It’s a curiosity of our faith that as much as we honor and reverence Mary, her actual words in scripture are amazingly few. I’ve often pondered the last thing she said at the Marriage Feast of Cana, “Do whatever He tells you.” Better advice was never given. Mary always points us to her son. Her relative silence in scripture should not surprise us then. But let’s face it, the few words she did say should command our attention and contemplation. Especially her first word: How.
How? Faced with the announcement of Gabriel, Mary didn’t doubt. She was perplexed. She pondered. And she asked a simple question, “How shall this be since I am a virgin?”
Contrast this to Zechariah’s response and God’s response to him. The angel announced to Zechariah that his prayer had been heard and that his wife would bear him a son. Zechariah also asked how but his question, and his disposition, are very different than Mary’s. After asking “How will I know that this is so?” Zechariah listed the reasons of why it couldn’t be: “I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years.” In other words, that’s impossible.
Now let’s face it—those certainly seem like legitimate issues that you or I might bring up too, so Gabriel’s response may seem a bit harsh. “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute and unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” Ouch!
But think about it. An angel appeared to him. An angel! That’s gotta be pretty impressive and certainly out of the ordinary. You would think that would be convincing enough. And Zechariah was a man of faith—he’d been praying for a child. So, when an angel appears and tells you your prayer is answered, you might not want to list the reasons why his message is wrong. Clearly, Zechariah doubted. And apparently Gabriel is not an angel you want to offend.
Mary on the other hand asked the same question. “How?” Yes, she mentioned she was a virgin so it obviously did not compute in her head either. But her question wasn’t one of doubt but one seeking information: How will this come about? What Gabriel announced transcended the natural order. Mary didn’t bring up her virginity to trip him up or because of doubt…she was seeking understanding. Fulton Sheen pointed out that in the original translation of scripture Mary’s response was not how can this be, but how shall this be?
Learning from Gabriel and Mary
So, what does this mean for you and me? When faced with challenges and inconsistencies, how do you tend to respond? Do you come up with all the reasons something can’t or won’t work?
We can learn a lot from this interchange between Gabriel and Mary. Nothing is impossible with God.
So, when faced with financial challenges instead of thinking things like I’ll never be able to afford it and listing all the reasons why instead ask How can I afford it? This question will make your mind go to work coming up with solutions.
The same applies to difficult relationships. Instead of focusing on reasons why you’re not happy in your marriage instead ask yourself How can I make my marriage better?
Instead of accepting the status quo in a job you don’t like or living a life that is stressing you and making you miserable, ask How can I change it? What things can I do and what steps can I take to improve my situation?
Triumphing Over Old Habits
Old habits die hard though and if you’ve been a negative thinker most of your life, you may want to enlist the help of a coach to help you move in a better direction. It takes practice and perseverance but it’s worth the effort.
You’ll be amazed at the things you can accomplish with that one simple question: How?
It starts with believing that nothing will be impossible with God. Nothing. Those are Gabriel’s words so I think you’d better listen!
Allison is also the Founder and President of www.CatholicTherapists.com, a nationwide network of dedicated Catholic therapists.
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