Jdg 13. 2-7, 24-25a; Ps 71; Lk 1. 5-25
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Called To Deliver
Announcements give information. Yet not all information has the same value nor affects us the same way. In airports flight announcements fill the air. We attune ourselves to the flight we are meeting or going to board. The personal effect of hearing our flight announced followed by, “Have your boarding pass ready,” causes many of us to feel, if not say, “Oh my! Where is it?” as we reach for it in pocket or purse. Christianity gives the name annunciation to announcements which proclaim God and God’s desires for humans. Those truly extraordinary announcements urge us to search our hearts: are we alert to notice God creating something new out of our emptiness?
Yesterday we heard Matthew recall Joseph’s annunciation, which proclaimed that Jesus would save his people from their sins. Luke recalled John the Baptizer would turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. Even the annunciation of Samson’s birth proclaimed that he would begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can rightly be called the Deliverer, as King David called God, and St. Luke and St. Paul echoed.1 The Deliverer is the personal God of the scriptures. To meet the personal God of the scriptures means to face squarely what holds me captive. That’s never easy for it means seeing oneself as one is. It’s also a grace for it is to see as God sees us, accepting us as we are to recreate us.
Annunciations abound in the Old and New Testaments. They were personal, that is, they happened to people, and scripture names many of them. Samson’s father was named: Manoah; but not his mother. Likewise John’s father was named, Zechariah, and his mother, Elizabeth. Likewise, the parents of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, are named in proclamations of his birth. When the 1st-century continued to feel little need to name women, bible annunciations broke with that cultural norm.
That break, I’m convinced, indicates God’s desire for a profoundly personal relationship with me, you and everyone. Paradoxically the more personal God becomes, the more far-reaching a shaper of community God becomes in Jesus by their Spirit. To use the image of deliverer: by becoming enfleshed for us, Jesus delivers us from isolation and its effects on us. By becoming enfleshed for us, Jesus reshaped human vocations in ways none of us may call private or undemanding. Becoming enfleshed for us, Jesus invites us to ask for our annunciations of God’s desires for us. Our annunciations grant us God’s vision and help us know ourselves as the people God is recreating to deliver our world in the name of Jesus, empowered by his Spirit.
1. 2Samuel 22.2; Psalms 18.2; 40.17; 70.5; 144.2 (the Psalms have traditionally been attributed to David); Acts 7.35; Romans 11.26.