Faithfulness In Our Relationship With God

Honestly, when I think about the concept of “faithfulness” in the relationship I have with God, I generally focus on how I am being faithful (or not) to God.  I do not often reflect on God’s faithfulness to me and to all His people.  And yet, today’s first reading and the Gospel are beautiful illustrations of God’s perfect faithfulness to us.

In the first reading, King David is concerned about where the ark of God is being kept and feels that it is not right for it to be “dwelling” in a tent.  He is thinking about what he can do to show his reverence and faithfulness to God by caring for the ark.  God, through the prophet Nathan, reminds David and all people of God’s faithfulness and constant presence to David.  God chose David, a mere shepherd, to become the leader of Israel.  God was with David and defeated his enemies so that David could become a king.  God not only reminds David of His unremitting presence and support, but He makes promises to David that are ultimately fulfilled in the Gospel.  King David is promised an heir who will be called the Son of God.

When reading today’s Gospel from Luke, I envision Mary, a young woman (a girl, really) being visited by the angel Gabriel.  I can only imagine her fear and confusion at the appearance of this angel and the message which he delivers.  Regardless of her confusion as to how this could be, Mary willingly accepts what the angel has told her.  Not only is this a beautiful narrative of Mary’s perfect faithfulness to God but it highlights Mary’s trust in God’s faithfulness to her.  Although Mary was born without sin, she is only human; she must have thought about what people, including her fiancé, would think or possibly do once they discovered that she was pregnant and, yet, was not married.  Her trust in God’s love, support and faithfulness, gave her the strength and courage to say “yes” and proclaim herself God’s servant; she was willing to do whatever God asked of her because she knew God loved her.  It is a magnificent revelation of her strength and her humility. The relationship between Mary and God is the ideal which we are called to as God’s people. It is a perfect expression of our covenant relationship between God and people – He is our God and we are His people.

I truly want to be more like Mary.  I want to be more trusting that God is always there for me and that He is always willing to sustain me, especially through difficult times.  I know I have felt God’s presence through some of my most difficult times and challenges, and yet, there have been times in my life when I have doubted my ability to do something or if I would be able to handle a specific hardship.  I have come to realize that it was the times I had the greatest self doubt that I either chose to not trust in God or I didn’t even think to do so because I became so focused on what I could do or what I could handle that I didn’t allow God to share His presence or love with me.

We live in a society that values independence and self-sufficiency to such a degree that asking for or even simply accepting help can be viewed as a weakness. And yet, being people of God, we need to accept and believe in God’s constant assistance and love.  Many of us, myself included, have no problem helping others and do not see them as being incapable or weak for needing that help.  However, it is very difficult for me to accept, much less ask for, help from others when I am struggling with something.  I find that I berate myself for being unable to do something or for having to depend on someone else.  When I finally turn to God, it requires both humility and strength on my part to ask for and accept that help. One of my goals is to come to rely on that help as being a spiritually healthy way of life.

I also fear that our experiences of human relationship can cause us to doubt even further that there is anyone or anything that we can rely on totally and completely.  As we age, we inevitably experience broken promises, deception, and betrayal from people in general and from those with whom we are in close relationship.  Our own bodies can even seem to betray us as we age.  These incidents can make it that much more difficult to truly believe there is someone or something that will never let us down.   Our concrete and daily experience of human relationships will naturally shape our expectations and understanding of the concept of “relationship”, which in turn has a strong influence on what our expectations of a relationship with God can be.

This may partially explain why a child’s faith in God can be so beautiful and inspirational.  Children have not yet developed the cynicism of many adults and they are able to view the need for assistance as something good and natural, not something for which they should be ashamed.  They trust that God can and will love them unconditionally.  Children remain open to God’s help with the assurance that relying on someone for help is not a sign of personal weakness or incompetence.  Although they may not be able to put it into these words, children are much more likely to approach their relationship with God with strength in their beliefs and humility in their hearts.

So, as the Advent season of joyfully preparing for the birth of Christ comes to a close, I hold Mary and the children as the models of faith that I would like to emulate.  I pray that God will grant me the gifts of strength and humility to strengthen the bonds of our covenant relationship.  I want to open myself more fully to God’s unconditional love and believe more deeply in the promises He has made to His people.   In today’s readings, we see the power of God at work in human beings – God’s faithful love made real in history.  The promises made by God to King David were fulfilled; the promises God made to Mary were fulfilled.  God will keep his promises to us – He will come again.

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