God counts on our cooperation

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde at the Simbang Gabi Mass, at Good Shepherd Church in Alexandria.

For nine days, we have been making our annual Simbang Gabi novena, reflecting and praying on the theme which lies at the heart of the coming World Family Day gathering in Philadelphia in September. As we are aware, the theme is: "Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive." How fitting it is that you and I are reflecting on the reality of the family as we draw ever nearer to Christmas. Soon, you and I will kneel before the manger. What will we see? A family, the best of families, the Holy Family of the Infant Jesus, His Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph, His foster-father.

Tonight, on this ninth and final day of our novena, you and I are reflecting further on an aspect of the family fully alive with love: "God Counts On Our Family's Cooperation." Yes, God freely chooses to involve us in making family life and family love real and visible in our society. God does count on our family's cooperation.

Do we not see that in the lives of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus Himself, God was counting on their cooperation, their willingness to say "yes" to His will? God needed and so counted on Mary's cooperation so that, in becoming the Mother of His Only-begotten Son, the Eternal Son could assume a human nature and so save the human race as the God-Man. In the Gospel account of the Annunciation, we see how God sent the Archangel Gabriel as His messenger to invite Mary to be the Mother of His Son. And Mary said "yes": "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (cf. Lk 1:38).

God needed and so counted on Joseph's cooperation, so that, overcoming his perplexity when his betrothed wife Mary was found with child, he accepted God's assurance given him through the message of an angel in a dream, "and he took Mary into his home" (cf. Mt 1:24), and was such a faithful protector of both Jesus and Mary.

God needed and so counted on His Eternal Son's willingness to become the Savior so that, in fact, God's plan of salvation would be realized as it was by the dying and rising of His Son Jesus Christ. In the Letter to the Hebrews, we hear the Eternal Son saying to God His Father: "when he came into this world, he said… 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I came to do your will, O God.'" (Heb 10:5,7). And God's will was and is that His Son be our Savior.

And, in our Scripture readings tonight, we see how God counted on another family's cooperation: the family of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist. God needed and so counted on the cooperation of both Zechariah and Elizabeth in giving new life to a son, whose birth came so late in their lives, whose birth was an act of God's special favor. Later, God needed and so counted on the cooperation of their son John the Baptist, so that he would be the precursor of the Messiah. In obeying God's will, John the Baptist fulfilled what the prophet Malachi said in tonight's first reading: "Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me. … Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes." And Jesus did tell His disciples that John the Baptist was the new Elijah.

Yes, God needed and so counted on the cooperation of the Holy Family and the family of Zechariah, Elizabeth and John the Baptist.

Just think what would have happened if Mary, Joseph, the Eternal Son, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist has not cooperated with God's Plan, if they had not said "yes," each in his or her own way to His will? In a word, the salvation God willed would not have taken place.

Now, in our time, God counts on our cooperation, the cooperation of each of our individual families - your family, and also the cooperation of each of us as members of His family, the Church.

He counts on the cooperation of a husband and wife to be the living sign of the love which Christ has for His Spouse the Church. He counts on the cooperation of parents to create and form a family that is fully alive with the many qualities of love: patience, understanding, kindness, generosity, forgiveness. He counts on the cooperation of those persons whom He is calling to serve His People as a priest, religious brother, religious sister, or, later in life, a permanent deacon. He counts on the cooperation of each one of us, as He invites us to say "yes," "fiat," to His will, even when we do not understand or find what He asks truly difficult.

So, as we conclude this year's Simbang Gabi novena, let us ask the Lord fervently to give us the grace to cooperate with His Will, as an individual family, and as the family of God the Church. The more we seek to say "yes" to Him, the more God can count on our cooperation. The end result will be: The family fully alive with love as their mission!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015