Uncle Eddy's E-mail -- March 25
Annunciation of the Lord (which occurred on this day around the year 0)
I am quite disappointed in your philosophy department. Two years you have been studying under their guidance and you still don’t understand the concept of secondary causes – at least, the way you write about trying to discover God’s will for your life indicates that you don’t. You seem to think that if you look or pray hard enough, you will check your emails one day and find a message from the Lord indicating exactly what you should do. That, my naïve niece, is not God’s style. He doesn’t program us as if we were robots; he befriends us. He reveals his plan of salvation and invites us to join forces with him. He indicates how he wants us to cooperate, but asks us to make use of our own creativity and initiative in responding. And when we contribute our ideas and efforts, he blesses them and works through them, and then makes more suggestions to lead us further along, and so on. We are not kangaroos, who have no choice but to jump (and in jumping they give glory to God); we are created in God’s own image, called to exercise our freedom and intelligence in partnership with him, to become secondary causes (secondary only because we didn’t create ourselves) in the work of salvation.
Today’s Solemnity wonderfully illustrates this principle. Since the first centuries of Christianity, the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin Mary – during which he announced God’s plan to become man and Jesus was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit – has been commemorated on this day (exactly nine months before our Lord’s birth). Have you ever really reflected on that encounter between Gabriel and Mary? Perhaps it has become so familiar that you kind of gloss over it. The archangel (not just any old angel, but one of the four archangels) informs this teenage girl, who is “full of grace” as he points out when greeting her, that God would like her to be the mother of the Messiah. Having pledged her virginity to God, she doesn’t understand this invitation. Gabriel explains that no man will father this child, that he is the Son of the Most High and will be conceived by God himself. But then he waits for her response. He waits. The conception doesn’t take place until after she has given her consent. Not fully understanding how it will work (who could have understood such a proposal?!), she puts her trust in the Lord and gives herself into his care. Only then does the Word of God become a man, only then.
This exchange has been embodied in one of the Church’s most cherished prayers, the Angelus, which faithful Catholics have prayed three times a day for centuries and centuries. And the reason is simple, because it is the pattern for every person’s relationship with God. In big and small ways, again and again every day, God invites us to participate in his plan of salvation, and he waits for our response. And he won’t force himself upon us; he respects our freedom. And when we respond with trust and generosity, as Mary responded, Jesus once again infuses his grace into our hearts and fills the world with his presence.
Shame on your
philosophy professors – they should have explained secondary causality to you long ago. But
now, at least, you have no excuse.
Your loving uncle, Eddy
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