In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)
Over four decades of ministry, one of the most prevalent conversations I have had with parishioners has always revolved around faith. What is it? How do I believe it? Is doubt part of faith? Is it wrong to question it?
My answer always begins with the understanding that faith is a journey. We know the destination. But we are always evolving and growing in faith. We may stumble. We may have a setback in our belief. We may even step away momentarily. But once begun, the seed of faith grows.
Today’s scripture is a dramatic example of the beginning of the journey of faith. An angel appears to Mary and announces that she will bear the Messiah, the very son of God. I can’t imagine anything more dramatic than that. Neither could Mary when she hears the news.
At first, she questions, just as any human being would. But just as powerful as the news she received is Mary’s response.” Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
There it is. The beginning of the journey. It starts by trusting in God. By understanding that God will give us the grace to live a life of faith if we will but yield to Him. If we just step aside and recognize that He has called us to journey with Him. Don’t ever forget that because He won’t. His call is never ending and will be part of our life.
But there is a second component of faith. It’s obedience.
Now in a country that calls itself the land of the free, obedience takes on a negative connotation. Somehow, it conjures up an image of being docile, of being submissive, of giving up individual freedom.
But we don’t give up our individual freedom. We gain more freedom than we ever had by living a life of faith. Being obedient to His word, living a life whose focus is on bringing His word alive in our lives, enriches us. It frees us from questioning our worth. It fulfills us because we know we are His children. We are the constant recipients of His love. We are important to Him because we are willing to be the hands and feet of Christ!
He puts us in situations where our faith not only grows but brings others to Him.
Perhaps God will call us to be one who listens to an employee who is struggling or who has experienced a personal loss.
Even as we relish our roles as grandparents, the love we feel for our grandchildren can be an invitation to something more, an invitation to become aware of so many children in our world who do not have families or who are held back because of race or a lack of influence.
If we have just worked our way through a painful divorce, God can still be calling us to more, a new relationship or perhaps a ministry working with others whose marriages have come to an end.
Do you see that? It warms my heart when I think of those instances. I see the power and love of God coming alive in another because he/she is answering the call of the Lord to be as He would.
That is what faith is all about. We may not have as dramatic a call as Mary did. The effect of answering His call may not yield as much as Mary’s answer to God. But we stand with Mary when we accept faith in Jesus Christ. We stand with Mary when we believe that God will direct our life if we will just accept Him as our savior.
God gives us the grace to say “yes” to his will and to his transforming work in our lives
God gives us grace and he expects us to respond with the same willingness, obedience, and heart-felt trust as Mary did. When God commands, he also gives the grace, strength, and means to respond. We can either yield to his grace or resist and go our own way.
But resisting Him leads to a solitary life whose boundaries are ever changing, where goals are murky, where questioning our worth becomes common in our lives.
Living with His presence in our lives leads to a life that is forever full of love and hope. I pray that for you.
Prayer of The Day
“Heavenly Father, you offer us abundant grace, mercy, and forgiveness through your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to live a grace-filled life as Mary did by believing in your promises and by giving you my unqualified “yes” to your will and to your plan for my life.”
Mary believed God’s promises even when they seemed impossible. She was full of grace because she trusted that what God said was true and would be fulfilled. She was willing and eager to do God’s will, even if it seemed difficult or costly.