Saturday, March 24, 2012

Saturday of the Fourth Week in Lent/Commemoration of St. Gabriel, Archangel

Isaiah 49:8-15 / John 8:12-20

It may perhaps be no exaggeration to suggest that, as John the Baptist among men born of woman, there is no angel in the heavens called into being by God greater than the archangel Gabriel. While among prophets there were many perhaps of nobler soul, or who worked great signs and wonders, or whose prophetic message led God's chosen people, and continues to move his Church, for countless generations, nonetheless it fell to John and John alone to point with unambiguous clarity to Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, the Lamb of God, the Word made flesh. So, too, we might imagine that other angels might perhaps be greater in power, keener in intuitive perception of truth, or the instrument by whom more spectacular wonders were announced. Yet, it is through Gabriel, and Gabriel alone, that the most powerful, most central, most awe-inspiring Gospel that has ever been entrusted to a created person has been given, to announce to the Virgin Mary the conception in her womb of the very Son of God.

How disquieting it is, then, on this day when we recall the clarity by which Gabriel told of the heavenly origin of Jesus Christ and the happy reception of this child in her womb by the Godbearer, that we hear that terrible accusation made by Jesus to the multitude of Jews who questioned him — Neither Me do you know, nor My Father: if you did know Me, perhaps you would know My Father also. — along with that terrifying hypothetical posed by the prophet Isaiah — Can a woman forget her infant, so as not to have pity on the son of her womb? With such a promising beginning, affirming manifestly both the maternal love for her child and the indisputable annunciation of Jesus Christ as the Son of the Father, how can we have fallen so far as to be left in doubt, still troubled that perhaps those things which we want to trust and on which we must rely, might in fact betray us?

As God spoke through his prophet Isaiah, and as we learn in the example of Gabriel, the task of the messenger is first and foremost not to be the guarantor of the truth of what he proclaims, but rather to be faithful to his task. It is our duty to say to them that are bound: Come forth: and to them that are in darkness: Show yourselves. This is our Gospel, and this is our Good News, that in the coming of Jesus Christ, in his death on the Cross and his Resurrection from the dead, we have been brought to share in a new life with God. We announce, we bear witness, but in the end there is no other testimony save the testimony by the Father of his Son, and by the Son of his Father, that can assure us that in Jesus Christ, and in him alone, can we find life and have it abundantly. Not even the proclamation by Gabriel himself assured the meek and joyful reception of his Gospel by the Virgin. It was, rather, the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father through his Son, that enlarged her heart that she might hear the angel's words with gladness.

This is thus a counsel not of sloth, not of doing nothing because God will do all, but rather a counsel to confident witness. We can proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ without fear precisely because we know that we have not been tasked to do so without effect. God has promised that by our preaching the nations will receive his Gospel and be brought out of darkness and into light. That is the source of our confidence, and that alone can sustain us in delivering, as Gabriel did, the Good News of the Incarnation of the Word. We need not fear, because God has promised, and he will never forget us.

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