This Wednesday we will mark the feast of the Annunciation. Scheduled nine months before Christmas, this memory of God’s promise of the Incarnation and Mary’s assent provides sharp contrast to our Lenten anticipation of the passion and death of Christ. And yet, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this feast reminds us that Christ remains our intimate companion and hope in our sorrows and our joys. How hard it must have been for Mary to hear stories of mounting plots against her son, even as he continued to heal and preach God’s mercy to the very people whom society shunned! What loneliness Mary must have felt, knowing she could not alleviate the sorrow of her son! In this very different Lent when concern for health demands that in so many regions we cannot celebrate Mass, may we take comfort that, like Mary, we have been graced by God whose mercy and love reach from generation to generation.