Let Christ transform doubting hearts

Father Timothy Hepner

By Father Timothy Hepner

Fourth Sunday of Advent/Dec. 23

Micah 5:1-4a; Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45

Broken promises can train us to stop expecting great things — even if the promises were just implicit and our expectations unreasonable. Someone we love and depend on seems to owe us something and, usually because of weakness (rarely because of malice), they fall short or renege. Like the opposite of Pavlov’s dog, repeated exercises in failed promises can teach us to stop expecting. The necessary consequence is that we have to rely on ourselves to fulfill our needs and our desires.

This was the doubt sown in Eve’s heart when Satan told her that God isn’t really a loving Father, but rather a petty deity who wants to keep humans from becoming gods. So she reached out to provide for herself, and in doing, accomplished the very thing she was seeking to avoid. By grasping after the fruit, she took humanity off of the trajectory toward union with God and partaking in his divine nature. Adam, as we know, was complicit in this doubt. Together, as our first parents, they perpetuated this mistrust through all human generations.

What promises or expectations have been broken in our lives? Where have we stopped trusting in God’s goodness and started believing the lie of self-sufficiency?

But immediately after he enumerated the curses that Adam, Eve, and the serpent brought on themselves, God made a promise and indebted himself to humanity in a wondrous way. Genesis 3:15 is called the protoevangelium, or the “first Gospel,” and it is the first glimmer of the hope of salvation: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; they will strike at your head, while you strike at their heel.”

DAWNING OF HOPE

The full dawning of that hope came when the angel Gabriel visited Zechariah and promised something that, while miraculous, was far more believable than the promise later given to Mary. Mary fully trusted that God could create a child in her virgin womb who would take the throne of David and bring to full light that promise he made in Genesis. But Zechariah, as righteous as he was, still had a heart infected by doubt in God’s goodness, and he was struck mute for not believing that God could give him and his barren wife a child.

So Elizabeth knew how monumental it was to stand in front of the woman who finally, fully believed. Mary isn’t just a pretty face on a Christmas card. She is the New Eve Immaculate who cooperates perfectly with God’s plan and unties the knot her mother created.

Mary’s most wondrous act was that she actually believed that God would do what he said he would do. As Elizabeth exclaims, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

NOT TOO SMALL, SINFUL

What promises or expectations have been broken in our lives? Where have we stopped trusting in God’s goodness and started believing the lie of self-sufficiency?

Christmas time is when families gather and we’re reminded of brokenness that just doesn’t seem to go away, or losses that still sting. Our imperfect human family still holds fast to the false teaching that Eve received from the fallen angel, “God will not provide for you. You have to reach out and fulfill your own desires.”

The grace flowing through Mary’s immaculate heart can wipe away those beliefs if we’ll allow them. She had every reason not to believe, given the apparent long delay in the fulfillment of God’s promise. We have every reason to believe, given what Jesus has done for us, and keeps doing for us.

“You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel.” God has promised you peace, holiness, purity, and healing. He has promised you salvation and security, and even an essential role in the salvation of others. He has promised that you will share in his nature, and he has proven that promise through Jesus’ death and resurrection.

You are not too small, too sinful, or too insignificant. You are a child of God the Father. Let’s let Christ transform our doubting hearts and the New Eve show us what it means to expect and receive from God.

FATHER TIMOTHY Hepner is vocation director of recruitment for the Diocese of Peoria. To learn more about vocations, go to comeandfollowme.org or follow the Office of Priestly Formation at facebook.com/followmepeoria.

 

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