moment when the Word of God the Father took human nature upon Himself. We are also called to remember that although Jesus has resurrected and is sitting at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, He remains present with us in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, in the Living Word and in the Holy Tabernacles. There He continuously longs for the moments when all the faithful will manifest their love for Him by assembling before Him in His cherished Temple on earth. My brothers and sisters, our saving Lord, our God, has come and remains with us. Of His Kingdom, there will be no end. "Let us never forget Him!" [Lk. 1:33]

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The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

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First Reading...

"The Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 'Ask a sign of the Lord your God: let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.'

But Ahaz said, 'I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.'

Then Isaiah said: 'Hear then, O house of David! It is too little for you to weary the people, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel,' for God is with us." [Is. 7:10-4, 8:10]

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Second Reading...

"It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, 'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, as it is written to me in the scroll of the book, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God.'

When he said, 'You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings' (these are offered according to the law), then he added, 'See, I have come to do your will.' He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.

And it is by God's will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." [Heb. 10:4-10]

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Gospel Reading...

"The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, 'Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.' But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The Angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'

Mary said to the Angel, 'How can this be, since I am a virgin?' The Angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born of you will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.'

Then Mary said, 'Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.'

Then the Angel departed from her." [Lk. 1:26-38]

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