Blessed is she who believed                                                                                                                                 Luke 1:45

Both Zechariah and Mary received  astounding news of extraordinary conceptions, which went against the rules of nature. There was a difference in their response to the news: Zechariah doubted and was punished; Mary believed and was blessed.

Many of us would say do not be like Zechariah. The truth is that most of us behave like Zechariah. At times we doubt the promises of God and some never reach the faith that Zechariah came to. We do not condemn Zechariah; we sympathise with him in his moment of doubt. Eventually he came to faith; it was a slower process than Mary.

Mary’s gracious acceptance of the news is a little baffling but she comes to us as a Model of Faith.  Faith has to do with hearing the word of God and trusting the promised word. Throughout the Gospel story Mary is the woman of faith. At the wedding in Cana, she advised the servants, “Do what-ever he tells you.” Like Abraham she accepted God’s call and took God at his word. Mary is the epitome of faith. Faith is accepting what God gives. We admire Mary’s courage for accepting the announcement that she was to be the mother of the Son of God. It was difficult for her; she was just about fourteen years. It was a test of faith. She accepted. “How can this be?” “Behold, I am the hand maid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” What faith. Mary’s question, ‘How shall this be, since I have no husband” is not an expression of doubt. It is part of her faith.

 She believed Gabriel’s message but just did not understand how it would happen. Being a virgin in both senses of the word, she inquires from Gabriel how her pregnancy would be accomplished. "She sought the manner; she did not doubt God's omnipotence", St Augustine remarks (Sermon 291).                                                                                             

 Mary is the model of faith for all believers. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary we accept God’s plan for us, we do not fight against it. Too often we fight against God’s plan and we complain. Our complaining is an attempt to control God, to get God to do what we want. In every situation of life we can respond with the faith of Mary: “Be it unto me according to your will.”

 Faith tells us that God keeps his promises. He promised Zechariah a son and John the Baptist was born. Mary was promised a special son and the Son of God was borne by her.  We can have faith and trust God to keep his promises in our lives. People of faith we do not seek verification of God’s promises. To so would be to doubt and question God’s truthfulness. Christian faith galvanizes the believer against doubt which erodes confidence and the resulting consequence is self defeat. The writer of Hebrews says: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Mary’s faith makes her the new Eve. The first Eve disobeyed God, enticed Adam and brought death to the human race. Mary, the new Eve, obeyed God and brought life to the human race. She is ‘blessed’ forever.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary we have three choices whenever God speaks to us:

1 to allow God to be in control or try to control him

2 to believe God's word or call God a liar

3  to accept what God has done or to complain about it

Without faith life becomes a difficult experience. Without faith we lose our way and are tossed to and fro by the waters of life. We cannot understand or explain the complexities of life with our reference to faith. It is faith that allows us to cope with the impossibilities of life and make them possibilities. It is faith that gives us the courage to move forward when the logical step would be to stay put. Faith tells us that everything will be all right. Faith says that everything will work out for good in our lives.

Faith is acceptance. As people of faith we believe that God has every thing under his control. Nothing happens in my life or your life without the knowledge of God. If we accept this as true, we should see everything that happens in our lives as an experience for a greater good. The greater good might not be discerned at the present moment, but we do not doubt its future reality.

For the believer life is a journey of faith.

Obedience means submission to the will of God in our lives and doing as he tells us to do. There is no substitute for obedience to God’s will. To obey is better than to sacrifice. Believers who share Mary’s obedience obey God by seeking his will and pleasing him in all that they do. Mary is the supreme model of obedience. Within the context of today’s reflection faith means obedience.

Faith is the antidote for fear and anxiety. Without faith we worry and life becomes a doubting experience. Undue worries and fears are always signs of a weak faith.  As human being we will have concerns, but undue fear is a weakness. St. Paul was a man of faith. He never doubted the power of God and throughout his ministry he demonstrated and lived a faith that gave no place to anxiety and fear. He writes to the Philippians: “Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God. which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Faith is peace. Faith is medicine for the tormented soul that yearns for solace and quietness.

Mary invites us to grow in faith and become closer to God by saying YES to God. “Behold, I am the hand maid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

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