A homily on Good Friday, March 25, 2016
Trinity Church of Morrisania, Bronx, New York
Pontius Pilate asked Jesus where he came from.
Today is March 25th. That is the day that the church normally celebrates the feast of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that she was going to have a baby, and that baby was to be called the Son of the Most High. All the people who manage liturgical celebrations nowadays sternly inform us that Good Friday takes precedence so we have to put off the Annunciation until another free day when we can have a happy feast. However, there are some scholars that believe that the Annunciation was put on March 25th because there existed traditions in the ancient world that sages and prophets died on the date of their conception, and that some ancient scholars calculated that Jesus was crucified on March 25th. Rather than go into the complexities and probabilities of that, let’s reflect for a moment on the Annunciation. I said most of what follows when the text came up in Advent of 2014.
“Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.” That’s a bold thing to say to a very young woman in this situation. That term “Angel”: the Greek word basically means Messenger. That message that Gabriel brought her, the message of God’s favor, God’s love—it takes some seeing. It did not relieve her from poverty, it did not make people think or say nice things about her. It certainly didn’t get her out of changing diapers and putting up with all the difficulties of child rearing. And if she could see forward, thirty years or so, and see what would happen to her Son…how much pain and grief does the favor of God cost?
But in that child was life. In him was hope. In him is the resurrection from the dead right in the middle of this too real life. How much did Mary know? She was young, no evidence of great education, but she knew quite clearly the situation she was in. So she listened to the angel. She heard him out. She even heard him speak about her older cousin Elizabeth: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” She knew, she heard, and she decided. And then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
When Mary went up into the hills and met Elizabeth she sang a song, which explains why she did that and what it means:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
God has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel,
for he has remembered his promise of mercy.
The promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.
This young woman was standing at the foot of the cross, with the disciple that Jesus loved—perhaps that means all of us, we are all beloved of Jesus. From the cross, he said to us: “Here is your mother.”