Advent: ‘How Can This Be?’
TODAY’S ADVENT REFLECTION FOR THE 3rd MONDAY OF ADVENT, 2016
Today is especially joyful. We are celebrating the Third Week of Advent, which begins with Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. We celebrate that we are drawing closer and closer to the momentous celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is especially joyful today, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
In today’s Gospel, we recall the Annunciation: the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that God has found favor with her, and asks that she bear a son, Jesus. Her response is very human: “How can this be?!” She is a virgin. How can she possibly be pregnant, let alone with the Son of God, the Messiah?
In 1531, Mary appeared to a poor Aztec Indian, Juan Diego. Her message to him? That she wished for a church to be built on the hill where she appeared. Certainly, St. Juan Diego must have thought, “How can this be? How is it that my Mother appears to me? How can I, a poor man, build a church?”
When Juan Diego, ever obedient, went to the bishop and described what he had seen and what Mary asked, the bishop’s reaction was, “How can this be? How can the Mother of God appear to such a one as this?”
All three had legitimate questions. Mary was willing to accept what the angel told her – even though it was beyond human understanding. Over 1500 years later, Mary received the same question from Juan Diego. His obedience reflected hers however; Juan Diego believed his Heavenly Mother, despite the unbelievable task she set before him. And while we might scoff at the bishop for not believing Juan Diego, no bishop can lead his people astray by giving credence to what could possibly be the delusions or imaginings of a person, no matter how pious that person may seem to be. He truly needed his question answered.
In this season of Advent, we do well to reflect on the question, “How can this be?” How can it be that God – the Alpha and Omega, He Who was, Who is and is yet to come, the Creator of the Universe – can come to us in the beautiful but quite ordinary form of a baby? How can it be that this infant, as an adult, could give us His very body and blood as food for our spiritual journey? We can even ask ourselves, how can it be that God has brought me to this spot, this place of belief, this place of darkness and light, this Advent?
How can this be?
How can a young unwed Jewish girl bring forth from her womb the Son of God? How can a poor Aztec man, who owned little more than the tilma on his back, see the Blessed Mother and obediently do as she asks? How can a learned bishop be brought to his knees by the mysterious image of the Blessed Mother on this poor man’s tilma? How can this be? These things can only be with faith, hope and love.
It is faith that allowed Mary to assent to the unbelievable request of God. It is faith that spurred Juan Diego to relay the Blessed Mother’s request to the bishop. And it was faith that brought the bishop to his knees. Mary’s hope was that God – regardless of the circumstances – was going to lead her. The Lady that appeared to Juan Diego and called him “dear son” filled him with hope that he could indeed deliver this Heavenly message. And it was hope that moved the bishop to preserve the tilma, with its image of the Blessed Mother, and begin the task of building the church she asked for. It was love that allowed Mary to say, “Be it done unto me according to Your will,” for she knew that God loved her first. Love of his Mother gave Juan Diego courage to return to the bishop’s residence again and again with his task. And love it was that allowed the bishop, with the evidence of Juan Diego’s message in front of him, to embrace His Mother, the same Mother as Juan Diego’s, and to follow her request.
How can this be? That is the question of the season of Advent, a season of anticipation and wonder, of questioning and of delight. How can this be? It all can be, because God gives us faith, stirs up in us hope, and loves us beyond all measure.
[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]