December 19, 2011

Do you ever think you just can’t do it... whatever ‘it’ is? Life seems impossible sometimes, doesn’t it?  There is so much to do, and you’re just one person.  It’s easy to fall into hopelessness, especially when you hear all the stories about abortion clinic atrocities, political scandals, and young women being crushed in elevators.

It was hearing about that poor woman in an elevator from a friend in New York City where it happened, that I tried to formulate an answer to the ‘why me’ or ‘why does God let this happen’ question. I didn’t manage to formulate anything that didn’t contain the usual phrases about free choice, redemptive suffering, and unknown silver linings. Granted, we use those phrases over and over again because they are true and theologically sound, yet I was unsatisfied. My Big Apple friend was really struggling – not with his faith, which is sound – but with the temptation to become cynical.

I wrestled with this puzzle for days to no good end.  And then God came through. (He always does, I hasten to point out, but this time I was listening.)  The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent was from Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation.  The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin and told her she would conceive by the Holy Spirit and bear a child – the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah. Mary wondered at and pondered on what she heard.  Some suggest she was frightened, because Gabriel reassures her, “Do not be afraid,” this is part of God’s plan, He’s thought of all the details; and to reassure you further, your cousin Elizabeth is also experiencing something you all thought was impossible, so you won’t be going through this alone.

The homily we heard that day addressed my puzzle: a priest in this diocese in trouble, a group of Catholic high school students sacking a hotel room after the prom... how do we not give up our faith in God and fellow man?

Gabriel reminds us that “nothing is impossible with God”. Because we live in a fallen world, we can tend to focus more on what is not possible – the problem – our faith.  Useless acts cause us to question, “Why?”  The answer is not in a justification, but in a change of perspective. By looking only at certain acts or events and letting them colour our perspective, Father encouraged us to have a Catholic outlook, to see the big picture.  We are to acknowledge what is wrong and must be paid for, but to also remember love and mercy.  Remember all the holy and devoted priests who have answered God’s call; think of the young people who offer service to their community; random, violent deaths cannot be explained away, but they are aberrations, not the norm.

The second point of the homily addressed fear – fear of what is expected of us, how much there is to do.  None of us can do it all. First of all, we cannot do anything on our own – we function through God’s grace.  We have all been given gifts, and using those gifts gives glory to God, not ourselves. In doing so, we overcome fear, because we recognize it is God working in us and through us.  “The Lord is with you” Gabriel said to Mary.  And so also is He with us. Secondly, if we each contribute from what we have, God will multiply our donation – be it money, service, or prayer. You, Mary Jane Smith, cannot fix the federal deficit or bring about Judeo-Catholic unity all by yourself, but if you, like Mary of Nazareth, say ‘Here I am, let it be done to me according to your word,” you, like Mary, will bring Christ to the world.

All things are possible with God.  Take some time to reflect on those words.  Allow them to transform your perspective.  We are a people of hope!


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