Thursday, December 19, 2013

Asking in Faith

The homily at the 6:30A mass this morning was short and to the point.  The Gospel, from the first chapter of Luke, had the angel Gabriel telling Zechariah he was to become a father and Zechariah asked: “How can this be?”   And he was struck mute by the angel.  A short while later, in the same Gospel, the same angel Gabriel would tell Mary she is to become a mother, but when Mary asked: “How can this be?” it was explained to her.
“Why wasn’t Mary also struck mute when she questioned the angel?” the priest asked this morning.  (I smiled at the question, because it was one I asked myself a couple of days ago --- great minds must think alike.  ;-) ) 
And then the priest answered his own question, saying: “Because Mary asked in faith.”
Mary believed what the angel had announced to her, that she would become pregnant and this was God’s will.  When she asked “How?” it was a logistical question.  “Does this angel want me to have sexual relations with someone, contrary to Jewish law? --- this doesn’t seem right, perhaps I am misunderstanding something,” she thought.  Perhaps the angel means this is to happen after she becomes married.  Mary wonders what she must do, and when, to cooperate with God’s will, and so she asks: “How can this be?”  Mary asks the question in faith, knowing what she sees and hears is God’s will, but not understanding if, like everything else that happens to her, she has a role to play in making it happen.
Zechariah is as knowledgeable in the ways of the flesh --- and of the Law --- as Mary is, and he is well aware of examples in Scripture of old men and women giving birth to a child, yet when the angel says God wills it to happen to him and Elizabeth, his reaction is one of doubt.  I’m an old man, laughed at by other Jews for having no children, said by some to be cursed by God.  And now an angel appears to me (or am I just dreaming?) and tells me after all these years that I am to have a son?  Riiiiiiiiigggggghhhhhttt!  “How can this be?” he asks doubtfully.
“How many of us feel like Zechariah?” the priest asked this morning.  How many of us look at the trials of our life and doubt any good can come out of them?
“Why is my loved on sick or dying,” we ask in doubt.  “Why do my children act that way?  Why did I lose my job?  Why is my life so hard?  Why do I feel so alone?”
And we hear no answer.
When we can ask these questions in faith as Mary did, the priest continued, we CAN begin to perceive God’s answer --- although it may make no sense to us.  But faith is believing when common sense says not to. 
And a child was born.
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There is a reason that each day I look up at the Divine Mercy picture of Jesus on my kitchen wall, and read the words beneath:  “Jesus, I Trust in You”  Having and keeping faith, especially in difficult times and in the face of difficult questions, is no easy matter; we must work at it every day.
And then, do not be anxious, but have faith.      


  1. Beautiful reflection, Tom! I was inspired by all of the readings today during my Holy Hour. I had thoughts of a "post" swirling in my head and heart but not sure I'll have time to get them down.? It seems to me that working on putting "self" aside is the key. The more we try to figure things out, the more God says "I got this." You are so right…It is a daily ( and often several times a day) process. Thank you for sharing this as we get closer to the manger. Oh how I long to be kneeling there in peace! God bless your final stretch of Advent!

    1. Well, thanks for the credit, Tiff, but as I wrote, the heart of the reflection came from the young priest who said mass. You're right on about putting "self" aside being the key, and in our culture the hardest thing. It seems we so easily get confused between "what I want" and "what I must do." We readily speak up in the first instance, and remain quiet in the second. Perhaps it's because the second may cost the first, as evidenced by the Duck Dynasty family's witness of the Gospel, perhaps at great cost. Yet they still do what they must do. Perhaps the large public support for them is a Christmas gift to us all; it seems like it to me.