In the Bible there are many characters who were called ‘blessed’ because of their faith. Abraham was told that he would have a child when he was almost 100 years old and his wife Sarah was in her 90s. Scientifically it couldn’t have happened, but he believed and it did happen and God blessed him on account of his faith.
Zachariah was told his wife Elizabeth would have a baby, John the Baptist, even though she had been barren all her life and was now an old woman. When the angel Gabriel told Zachariah this, he found it hard to believe and he said so to the angel. ‘How can I know that this will happen?’ The angel Gabriel wasn’t too impressed and said, ‘I am Gabriel who stand before God. Since you have not believed me, here is a sign for you. You will be struck dumb until the time comes for this to happen.’ And he was struck dumb until after the baby was born. So even though he doubted, it still happened. So, if the angel Gabriel tells you something is going to happen, don’t doubt it or you may be struck dumb!
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would have a child, but not by human means. She believed, even though she didn’t understand and it happened. The angel also reminded her that ‘nothing is impossible to God.’
All of these people and many others too, were told to believe, even though it didn’t make any sense to them. They believed even though they didn't understand. When Mary visited Elizabeth, Elizabeth said to her, ‘Blessed is she who believed that the promises made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’ I wonder would many of these things have happened if the people involved had refused to believe until they were sure, until they were able to know these things were true; until they were proven?
God asks us to believe what He reveals to us, because it is from him and God only speaks truth. God asks us to believe that the bread and wine really and truly become the body and blood of Jesus at the consecration of each mass and they do. They do because it was Jesus who said it and throughout the centuries Jesus continues to give us Eucharistic miracles to help us to believe; over one hundred to date.
God asks us to believe that our sins are forgiven in confession, when the priest says the words, ‘I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ He asks us to believe this because He is the one who tells us that this is what happens through his priests. We don’t understand these things, but we believe them and that is what faith is. I don’t understand, but I believe, because a it is God who has revealed these things to us and He asks us to believe them on his authority.
At times like these, when there is so much upheaval in our Church and in our world, it can be difficult to believe. God seems to have abandoned us, or we find ourselves asking, why are all these things happening? However, the Lord is with us and always will be. Earthly structures will change and even collapse, because they are only earthly structures. That is really what we are seeing: earthly and human structures changing. Even the earthly side of God’s Church will change and may even seem to collapse, but the Lord remains with us as always. ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it’ (Jn 1:5).
The mercy of God allows his Church to be purified and his world to be purified and this is part of what we see happening. Throughout history the same thing happened again and again, when people turned away from God. And sometimes it took the collapse of everything to make people turn back to God. The Scriptures show this same cycle again and again. When the people of Israel turned away from God, their society began to collapse and sooner or later their enemies overcame them. Eventually they began to see that they had brought about their own ruin and they repented. For some reason we never seem to learn from history and we do the same thing over and over.
The more chaotic our world is, the more important it is to focus on Jesus. Instead of being filled with the news—so much of which is untrue—we need to be filled with what God says. Read the Scriptures every day. Worldly news will not bring you peace, wisdom and guidance. The word of God will. Read at least one chapter of the Bible, especially the New Testament, every day. It takes about five minutes.
I think a good thing to focus on now right now is the mystery of Christmas in its simplicity. God visits his people in the form of a totally helpless newborn baby. Angels appear in the sky to announce this strange event, but they don’t announce it to the great people of the time, they announce it to the poorest of the poor who are looking after the animals in the fields. The king goes mad out of jealousy and fear and tries to have the baby killed. All these things may seem almost like a fairy-tale, from a human point of view, but they are real. They really happened. If it was just a story, it would never have changed the course of history. Christmas has become a semi-pagan feast. So many people celebrate having no sense of what it is about. It is just a feast where we exchange presents and are supposed to be kind to one another. We know it is about God coming among us, to rescue us and that is the thing to focus on. God comes to us in the chaos of our world.
The people of Israel represent the people of God everywhere. The name itself means, ‘Wrestles with God.’ It comes from a strange encounter Jacob (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) had with an angel who came to him and wrestled with him all night. By dawn the angel was not able to get the better of him and the angel said to him, ‘From now on your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you wrestled with God and have overcome.’ (Gen 22:24-28). That tells us something. Part of what faith entails is that we will struggle, wrestle, with God. We often won’t understand and we will at times get angry, but this is part of the journey of faith.
In this mass, in a few minutes, God will become present to us in a tiny piece of bread we call the Eucharist, or Holy Communion. How can this be? Many people consider such an idea ridiculous, even some Catholics. But we believe it because it is the Lord who has told us these things. There is so much that we don’t understand, but God has never asked us to understand, only to believe them, because He has made them known to us. The Lord has promised us that He will always be with us to guide us, and He has also promised us that the darkness cannot overcome the light. If we believe that, then there is nothing for us to be afraid of. What we need to be attentive to, is that we are focusing on the right thing; not the chaos of the world, but on Jesus.
‘Blessed is she who believed the promises made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
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