Busy, busy day today. My apologies - we'll have more tomorrow. But a few thoughts on today, which is the transferred day of the Feast of the Annunciation (usually on March 25, which this year fell on Good Friday).
The Annunciation commemorates Mary's fiat, in response to the message from God transmitted by the angel Gabriel. At the early morning mass today, Fr. Fleming commented on the many apparent coincidences regarding John Paul's death - dying on the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, for example (more on that tomorrow). He said that today's feast may be another example of this coincidence, that is in fact no coincidence at all.
John Paul had a strong devotion to Mary, as we all know. He was left an orphan prior to the age of 20, and formed a close attachment to the Mother of God. It was Mary whom John Paul gave credit for having redirected the bullet that almost claimed his life in 1981. Therefore, it would only seem natural to link him with this feast day. But Fr. Fleming suggested we look closer, and I think it's well worth doing.
Mary questioned the angel closely - "How can this be?" - and made sure she understood exactly what the angel was saying before she said "fiat" - be it done to me according to thy word. But this wasn't the only fiat Mary displayed - as Delia Gallagher pointed out in her review of Passion of the Christ. "One understands why Mary is such a revered figure in Catholicism," she says, "not so much for her 'fiat' when told she would bear the Son of God -- that was the easy part -- but her 'fiat' in witnessing his suffering and crucifixion." In doing this, Mary reminds us that all Christians must share in the Way of the Cross.
She encourages us in other ways, too. At the wedding feast in Cana, for example - "Do whatever He tells you." Not only does she say fiat, she urges us to do the same. And this is the lesson we see in John Paul's life. He said fiat to God's call to the priesthood; fiat in the conclave in 1978; fiat to the suffering that would be part of the last twenty years of his life; and finally, I think, fiat to Christ when He came for him on Saturday night.
Catholics must be wary of over-sentimentalism, and the death of John Paul is ripe for such occasions. There is a temptation to read so many things into the timing and circumstances of his death. But as a learned scholar once said, when it comes to God there's no such thing as coincidence. As John Paul survived Friday and late into Saturday, many thought he might be determined to make it to Sunday, to the Divine Mercy Sunday which he had played such a large role in creating. Having hung on so long, it was - in a strange way - almost surprising when he died so late in the night, falling only a couple of hours short of Sunday morning. But at that, we are told that he celebrated the vigil of Divine Mercy; and perhaps it's not too much of a stretch to think that he left us when he did so that he could be with St. Faustina, helping direct us to the way of the Divine Mercy of Our Blessed Lord.
Today is all about fiat; the fiat of Mary and the fiat of John Paul. Take a moment and think about what God is asking you to do. And, in the words of John Paul, be not afraid. Be not afraid to say fiat when He calls your name.