One of the ways you know you’re getting older is that you start getting solicitations from the American Association of Retired Persons. The Soulful Catholic is nowhere near ready to surrender her mouse and keyboard, so these AARP letters generally go straight to the recycle bin.
Nevertheless, a wonderful benefit of having more birthdays behind you than before you is the realization that God’s plans are ALWAYS superior to our own. It may not seem like it when we’re in the midst of heartbreak and disappointment, but as we mature in faith, we realize that God truly does have our best interests at heart. We can trust Him 100 percent. Ourselves? Not so much.
This recognition that all we have is a gift from the Lord and the accompanying surrender of our will, our plans, our entire self to Him, is the beginning of wisdom and the fruit of humility.
Then there’s this little gem: It was a simple, quiet act of humility that led to our salvation.
Picture the young Virgin Mary, at home in Nazareth, being visited by the mighty Archangel Gabriel who tells her she will conceive and bear the Son of the Most High. She asks one question to clarify how this could possibly be since she is not yet living with her betrothed.
When the angel explains the conception will take place through the Holy Spirit and that the child Mary conceives will be the Son of God, her reply is one of humble acceptance:
“I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Luke 1: 38).”
No remonstrations or complaints. No bold proclamation or loud fanfare. No looking for loopholes. Just a quiet acceptance of God’s will and a heart ready to serve.
The Bible tells us Mary’s first reaction was to trust God and then hasten to serve her cousin Elizabeth who was also experiencing a miraculous pregnancy.
Faced with the examples of these two holy women, we ought to ask ourselves how well we react when Providence throws us a curveball and takes us in a direction we weren’t anticipating. Do we doubt God’s providence or challenge His authority?
If so, then we would do well to remember what happened to Zechariah who was also visited by Gabriel. Rather than accept the news about the son his wife had conceived in her old age, Zechariah challenges the angel to prove his point.
Interestingly, St. Luke tells us that Mary and Zechariah were both “troubled” by Gabriel’s news, but it was the way they reacted that distinguishes them. After Gabriel explains that Elizabeth will bear a son who will prepare the way of the Lord, Zechariah’s attitude is one of disbelief. As a result of his stubborn pride, he is struck dumb, unable to speak until the circumcision of John months later.
Two thousand years ago, as now, the world is embroiled in a monumental struggle against the forces of evil. At times, the battle is more obvious, as we can see from a group of Satanists who will descend on Scottsdale this weekend for a conference. Our bishop has expressed a preference and recommendation that Catholics engage in spiritual warfare through prayer, fasting and seeking the Lord in Adoration either in local chapels and churches or at the Catholic Men’s Conference.
No, it’s not a matter of obedience per se, but it is our bishop’s preference, and so out of love and respect for him, we ought to follow his wishes. Just as a loving spouse would never demand his wife omit the chopped onions he abhors from the homemade spaghetti sauce, she does so anyway, knowing that it will please him whom she loves. I can’t imagine the Virgin Mary ignoring Joseph’s preference, can you?
An exorcist priest points to Mary, the Mother of God, as the “Terror of Hell” because she snatches away souls from demons. Her tears and prayers on behalf of her children cause the demons great distress and make them sink even lower.
Can you imagine how it must gall the devil to know that the quiet Virgin of Nazareth, a model of humility and simplicity, defeated him? And she accomplished this through surrendering herself entirely to the arms of God and trusting in Him. She brought forth the Savior of humanity, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross satisfied the wrath of God and opened the gates of Heaven.
Jesus’ victory over sin and death is an unfailing source of joy for us as followers of Christ. We know how the battle ends: with God’s unequivocal victory.
Until Christ’s triumphant return, we continue to fight off the wiles of the devil, confident that he is on borrowed time. We know this present darkness, though daunting, will be overcome by the Light of Christ.
St. Therese of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church and one of the most beloved saints of modern history, related what she did in the midst of spiritual warfare:
“On each fresh occasion of combat, when the enemy desires to challenge me, I conduct myself valiantly: knowing that to fight a duel is an unworthy act, I turn my back upon the adversary without ever looking him in the face; then I run to my Jesus and tell Him I am ready to shed every drop of blood in testimony of my belief that there is a Heaven, I tell Him I am glad to be unable to contemplate, while on earth, with the eyes of the soul, the beautiful Heaven that awaits me so He will deign to open it for eternity to poor unbelievers (Story of a Soul, Chapter IX).”
When the forces of darkness seem to engulf us and are even celebrated in high places, it is then that we must run to Jesus, kneeling in obedience to the Lord of the Universe, our humble God who never forces His way but instead makes Himself present and vulnerable in the Eucharist. May He be praised now and forever as we turn to Him in complete trust.