READINGS: READINGS: Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10/ Hebrews 10:4-10/ Luke 1:26-38


Firstly, on behalf of the Archbishop of Accra, the Bishop of Koforidua, the Bishop of Ho, the Auxiliary Bishops of Accra, the Superior General and General Council of the Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer Sisters, the priests, religious and all the faithful gathered here, I wish to congratulate you, Sisters Sophia, Antoinette, Abigail, Selina, Gladys, Perpetua and Veronica who are professing your Final Vows. Similarly, I wish to congratulate you, Sisters Rebecca, Micheline and Providencia for your Silver Jubilee, as well as Sister Barbara for your Golden Jubilee.

Secondly, beloved, we have gathered here to thank God for calling these eleven (11) Sisters and to praise Him for the graces given each of them to respond to His call for 8+ years, 25 years and 50 years respectively.

Thirdly, the Lord offers us the opportunity to reflect on His Word. The theme for this reflection is taken from the Blessed Virgin Mary’s response to God’s message which was delivered by the Angel Gabriel: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). It is this response which inspired the founder of the Congregation, +Bishop Joseph Oliver Bowers, SVD, to choose the name “Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer of Accra”. Hence, our theme, “Handmaids of the Lord”.


  • Handmaid in the New Testament
  • Blessed Virgin Mary as a Handmaid
  • Handmaids of the Divine Redeemer

The word for “handmaid” is the Greek doulé. It is used only three times in the New Testament, in Luke 1:38, 48 and Acts 2:18. Mother Mary uses the term to refer to herself in the annunciation (cf. Luke 1:38) and in the Magnificat (cf. Luke 1:48). The other reference is in the preaching of St. Peter on the Day of Pentecost (cf. Acts 2:18). St. Peter cites from the Book of the Prophet Joel (cf. Joel 3:1-5) to the effect that among those to receive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit are male slaves (doulos) and female slaves (doulé). Thus, doulé is the feminine of the Greek word doulos meaning slave.

In Ephesians 6 the slave was part of the Greco Roman household. His or her status was being the least member of the family, even lower than a child. A slave status would usually not change. The most menial jobs were entrusted to him or her even though slaves could also be entrusted with important offices.


a. Humility: The Blessed Virgin Mary was not a slave in the Jewish society. However, when the prospect of becoming the Mother of our Divine Redeemer dawned on her, she felt unworthy of God’s favour (cf. Luke 1:38, 48). Hence, she humbly saw herself as God’s handmaid or slave. So constant was Mother Mary’s humility that she would rightly attribute to God any great thing in her life: “for the Almighty had done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:49).

b. Submission: In the Greco Roman world, a handmaid or slave was entirely submissive to the will of the master. Hence, the Virgin Mary said: “… let it be done unto me according to your word”. This was an attitude of “O Lord, do with me as you wish”. As if she was saying to God: “My agenda or plans do not matter anymore. So, I submit entirely my will to yours.” 33+ years later, her Son, Jesus Christ, would likewise say in the agony in the garden: “… not My will, but Your will be done” (Matt. 26:39).

c. Openness to the great plan of God: the Virgin Mary, by a great act of faith, was open to the great plan of God – His plan to save humanity.

d. Willingness to accept sufferings: the Virgin Mary was prepared to accept the sufferings or challenges entailed in submitting to God’s plan or will, e.g., the possible divorce by St. Joseph and its consequences.


Dear HDR Sisters, here are some four lessons you can learn from the Virgin Mary, the first handmaid of the Lord and your perfect model:

a. Humility: Dear HDR Sisters, our faith tells us that God choose the Virgin Mary long before the Angel Gabriel visited her. Indeed, as was in the case of the prophet Jeremiah (cf. Jer. 1:4-5), God choose Mary and prepared her even before she herself was conceived. Similarly, Rev. Sisters long before you felt called by God, indeed, before you were born, He had called you. In that case, none of you had a CV when God called you. That is, He called you not based on your merits but on His grace, mercy and plan. So, like Mother Mary, always feel unworthy by God’s favour and act in humility.

Furthermore, as Mother Mary never become proud on account of the highest honors which God bestowed upon her, so dear Rev. Sisters do not allow your professional or religious achievements or status to make you self-conceited.

b. Submission: Dear Sisters, like Mother Mary, assume the attitude of “O Lord, do with me as you wish”. Again, you did not call yourselves. Rather, you responded to the Lord’s call. Therefore, like Mother Mary, say to the Lord: “My agenda or plans do not matter anymore. So, I submit entirely my will to yours.”

c. Openness to the great plan of God: Dear Sisters, imagine that the Virgin Mary had refused the plan of God and pursued her own agenda of normal marital life with Joseph. Similarly, when you pursue your own personal agenda, which may seem lucrative initially, the end result may be miserable.

Fortunately, by the virtue of her great faith, Mother Mary was open to the great plan of God, and the impact of her role as Mother of our Saviour continues in all generations. Similarly, Sisters be open to God’s plan by faith, and the impact of your apostolic services will continue long after your lifetimes.

d. Willingness to accept sufferings: Like Mother Mary, be prepared to accept the sufferings and challenges which accompany the plans of God for you. Your sufferings and challenges may be internal or external. The internal ones may include: sickness, lack of certain provisions, misunderstandings, unfair treatment by other Sisters, etc. The external challenges are those which occur in your work places, parishes, and the larger society. Please, never quit your religious calling because of sufferings or challenges. Do not truncate the plan of God which involves your role. Rather, in your difficult moments, seek good counsel and the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows and Seat of Wisdom.


After looking at the meaning of the word “handmaid” in the New Testament, we have highlighted four ways by which HDR Sisters could learn from Mother Mary, the first and perfect handmaid of the Lord. These are humility, submission to God, openness to His plan and willingness to accept sufferings.

Finally, dear seven (7) Sisters taking your final vows, dear three (3) Silver Jubilarians and dear Golden Sister Barbara, we wish you congratulations and the grace of hope-filled perseverance.


By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis

Bishop John Kobina Louis

Most Rev. John Kobina Louis is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana. More about him here.

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Catholic Homilies and Sermons for the Liturgical Year by Most Rev. John Kobina Louis, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana.

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