I’m sure it still happens today, but when I was at school, there were some
teachers that people used to do voice impersonations of and repeat certain
phrases they had come out with. There was one such teacher from my
secondary school. To preserve his anonymity, I won’t tell you his real
name, but, somehow, he had been given the nickname “Mozza”. He had a
certain lilt to his voice, which I will try to repeat for you, and here are two
phrases that he probably used more than once; I know others copied these
on numerous occasions. “Take two detentions: one for not doing your
‘omework, and one for deceit.” “If the Wolves win tomorrow, I’ll eat my
‘at.” So when he led a school assembly, he got people’s attention when he
said: “I was on the bus one day, and I met God”. I actually can’t
remember what he said after that!
In today’s Gospel, Our Lady wasn’t on the bus, she was doing whatever
she was doing at the time, and the angel Gabriel appeared to her. I think
any of us would be surprised if that happened. Why is this happening?
What does it mean? What does he want me to do? Our Lady had a very
big role to play, as we all know, but there are a few other things about the
text we might not have spotted.
Since the time of St Justin Martyr, who died around the year 165 AD,
various people have spoken about the parallel here with the book of
Genesis. The virgin Eve, who was at that time undefiled by any sin, was
greeted by a serpent, a fallen angel, and brought disobedience and death
into the world. The Virgin Mary, who was at that time and remained
undefiled by any sin, was greeted by an angel and conceived the Lord,
bringing about redemption. St Irenaeus, writing in 180 AD, said: “the knot
of Eve’s disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. For what the
virgin Eve had bound fast through unbelief, this did the virgin Mary set
free through faith”.
So there is more to this angelic greeting than meets the eye. And it also
illustrates the importance of Our Lady being free from all sin and its after-
effects, so that the parallel, if you like, is more clear. In Genesis, Adam
and Eve get us into this mess, and now, in the Gospels, the new Adam and
Eve, Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady, help to get us out of it.
A little question for you next: could Our Lady have said “no” to the
angel? At the seminary we were taught the answer is actually no. On one
level you could say, why would she have wanted to say no? When she
loved God so much, how could she even contemplate acting against Him?
It’s a bit like if you were a trained professional footballer, in the middle of
a very important game. You could, in theory, deliberately pass the ball to
the other side, but why would you want to? You wouldn’t even consider it.
This leads nicely to the second reading, where St Paul talks about “the
obedience of faith”. Faith is a form of obedience to God. In fact the two
are interconnected. What we believe shapes how we behave. To give a
simple example: if you are told that there is 240v running through a bare
cable, then you don’t want to touch it just to find out for sure. But also,
faith leads to further faith. Realising the reality of God and trusting in
Him means that we then want to go deeper. When we realise how amazing
God is, we don’t want to just leave it at that. We have to experience more,
and get to know Him more. It begins with trust, and we step out in faith
It then also means that disobedience to God shows a lack of faith in God,
as well as that lacking faith in God leads to disobedience to God. That was
the approach taken by Adam and Eve when they listened to the serpent.
They took on board his warped message, saying that God is trying to
restrict you, so go ahead, break the rules, and everything will be better
afterwards. But instead they were ashamed. St Paul sees this now as
being the condition of the pagans, who are far from God and do not know
The translation of the Bible that we use at Mass comes from the 1966
Jerusalem Bible, and when it talks about the need to let the pagans know
about Christ, it uses the word “broadcast”, as if to say to the reader in 1966
we need to use the TV and the radio to get the message out there.
Updating it for 2023, we now have the availability of the internet and
social media. The internet has helped to break the stranglehold over what
is sent out to the general public; Catholics do not need to feel so restricted
and censored as before. And indeed, the text of my homilies goes on the
Perhaps you could put together your own video on YouTube about the
difference your faith in Jesus and Mary makes to you. And maybe you
might even begin with a phrase like: “I was on the bus one day, and I met