(Read Part 1 of the Angelus series here.)
Coming out of the lessons learned the past 2 months (if you have time, read Faith and Hope Parts 1 and 2; trust me, you won’t regret it), I faced the beginning of 2013 with a quiet reverence for what God had in store for me. Before evening mass one day, I was reflecting on how I was shown the path to trust and surrender when we were called to rise for the Angelus. As I prayed each word, said each response, I was surprised to realize how the prayer echoed–affirmed–the Truth behind my experience. Yes, it is a prayer reminding us of the Mystery of the Incarnation, but I believe that to the listening heart, it can bring to light the personal mysteries our God uses to speak to us, to reveal Himself to us.
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary; and she conceived by the Holy Spirit. Scripture shows us repeatedly the power in God’s Word. From the moment of Creation, what God says, is. And so it was–light, water, earth, man. The centurion understood the immensity of this power when he confessed, “I am not worthy…only say the word, and my servant shall be healed” (Matthew 8:8). Rather than take this defiantly (don’t I ever get a say in this?), the invitation is to find confidence in the Word spoken by a good and loving God, that what He says is ultimately for, not against, those who fear Him and long for Him (Psalm 103).
And with a Word this powerful, the call is simple–let God speak first—before we rush into and act on the various situations life throws at us: that irresistible career opportunity, that long-awaited marriage proposal, even that suggestion of religious life (Could it be? It must be!). Why let our circumstances dictate which path to take when we’ve been given ears to hear and eyes to see the path God points our desires to? Let God speak before we act, but also before we speak: listening first shows that we give precedence to God’s plans and desires over our own. Quiet, still your heart, and listen. Let. God. Speak.
Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to Your Word. The Word that God speaks will not always be easy. In fact, we are told many times that we can expect this road to be difficult.
You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I am going to drink? (Matthew 20:22)
If the world hates you, you must realize that it hated Me before it hated you. (John 15:18)
You will be seized and persecuted; you will be handed over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and brought before kings and governors for the sake of My name…You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated universally on account of My name. (Luke 21:12, 16-17)
Anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be persecuted. (2 Timothy 3:12)
Yeah, I know…some come on, right?
Lest we forget, Mary’s response reminds us who it is that invites us into this Life, as well as who we are before Him. Behold the handmaid of the Lord–I am God’s servant, His subject, His follower. Sure, we are allowed to ask our questions (even Mary had one), but in the end, we are called to surrender–not so much because we are the servants that we are, but because He is the Mighty God that He is.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. In this world, in this journey of faith, it is so easy to forget that it is not about us–not about the word we speak, not about our will for ourselves. We need to always go back to what is most important, what is true, what is eternal. So that in the midst of confusion, persecution and despair, we may remember who Christ is and what He did–God’s Word not just spoken, but made flesh, to dwell among us–giving hope, giving life, giving love.
I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by name.
God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have a mission–I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next…I have a part in a great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.
Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me–He still knows what He is about.
I ask not to see–ask not to know–I ask simply to be used. (Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman)