The following is the homily I shared on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Annunciation and in conjunction with the Consecration of Ukraine and Russia, and indeed the world, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I was so deeply moved by the Act of Consecration itself, but the participation of so many also reminded me of the power of prayer and how we build the Church upon the shoulders of each other:
“The Lord is with you!” (Lk 1:28). That’s right, we are very used to that phrase! We often in Church hear: “The Lord be with you.” And it was great to hear that you responded to that greeting a moment ago because when the angel announced that to Mary … Mary was really responding for each one of us! That greeting was not just meant for Mary. That greeting was meant for the human family, for the human race.
And yet, Mary herself was perplexed … perplexed at what sort of greeting this might be. However, she goes on to discover that “with God all things are possible” (see Lk 1:37). That for us, Mary is “a model for how to navigate God’s work in our daily lives.” Let me say that again: “Mary is a model for how to navigate God’s work in our daily lives.” And that’s what Mary was saying “yes” to: “Yes,” to God’s work. “I am the maid servant of the Lord, let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38).
What is most important is her “Yes” to God, not just with her lips but her life! And that is how this moment we call the Annunciation changed the world. So, this afternoon you and I are being invited to consider how does our own “yes” to God change the world? Another way of asking the question could be, “Are we doing God’s work in our daily lives?” Some of you might say to me, “Bishop Doug, what does it mean to do God’s work? I go to work every day. I try to say my prayers. And as a young man would ask Jesus, ‘What else must I do?’” (see Mt 19:20).
But I think in our world today we realize that to say “Yes” to God is to say “Yes” like Mary did by opening herself to God … by trusting in God. In the sense that she asked herself the question “Well … how could this be?” (see Lk 1:34), we can ask the question “How can I do God’s work?” We are promised one thing: “The power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:35). Of course, what is that power of the Most High, but the Holy Spirit! And who is the Holy Spirit, but the God who has promised to be with us all our days.
I would just like to leave you with a quote from Fr. Henry Nouwen who wrote about this question of “What is God’s work?” He said this: “We often wonder what we can do for others. … It is not a sign of powerlessness when we say:‘We must pray for one another.’ To pray for one another is, first of all, to acknowledge, in the presence of God, that we belong to each other as children of the same God. Without this acknowledgment of human solidarity, what we do for one another does not flow from who we truly are. … To pray, that is, to listen to the voice of the One who calls us his ‘Beloved,’ is to learn that that voice excludes no one. Where I dwell, God dwells with me and where God dwells with me I find all my sisters and brothers (Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, 1994).
“Hail, Full of Grace. Hail, Gifted One. The Lord is with You!” Amen.
I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly thank in this column Fr. Joe O’Connor, Fr. Rick Prior and the organizational team for this year’s IGNITE Men’s Conference held this past Saturday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Baldwinsville. Between the Consecration and this gathering it was like two powerhouse moments in our diocese in a 24-hour period. I found the speakers engaging and thought provoking. Calling the men present to a closer walk with the Lord Jesus in all aspects of their lives. Thanks to Deacon Bob Rice, Father Jim Walsh and Matt Birk for your witness and challenge.
Two particular moments of the conference that were inspiring to me were Holy Mass and the hearing of Confessions, that is, the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance. You could see the Lord Jesus working through both sacramental moments. It reminds me to encourage all to make sure you are getting to Mass and sharing in the source and summit of the Christian life. Also, this Lent, “The Light is On for You” and the Lord Jesus is waiting to meet you in the healing Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation. In particular, don’t forget that on the Monday of Holy Week, April 11th, priests will be available in most diocesan churches for an extended period of Confession from 4 to 7 pm.
Next week in my column, I will share with you more on the spiritual life and we will focus on the examination of the heart and lectio divina in preparation for Holy Week 2022. In the meantime let us continue to pray for the Ukrainian people and an end to their oppression.God’s blessings!