Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord

As we are all asked to remain home and to have limited, if any, contact with other people not living in our homes. Most of us have more time on our hands to use as we please. We are free to choose how we respond to this time of isolation. In addition to praying and celebrating Mass, I have chosen to try and watch some good films and entertaining series. Binging need not be sinful!!

One such film is called “A Hidden Life,” about Franz Jagerstatter, a true story of a married man with children living in Austria as the Nazis were taking over the country. The men were compelled to join the army and declare their fidelity to Hitler and his power. Franz refused, causing him to be imprisoned, tortured and executed. He made this choice in freedom. He used his freedom to clearly say “No,” to this horrible regime of violence and destruction. He gave his life in freedom, leaving a wife and children.

This Feast of the Annunciation celebrates Mary’s freedom in saying “Yes” to God in her becoming the Mother of the Savior. This freedom came at quite a cost to her and her reputation, given the cultural conditions in which she lived: Joseph wasn’t the father. The birth, itself, was difficult, given the journey on a donkey being 9 months pregnant, the cave of the birth, the lowly shepherds, the flight into Egypt.

In freely choosing to follow God’s plan for her, Mary had to witness the gradual rejection of Jesus by the leaders and people, the various attempts to trap him, the plot to kill him, the trial, the suffering, standing beneath the Cross, holding his lifeless body. Following God’s will always entails some degree of sacrifice and even suffering.

We are totally free to follow God’s call, whether it comes from an angel, a spouse, a friend, an intuition rooted in prayer. We are free to try and do life God’s way or our own way. One leads to depth of life, even in sacrifice, the other way leads to emptiness.

This reflection is hopefully an “announcement” of Good News: God has a plan unique to YOU; it won’t be easy but it will have its reward, if not here in this life, most definitely in the next. Each of us has the freedom to surrender to God or not.

Mary is our Mother who wants us all to follow her Son, wherever, and however, it leads. Franz Jaggerstatter had a depth of faith and an unbelievable trust in God and what lies behind death. He knew, deeply, that his life would continue after the execution, FREEING to be embraced by God’s love. His freedom to say NO to Hitler met a much more powerful freedom of YES to never ending life.

Fr. Frank