12.20.2012

Humble Faith

I was at Daily Mass yesterday, a day after finally realizing it was time to surrender and I went a bit early to spend some time in prayer. I intended to pray at Mary's spot, but I got mixed up and would've had to walk across the Cathedral in my heals and I didn't want to disturb everyone else, so I just went to my usual spot. I knew I'd get interrupted with the Angelus at Noon, and I was looking forward to it. But in the meantime here was my prayer:

Lord, I meant it yesterday when I said I was surrendering to you.
Mary, I'm gonna need your help with this. I realize that by saying "Thy will be done" I am most likely also saying yes to more pain. I'm gonna need help not getting frustrated or trying to grasp control. 
Mary and Jesus, I give my yes, my fiat. I am prepared for wherever we need to go, so long as we go together.
My womb is yours, for better or worse. Whether this leads to joy or pain, it is all yours.
Please be with me.

Those were not my exact words, but that was the gist of it. Getting interrupted by the Angelus to honor Mary just seemed appropriate.

And then Mass started, and we got to the Liturgy of the Word.

How many times during one mass can the word "barren" be used? I'm pretty sure that the Wednesday during the week of the 3rd Sunday of Advent wins the award for most times. Both the Old Testament reading (about Manoah's wife and Samson, from Judges) and the New Testament (about Elizabeth and Zachariah) were about once barren women conceiving. Now, in the Cathedral for daily mass it felt like the word "barren" was echoing extra loud, almost surrounding and taunting me. I remembered being angry during Advent last year and I forced myself to focus on the miracles of Samson and John rather than the barrenness of Manoah's wife and Elizabeth.

And then, it was time for the Homily. The priest celebrating Mass was not our usual Monsignor who I love and look forward to, instead it was a newly ordained priest. Now, in general this newly ordained priest is good and it's been neat to watch him gain confidence, but today, I was dreading it. In my head, I just knew he was going to focus on the impossibility of Manoah's wife and Elizabeth's pregnancies, tie them to Mary's and focus all on how God answers prayers in His time and that all things are possible with God. (And, just to keep it real here, in my head I was thinking "blah, blah, blah". Gee, wonder why I need spiritual direction?)

And then Father gave his homily. One of his most confident, to the point homilies to date. It was so good, I grabbed my journal and took notes! He briefly touched on the pregnancy of Elizabeth, but then he turned to Zachariah and Mary, and he compared how they responded to the news from Gabriel. Each was given news of a baby that was to be. Each responded with a question, but it was the spirit with which they asked their question that made all the difference.

Mary's question was "How can this be?", a simple question of fact since she had not been with a man; a request for a bit more information. Upon being told it was the will of God, she accepted saying "be it done unto me according to Thy will." It was a humble assertion of her faith. The angel then went to Joseph to assure him it was the right thing to do to take Mary into her home, immediately protecting Mary, if preemptively.

Zachariah's question was "How will I know this?" It was a desire for control, to know and understand. It was a direct questioning and doubting of what Gabriel had told him. The angle then struck Zachariah silent, and the only way he would regain the power of speech would be to follow the will of God and name the child John.

Both Mary and Zachariah questioned the angel, it was not the act of questioning that caused the problem. It was the motive behind the question. Mary was curious and confused. Zachariah was grasping for control. Both are, of course, reasonable reactions to an angel giving you seemingly impossible news. And Zachariah follows the angel's instructions and is given his speech back after naming his son John. But Mary was much more willing to accept what the angel had told her, without need for understanding.

As Father continued with his homily he challenged us to be like Mary, to say yes to God in humble faith, especially in the difficult times in our life; to not be like Zachariah and challenge God or grasp for control.

If I ever doubted that I need to get over myself and start praying the Litany of Humility, it is now very clear that is exactly what I need to do. I was totally prepared to be annoyed and put off by a new priest's homily, and instead this new priest not only reinforced my prayer and my desire to truly say Fiat!, he also showed me very clearly what will happen if I continue to grasp for control like Zachariah. I am grateful my thoughts were only in my head because I am thoroughly embarrassed by them (yet, I put them here...again, keeping it real).

While I may not be physically struck mute, I will be unable to bring glory to God through my suffering  of our infertility. I will forever be stuck in my questioning. If I want to lead others to Christ, following the example of His Mother (the verse "Do whatever He tells you" from the Wedding Feast at Cana immediately entered my mind, from the very beginning Mary was always leading others to her Son). While we are certainly permitted to question, it is the nature of our questions that are important. Do they come from a place of humble faith like Mary or a place of grasping like Zachariah?

Then, today at Mass, the readings first told us of Ahaz in the Old Testament and how even though his words seemed humble and noble on the surface, the truth of his lack of faith was shown in his actions. Then, today in the Gospel we focused on Mary's response. Her humble "yes" with her powerful words "Be it done unto me according to Thy word."

The same priest continued with his reflection on the differences between Mary's yes and Ahaz's pretense of faith. Once again challenging us to be humble in our faith, and also steadfast. To allow our faith to guide our actions and to have faith in the Lord. To not question like Zachariah in order to control or put on pretense like Ahaz, but to have a bold, yet humble faith and submit ourselves to God as His handmaiden, just as Mary did.

It is this humble faith I seek. This ability to no longer grasp for control, but rather to be molded and grow. This ability to be truly open to the Lord and to live this openness authentically. 

Again I say, and I will probably say it often because I'm much more like Zachariah and Ahaz than I am Mary, so I will need frequent reminders: Fiat! Be done unto me according to Thy word.

Our Lady of Peace, pray for us.

9 comments:

  1. You are amazing, and this is beautiful. No, don't argue with me. You are amazing. I know that God is doing this work in you, but your yes is allowing Him to shape you in beautiful ways, and then you're sharing it with us, and I, for one, am very grateful!

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  2. Litany of Humility---my "go to" prayer!!! Love this post and love you!!

    I heard a similar sentiment in Advent a few years back (about the nature of our questioning). I often remember it when I am inclined to doubt the path in front of me...

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  3. Cheers for God using good priests! I got a similar blessing. I'd previously heard homilies similar to the one you got this year, but this year the priest had an explanation that I'd not ever heard or thought of & it really resonated, which I think is rather the point. I am so thankful that God can reach us where we are now. Now if only we can all respond with faith the way that you do here!

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  4. I don't think there's a post of yours that I'm not awed by and learn something from. You have been blessed and will continue to bless us with your humble wisdom. Thank you!

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  5. I agree with Donna. Your faith and wisdom inspire me. Please know that this community is here to support you in both the good times and bad. I know that God is working on his wonderful plans for you. I look forward to what 2013 holds for you and the Man. Merry Christmas, friend.

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  6. Beautiful. the Litany of Humility is perfect. So much wisdom from daily mass!!!

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  7. Wow. I definitely see the Lord working in you! He knew just what you needed to hear to confirm what you had just told Him. You. Are. AMAZING!

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  8. Wow- Rebecca!!! You are being molded and surrendering. It's a beautiful thing to watch. Thank you for sharing your story. It's a reminder that surrender is continual. On my hardest days, I think of myself on a cross, arms outstretched crying to the Lord to use me however he sees fit. You are reminding me to say this prayer on my good days too. This is a beautifully written post.

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  9. This is such a beautiful perspective on those readings. I too only ever heard the echoing of the word barren being repeated over end over. What a great reminder to look at where our hearts are when we question. Oh Rebecca, God has mighty things in store, I can just taste it for you!

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