What do we believe? If we allow the words we effortlessly recite at every Sunday Eucharist during the Creed to resonate within us, we should know. In this Sunday’s Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Advent, Elizabeth says of Mary, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” Blessed is she who believed. That resonates with me this week.
It has been a tough week for our province – tougher than most of the weeks of this ongoing global pandemic, with a virus that continues to mutate as it persists working its insidious way into our bodies. It has also been a tough few weeks for my family, as we encounter many of the same issues as other folks during Advent season preparations for Christmas within COVID-19, made more chaotic because of renovations and a challenge surfacing from an intellectually disabled adult son. A line from the movie The Sound of Music comes to mind when Mother Superior comforting Maria says, “God never closes a door without opening a window.” About time for God to get to that window, I think!
Within all this, I hear Elizabeth’s greetings to Mary, and I ask myself – do I believe, do I really believe?
Mary was young – historians say that Jewish women from 1st century Israel were having children as young as 14 years of age. Scripture doesn’t tell us how old Mary was; only that the angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin named Mary. (Luke 1:26) However, if we accept the tradition of the time, we expect that Mary was between 14 and 20 years old when she was pregnant with Jesus.
When I was 14, I was busy worrying about what to wear to the next dance. Having a child was not anywhere on my agenda. And yet Mary, who could arguably have been the same age, trusts what the angel says, and accepts this huge responsibility, which will now also mean she has to trust that Joseph will not abandon her. Still, she believes.
We all face challenges in our lives that shake our belief in God – I doubt it is possible to mature in faith if we do not. Elizabeth is led to her exclamation about Mary because of the knowledge which comes to her of who it is that Mary carries in her womb. Mary responds, first with her Fiat, “Let it be [done] with me,” to the angel, and then through her Magnificat, a response to Elizabeth’s greeting which follows the verses we hear from Luke today.
Belief and trust can be difficult. I am no more immune from that than anyone else. Yet, last week, the window opened in the Bennett household, not fully, only a little, but it is enough. My mother had a marvellous saying: “better to live in hope, than die in despair” stolen from an 18th century German poet (although I suspect she did not know that.) Belief gives us hope.
As we can have no clear idea of what the future holds for us, Mary had little inkling of what the future held for her or her son. Yet she believed, she trusted, and she hoped. She is my inspiration in my attempt to do the same. For, as Elizabeth told us: if we believe, we will be blessed.
Archdiocese of Moncton
Office of Evangelization and Catechesis