"The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth..."
Along with Michael and Raphael, Gabriel is one of the great archangels serving the throne of God. His name means, "God is mighty", and he is called upon to make it clear that God is about to perform a "mission impossible" in someone's life.
He first makes his appearance in the Old Testament book of the prophet Daniel. Daniel has just had a vision of a ram and a goat, and Gabriel is sent to interpret it for him. The horrifying vision foretells the rise of a great political power which will wreak devastation throughout the world. Gabriel tells Daniel that eventually this great political power will be defeated but "not by human power". That is, the hand of God will work in a mighty way to save his people from the tyrant. Though it would seem impossible that Israel, a country which at the time was in exile, could defend itself against such a mighty power, Gabriel arrives on the scene to announce that all things are possible with God.
In today's gospel reading, Gabriel now appears to Mary to declare to her that God has chosen her to be the mother of the Messiah. She is startled, and cannot comprehend at first the meaning of the angel's greeting and message. As the angel reveals God's plan to her, it becomes evident that there's a hitch. How can she become pregnant if she is a virgin? Gabriel explains to her that it will be by the power of the Holy Spirit that she is to conceive. And so, the child will not be the son of a human father but of God himself. Gabriel ends his message with these words: "...for nothing will be impossible for God." God sends Gabriel to announce to Mary that he is about to do the impossible in her life.
The Scriptures are full of stories of those whom God chooses to do the impossible. In the first reading, God tells David that his dynasty will be without end. David had been a simple shepherd boy. Alone, David could never have expected to be anything more than that. Yet, called and empowered by God, he became king of his people, and he is remembered forever because from his line Jesus, the Messiah was born. God did the impossible in the life of King David.
The twelve apostles chosen by Jesus to carry on his message were also simple fishermen, tax collectors and political idealists. By themselves they didn't amount to much. Yet God used them to spread the message of the gospel to all the nations. It wasn't because of a good business plan or effective marketing strategy that we still remember them two-thousand years later. It was because of the work of the Holy Spirit who emboldened them to witness to Jesus' love even in the face of persecution and death. The message of Jesus has reached us here in this place so many centuries later because God did the impossible in the lives of twelve simple men who said "yes" and followed Jesus.
God is great. It is the nature of God to work wonders. When we say "yes" to God, the impossible happens.
As we look in our own lives, what wonders do we want God to perform? Are there people in our lives struggling with addiction? Do we have children who have drifted away from the Church and no longer believe? Are we struggling in our marriages or other relationships? Has the economy placed a strain on our jobs? If we entrust all those cares to the Lord, we can expect him to do a miracle.
As a parish community, what do we want to achieve? Do we want to reach out to more young people? Do we want to bring back to Church those who have stopped coming? Do we want to make our catechism classes more compelling and our worship more joyful? What is holding us back?
We are rational and practical people. But, too often, we settle for the merely possible when God wants to do the impossible. Sometimes we approach God with a false humility, thinking that it would be arrogant or unreasonable of us to ask too much of him. But God loves us as his children and will spare nothing to bring us closer to him. There is nothing that we could ever ask him that would be impossible for him to do. All things are possible with God.
We are here today because God did the impossible in the life of Mary. We are here today because God did the impossible by becoming man in the person of Jesus Christ. And God will do the impossible before our very eyes turning simple bread and water into the very body and blood of Jesus to nourish and strengthen us. To unleash this mighty power of God, all Mary did was tell Gabriel, "Yes, let it be done to me as you say". To witness the impossible in our lives all we have to do as we receive the bread of angels is tell Jesus, "Yes, let your will be done in me as you say."