A Lenten Christmas?

40 Shades of Lent, Solemnity of the Annunciation, 25 March 2019
Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10///Hebrews 10:4-10///Luke 1:26-38

The Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord is a Christmas celebration outside the Christmas cycle. Since the middle of the sixth century, it has always been celebrated on March 25 that falls within Lent except when Ash Wednesday comes early February like in recent years that it occurs within the Easter season.

What is very interesting with this Solemnity of the Lord is how its gospel from Luke is proclaimed in Advent and Lent, two major seasons that are similar in varying degrees with its violet motif and with its penitential character that is a call to conversion. Both Advent and Lent invite us to create a space within us so we may receive Jesus Christ in us like the Blessed Virgin Mary. Angel Gabriel continues to come to us, bringing Jesus Christ. But, does anybody willing to listen to the angel to receive the Son of God like Mary?

“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. 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.”

Luke 1:30-31, 35

Yesterday in our third Sunday of Lent, we reflected the Lord’s call to conversion by repenting our sins and changing our life directions in Him. Conversion is finding Jesus in our very self so we may also find Him in other persons and in the events of our lives. This can only happen when there is a room for Jesus in us like Mary. We simply have to create that space in us by emptying our hearts of our pride and other sins so the Holy Spirit may overshadow us to make us God’s presence. It requires a lot of trust on our part in God and His power. How sad that in this age of great technological marvels, we continue to be like Ahaz in the first reading who entered into secret alliances with Israel’s pagan neighbors trusting in their military might than with God. Like Ahaz, we often pretend not to be tempting or testing God with signs from Him yet, the fact is our hearts are so far from Him. Conversion is taking two or three steps backward so that we can allow God to do His works in us. Problem is we have never truly allowed the Holy Spirit to overshadow us with God’s power to be His presence in the world. We are always afraid even ashamed at what others would say. Or sometimes, we are always in great hurry that we cannot wait for God to accomplish His work in us.

A very dear friend last week texted me with a prayer request for her surgery today. She specifically asked me to pray for her doctors that the Holy Spirit may guide their hands in removing cysts in her pancreas. What I liked most in her request is the fact that she herself is an accomplished doctor under the care of perhaps the best doctors in the country in one of the leading hospitals in the city. Imagine her deep faith and complete trust in God! Here is a lady doctor, a woman of science so busy with her profession and family yet always making – not finding – time for God in her prayers especially the Sunday Mass.

I am always amazed by people like her who always have that glow in their face exuding with deep joy and peace within borne out of their deep spirituality. One can always feel in them the transforming power of the Holy Spirit that despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, Christ is seen and experienced among them.

Jesus did not merely come on the first Christmas over 2000 years ago. Most of all, Jesus does not come only every December 25. Jesus comes to us every day throughout the whole day which is the reason we pray the Angelus in the morning, at noon and in the early evening. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us of this reality of Christ’s coming by offering Himself as our perfect sacrifice to the Father. He is real and truly transforms us into better persons if we are willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work like Mary. Today’s solemnity of the Annunciation falling on the driest and most humid season of the year during Lent reminds us of how God continues to stir us into opening to Him, creating a space for Him to let His Spirit overshadow us not only to change us but also the world around us.

In what instances of your life do you feel God stirring you to do something for Him but you feel afraid or inadequate like Mary at the beginning of her conversation with the angel? Listen first to God or His angel by emptying yourself, creating a space for Jesus Christ. Then imitate Mary in her fiat or expression of faith by praying, “I am the servant of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.” Amen.

A Filipino painting on the perimeter wall facing the front of the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, the Holy Land. Photo by the author, April 2017.

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