The Annunciation In Our Times

In the midst of Lent, the feast of the Annunciation reminds us of Mary’s role in the plan of salvation both as the mother of Jesus and as the mother of the faithful of all times.

One of the nuggets found in the midst of the Lenten liturgical season is the feast of the Annunciation. It takes about one minute to read the account of this very important event in the history of salvation. Yet it touches us for all time.

We tend to think that the minute is how long the event took. Mary is praying, the angel appears, and she says,” Yes.” In reality the annunciation may well have taken much longer. In fact from her yes, God has added another special role for Mary. This role continues long after this first annunciation. God continues to choose Mary as his messenger, rather than an angel, down through the centuries in her appearances at, Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima, and Kibeho, Rwanda in our day.

The message she brings from God is always the same: to turn to Jesus and to pray for peace. In her New York Times bestseller, Left to Tell, Immaculee Illibagiza recounts the horrors of the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s and, in particular, her survival story. She managed to survive the mass slaughter by hiding for months in a cramped bathroom with several other women. Immaculee attributes her survival to her constant prayer, especially the rosary. She eventually emerged from hiding, only to find many members of her family and friends slaughtered in the genocide. But again it was her prayer that sustained her through the grief and sorrow of the tragedy.

Prayer for peace, especially the rosary, has been the hallmark of Mary’s apparitions for centuries even to today. Certainly, peace is in a fragile state in the world today. What is this peace Mary asks us to pray for? To some it means a world free of war. I think it goes much deeper than just to be free of war. I think it means to live a life that is so good, one does not resort to or desire war or violence.

St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3: 15) tells us: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since, as members of one body, you were called to peace.” How do we live this call to the peace of Christ? A book I have been reading gives some good insight into this question. Gregory Pierce in Spirituality at Work advocates four ways of our being in the world. He calls them the Discipline of Welcoming, by which we relate to others in friendliness, loyalty, and encouragement. The Discipline of Loyalty calls us to build community through avoiding gossip, negativity, and suspicion. The Discipline of Encouragement is just that, to encourage one another. Finally, the Discipline of Affirmation calls us to look and see what is good in others and to lift up their gifts with praise and thanks.

I find these disciplines helpful in thinking about the peace that Mary and the gospels call us to. So this Lent let us pray and act for this peace to reign in our world, our country, our homes, and in our hearts. Our Lady Queen of Peace, pray for us.

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