Today is the feast of the annunciation, that special day the angel Gabriel appeared to Our Lady asking her to be the mother of God!

It might seem strange at this time to be celebrating a feast day with so many sick and dying and yet by casting our eyes to Our Lady and by thinking of her life, we can gain strength, love and spiritual reassurance.

Our Lady too faced a lifetime of uncertainties and hardships from the day the angel appeared to her to the day she left this earth and indeed from the moment she was crowned queen of heaven.

She’s thinking, praying and interceding for each one of us right now in ways we can’t even imagine especially in the middle of this crisis.

As we turn to her on this feast day even if just for a few special moments, we can be 100% sure that she will also turn to us and bless us and our families with special graces during this period.

The rays of light leaving her body are rays of healing grace that she is pouring on humanity as she looks down mercifully on us her children.

Some people are angry at Our Lady and want nothing to do with her or the catholic church.

I’ve been surprised over the years at the amount of women I’ve met that really do not like praying to Our Lady.

Once we dig a little deeper, terrible pain comes out around how women have been mistreated and often abused in the church.

From abusive marriages to bearing countless children while their health was at risk and their husbands seemed not to care, women were often treated dreadfully and the pressure to remain silent while offering it all to God seemed even more cruel and without heart or compassion.

Sadly many women were terribly abused in society and even in the church where the role of women is still not clear when it comes to governance.

Some believe that we should have women priests and bishops while others believe that women should go back to wearing the veil and shut up altogether!

There really are all extremes.

I certainly don’t have all the answers and as a gay man my own position in the church is perhaps even worse than that of women’s which allows me to empathise and pray for all women who feel abused and disrespected simply because they are female.

Of course God doesn’t see it like this nor is He perpetually punishing women because Eve ate the apple.

God is a God of love, justice and respect and maybe this is why He chose Our Lady to be the mother of Jesus and to be the most beautiful and powerful of all His creatures throughout time.

Mary was there with the apostles in the upper room like a spiritual mother and while she wasn’t what we’d call an ordained priests, her priesthood was arguably greater as she offered her son to God with and from her heart.

History is filled with magnificent holy women who were exceptionally blessed by God with all sorts of mystical gifts.

More recently we have St. Therese of the child Jesus, Mother Theresa, St. Faustina who’s lives would put the lives of so many men to shame.

Mary was all woman and all wisdom, all gentleness and all strength, all mother and all teacher, all humility and all courage.

She truly was an extraordinary human being and is God’s gift to us a woman, as a mother and as a saint.

And so today on this feast day let us hold in prayer in a special way all women.

Many of the doctors and nurses and carers looking after the sick and dying today are women. Many of these women have families at home and are putting their own lives at risk.

Yet many are still treated unfairly in the workplace, in society and even in the church.

Let us pray for ‘equality in difference’ and for the healing of the wounded hearts of so many women that they may come to know and experience the special love and place that God has for them in society and in the church.

May those women who have become estranged from the church and from Our Lady find their way back through our prayers and may this be our special gift to Our Lady on this her feast day.

Thank you God our father for Our Lady, thank you for her ‘yes’ and for the ‘yes’ of all our mothers which allowed us to be born.

Bring all hurting hearts back to your fatherly embrace and heal our church and world through the intercession of Our Lady so that all souls irrespective of age, colour or gender may find their place and prosper in their gifts and talents.

Bless all mother’s today, especially those who are comforting the dying. Give them love, give them strength and grant them protection from all harm.

Lord hear our prayers,