Lent had hardly got going before it was interrupted – or should it be enhanced? – by three major saints’ days – Patrick (though this year his day was a Sunday), Joseph and Benedict. It happens again this week when Monday is the 25th of March, the day on which we keep the feast of the Annunciation. Nine months before Christmas we commemorate the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she is to be the mother of God’s Son, a subject beloved of artists and in popular devotion.
Mary’s immediate response to God’s call is to doubt it can be so – for obvious reasons in her case – but this is a common reaction to God’s choice of people to carry out a special task for him. We see it in Moses, in many of the prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos. Jonah too, as soon as he receives his mission from God to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh, sets off in the opposite direction. God has chosen wrongly! Every time, if only they can overcome their natural doubts and misgivings about themselves and entrust themselves to God’s will, it tends out to work out well. Should that be so surprising?
It is right of course to be realistic about one’s limitations, but it can be just as true that if we fixate on those we can block the path to God’s working within us. If we can let go of our doubts, misgivings and hesitations, who knows what God can accomplish in us?
I recall a tennis commentator saying of Andy Murray, when he was doing particularly well in a match, “Let’s hope he doesn’t start thinking”! If he had started thinking about what he was doing, how he was close to winning the match and possibly the whole tournament, it would have got in the way of his natural game. If he let go of his thoughts and trusted himself to his play it would work. In a similar way it is our thoughts that can get in the way of the natural flow of God’s spirit at the heart of our being, because they can so easily perpetuate the illusion – and it is an illusion – that we are separate from God, on our own and reliant on our own resources and devices. That is never so.
An American writer Martin Laird is especially good on this theme of the illusoriness of our separation from God. If you want a short but richly rewarding book to read in Lent I can much recommend his Into the Silent Land.
|Wishing you every blessing,||Fr. Robin.|