BY:  Fr Andrew Ekpenyong

1. Virginity Pledge. Thanks be to God, every human being is either a virgin or was once a virgin. What a blessing! Today’s Gospel reading (Lk 1:26-38) recounts the blessing of virginity and miraculous motherhood conferred on Mary, leading to the blessing of all humanity. Let us cherish these blessings. Studies have shown that at least 1 in 8 adolescents in the US have taken a virginity pledge. Some report 1 in 5. (J Adolesc Health, NIHMS460085). “Among adolescents in the United States, it is estimated that 23% of females and 16% of males have made a virginity pledge”. (Promising the future: virginity pledges and first intercourse. Am J Sociol.) These virginity pledges are common among Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals and other Christian groups in general, according to the studies. Such pledges express inspiring ideals. One from “True Love Waits”, reads: “Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a Biblical marriage relationship.” And these teens are not keeping their ideals secret. A teenage boy, Pierce Bridges, joined many other teens in wearing a sweatshirt with inscription “Virginity Rocks” but was told by a teacher in Clay High School, Florida, back in Sept 2019, to change it, because “Virginity Rocks” was inappropriate. The boy stood his ground saying on TV “I took it personally because it’s supporting something with my religion, and it’s supporting abstinence” until marriage. Londyn Piglowski, a 13-year old boy had similar experience in January 2020 at Wentzville Middle School outside St. Louis, Missouri. God is rekindling in us some moral values through our younger generation. What a blessing!


2. Mary’s Question. Of course, today’s Gospel reading affirms family values in the context of the Incarnation of the Son of God. After Angel Gabriel announced to Mary: “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son…”, the question Mary asked Gabriel was somewhat strange: “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” As we heard, Mary was “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph.…” So Mary was formally engaged to Joseph. Why did she not think that Joseph would be the father of this son that the Angel was announcing? Afterall, the Angel said “you will conceive”. Mary was engaged to a man. So, everything was in place. Her “strange” question highlights something extraordinary about her betrothal to Joseph, something that will end up making her virginity perpetual and her motherhood a blessing for all mankind. Well, the Angel revealed God’s answer: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”. And this answer also fulfilled God’s promises, some of which we heard in the 1st reading (2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16).

3. Blessing Revoked. A few days ago, on 18th Dec. 2023, Fiducia Supplicans, a Vatican Declaration “On the Pastoral Meaning of Blessings” reminded us: “From a strictly liturgical point of view, a blessing requires that what is blessed be conformed to God’s will…” (#9). In the 1st reading, David proposes to build a House for the ark of God and asks for prophet Nathan’s blessing. Nathan gave his blessing, saying, “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you.” But God did not honor Nathan’s blessing, since it did not conform with God’s will for David. God rather instructed Nathan that night about God’s actual plan. Clearly, not all that men of God bless, is blessed by God. Note that the proposed house was for God’s ark. God actually rewarded David’s generous offer, but in God’s way, not David’s way, as Nathan said to David: “The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you….Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.” It was fulfilled as we heard in today’s Gospel. Joseph, of the house of David, provided a dwelling for the Son of God. Joseph’s house became God’s house! What a blessing and with many lessons! For me, the greatest lesson is Mary’s “yes” to God, accepting to be Virgin and Mother. She is the model Christian: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1: 38). Let’s say yes to God like Mary, in spite of our questions and fears, trusting as she did, that nothing is impossible for God.



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