Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Homily at Parish Mass, the Annunciation of the Lord 2017

Isaiah 7.10-14
Hebrews 10.4-10
Luke 1.26-38

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth.” As soon as today’s Gospel reading begins, we are anchored in time and space. The sixth month, in Nazareth.
And we might add, as we do on Christmas night, “In the one hundred and ninety–fourth Olympiad; the seven hundred and fifty–second year from the foundation of the city of Rome; the forty–second year of the reign of Octavian Augustus; the whole world being at peace”.
It is very specific. The eternal God enters time and space, and necessarily does so in one time and one place. God becomes anchored in this world. The Word becomes flesh, not as an idea, but as someone dwelling among us. From now on, God has an address, and a diary.
But we might ask, why then? Saint Paul in Galatians says, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman”. Humanity had been around for countless thousands of years, but this crucial saving moment waits for the “fullness of time”. What is that?
The first thing to say in response is of course that God is God and we are not. God alone sees all. We accept as a matter of faith that Divine providence disposes all things for the best, though we do not always see that for ourselves.
But we can say, looking at the grand sweep of history, that this was a singularly fitting moment. God’s revelation of himself had been gradual, over thousands of years preparing humanity for the fullness that we might not have been able to bear all at once. The spiritual inklings and yearnings of every race and culture have always led people towards God, even if in obscure and partial ways.
In that grand scheme one particular race and culture, the Jews, had been chosen by God to receive a fuller revelation, the Law and the Prophets, revealing God as One, the absolute act of existence in himself, upholding a revealed standard of worship, righteousness and integrity.
Jewish people had spread throughout the world, East and West and North and South, taking with them that revelation. Their faith shone like a beacon through the fog of a pagan world that had forgotten its ancient wisdom and grown old and weary amid debased barbaric rites. All over the world Gentile believers, the “God-fearers”, gathered to the Synagogues to hear that saving truth.
With the rise of the Roman empire much of the known world was united in one common language, easy travel and communication. The world was ripe for God’s full revelation of himself. It was primed for the start of a new movement bearing that revelation that would spread like wildfire, the movement that we call the Church.
So in the sense of history the fullness of time certainly had come. But there is a deeper meaning too. Time is what human beings inhabit, what the Bible calls the “aeon” – this age or dispensation of the world. The fullness of time is the culmination of the age of yearning and hunger for God, the fullest extent of humanity reaching out to the Divine.
It is Mary herself who is the fullness of time in that sense, the culmination of the human age. She stands on the pinnacle of our reaching towards God. She is our mouthpiece and representative in that moment. Preserved by God’s prevenient grace from sin she is the first of our race able to say “yes” to God in complete freedom and simplicity. And she does so. In the words of an Orthodox hymn, she “has given answer for the whole of creation to the redeeming love of God”.
And in that moment of the Annunciation the fullness of time, given expression by Mary, is answered by the fullness of God, the Second Person of the Trinity emptying himself to become human in time and space in her womb.
Time, the human age, this present dispensation, is not enough. We yearn for God but cannot reach him. And so God comes to us, joining his nature to ours in one person, so that all human nature can be adopted in Christ as children of God and heirs of eternal life.
The Annunciation is the meeting point of time and eternity, where the fullness of human longing, powerless by itself, is met and raised up by the fullness of God. From that meeting point everything flows. The life and teaching of Christ, his foundation of the Church, the sacraments and scriptures, our adoption in Christ, the life of God himself open to every human being. All that flows from and is made possible by this moment.

No wonder the Church says the Angelus, the commemoration of this moment, almost obsessively, morning, noon and night calling to mind that moment when the handmaid of the Lord said, “be it unto me according to your word”, and the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us.  For that meeting point, the intersection of time and eternity, is where the Church lives, and where our true life is to be found, the fullness of human longing taken up into the fullness of the life of God.

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