To live is to walk blindly.
Imagine that all of us were together at Blessed Sacrament Parish, pre-Covid of course. Imagine that each of us, individually, was tasked with bringing the Eucharist to a parishioner who was unable to join our Christmas Mass. Imagine Fr. John handing you the pyx. Now imagine that Fr. John also hands you a blindfold and tells you to deliver the Body of Christ without the gift of your sight. He tells you the Walpole address, ties the blindfold around your head, and escorts you to the back of the Church. . . .Yikes.
Faced with this seemingly impossible task, how would you respond? How would you find your destination? How would you feel?
So, standing at the top of the granite steps in front of our beloved parish, holding the pyx in your hand and wearing the blindfold, some of us might bound forward and simply run blindly in any direction at random. These people cannot cope with the anxiety of the situation and act with reckless abandon for their own welfare. They move swiftly, but without seeing, and likely crash into trees, cars, and even other people, hurting themselves and others along the way.
Some of us might simply sit down and do nothing. These people believe there is no hope and that they could never possibly locate the right house because their quest is impossible. They feel that they have been assigned an undoable task, so they do not even try.
And some of us might just begin to walk timidly, sensing the general direction of the foot traffic around us. So worried, tense, and fearful, these people shuffle along slowly, reaching out one foot at a time, arms flailing in front of them, determined not to bump into anything, and too focused on their own well-being to even notice that countless others are walking along with them, likewise blindfolded and set with the same seemingly impossible task.
I believe that today’s Gospel reading contains tremendous wisdom that applies to this hypothetical.
One day, Mary was told that she would become the Mother of the Savior of the Universe. From Luke’s Gospel, we hear how Mary was told the destination of her journey but not the steps, not each and every thing that she would have to face and do in order to arrive at the destination. With the prospect of being stoned for her pregnancy and trying to explain how she could possibly be carrying the Son of God inside of her to those in her life, it sounds like Mary was set with a seemingly impossible task as well.
But, she was not. Gabriel specifically proclaims to Mary: “nothing is impossible to God.” And herein lies a profound truth that each of us should contemplate. There are no impossible tasks for the Lord.
As we all know, Mary said yes. In keeping with the allegory from earlier, let’s evaluate Mary’s actions as if she had been asked to deliver the Eucharist to a Blessed Sacrament parishioner while blindfolded.
Mary did not bound forward and run blindly in any direction at random. She did not recklessly tell all the details of her encounter with Gabriel to anyone who would listen; she did not ask everyone in the village for pity, guidance, advice, support, sympathy.
Mary did not just sit down and do nothing. She did not quit on her life and complain that God had forsaken her. She did not refuse to travel to Bethlehem. She did not hide away from the world and pretend that she was not carrying the Word made flesh inside of her.
And Mary did not walk timidly, sensing the general direction of others around her. She did not become so inwardly focused, and so outwardly blind, as to ignore her responsibilities to her family and to Joseph. No, Mary did not do any of these things.
In the face of a seemingly impossible task, the task of mothering the Creator of the Universe, Mary believed that God would guide her through the maze of her life and towards her destiny. I would imagine that while raising Jesus, Mary was very close to God. As Mother and Father, they raised Jesus. I believe that Mary was open to the Grace of God the Father, that she strove to do His will, and as the only human without sin, she truly connected with our Lord.
We are all faced with seemingly impossible tasks, especially now during this pandemic.
The man who lost his job because of Covid . . . is faced with a seemingly impossible task.
The woman who is trying to perform at a high level in her career while also serving as a teacher to her three children who are learning on a computer . . . is faced with a seemingly impossible task.
The first-year college student who wants so desperately to make friends and fit in, who feels pressured to expose herself to the virus by attending a party . . . is faced with a seemingly impossible task.
The person struggling with relentless back pain, the individual with crippling anxiety, the mother who lost her child, the child who lost her mother, a country that is broken, burning, divided, infected, infested, and desperate for air . . . all of us are faced with seemingly impossible tasks.
So, what are we going to do? We are all standing together at the entranceway to Blessed Sacrament Parish, blindfolded, set with our own personal and collective seemingly impossible tasks. Are we going to recklessly bound forward, running blindly in any direction at random, damaging ourselves and others along the way? Are we going to simply sit down, do nothing, and wallow in the depressing notion that there is no hope? Are we going to walk timidly forward, so focused on our lives, our own problems, that we turn a blind-eye to the collective pain and suffering of our neighbors, our brothers, and our sisters?
Or . . . are we going to follow Mary’s wonderful example? Are we going to say yes to our seemingly impossible tasks? Are we going to surrender them to the Lord? Are we going to truly believe, and not just in our heads but also in our hearts, the words of Gabriel, that “nothing is impossible to God.”
To live is to walk blindly. There is no getting around this fact. We do not know what 2021 will bring. We don’t even know what tomorrow holds for us. We cannot see beyond this very moment. But there is someone who can. God sees all. God knows all. God is all powerful.
Mother Teresa tells us that: “Silence of the heart is necessary so you can hear God everywhere—in the closing of the door, the person who needs you, in the birds that sing, in the flowers, in the animals.”
I do not believe that Mary knew—when she said yes to God—that she would have to travel to Bethlehem while pregnant, or flee to Egypt and live in a strange land, or that Jesus would linger in the Temple as a boy, or that her Son would one day walk on water, heal the masses, rebuke the elders, and be brutally, savagely, murdered for the sins of all mankind. No, I do not believe Mary knew all of that. But, I do think that Mary said yes to her seemingly impossible task, she surrendered it into the Lord’s hands, and she believed Gabriel’s words that “nothing is impossible to God.”
Faith is walking towards the one you love because you love, not because you know. I think that Mary said yes and walked towards God, not because He explained all the steps of the journey to her in advance, but because she loved Him.
Imagine yourself standing at the entranceway to Blessed Sacrament Parish, blindfolded, and holding the body of Christ in your hands. Now imagine knowing in your heart that you are accompanied by an all-loving God for whom nothing is impossible. Imagine hearing the voice of the Lord in your ear, calling you onward, counseling you, leading you, and helping you each and every step of the way. You still have to walk along the crisscrossing streets of our town, you may still stumble and fall, you may be discouraged and disheartened, you may even feel lost at times, but you know without a doubt that you are not alone, and that you will eventually find your way.
Of course none of us are really faced with this challenge; the story is meant to serve as a universe symbol of an overwhelming challenge, but the lesson still applies to our everyday struggles.
Mary said yes to her overwhelming challenge. Mary wasn’t just asked to deliver one piece of Eucharist to one Catholic; she was asked to deliver THE Eucharist to ALL Catholics, and thank God she did. Thank God that the Virgin Mary said yes and walked blindly towards her destiny with love in her heart.
In summary: when faced with seemingly impossible tasks, let’s do as Mary did. Let’s say yes to the challenges that arise in our lives; let’s surrender them up to the Lord; let’s truly believe the words we heard in the Gospel, that “nothing is impossible to God.” And, let’s do as Mother Teresa instructed and foster silence in our hearts so we can truly hear the word of God as He guides us, loves us, and accompanies us this day and every day from now into eternity.