Fr. Paul MacNeil
December 18 - Five Good Reasons to Trust
I'd like to begin my homily by reminding us of the level of trust that Joseph and Mary must have had. They must have trusted God very deeply, that the message of the angel was true. They also would have trusted each other, and they would do whatever they had to do as a couple to bring their child into the world as God had commanded them. And they trusted themselves, that they weren't crazy and they had the strength to respond to the call. Luke's words: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord for the Almighty has done great things for me. And Holy is his name." And the result of that trust was a complete and total surrender to God. My guess is that as they watched her son Jesus grow up, they lived in complete freedom that surrendering makes possible.
But the kind of trust here is not just "can you watch my things for a few minutes." I like to call the kind of trust Mary and Joseph had a deeper, existential trust. Here is an illustration of how beautiful trust can be.
When I was a little boy, I had a serious attack of appendicitis, which called for emergency surgery. I was in grade 3, so probably about 8 at the time, I forget. I remember as this horrible prospect unfolded, I was calm at first, but I had resolved that once I hit that operating table, I was going to scream blue murder. My deep fear was not so much the surgery, it was of having to leave my parents during such a frightening moment. Here’s s quotation from Marianne Williamson that answers this fear. I sometimes use this quotation at funerals: "I used to think that the angel of death would be a terrible thing. But I realize now that the angel of death would have to be God's most tender and understanding angel to be sent to us at such a significant, frightening moment."
So this is what ended up happening. My mother, who was at the time an RN and an operating room nurse, took a moment with me and described everything that was going to happen in as much detail as she could. And as the evening unfolded, things happened exactly as she said they would. Gradually I felt reassured, but it was more than reassurance. It was a deep sense of trust that everything was going to be ok. I remember the surgeon kept repeating over and over in an Eastern European accent, “you brave boy, you such brave boy.” I remember thinking to myself "you'd better not say anything more, I'm starting to get nervous here!" My "bravery" was directly connected to a deep, existential feeling of trust that I had in my mother, and perhaps, through that most tender revelation, God Himself.
It’s a feeling of trust that I want to share with you as your pastor. It's the feeling of trust that Mary had when she said yes to God. It’s the feeling of trust that you can have in Mary as well, know that as your mother she will not abandon you, but will direct all your cares and concerns to Jesus. So, here are 5 good reasons to trust:
Invites creativity, innovation, and risk-taking. Innovation, like the word suggests, is about bringing something new into being, and like anything new, including an unborn child, we’ve never seen it before. Will we welcome all that we bring to life?
Deepens friendship. Without trust, true, deep friendship can't survive. When a woman says yes to a proposal, she is saying yes to all that the deepest kind of friendship has to offer. When her finance proposes to her, he is offering her everything he has, trusting that she also will say yes.
Allows forgiveness and reconciliation. The risk it takes to come forward and encounter a person that has hurt you requires that existential kind of trust that Mary and Joseph must have felt as they realized the truth of what was happening.
Helps us get through difficult situations - like the situation with the surgery when I was younger.
Allows us to surrender to God's will. I think trust is a prerequisite and a precursor to surrender. You can't surrender to God until you learn to trust him.
In our darkness and fear, think about how much God loves each and every one of you. Receive that love and turn it into trust. Feel that trust and turn it into surrender. Surrender to God and your trust will be fulfilled. I close with a familiar prayer from Thomas Merton, who no doubt felt that need for existential trust as he made the decision to abandon the world and surrender to God through his vocation as a Trappist monk:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.