March 25, 2022

Christ the Cornerstone

Like Mary, say ‘yes’ to God and receive his grace

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us; and we saw his glory” (Jn 1:14).

This weekend, we will celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Lent which is known as Laetare Sunday. The word “laetare” is Latin for “rejoice,” and it’s taken from the entrance antiphon for this Sunday’s Mass: Rejoice, Jerusalem, and all who love her. Be joyful, all who were in mourning; exult and be satisfied at her consoling breast.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote that “rejoice” is one of the very first words spoken in the New Testament. He explained that the Angel Gabriel’s greeting when he appeared to the Virgin Mary in her home in Nazareth, which is translated into English as, “Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you,” can also be understood as “Rejoice, Mary. The Lord is with you.” Such was the good news that the angel was sent to proclaim that its proclamation could only result in rejoicing!

Today, we anticipate next Sunday’s rejoicing by celebrating the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Today, we rejoice because God sent the Archangel Gabriel to invite Mary to become the mother of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Lk 1:26-38). With these words, God’s messenger announced:

“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. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:30-33).

God the Father did not force himself on this young virgin. He did not coerce her or try to win her over with flattery or bribery. He trusted in her holiness, and he respected her freedom.

The good news that the angel shared with Mary troubled her at first. She wondered how it would be possible for her to conceive a child “since I have no relations with a man” (Lk 1:34), and she pondered in her heart what this strange revelation might mean for her and for Joseph, her husband to be. Only a woman with great courage and profound faith could accept such a proposition.

The angel’s response to Mary’s questions—spoken and unspoken—is as mysterious as it is direct:

“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” (Lk 1:35).

What is impossible for us to imagine—that a virgin can conceive a child—will be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. What’s more, this child will be extraordinary, “the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).

We rejoice with Mary because she says “Yes!” As St. Luke tells us, in spite of whatever doubts she may have had, Mary becomes for us the great model of serenity, acceptance, courage and wisdom: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord,” she says. “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).

Mary shows us that we don’t need to understand how God works in our lives, or why he asks things of us that are difficult—even impossible from our point of view. It’s enough to say “Yes!” and to trust that God’s grace will be with us as we strive to carry out his will.

As we celebrate this great feast of God’s free invitation to Mary, and her wholehearted, generous response, let’s prepare for Laetare Sunday this weekend.

The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Lent (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32), the Parable of the Prodigal Son, reminds us that there is nothing we can do to prevent God our Father from showering us with his love and mercy. If we do as Mary did—saying “Yes!” to God’s invitations—our hearts will be filled with rejoicing and we will know peace.

As we continue our Lenten journey, and prepare for the world Synod of Bishops in 2023 at the Vatican, let’s keep in mind the words of St. Paul, proclaimed to us in this Sunday’s second reading (2 Cor 5:17-21):

“Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:17-18).

Like Mary, we are invited to do impossible things “as ambassadors for Christ.” Thanks be to God, if we say “Yes!” we will receive the Holy Spirit, and we will be given all the grace we need to do whatever God asks of us. †

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