Trust all the way through: 4th Sunday Advent

Elizabeth says to Mary, "Blessed art thou among women!" And blessed she is. And why? She was born without sin, but it's not like she can take any credit for that.  She gave birth to a child, and that’s totally incredible, but it does happen every day. Why is Mary so highly praised? Elizabeth tells her. "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

Mary trusted God; she believed God's word with a trust so deep, so broad, so pure... it went right through her. Mary was trust all the way through — that’s another way of saying ‘full of grace,’ isn’t it? She must have had some premonition that God was asking much of her. Her life was turned completely upside down that day, and it stayed that way. She must have had an idea how hard it would be. Never make the Mother of Jesus out to be a syrupy plastic-statue cliche. Her life was too hard for that. But from the start and until the end, she trusted God. "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word."

Do you know how the Catechism describes the original sin of our first parents in Eden?  Sin entered the world when man let trust in his Creator die in his heart. When Adam and Eve let trust in God die in their hearts, that’s when sin came into the world. Read carefully and you’ll see: that’s exactly where the serpent attacks Eve. He attacks her trust in God; he gets her to question God's love. "Did God tell you not to eat any of the fruit?" "No just that one tree. He said we can't eat it or even touch it lest we die." "You certainly will not die. God just doesn't want you to have knowledge and be like Him."

Satan's whisper to Eve, and to all of us, remains the same. "God is not on your side. You can't trust Him. You can’t trust His stupid rules, and you can’t trust His call for your life.”  That was the first sin, and that’s all sin has ever been since. We sin when we stop trusting in God and grasp for something else instead. Our conscience is back there trying to be heard, saying "this is against God's law." But there's another voice whispering: "God's way won't make you happy. You need more. Take it."

We grab at stupid little things all the time. Like anger. I'm mad and I won't let go. Or grudges. It's all his fault and not mine and I won't consider any other possibility. Or some material thing, some stupid earthly possession grabs our attention and captures our hearts as though we haven’t learned a thousand times over that these things don’t make us happy. What about reputation? I can’t talk to that kid at school, I know that’s exactly what Jesus would do but if I get associated with him I’ll be in the same boat, and that won’t be okay. It can get truly grave: I have to reach for happiness outside my vows, outside the most solemn and defining commitment in my life. Whatever: from the smallest thing to the largest, what we’re really saying is, “God’s way isn't enough for me to be happy, I have to reach out for something else." This is something that you learn really well as a confessor. I could start every confession by asking: “where did you grasp for happiness outside God’s will?”

Trusting God means letting go of all of that junk. I'm going to be kind to that kid, and I don't care about the consequences. It'll be alright somehow, I'm in God's hands. We're going to open our marriage to new life from God, even though it's scary and money will be more than tight. Or turn that one around: we’re so frustrated and hurt that we haven't been able to have children that we're angry at God. But we trust that God's plan for us will come to light... because our marriage belongs to Him. Or, before marriage: we’re going to date according to God's commandments, even though it’s not so easy and it feels like we're missing out on a lot. Somehow we trust that this will make us happiest, because God says so. Or in those little life crises where you start asking “Is this it? Is this all there is?,” and you’re tempted to do something silly… nope, I’m in God’s hands, and His way is still my best way.

Mary is our example. She trusted God; that’s all she did. "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word." No conditions, no escape clauses, no reservations. Just a complete abandonment. And look what God did with her: she’s the greatest Christian who ever lived because of that very simple but very deep trust. Do you ever feel like God is asking too much from you? God took everything from her. Her physical body and fertility, her marriage and the life she’d expected, He even took away her Son... but He took nothing without her consent, without her ‘Yes.” And He did what He does: He transfigured all that she offered and gave it back to her glorified and eternally, and we all benefit. "Blessed are you who believed that God's word to you would be fulfilled." Blessed are we, too, when we believe.

Trusting God is the greatest adventure in life. God might ask everything from you. In fact, one way or another, I can pretty much promise that He will. To be a disciple of Christ is to let go of everything we're clinging onto, to step into the unknown. G.K. Chesterton understood this very well. He wrote: "We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure; it is to be judged, therefore, not by what calamities it encounters, but by what flag it follows and what high town it assaults. The most dangerous thing in the world is to be alive; one is always in danger of one's life.  But anyone who shrinks from that is a traitor to the great scheme and experience of being."

What are you grabbing out for?  What are you clinging to?  What walls have you built up to protect yourself from God?  What part of your life is in a little compartment, safely guarded where God can't touch it?  We've got a little bit of Advent left to tear down those walls, to blaze through the wilderness a way for the Lord.

This Fourth Sunday of Advent is a final invitation to let go of whatever we've been grasping at, and make room for Christ to rule our hearts. The Redeemer comes.  The star shines over Bethlehem. The wise men await in the East. The shepherds feel mystery in the night air. Joseph makes his bride as comfortable as he can in the dark stable, and Mary feels a new urgency beginning to stir within. The time is very near.


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