Monday, March 26, 2012

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

(Isaiah 7:10-14.8:10; Hebrews 10:4-11; Luke 1:26-38)

The Bible asserts the dignity of all humans by noting that the first are created in the image of God. Still human dignity is raised a few notches by the mystery on which the Church meditates today. The feast is called “the Annunciation,” but it might as well be named “the Incarnation” since it celebrates the eternal Son of God being enfleshed in the womb of the Virgin Mary.

There are myths of gods taking human form in other religions. But what makes Jesus Christ so different is, curiously, his ordinariness. Yes, being born of a virgin is unique, and on occasion Jesus exhibits marvelous power over nature. But the gospels -- unlike stories of other god-men -- lack fantastic episodes of Jesus repelling arrows and slaying armies. Even Jesus’ cures and certainly his mode of operation are like those of other Jewish prophets and rabbis.

It is the chain of events at the very end of his life that manifestly separates Jesus from everyone else. He surrenders himself to be humiliated, tortured, and executed even though he is totally innocent. Then he is raised from the dead as validation that his self-sacrifice is neither fatalistic nor quixotic but ordained from above. It demonstrates God’s plan to elevate humans ever higher than their exalted status in creation. Now we can glimpse our destiny when we join ourselves to Jesus. We will share in his resurrection from the dead and in his eternal life.