Doing the Will of God (Part 3)
Tuesday December 20, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Fourth Week of Advent
Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14) Gospel (St. Luke 1:26-38)
In the first reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord sends the prophet to this wayward king who was doing all kinds of evil things. In order to demonstrate to the king that God not only was with him but that God is the only God, he says something very unusual to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God. People run around asking for signs from God all the time. It is not a real good practice because, first of all, signs can easily be misunderstood and misinterpreted, and secondly, the devil can provide them as well. It is a little bit of a tricky practice to get involved with in the first place, but it is rather astounding to think that God Himself is going to say to this man: Ask for a sign.
You can see the depth of his unbelief that he would need something that would be the most extraordinary kind of sign. And so in the sign that God gives–because suddenly this king who is so impious becomes “Mr. Pious” when it comes to having to ask for a sign, God simply outdoes everything and He gives a sign that would be impossible for anybody to misunderstand. It would be utterly impossible on the natural level for something so extraordinary to occur; yet, at the same time, it would not necessarily be so simple to be able to figure out because it is not an external sign. A virgin will be with child. How do you know? When you look at a woman with child, how many of them have you ever seen that you would assume would be a virgin if she is with child? It is not an easy sign to be able to pick out. But, at the same time, if one knows that the woman is a virgin, it would be so obvious that you cannot miss it. As God normally does, He does not make it easy and it requires a huge amount of faith. Not only would it require great faith on the part of those who would accept that this is the truth, but, above all, it would require a huge amount of faith on the woman who would receive and be the sign that God was going to provide for the world.
That is precisely what we see in the Gospel reading: the angel coming to Our Lady and telling her what is to happen, and Our Lady’s act of faith: I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to thy word. How grateful we have to be to her who was willing to do God’s Will especially in something that would be so impossible on the natural level. Again, just put yourself in her spot. If somebody came to you and said, “This is going to happen in your life. Naturally speaking, it’s utterly impossible, but it’s going to happen anyway because God is going to do it for you.” How many of us would say, “Okay, that sounds like a great idea”? We would say, “Yeah, right. Sure it is. There’s no way that can happen.” That is what Zechariah said in yesterday’s Gospel: “There’s no way this can happen; I’m an old man and my wife is elderly. We can’t have a baby! No way!” Is not that the way most of us would be? Yet we see the faith and we see the humility and we see the love of our Blessed Lady that she is willing to accept even when it seems utterly preposterous. She is willing to accept even when she does not understand. She is willing to accept simply because God said it will be. That is precisely the faith we need to have, and it is the lesson we need to learn from her.
Everything that is written in Scripture is truth and it is the Word of God. And every single piece will be fulfilled completely and perfectly, even if it seems impossible to us. We simply need to believe because nothing is impossible for God, as the angel said to Our Lady. All of the promises of Christ will be fulfilled completely. All of the prophecies of the Old Testament will be fulfilled completely. There is nothing in Scripture that is frivolous. There is nothing there that is written for any reason other than the fact that there was something God wanted to say. There is no fluff. There is no filler. It is all there for a reason, and it is all the Word of God that He wants us to know. Therefore, we need to know the Scriptures well. We need to read them. We need to pray them because that is what Our Lady did. She knew the Scriptures. She knew that a virgin was to be with child and bear a son, and she knew the son that would be born was going to suffer immensely. But she also knew why he was going to suffer. It is out of love for God and out of love for the people that she was willing to say “yes.”
So if we want to be able to do God’s Will, it is not about asking for extraordinary signs; it is about knowing His Word, it is about knowing Him, and it is about seeking to do His Will, to have the humility, the faith, and the charity, not to tell God what it is that He is supposed to do–but to accept His Will when it is made known to us–and to be like our Blessed Lady and say, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according Thy word.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.