The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The Virgin's name was Mary. Coming to her, the angel said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called ‘Son of the Most High,’ and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Jess, a young man of fifteen and the first-born of four children, found himself overwhelmed by his new responsibility. His father, Anthony, had died after a nine-month bout with leukemia. Now, all of a sudden, Jess found himself called to fulfill the very challenging role of being the new head of the family. His mother, Mary Angela, needed help to raise the other three children, the youngest of whom was only 4 years old. They had to pay the huge debts they had incurred for the hospitalization of Anthony.
In his most troubled times, Jess sought the guidance of the elderly, frail parish priest. With an intense look which only holy souls have, the old man reassured Jess: “Do not be disturbed. Do your best always and the Lord will be with you. He is already with you. And if the Lord is with you, you can overcome any obstacle.”
These brief sentences would have sounded a poor consolation to many others, but young Jess took them seriously to heart and did just what the old, frail parish priest had whispered. He became more aware of the Lord’s presence and learned to trust fully in Him. He felt God’s presence like that of a friend, a mentor, and an ally, depending on the circumstances. He often talked to Him.
After six years, Jess’ family had managed to pay all the debts, to the surprise of many adults, a good number of whom had barely managed to make ends meet. Clearly, belief in the Lord’s presence and help had been more than effective.
“The Lord is with you” is a powerful sentence that we find in the Scriptures in crucial moments of the history of the Chosen People. Moses heard it from God Himself in the form of a promise when he trembled at hearing the task given him to lead his people out of the slavery of Egypt. (See Ex 3: 12.)
David heard it from the mouth of the prophet Nathan in connection with his plan to build a temple for the Lord. Mary Most Holy heard that wonderful sentence when the angel Gabriel communicated to her that she had been chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.
“I will not leave you orphans,” said Jesus to His Disciples shortly before his enemies captured him. “I will always be with you till the end of time,” Jesus promised before His ascension. He kept and does keep that promise. The Lord is with the Church in all centuries, guiding and protecting her through His Spirit. He is with all who trust in Him – not only with the great and the brave, but also with the small people like us, frail and uncertain as we trek the path of an unfriendly world.
It is very important that we become aware of the Lord’s presence in our lives. It is even more important that we make him our constant companion, friend, adviser, and protector. This implies that we, too, should be “with the Lord,” that is: entrust ourselves totally to him, obey his word, doing our best to please him.
This will establish a fruitful partnership between God and us. Such a “partnership of mutual presences” should characterize the new year we are about to start. As Jesus joins us as our “Travel Companion” to remain with us through thick and thin, in joy and in sorrow, in triumph and defeat, we should enjoy his presence and be grateful for it.
This is a grace we will never be able to deserve. We should treasure His Presence as one of the most precious things in life, for life is an apprenticeship for the “final state” when we will be with the Lord for ever.
Euchalette, 21 December 2008
WORD AND LIFE PUBLICATIONS
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