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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | Mary’s ‘yes’ at the Annunciation shows us the path to heaven

Mary models for us how to respond to the gift Jesus offers in the Eucharist

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Here’s an unusual thing: We celebrate the feast of the Annunciation on April 8 this year. (Its usual date, March 25, fell during Holy Week, so it got moved.)

I’d like to reflect on two elements of the Annunciation that are important for our own lives: 1) Mary’s “yes” to the Holy Spirit, and 2) Mary as a woman of the Eucharist.

Pope Benedict XVI drew one connection between Mary and us this way: “What happened to Mary is also valid, though in a different but real way, for every man and woman, because God asks each of us to welcome Him, to place at His disposal our hearts and our bodies, the whole of our existence, our flesh — as the Bible says — so that He can dwell in the world.”

There’s a beautiful symmetry between the Annunciation and the Assumption. At the Annunciation, the eternal life of God came to dwell in Mary. Then, at the Assumption, Mary was taken to dwell in eternal life with God. The first was the path to the second. But the hinge was Mary’s “yes.”

That same pattern is open to us! But the same “yes” is required of us. That’s why we hear, twice this week, both an exhortation and a warning from Jesus in the Gospel of John: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life.” Those who believe in the Son say their “yes” to God; the Son comes to dwell in them on earth and lead them to dwell with Him in heaven. Those who disobey the Son speak a “no” to God. They refuse the offer of God dwelling with them on earth and miss the opportunity of dwelling with God in heaven.

In that sense, Mary’s “yes” to the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation wasn’t just for her. It also shows us the path to heaven.

The Annunciation was also the first holy Communion ever: Mary was the first person in history to have the Body of Christ in her body! As Pope Benedict said on another occasion: “Mary of Nazareth … is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of Himself in the Eucharist.”

As we participate in the National Eucharistic Revival and prepare for the National Eucharistic Congress this summer, it’s good to reflect on Mary as the pre-eminent woman of the Eucharist. Here, again, Mary’s life is not just about her. It also shows us the path to heaven.

Let me close with a question. We read Psalm 40 this week: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.” It’s easy to see how this is a refrain for Mary’s life — especially at the moment of the Annunciation — and how it needs to be a refrain for our lives every day. My question is this: Do we see how it needs to become a refrain for us as parishes — not just as individuals, but as communities? How do we say “yes” to the Spirit in our relations with one another?

This week we read Acts 4, which tells us about the teamwork of the early Christian community: “The whole community was of one heart and mind.” Groups of talented individuals can form a team or fail to form a team. How might that relate to the transformation of our parishes as we follow Mary’s “yes” — not only individually, but together?

From the Archive Module

SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS Marys yes at the Annunciation shows us the path to heaven 9505

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