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12.24.17: Waiting is the hardest part

Bulletin column for St. Mary Catholic Church in Crown Point, Ind.

Remember the Sears WishBook? Long before we could order whatever we wanted on an iPhone, mail carriers would deliver the 500-page catalog to every home in the neighborhood, just before heading to the chiropractor’s office. The catalog would usually arrive sometime just after Halloween, and I remember thumbing through it for weeks, finding exactly what I wanted and then asking Santa. A rather persnickety child, I’d often point out the exact page the item could be found for the man in red.

Then, I’d wait.

At first, it was an annoyance. Will Santa bring it? Why can’t he just bring it now?

Then, the bargaining stage kicked in. He can take care of all of those other kids on Christmas day. I’ll save him the hassle. He can deliver it, put it under the tree and I’ll wait until Christmas Day to open it – yeah, right.

But at a point, the waiting became irrelevant as my young mind turned its focus on making cookies with grandma, hanging the Christmas lights outside with my dad and trimming the tree with my mom. Suddenly, the Walt Disney World playset on page 384 of the 1988 Sears WishBook no longer mattered.

We can sometimes overwhelm ourselves with earthly concerns we have no control over. This concentrating on the reality that never may be can lead us to the dark corners of our minds, and shade our hearts with doubt and despair.

I take some solace in Luke’s account of the Annunciation today. Here’s an angel telling a virgin she’s with child. Say what? I mean, with that news, Mary could have gone to some of those dark corners of her mind. She could have been filled with doubt, denial and disbelief, but instead, she trusted. She trusted that whatever was going on was part of God’s plan.

Some theologians hold Mary up because of the strength of her ‘yes,’ in today’s Gospel. They maintain that she stood there with a phantasm and confidently, almost defiantly agreed to the will of God.

I hold Mary up because of the strength it took for her to say, ‘yes.’ We sometimes fail to remember that Mary was a teenage mother. We sometimes fail to remember that her destiny was made known to her by the message of an angel. Would we believe this Mary today? Would we believe her story? Would we stand by her side?

The Incarnation, God coming to earth at Christmas, is somewhat dependent on Mary’s response to the angel. Mary was able to say ‘yes’ to God’s plan because she focused on what really mattered. She wasn’t focused on the potential judgment of the people of Nazareth. She wasn’t even focused on the potential response of Joseph, her betrothed. Her focus was on the will of God for her life.

Where is God calling you today? Where has God been tugging on your heart? If you haven’t found the courage to explore those movements, spend some time with today’s Gospel. Spend some time with Mary. Ask her what it took to say ‘yes.’ Then, thank her.

Be joyful,

Deacon Jeff

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