How Can This Be
Gospel Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent
If you had one clarifying question for God about your life, what would it be?
Mary asked, “how can it be?” How can this be… when the math doesn’t add up? How can this be… when the world says it’s impossible? How can it be… when this wasn’t what I planned for my life?
in what manner or way… by what means or process
To what degree or extent, number or amount; in what proportion, by what measure or quality
For what reason, from what cause
In what state, condition, or plight
By what name, designation, or title.
At what price; how dear
On this lovely Sunday afternoon, I jumped into a Zoom room with new friends from around the world. We met through Instagram as we prayed live with and for one another throughout this wild year of 2020. Across the globe, we have faced isolation in quarantine, and yet I feel more connected to the universal church than ever before. Social media can be a distraction from the good, but it can also be used for good. Thanks to social media, I have spent countless hours praying with and for people, I have yet to meet in person.
Mary’s question, “how can this be…?”, led me to think of the annunciation we’ve all experienced through this global pandemic:
On St. Patrick’s Day 2020, I heard that our city would be called into quarantine and that a lockdown was approaching. As a very social, outgoing single young adult, I was greatly troubled at this announcement. I wanted to run and grasp for a safety net such as moving in with my sister and brother-in-law for the duration of lockdown. However, one of my dearest friends told me to respond to God’s invitation to stay home and lean into Our Lord wholeheartedly.
How can this be?
I came across an ad on Facebook to watch The Chosen and ignored it day after day after day. I became very ill without a voice and without any energy whatsoever. Thus, I gave in as I turned on the 1st episode. To make a long story short, that show changed my life in many ways and directed me to pray on social media with the actor who played Jesus. That experience led me to join him on a team of rosary leaders on Catholify which emboldened me to lead prayer publicly on my own page. These prayer adventures led me to Deacon Ryan's daily rosary hour, which has been such a refuge for me as this year hasn't ceased to bring emotional and relational challenges.
As I write this, I'm in my 4th straight week of quarantine after being exposed back-to-back. This prayer community has kept me company in such a special way through one-on-one conversations, communal prayer, and precious fellowship that has brought peace to our minds, smiles to our faces, tears to our eyes, and laughter to our bellies.
How can this be?
In Fr. Mike Schmitz's homily this week, he reminded me of how Mary was not so much troubled in the presence of the angel as she was at what the angel had said. When people in Scripture were greeted with, “the Lord is with you,” it meant that they were about to embark on a journey that would crush them if the Lord was not with them. This journey would include silence, hardship, and a different kind of faith. Boy does this sound similar to our journey through quarantine.
I am waiting in a silent prayer. I am frightened by the load I bear. In a world as cold as stone, Must I walk this path alone? Be with me now. Be with me now. - "Breath of Heaven"
As we may be frightened by the load we bear this year, we also learn a lot as we sit in silent prayer. Some homes have been filled with chaos as each member of the family has been together in close quarters. My home has been filled with silence as it’s just my beloved cat Magdalene and me. Solitude can truly be a gift that allows us to see what’s truly going on in our hearts and to recognize that there is indeed Someone with us whom we can’t physically see. Right after Mary’s encounter with Gabriel, she conceived Jesus within her womb even though she couldn’t see Him. She truly teaches us how to be living Tabernacles for the King of Kings!
Breath of heaven, Hold me together, Be forever near me, Breath of heaven. Breath of heaven, Lighten my darkness, Pour over me your holiness, For you are holy. Breath of heaven. - "Breath of Heaven"
There is no one whose plans for 2020 included a global pandemic and months of quarantine. Mary’s plans never included having a baby (since she consecrated herself as a virgin) and definitely didn’t include becoming the spouse of the Holy Spirit and conceiving a child without a man involved.
As Mary interpreted the angel’s greeting, she learned that her mission would include darkness, confusion, trial, and pain. At the same time, she likely felt chosen, encouraged, and accompanied as she was struck with wonder and awe with the mysterious, creative plan of God.
She asked one question, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?”
She knows how babies are made.
She knows how humans were created to join together to co-create with God.
She wasn’t doubting.
She was praising.
She was astonished.
She was surrendered.
The angel’s answer?
“The Lord will overshadow you!”
What does “overshadow” mean and when does it appear in Scripture?
To overshadow (or Episkiazo) means to exceed in importance or to envelop in a haze of brilliancy. It’s the same expression that was used in Exodus 40:35 to describe how Yahweh overshadowed the Tabernacle in order to make it His dwelling place.
This term is also found in the story of Creation, Baptism, Transfiguration, Healing, and Sainthood!
Creation: The LORD God caused a deep sleep to overshadow the man. (Gen 2:21, ISV)
Transfiguration: While he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. (Luke 9:34, NASB)
Healing: Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. (Acts 5:15, ASV)
Sainthood: "My grace suffices for you, for power matures in weakness." Most gladly therefore will I boast of my infirmities rather than complain of them--in order that Christ's power may overshadow me. (2 Cor 12:9, WNT)
How can this be?
“For nothing will be impossible for God.” (Luke 1:37)
2020 did not turn out the way I expected it to as Mary's life did not turn out the way she expected. God is full of wonderful surprises especially when he brings good out of the greatest evils. Though the pandemic itself is not good, it has brought about an indescribable amount of good. The sorrows that pierced Mary's heart and the torture her baby boy endured are not without the glory that is accomplished through them. We know that God wins. His ways and thoughts are higher than our own. More than any Christmas past, I am present, grateful, and astonished at how God's plan is always perfect.
God's will is that we become saints. God wants us to all become tabernacles for His Only Begotten Son in this world. God wants you. God wants to reign in you. God wants to overshadow you.
How can this be? That's a great question!! I dare you to ask Jesus that question this week as we prepare for the coming of the Light of the World.
O'Come, Emmanuel! God-is-with-us!
Where in your life are you doubting the Lord? What is blocking your fiat?
Where is Our Lord inviting you not only to trust in Him, but also trust Him?
How do you see the Holy Spirit coming to you this Advent?
How is the power of the Most High overshadowing you and your loved ones?
How can you say “Yes” to God’s perfect plan for YOU this Christmas?
I dedicate this reflection to the incredible prayer warriors that have shown me the joy, love, and hope of Christ in these dark times. We'd love to have you join this beautiful, universal, joy-filled family! Feel free to shoot me a message with any questions. I'm happy to spread the joy!
The Instagram accounts that have proliferated my prayer life in 2020:
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