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Elizabeth Kirkland CahillDecember 20, 2017
(Ryan Franco / Unsplash)

Dec. 21: Third Thursday of Advent

Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry…. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:42-45).

There is irony in Elizabeth’s praise of Mary’s faithfulness. The older woman had experienced firsthand the ramifications of not trusting in God’s promises. At the moment when Mary arrives breathless to announce her pregnancy, Elizabeth’s husband, Zechariah, had been unable to utter a word for six months because (unlike Mary) he had challenged the angel’s message.

It is easy for us to empathize with this good man. After all, he and his barren wife had been praying for years for a child, to no avail. So when Gabriel appeared out of nowhere to announce to Zechariah in the temple that the aging Elizabeth would bear a son, we can understand his human desire for proof: “How shall I know this?” he says skeptically. Disappointment had diminished his capacity to trust in God’s promises.

Battered by life, we sometimes find it hard to trust, too. When things do not work out the way we want them to—illness gets the better of us, a job goes to someone else, a paper is rejected—we retreat into the self-protective stance of the realist or the skeptic. Zechariah’s response to Gabriel was to put up his dukes, scoffing disbelievingly at what must have been literally incredible news. Mary, in contrast, received the call of God with the open hands of trust. Today we continue to hold up as our model the full-hearted fiat of assent that Mary gave in response to the Lord. With the openness to possibility that is the province of the faithful, she placed herself willingly in God’s service. We, too, are called to give our hearts and lives to the Lord.

Prayer: Faithful and unshakable God, Help me today to relax my clenched fists so that I may receive your abundant love. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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