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Perfect Submission to God’s Will

By Deacon John Rangel, CMCS Co-founder & Director of Mission
4th Sunday of Advent, Lk 1:26-38


God is good. God is Faithful. God fulfills his promises. God is love.
And it is out of His divine love that God promised to care for mankind ever since Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience in the garden.
To Abraham who was faithful to God, He promised land and heirs as numerous as the stars. Today we count some 7 billion people on plant earth. God’s promise of land was fulfilled through King David some 1000 years later when he unified Israel and began a 100-year reign of peace and prosperity. To David a man after God’s heart, He promised an heir whose “kingdom shall endure forever”. And so some 1000 years after King David, God sent his messenger, Gabriel, to announce to a young peasant girl in Nazareth, a little Galilean town of no earthly consequence, that through her cooperation God’s plan of salvation and His promise to David would be fulfilled.



Mary was given a choice. Would she choose her will or God’s will?


The world waited in eager anticipation for her answer. She could have refused to allow God’s plan to work through her thus rejecting His plan. She could have agreed grudgingly to the plan, like Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father did when the Angel Gabriel spoke to him in the Temple. Or she could give her full consent. The choices were clear, her will or God’s will!


We Christians talk a lot about God’s will. We seek to know God’s will, we try to do God’s will, and many of our prayers conclude with, “Thy will be done.”


(Obviously, for those who believe the concept of “God” is an outdated, pre-scientific superstition that weak-minded people refuse to discard, the notion of submitting to God’s will is the height of folly. If God does not exist, then trying to do His will makes about as much sense as trying to have a conversation with a doorknob. But today I’m sharing the Good News with Christians those who truly believe that God is real.)


Intellectually, Christians accept the idea that our own personal will is flawed. Our desires and motivations do not always coincide with God’s will for our lives. We understand that since we were born sinful, if we let our urges and impulses run wild, it will inevitably lead to heartache and misery—and in extreme cases, I might even be tempted to join the A.C.L.U.!  From a detached, impersonal perspective, I believe all Christians would agree that, generally speaking, God’s will for our lives is much better than our own will for our lives.


But when we shift from the theoretical to the personal, when we stop talking about God’s will vs. Mankind’s will in the broad, generic sense, it gets much more difficult. When we honestly confront the question, “What is God’s will for ME—right here, right now?” we find that major conflicts arise.


The reason is simple: God’s will is almost always much tougher to do than our will. It requires more effort, more discipline, and it yields much less instant gratification. Most unpleasant of all, doing God’s will requires us to surrender our position as the center of the universe (at least in our own minds). We have to put God at the center of the universe and direct our attention toward Him, rather than sit on our little imaginary thrones and expect others to direct their attention toward us.


This is why so many of us otherwise sincere Christians go to such lengths to rationalize, justify, and convince ourselves that we are really doing God’s will, even though to the most casual observer it is glaringly obvious that we are not. This is the type of justification expounded by many prominent Catholic politicians on the issue of abortion. “Personally I’m against it, they cry, but I cannot impose my views on others”.


In this week’s gospel reading, we see what is arguably the most courageous, selfless act of submitting to God’s will in the whole Bible—except, of course, for Jesus’ submitting to the Father’s will and offering up His life to pay the price for our sin.


This week we hear the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of the incarnate Son of God. Gabe said a lot of nice things to Mary. He told her that she was full of grace, that the Lord was with her, and that she had found favor with God. This was certainly better than having him say something like, “Wow, are you in trouble!” or “I’ve never seen God so upset,” or “Do you have any last words before the Lord zaps you with a lightning bolt?” (which is what I’d probably hear if an angel ever appeared to me).


The angel also told Mary that her offspring would be a holy and powerful leader who would rule over all Israel. Not bad. But there was one slight problem. Mary was a virgin and not yet married. She asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”


Naturally Mary was somewhat confused about the “how” of it. How could she become pregnant if she was a virgin? I suspect she was well aware that God could do miracles. After all, she was in the middle of a conversation with an angel! Under the circumstances, a miraculous pregnancy was not that much of a stretch.


She was probably much more confused about the “why” of it. Why her? And of a more immediate concern, what was going to happen to her when the rest of the community found out that an unmarried girl was pregnant? Her family would be scandalized, her fiancé Joseph would never believe her explanation, and the villagers would be more than happy to gather up stones and mete out a little bone-crushing justice.


No doubt about it, Mary was in a bind. But she never once hesitated or requested that God find someone else for the job. She immediately said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” What amazing courage! What perfect submission! Mary was focused totally on doing God’s will rather than her own will.


My friends, like Mary, God calls upon us to bring His Divine Presence within us to others. Like Mary he bids us to say “Thy will be done”. We do this by standing up for our faith. We do this by searching out those who need His Strength. So many people hurt at Christmas time. People who have lost loved ones need special attention. People who are wandering the world listlessly, from thing to thing, need special care. People who are sick and elderly and wondering if this will be their last Christmas, need the assurance that God’s love will usher them an eternal Christmas. Submitting to God’s will is difficult, but in the grand scheme of things, it is by far the best course of action.


Although we may not feel like it at this moment, the Eucharistic celebration is exactly the right time to say Yes to God. It’s the right time for us to listen, to question, and to obey in faith. We are called to be like Mary—open to God’s gracious will. She gave her “fiat,” her “may it be done to me.” At this Eucharist, we say our “amen” to the Lord who become human and offered His life for our salvation. To Him be glory and praise for ever and ever.




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