Monday March 26, 2001 Eourth Week in Lent
Reading I (Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10)
Reading II (Hebrews 10:4-10) Gospel (St. Luke 1:26-38)
Today we celebrate one of the greatest feasts in the Church year, the Feast of the Annunciation. It is a feast that most people do not think much about. Sometimes when we talk about the Incarnation, we talk about Christmas. Today is the feast of the Incarnation. The word Incarnation means in the flesh. Jesus became flesh; he took on human flesh. In the womb of His mother on the day of the Annunciation, He took His human nature to Himself. So today is really the feast of the Incarnation. Today we celebrate this incredible feast which is the reason that on Sundays, when we pray the Creed, we bow at those words: the Lord became incarnate in the Blessed Virgin Mary and He became man. Those are the words that we bow at, it is not at the crucifixion, but at the Incarnation. Today we also have to pray the Creed and we will kneel at those words because of the feast that we celebrate. We actually kneel at the words of the Incarnatus est.
Today is a wonderful feast and you see the way that God set it up. The sign that is given through Isaiah, a sign that would be unmistakeable. A sign that is absolutely impossible. God asks Ahaz, "Ask for a sign. Make it as high as the sky or as deep as the netherworld. Anything you want. Make it as preposterous as it might seem." Ahaz, who is one of the worst kings they ever had in Israel, suddenly become Mr. Pious and says, "Oh no! I am not going to tempt God," as if he had not been for all these years that he had been king already. So God outdoes humanity as He always does and gives us a sign that is so ridiculous, so impossible, that it cannot be mistaken. And yet people still do not believe.
We hear about the Incarnation in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. We also hear about it in the Gospel of Saint Luke, which is the Gospel that we heard today. It is the angel Gabriel coming to Mary, one of the most beautiful scenes in history. The angel of the Lord coming down to ask permission from the lowliest human being that ever walked the face of the earth. She calls herself the maidservant of the Lord, the lowest of the low, and she is the one to whom the angel comes. He bows down before her and asks her, in humility, if she would be the Mother of God. What a beautiful scene. How beautiful is the humility of Our Lady. Think about being in that position and an angel came to ask you something. We’d like to think that we would be willing to say, "Whatever God wants, absolutely!" Just think if an angel of the Lord appeared to you. Gabriel is one of the seraphim, which means the fiery ones, so he is one of the most glorious ones. Our idea of an angel is this little figure that you can see through with nice wings and is cute. No, the angels are terrible to behold. They are not frightening, but terrible in the sense that they are glorious and on fire with the love of God. If this angel appeared to you, you would be filled with fear, with terror. And yet, Our Lady, in humility, said, "Let it be done to me according to Thy word." Ever since that moment, all of humanity has been grateful to her for her humility.
It is that humility that we really have to celebrate today. It is not only the humility of Our Lady, it is the humility of God. Think about that: God, who is the Creator of all, today became created. God, who made His mother, took humanity within His mother and from His mother. God, who is all-powerful, became today this little, tiny, microscopic zygote in His mother. What a beautiful feast to think about and to pray about the humility of God and the humility of the most exalted human creature that God made, who calls herself the humble handmaiden of the Lord. For us, it is a lesson we must learn: to be humble. Saint Paul makes it clear in his letter to the Romans that "Sacrifice, oblation, and holocausts you neither desired nor delighted in; but a body you have given me." It is because of this feast that Our Lord was able to go to the Cross. He had a sacrifice to offer: Himself in His humanity.
So when we look at the Cross and consider the humility of the Lord, when we look at all the things that He did and consider His humility, it all comes back to today: the humility of almighty God taking on our human nature in the womb of the most humble human person ever. Therefore, it lays out the pattern for us. If we are to take up our cross and follow in His footsteps, it means first of all to be humble. We must pray for humility. We must accept what that prayer will bring because humility comes through humiliation. We do not like that very well, but no virtue is possible without humility. It is the foundation for all of the spiritual life. If we want to grow in holiness, if we want to be like Jesus, we must be humble. Today, above all days, we see the humility of Jesus Christ, God made flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording with minimal editing.