Friday December 20, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14) Gospel (St. Luke 1:26-38)
In the readings this morning, the Church is once again showing very clearly to us the fulfillment of the Scripture passages, the prophecies that were spoken that a virgin would be with child and bear a son and will name him Emmanuel. That is, of course, what we see in the Gospel reading: Our Lady conceiving and being told that she will give birth to God, to the One who is the Son of the Most High. But what is also important for us to be able to recognize in this is that the angel is telling Our Lady something that all of us need to hear: that nothing is impossible with God. It is something that looks so incredibly preposterous – that a virgin will conceive and bear a son. By nature, needless to say, it is impossible; but not with God.
Obviously, this is not something that is happening with any kind of regularity. It happened once and it will only happen once. Yet at the same time, it is something we all need to keep very firmly in mind because if an elderly woman can conceive and bear a son, and a virgin can conceive and bear a son, there is absolutely no reason why any of us should doubt that God can do anything else that He might want to do – anything. That includes doing whatever He needs to do in our lives. Most of us will look at what happened with Elizabeth or with Our Blessed Lady and we will say, “Well, yeah, but that’s because it’s Mary, that’s because it’s Elizabeth. But God wouldn’t do anything for me.” That is just a total lack of faith.
Now, we cannot be running around expecting that God is going to be doing miraculous things, although I guess if we look rather closely, He is doing miraculous things in our lives about every minute of every hour; so if we really watched carefully we would see it. But even with that, when we go to prayer most of us do not really believe that God is going to do what He has promised to do. And so He is telling us through the angel that nothing is impossible for God. We do not want to tempt God, but at the same time, we want to have faith. We need to trust.
As things continue moving along, that trust is going to be absolutely critical because when things do not seem to be going the way we think that they ought on a worldly level, or at least on an external level, all that we can do is hold on to that faith, that confidence, that trust internally, to hold on to God no matter what happens. Things will get very bad; and yet in the midst of it, think about what any Jewish person at the time that the Annunciation took place would have thought. At that time, things had gotten so bad that Judaism was divided up into a number of different groups because they all thought they had a better way of doing things – not at all unlike what we have going on. At that time in Judaism, there was corruption of all kinds that was rampant in the temple and among the priesthood. There was, as we know, the buying and selling right in the temple of God, and Jesus had to clear all that out. There were all kinds of problems. Things were not going the way it should have been going externally, and in the midst of the darkness, in the midst of all the bad things that were going on, God sends His angel to be able to tell us that all of this is going to come to an end, that there is light in the darkness, that there is hope in the despair, that if we would just keep our focus on the Lord we do not have to worry about the other things.
It is all in God’s hands. He allowed what was going on in Judaism 2,000 years ago; He has allowed what is going on in the Church today; and He will continue to allow whatever happens externally. But to know that underneath it, behind the scenes in a very hidden way, God is working some very wonderful things and He is going to turn all of this around. That is what we need to hold on to. If we look at just what is going on around us on the external level, we are not going to see it; neither did the people at the time. But if we keep our focus on God then we are going to be fine. He will be able to show us what He is doing and how He is doing it in His own time and in His own way. We just need to trust; that is all that we need to do - because nothing is impossible for God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.