Impossible? Not!

There are probably more works of art based on today’s gospel passage of the Annunciation than of any other event in history. A Google image search brings up dozens of different artistic representations from the well known Fra Angelico to more modern images.

A few years ago I visited an exhibition of works by African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner and was moved by many of his depictions of religious scenes including his Annunciation pictured above.

While many Annunciation images convey something of the mystery and other-world reality of the event, Tanner’s work is down-to-earth with a timid and young Mary sitting on her bed suddenly startled awake by the presence of God with her.

And Mary as a young Jewish woman familiar with the Old Testament would have known well the words of the prophet Isaiah, today’s first reading:

“The Lord himself, therefore
will give you a sign.
It is this: the maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Emmanuel
a name which means “God is with us.”

And then, a few centuries after Isaiah’s prophesy, Mary is (as Tanner in his painting suggests) awakened by the divine presence in the middle of the night, bedclothes thrown aside, light filling Mary’s heart as much as her room. Yet almost immediately, (realising this presence was of God) she was without fear leading her to respond “I am the handmaid of the Lord…let what you have said be done to me”

Mary could not have imagined what was being asked of her. But she knew that her only discernment was of whether or not this was God.

If this was God then there is only one answer and that is “yes”.

“I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’”

And then there is the powerful link to yesterday’s encounter between the angel of the Lord and Zechariah. Today’s gospel ends with the angel sharing news of the expectant Elizabeth and Zechariah:

“Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”

 

An Invitation

  • Take as your mantra for the day “Nothing is impossible for God.” Whenever you think of a situation that is difficult, a person who is struggling, or when your own anxiety threatens to overpower you, simply repeat several times slowly and gently: “Nothing is impossible for God.”

 

O Antiphon: 20 December

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni,
et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel!
You open and no one closes,
You close and no one opens:
Come and lead out of prison
the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.

 

7 Responses to "Impossible? Not!"
  1. In our modern era we often find it difficult to comprehend The miraculous or those events which defy our knowledge or expectation. I sometimes wonder whether Mary would have been any more believed about the miracle child than we would accept today. Yet legend,myth, or fact the key message you remind us today is that nothing is impossible for God apart from when close the doors or our mind and spirit to Gods working in our lives.

  2. This is a difficult one to understand. We pray so often for people in dire situations etc suffering with cancer, good people. We hope that God will intervene and eventually they die. If nothing is impossible then why doesn’t God help?

    • Life, or death, and miracles – we witness all three. God is in charge here, and there is purpose in all that He does, although we can lack understanding.
      When God calls, it is for the best, and we can take comfort that God always offers something better.
      So when a miracle does not happen; Heaven, was God’s Loving choice. That is the Supreme outcome that we can be happy with.

      • Thank you for this reminder as to why our prayers are not always answered in the way we imagine is best … God knows best what is good for all His people … “Let it be done according to His will … ” may be hard for us to accept. God give us Faith in your ways and calm our fears with the knowledge that you are Love and that you Love us all.

    • This is known as the problem of natural evil. How could an omnipotent (all-powerful) omnibenevolent (all-good) God allow bad things to happen in nature (including bodies with cancer)? Well, what would the world be like if there were no natural processes such as hurricanes, tsunami, earthquakes at the macro-scale; natural predators and physical accidents at the meso-scale; and and if there no natural processes at the micro-scale including cell division, viruses, etc.? The universe simply wouldn’t move. Earthquakes happen because the planet has particular structure of mantle and core. Hurricanes happen because of the earth’s rotation and variability in solar energy, which happens because the earth orbits the sun, which gives us day and night. Cancer simply exists because of cell division, which happens to both keep us alive and also to eventually stop working so well. A world without hurricanes and cancer (for example) is therefore one where there is no night and day, and no animal growth from infancy to an adulthood. No life as we know it at all. God is not bound by these constraints (since He made them), and I sincerely believe that miracles can and do occur. But despite natural death, natural destruction and natural disease we see that we still have a Good existence. Who are we to say that the universe would be better if something was different? Perhaps we do indeed live in the most perfect existence that is possible? Perhaps when God does not (from our earthly perspective) do anything, then that is actually the best option? Isn’t that the definition of God—a being incapable of doing evil?

      I appreciate that this isn’t exactly a response to your particular situation. I myself have struggled with my wife being diagnosed with cancer, at a young age. However it helps to remind myself that God is all-loving, and that His will is good. His horizon is further than mine.

  3. That is where the faith of Mary comes in – “…let what you have said be done to me.” We too must accept that which is beyond us to accepting that God’s ways are not always our ways. As difficult as the situation may be, I believe God does intervene. He promises to be with us always, and to never leave us. This has been a lived out situation for me.

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