Saturday, December 20, 2008

Do you trust me?


..."Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
(Lk 1:26-38)

In spite of Mary's deep devotion to God, it must have been a startling and fearful experience when the angel Gabriel appeared 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...".

Today it is easy for us to say that it is natural for Mary to accept outright without any deliberation, as it is obviously an honor to be chosen as the mother of the Messiah. Mary had free will to decide either way, but consider putting yourself in the place of Mary at the time. Do you think anybody would really believe that the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit? Wouldn't it be more likely that ill-thinking people will surmise it was borne of an affair with some Roman soldier who were then frequently roaming Nazareth? Mary was then engaged to Joseph. Others might even conclude that Mary and Joseph had gone too far in their relationship with each other and had disobeyed the law of God. In either case, was there not the possibility that Mary could be charged and stoned for fornication?

And what would Joseph think? He would know that he was not responsible for Mary's condition. What would he say? Would he still be willing to marry her? Was she willing to give him up if it would come to that? And what about the child? If these difficult thoughts crossed Mary's mind at the time and made her waver, no one can probably blame her.

Mary was a meditative woman, at least twice we are told that she kept certain things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). But she did not take very much time to make up her mind here. She answered forthrightly: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
Her decision was to submit to God's will and to trust Him with the consequences. By her obedience, Mary becomes truly the "Mother of God', the "Mother of the living", and the model of our faith.

Submission to God's will, almost always involves some risk. But many times in the bible, God tells his followers from Abraham down to the apostles: do not be afraid. God is always there to work out all the details together, and it is our choice to believe Him if we want to enjoy His peace and power.

Today, God is asking each one of us the same question: "Do you trust me?"


Anonymous said...

The risk that Willy's talking about only comes because of our doubts. To those who are sure about God there can be no risk. For what God says is certain. Mary knew this. Perhaps it was easier for her then - with the fact that an angel was the messenger, she probably did not have any doubt the message could only have come from God.

Still, the challenge is for us to answer the same way - "let it be done unto me according to your word."

And this is the part of the gospel where the angel said the first part of the Hail Mary. Later in Luke 1:42 Elizabeth utters the second part "Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb".

Those who continue to support the RH bill should remember the words "blessed is the fruit of your womb". I challenge them to act like Mary and ponder the words in their hearts. They should remember that life is not just a gift from God. It is a holy and blessed gift.

David, in response to God's blessings, cried "who am I, O Lord, that you are mindful of me?" Like Mary, David's response to God was utter humility and acceptance of God's gifts. How far have we, the Filipino people, gone from David as we actively debate whether we should be legally terminating the blessed fruit of the womb? How far have we moved away from Mary as the blessedness and holiness of life are set aside in favor of debating statistics and demographics? How far have we moved away from God as we even debate and profess to know when life starts? I tell you, this spiritual arrogance will be our downfall.

- TE

WillyJ said...

Come to think of it, the risks or downfall itself comes only if we go against God plan, because God's plans are only for the good. The passage on Elizabeth brings another significant incident "when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb leapt with joy". Now how can people even debate the significance of that life inside the womb? It's certainly not just a 'mass of tissue' leaping there.

Anonymous said...

"Do you trust me?" The question never fails to make us aware of our need to trust God. For many of us it also brings on a plethora of emotions - a bit of guilt because we know we've answered the question with a no many times before, a bit of fear, sadness, remorse and sometimes even a need to justify our answer. But here's another conundrum for you.

In Job 39:11 God poses the question directly: "Will you trust him because his strength is great and leave your labor to him?" By posing the question, isn't God saying that He requires our yes? And if so, He would be saying that He respects our will, wouldn't he?

Does this mean that trusting God is also an act of will, a decision we make? Isaiah 30:15 says "For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said, "In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. But you were not willing'..." How willing we are to make that decision does seem to be key, doesn't it? What importance does human will play in our salvation?

Jeremiah 39:18 says "For I will certainly rescue you, and you will not fall by the sword; but you will have your own life as booty, because you have trusted in Me, declares the Lord." That clarifies the results of our decision to trust God. But even with such a promise, it is still very hard for us to trust God.

Why should it be so hard? Isn't salvation just a decision away? So why is it so diffcult?

In 416 and 418 the Councils of Carthage condemned the Pelagian Heresy. The condemnation was ratified in 431 by the Council of Ephesus. One of the teachings of Pelagius was that human will is capable of choosing good or evil without divine aid. Augustine of Hippo opposed Pelagius' teaching and maintained that salvation can only come from God's free gift of grace and that no person could save himself by his works.

If our human will can only choose good with divine aid (God's gift of grace), why does the passage in Isaiah point to our willingness as if it is a requirement? And if salvation can only be acquired through God's grace, and God knows the future, does this not imply that God has already chosen who will be saved? And doesn't that, in turn, imply predestination? If so, what is repentance for? Where does the willingness come in? What part does forgiveness and the sacrament of reconciliation play in our achieving salvation?

How do we get to trust God? If that can only be achieved through God's grace, then God already knew whom He gave the grace to trust Him. Why would He still need us to be willing?
If I decide right now to trust in God, would that mean that God gave me the grace the moment I made my decision? Or are we dangerously stepping on heretical grounds here?

- TE

WillyJ said...

In order to grasp the meaning of God's graces with respect to our salvation, we need to understand it
in two respects: sanctifying grace and actual grace. Thus: "Sanctifying grace is a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by His love. Habitual grace, the permanent disposition to live and act in keeping with God's call, is distinguished from actual graces which refer to God's interventions, whether in the beginning of conversion or in the course of the work of sanctification." (CCC #2000)

What importance does human will play in our salvation?
Justification is a process. It establishes continual cooperation between man's freedom and God's graces. This is a key differentiation of Catholic doctrine with Protestantism. Isn't salvation a decision away? Protestants will answer yes. For them, justification and sanctification occurs all at once (once saved, always saved). Certainly, this belief is heretical and has been definitively condemned by the Council of Trent. We need both faith and works for our salvation, as we need to conform ourselves to Christ in active charity. God initiates our justification and conversion, but we have to cooperate further to merit the graces need for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity. Free will to do good is insufficient for
salvation, without God's graces. Man even though he is redeemed by Christ's passion, is still wounded by concupiscence - the inclination to sin which no one can naturally resist without God's graces. We need supernatural help. This is what the Pelagians misunderstood. Now we can more deeply understand why Mary was kept away from sin. She was full of grace, and her soul magnifies the Lord.
Does this not imply that God has already chosen who will be saved?
God's foreknowledge does not destroy free will, although "He wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of truth" through Jesus Christ "who gave his life for the redemption of all" (1 Tim 2:4-6). We are moved by grace to turn towards God and away from sin (conversion and repentance), and those who persevere in righteousness are those who are "chosen". The Council of Trent states: "When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself towards justice in God's sight." If Calvin's predestination theory were true, then there would be no need for the Great Commission given to the apostles (Mat 28:18-20).

Yes, we need to trust God but it doesn't stop at a moment in time. It still requires us to take up our crosses and follow Him.