The Gospel according to Luke (1:26, 38)
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection: Everyone loves a good story, especially if something seemingly impossible happens. It is even better if it is a true story. One that came to mind is Kirk Gibson’s homerun in the 1988 World Series. Gibson had injuries to both legs and was not expected to play. In fact, this at bat was his only appearance in the series. Down by a run, two out, man on first, bottom of the ninth. The only thing that made it more dramatic is Vin Scully was calling the game. When Gibson awkwardly swung his bat and connected with the ball Dodger fans around the world held their collective breath until the ball cleared the fence. We watched in disbelief as the hero limped around the bases and everyone knew we had just witnessed a miracle.
Today’s gospel is a story of the impossible. In fact, there are several miracles that we are called to contemplate. First, is the reason for today’s feast, the immaculate conception of Mary. This is the church teaching that Mary was free of original sin at the time of her conception. This was a subject of great debate for much time but eventually became church dogma. I can understand this teaching because the child Jesus would be conceived and grow within the womb of the holy and immaculate person of Mary.
The second miracle is that Mary’s relative Elizabeth became pregnant in her old age. The symbolism here is astonishing, new life where no one believed it was possible. And her child, John would be the one to proclaim the coming and arrival of the Messiah, Jesus.
When we consider all of the greatest miracles, both in our own lives and in our human history why is it that doubt can consume our every day lives. Today we hear these words, “for nothing is impossible for God”. Yet after witnessing so many miracles we doubt. Do not despair! Consider that the miracles we seek are filled with our own desires and needs as opposed to the will of God. God sent his only begotten son so we could share in the greatest miracle of all, life. Yes, there is suffering, pain, and heartache but these are part of what comes with the joys, triumphs, and love that are part of this life. And when this part of our journey is over, then we will be witness to the greatest gift of all, eternal life without any more suffering. Can’t you just hear Vin Scully saying something when we go home like, “In a life that has been so improbable the impossible has happened, (fill in your name) has made it to heaven.” And the crowd goes wild!!
Action of the Day: Think back to a miracle you have been a part of or witnessed. How has this changed the trajectory of your life. As you consider this question think about how God can make the impossible happen in your life and pray that you can align yourself with what you need to do to allow God to make it possible.