“Consider, oh man, what God became for your sake; understand this lesson of surpassing humility presented by a teacher who, as yet, says no word.” – Saint Augustine
The word “to promise” means to put in motion. And a promise is the way in which we put our lives in motion. We need to believe that there will be a future. The horizon attracts us and our hearts are moved by it.
If there is no promise, we become stuck; our hearts lose their flame. We have a need to make promises to each other and we need to have dreams that help us believe that it will be worthwhile to keep pushing forward even when we tire. Yes, a promise is a dream, a utopia, but sometimes it even becomes an illusion. Some even make promises that they have no intention of keeping.
God has also put His people in motion thanks to a great promise, the most beautiful promise, that which ignites the heart of the husband for his wife, the promise to be with us always, in every instant, day after day.
He has promised to be Emmanuel, God with us! With us, He is ready to challenge the Pharaohs that hold us as slaves and to cross the waters that seem impassable. He shares with us the fear of dying of hunger and the fear of not being able to finish the journey.
Yes, this is the most beautiful promise that, deep down, we most long to hear: “I will stay with you always!”
But precisely because the promise sounds a lot like a dream and a utopia, we don’t always have the courage to believe it. Sometimes we complicate things so much that we are left unable to trust anymore.
When we think we already have the answers, when life has already disappointed us too many times, our courage to take new risks may fail. Just like Zechariah who discovers God’s promise in a deeply spiritual moment, in the Temple, during the offering of the incense, in a solemn moment, in the silence granted by the privilege of being in the presence of God.
On the contrary, Mary is the woman of simplicity, a woman that believes life, who has not lost her faith in the possibility that something could change. She is a woman, simple like the home she lived in, like her quotidian anonymity, who did not worry about demonstrating anything to others.
Allowing life to drive you on also means risking everything even when nothing is clear. Mary receives a promise from the faded surroundings, an ancient word that perhaps no one really believed anymore.
It was all about trust because that promise, more than an omen of life, seemed to be a scene of death. In order for Mary to bring about life, she had to risk being killed. Between the Annunciation and the birth, there are the Law and relationships. Bringing that promise to fulfillment does not depend on Mary alone. She can only do her part.
He who wants to have everything under control will never be able to believe whole-heartedly in the promises of another person. King David, for example, believed that he was even king of his own life and that of others, to the point that he even believes that he can control the presence of God. In fact, he tries to build a house for God, as a way of control God’s presence for Him.
David wants to be the one to make a promise to God rather than being the recipient of His promises. That is why God overturns his pretexts and out him in his place.
It is God that promises, and we are asked to trust. And God never leaves a life without a promise; He always has a desire for us; He always finds a way to invite us to walk with Him. It is He who promises to stay with us always, because we will never be capable of doing as much with Him.
The promise ought to take a form, otherwise, it is nothing more than words. The shoot promises the blossom and the clouds allow us to hope for the rains. Even the promise of God takes a form, it incarnates itself, growing slowly, to the point when it reveals to us the fullness of the Father’s tenderness.
It is by that face that God keeps His promise to be with us every day, till the end of the world. The future of God’s promise has already been made present; it is the present inhabited daily by His Word. Indeed, the angel parted from the present, but the Word remained here, forever!
Questions for personal reflection:
- What are the promises that are helping you put your life in motion today?
- How willing are you to take risks in order to believe in the promise God has made you?