Welcoming and giving the Word of God: Jesus

500th anniversary of the evangelization of the Philippines

Is 7:10-14; 8:10; Ps 40:7-8a, 8b-9, 10,11; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38

 

  1. Dear Sisters and Brothers, may the Lord give you peace!

Just one year ago, Pope Francis told to your compatriots living in Rome: “Dear brothers and sisters, five hundred years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the Gospel: the good news that God so loved us that he gave his Son for us. And this joy is evident in your people. We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers. In the joy with which you bring your faith to other lands” (St. Peter’s Basilica, 14/03/2021).

It is very meaningful for me to celebrate the solemnity of the Annunciation with you here in Nazareth and at the same time to remember the 500 years of evangelization of your country.

I imagine your great country as a person, the virgin Mary who receives the Angel’s announcement here in the Grotto of Nazareth; she welcomes the gift that the Lord gives her; she replies with joy: “Here I am, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word”; and then she rushes and shares joyfully this gift with her cousin Elizabeth and to all of humanity.

 

  1. It is very beautiful to see how you welcomed the gospel 500 years ago. It is nice to see that you continue to welcome the Gospel, that is, Jesus, as Mary received it on the day of the Annunciation. And it is even more beautiful to see that you continue to joyfully offer the gift you have received.

Each and every one of you has received the grace of being like the Virgin Mary, the servant of the Lord who before God knows how to say: “Here I am”. Jesus continues to enter people’s homes through you, as He entered Elizabeth’s house through Mary 2000 years ago.

 

  1. Whenever I visit any of our communities in the Custody of the Holy Land, I always have the joy of being able to celebrate and pray together with your compatriots: here in Nazareth, in Jerusalem, in Jaffa, in Cyprus, even in Damascus. And it is always a source of joy and admiration for me to see that your community loves to listen to the Word of God, loves to pray and celebrate, but also loves to be together as one family and celebrate together, loves to bring Jesus to the workplace, loves to live Christian solidarity and charity.

 

  1. Today here in Nazareth, we contemplate Mary. We all know that in Heaven she is Queen of Angels and Saints. But we all also know that here in Nazareth, as later affirmed by her cousin Elizabeth, Mary preferred to define herself as “the servant of the Lord”. We look at her. She is a wife, she is a mother, she knows how to raise children, she raised the Son of God.

She is an able housewife, a woman who knows how to work and how to lead a house and a family. She knows how to sing and dance but she knows also what is suffering and being patient. She is the mother of joy, but she is also the mother of sorrow. She is the ideal woman and does not have the face or the characteristics of an actress, of a singer, or of a beauty queen. The face of the Virgin Mary is the face of every simple and humble woman, can be the face of each and every one of you, women, here present today.

 

  1. Dear sisters and brothers, the Word of God on this solemnity tells something very important to each of us.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that God wants to be the “God-with-us”.  God is not far from our being and from our life.  In the passage taken from the “Letter to the Hebrews” it is Christ himself who says: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, / but a body you prepared for me; / in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. / Then I said, «As is written of me in the scroll, / behold, I come to do your will, O God.»“

When there is this willingness on our part, which is the willingness of Christ and the Virgin Mary, then God can make himself present also through our being and our life. This is how God became incarnate to save us and this is how God continues to make present his work of salvation.

 

  1. As pope Francis reminded to your compatriots: “I know that this is the pastoral program of your Church: a missionary commitment that involves everyone and reaches everyone. Never be discouraged as you walk this path. Never be afraid to proclaim the Gospel, to serve and to love. With your joy, you will help people to say of the Church too: «she so loved the world!» How beautiful and attractive is a Church that loves the world without judging, a Church that gives herself to the world. May it be so, dear brothers and sisters, in the Philippines and in every part of the earth” (St. Peter’s Basilica, 14/03/2021).

 

  1. We can conclude our reflection with a prayer to the virgin Mary:

“O Mary, virgin of the “Here I am” and of the “Yes”, teach us to say our “Here I am” to the Lord every day and our “Yes” to God who invites us to welcome him and to welcome each other.

O Mary, servant of the Lord, help us to live each day with willingness and love the service to which the Lord calls us, because when we are doing humble services we are reigning with you.

O Mary, who here in Nazareth welcomed the Son of God to become man, God with us and our Saviour, help us to take everywhere Jesus who is alive in us, and His word that saves us.