How Can This Be??November 30th, 2012
As Advent approaches, we’ll hear the story of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary, and her incredible “yes” to her role in our Salvation. But there’s another phrase Mary utters in that same exchange that has really struck me lately. When told she will conceive and bear a son, Mary asks “How can this be?” That phrase has really stuck in my head. When I step back and look at my wife and children I’m amazed at how blessed I am. I know I’m not worthy of such blessings and I have to ask, “How can this be?” When I think about what a privilege it is to spend my life working with young people in a wonderful parish like Ascension, I’m almost embarrassed by the riches of this life God has given me. “How can this be?” Then my mind flashes to endless wars and children starving while we have enough food to feed everyone in the world many times over and I wonder, “How can this be?” In the last month here in Dayton we’ve grieved over young people lost to senseless violence or freak car accidents and we all ask, in pain, “How can this be?”
But I don’t think my little life and my limited experience are unique. What a world we live in! Folks on the East Coast are still without electricity or heat after Hurricane Sandy. But God uses the same natural forces that cause floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, wild fires, earthquakes and hailstorms to create places of wonder like the Grand Canyon, the Pacific Ocean, the Badlands and the Appalachian Mountains. “How can this be?”
People are capable of such evil—genocide, rape, abuse and murder. You’ll probably see some horrible story on the TV news tonight. But we all know real stories about real people of great courage and love risking their lives for others or smiling through pain or accomplishing something no one ever thought possible. “How can this be?”
Marriages crumble and hearts are broken. But we all know what it’s like to practically float around as a relationship blooms, and we all know old folks whose eyes still twinkle with that same glow when they gaze at each other, and we ask, “How can this be?”.
Mary herself had to be asking “How can this be?” as she held Jesus in her arms the night he was born and again 33 years later as she wept over his lifeless body at the foot of the cross.
How it can be that all this beauty, wonder, goodness and love can exist side by side with destruction and evil and sin and hate? I don’t really know, but I think there’s something in Mary’s next words to Gabriel. He answers her question by telling her how God will accomplish his work through her and she replies, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” Maybe the key to understanding this world is uniting our will with God’s and letting his will be done through us. Maybe when we do that we will see more clearly, and the world will become more than it is; maybe it will become how it can be.
Photo credit: Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunication, Public Domain