A Virgin’s Womb and an Empty Tomb

Light of truth

Benny Nalkara, CMI

“How can this happen?” This spontaneous question of Blessed Virgin Mary to angel Gabriel echoes the innermost feelings of any ordinary human being confronted with the existential challenges of life. To this question of Mary was the greatest good news to the world revealed by the angel: “Nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37). It is not merely the patting words of Gabriel to console the perplexed Mary. It is a rhetorical statement that reminds us how God is working all things according to the counsel of His will and He is capable of working in mysterious ways.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament testify that “nothing is impossible with God.” The power of God was proved by the fact that God created the entire universe out of nothing. The writer of Proverbs says, ‘By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew’ (Proverbs 3:19–20). The same divine possibility made Sarah, the barren woman, to marvel in her very old age by providing her with a child: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14). When surrounded by the sufferings of life and confused by the advices of the friends, Job shows the honesty to recognise that nothing is impossible with God. He says, ‘God’s wisdom is so deep, God’s power so immense… He moves mountains before they know what’s happened, flips them on their heads on a whim… We’ll never comprehend all the great things He does; His miracle-surprises can’t be counted’ (Job 9:4–10). Finally, as a response to God Job declares: “I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). The book of Wisdom testifies the “all things possible” power of God: “You are merciful to all, for you can do all things” (Wis 11:23). From the historical point of view, the two great liberating acts of God in the lives of Israel ‘Exodus and Exile’ are testimonies of the divine possibilities in human history.

Jesus revealed Himself to the world as the visible presence of the “nothing impossible” or the omnipotent God. Peter Larson writes: “The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin’s womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked ‘No Entrance’ and left through a door marked ‘No Exit.’ Jesus’ birth from the womb of a virgin and His resurrection from the dead are the standing testimonies of the work of the “nothing impossible” with God. The miracles He performed and the healings He had given were the visible signs of the realization of the promise by the angel, “nothing is impossible with God.” He also gave a glimpse of His power over the powers of the nature by calming the storms and conquering the demons. Understanding the human difficulty of grasping the mysteries of the Kingdom of God and the anxiety expressed by the disciples about the hardship of entering into the Kingdom and being saved, Jesus testified that nothing is impossible with God (Mt 19:26; Mk 10:27; Lk 18:27). During the moment of His passion at Gethsemane, submitting Himself to the will of the Father, Jesus prayed: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee” (Mk 14:36). It was the final lesson to the world that everything is possible with God.

Bible tells us the story of a God, for whom nothing is impossible, who uses the weak and fragile people to change the world. God has amazing ways of turning seemingly impossible situations into ones that demonstrate His power and glory. We come across a long list of weak characters whom God transformed into the heroes of the salvation history. Mother Mary, whom we find in this list, with her question of human helplessness and uncertainty, “how can this happen?” represents the existential dilemma of any human being who is confronted by the challenges of life. The sign given to her for the divine possibility amidst the human impossibility’ conception of a child by Elizabeth who was very old and barren, was also not very easily convincing one. But in Mary, we have a model of the faith and fiat,“let it be done” attitude that opens the way for the divine possibility.

God acts where the human being is helpless and when one is ready to confess the vulnerability. Even the all-powerful God is helpless when the human beings claim of their “omnipotence” in life. Our independent and self-reliant attitude may become a hindrance to our trust in the providence of God. Our inadequate resources can fill us with fear and hopelessness also. Surrendering ourselves to God in faith is the best way to move along in the moments of sufferings and temptations of life.

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