The Word Among Us

Personal Spirituality Resources

Promises You Can Count

God wants to sustain us and give us a taste of "Christmas joy."

Promises You Can Count: <p><em>God wants to sustain us and give us a taste of
"Christmas joy."</em></p>

At its heart, a promise is only as reliable as the one who makes it.

Common sense tells us that if the person making the promise is known to be dishonest or lacking in integrity, you wouldn’t take his words too seriously. However, if the person has shown himself to be reliable, trustworthy, and honest, you can be far more confident that he will keep his word. And so it’s only common sense to say that when God makes a promise, you can be sure he will fulfill it!

Because God is so reliable, we can wait patiently, and with great hope, for Jesus to come again. He has promised to return and take us with him, and he will fulfill his word. At the same time, while we’re waiting, there are a number of other promises that we can count on each day—promises that can sustain us and give us hope and direction for our lives on earth.

In this article, we want to look at three of these promises and let them sink into our hearts. So as you read on, let these promises become for you what Jesus wants them to be: gifts of heavenly strength, so that we do not grow weary; resolve, so that we never give up; peace, so that we can cope with the trials of life; and hope, so that we never forget how faithful Jesus is.

God will always work for our good. Two thousand years ago, a young virgin was asked to become the Mother of God. When the angel told her of God’s intention, Mary said, "How can this be?" (Luke 1:34). Mary’s response tells us that she did not fully grasp what was happening. Who would? Still, in faith she answered, "Let it be with me according to your word" (1:38).

In a moment, Mary’s life changed completely. Surely she asked some troubling questions: "How will Joseph ever understand? What will my parents say? What will my friends think? Will I be abandoned and left all alone?" And the upheaval did not end with this miraculous birth. When they brought Jesus to the Temple to dedicate him, the prophet Simeon told her that a sword would ultimately pierce her soul because of this child (Luke 2:35).

When Jesus was only twelve years old, his parents lost track of him in the Temple, and it took three days of searching before they found him again. Yet despite all he had put them through, Jesus was not apologetic in the least. He simply told them, "I must be in my Father’s house" (Luke 2:49). And this wasn’t the only time Mary was left speechless. But how did she respond each time? She pondered and treasured everything in her heart (2:19, 51). And then, at last, Mary did feel the sword pierce her soul as she watched Roman soldiers drive nails into her only son’s hands and feet and thrust a lance into his side.

From the moment the angels appeared to her, Mary’s life took an entirely new and at times dangerous direction. Yet when we examine the pages of the Gospels, we can see that God worked for her good. After all, who motivated Jesus to perform his first miracle? It was Mary. Who remains honored and blessed among all women? Mary. Who is now crowned as Mother of the Church? Mary. Who comes to our rescue and intercedes for us through a very intimate connection with her son? Mary.

Mary is a sign for all of us. Just as she carried Jesus in her womb, she urges us to carry him in our hearts. Through all of her challenges, trials, and suffering, we can learn one thing: people who carry Jesus in their hearts and ponder what he says will find God’s goodness working in them, no matter what troubling situations they may face.

God will always meet our needs. Mary was right: Joseph could not possibly understand what was going on when she told him that she was pregnant. It took nothing less than an angelic revelation to set his heart at ease. Yet this significant hurdle was only the beginning for Joseph. Herod’s murderous threats, which surfaced shortly after Jesus’ birth, demanded that Joseph change his plans for his new family. He had to leave his home, his job, his family and friends, and move to Egypt where he would have to find new employment and raise his son as a foreigner.

Just imagine the pressure of moving, finding a new home and a new job, combined with the responsibility of feeding and caring for a wife and a new child. Somehow, the Holy Family survived this crisis. God met their needs.

In every human life, there will come a time when we are moved to wonder, "How will this demanding crisis be resolved? The obstacles seem overwhelming, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel." It’s at these times that we can look to St. Joseph for encouragement and inspiration.

Who among us can make sense out of the difficulties we face—trials such as poverty, sickness, persecution, and abuse? Yet even when our situation doesn’t make sense, we can still count on this great promise: "If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son . . . will he not also give us everything else along with him?" (Romans 8:31, 32).

Put your confidence in this promise and you will find yourself saying along with St. Paul: "I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39).

Jesus will always feed us with the Bread of Life. The mystery of the Incarnation—that God became man—is a beautiful gift that we celebrate each Christmas. This act, full of God’s mercy, grace, and power, shows us the extent of his love: Almighty God sent his only Son to save us! But we must be clear. If God sent his only Son to rescue us from eternal death, he certainly won’t hesitate to give us all the spiritual nourishment we need for our lives here on earth!

Jesus is our Living Bread. Through the Eucharist, he sustains and nourishes our spiritual life in three key ways. The Eucharist motivates us to turn to Christ; it reveals Christ to us; and it transforms us into Christ.

Think about the shepherds and other townsfolk from Bethlehem who surrounded the manger on Christmas. As they stood there in the presence of the God-Man, they were all moved to love God more. Somehow, it was revealed to them that this baby was what the angel had proclaimed: the promised Messiah. And from the confines of the manger, even as a newborn baby who couldn’t say a word, Jesus transformed these people. How much more, then, do you think the Eucharist—which is just as silent and which calls forth just as much faith—can transform us and move us to love God?

Think, too, about Mary. The miracle of what was happening in and through her moved her to treasure everything she saw and heard about her child. She stored it all up in her heart and meditated upon it at every opportunity. And as a result, she began to understand—by divine revelation—God’s promises and plans for his people. This revelation made her grow stronger and stronger in her faith and in her willingness to surrender everything, even Jesus himself, to God and his will. Because she was open to God’s revelation, Mary was changed. She was transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18) until the day when she was finally assumed body and soul into heaven.

Be transformed today. Brothers and sisters, God has given us great promises, all of which we can experience in one way or another at Mass. The Eucharist acts like a giant magnet. It draws us to Jesus, and the more often we receive, the more powerfully we are drawn to him. The Eucharist reveals Christ—his deep mysteries, his overflowing mercy, and his incredible love. And all of these insights and experiences of God’s love move us to want to become like Jesus more and more.

Wanting to be like Christ is part of the equation, but we don’t always have the strength to do what we want. And that’s the other half of the equation. The Eucharist itself is God’s power active in us, transforming us into Christ. As you ponder and treasure the manger scene, ask Jesus to move in your life just as he moved in the lives of those who surrounded him two thousand years ago. When you receive the Eucharist, tell him that you want to become like him. Ask him to renew your mind and transform your life.

Have a blessed Christmas. God’s promises are for real. They are meant to help us here and now, today, in this life. The Holy Spirit wants to take these promises and make them come alive in our hearts and minds. He wants to fulfill them before our very eyes as we move through this Advent season. So may the Lord Jesus bless you in the coming weeks. May his face shine upon you so that you will know his peace and his joy.