What room in a house is useless to a ghost?
A living room.
In the Old Testament, there is a story about King David contemplating building a house for God. This says something about the Biblical view of God. God is seen in the Bible as personal; the type of being living in a house, not haunting a house. God is spirit, yes, but not a ghost. God is not a dead relic of the past but is a living presence.
In a twist of the narrative, God makes a covenant with David to establish his house forever. That is, to establish David’s dynasty perpetually.
It is in the Gospel that what is foreshadowed in the Old Testament becomes clear. It is through Mary that the promise to David comes to fulfillment. Mary is the house God indwells with his presence. The promise of an ever-lasting kingdom is fulfilled in Jesus, and it is through Mary that Jesus enters the world. The Old Testament prophesies are given their full meaning after the coming of Christ in whom their mystery is revealed. God breaks into human history and is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Mary is the grace-filled instrument through which this happens.
At the heart of the story of Mary is faith. We can look at faith from two angles: 1) What we believe; and 2) In whom we believe. What we believe is important. What we believe is Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, as is professed in the creed. Believing God becomes human is necessary, but it is not all there is to faith. We do not merely assent to a historical fact about Jesus as if Jesus is a ghost from the past about whom we speak only in the past tense.
Therefore faith is not only assent but is also trust. “Let it be done to me according to your word,” is Mary’s famous fiat in response to the message of the angel proclaiming her as the fitting vessel to carry Jesus. A modern vernacular paraphrase might be, “Have it your way, God.” We don’t simply trust a message. We trust in the person delivering the message. Thus it is not simply a matter of in what we believe, but it is also a matter of in whom we believe, that makes a difference. Mary trusts God, and so she accepts God’s message. She becomes the means through which God becomes present in human form and enters the world in the person of Jesus.
Like David, it is easy to become convinced we need to do something for God. Religion can come to mean our efforts to impress God. That is missing the point. God wants to do something in us and through us. God wants to use us as he did Mary to be the vessels carrying the presence of Jesus into the world. Thus, to join Mary in her trusting fiat is to become ourselves the house God indwells with his presence. Words and actions issue forth from the ground of trust in God such that we can say Jesus is seen in us. Not that we don’t falter and fail. None of us is immaculate like Mary. Like her, however, we trust in the power of God to make us a living reflection of the face of Jesus to the world. He is, after all, living and personal; not a ghost, and he lives in the heart that has faith in him.
Scott Watford is pastoral associate at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church.