VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI continued his series of reflections on faith this Wednesday, saying that at times it includes an element of darkness.
“We encounter moments where God seems absent, his silence weighs on our hearts and his will doesn’t correspond to our own as we would like it to,” the Pope told pilgrims on Dec. 19.
“But the more we open ourselves to God, we receive the gift of faith and put our trust in him completely, the more he empowers us with his presence to live every situation in peace assured by his loyalty and love,” he said during his weekly general audience.
He emphasized that this happens after opening one’s soul to God through faith, just as Abraham did after he was asked to sacrifice his son and as Mary did when she had to watch her Son be crucified.
Pope Benedict also reflected on Mary’s faith and the mystery of the Annunciation during his address in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.
“The Virgin Mary has a special place as one that uniquely waited for the fulfillment of the promises of God in faith, accepting Jesus in the flesh in full obedience to the Divine will,” he affirmed.
When the Bible recounts Mary’s meeting with the Archangel Gabriel, she is called “full of grace,” a word that also means "rejoice" in Greek.
This joy “arises from her communion with God ... from being the dwelling of the Holy Spirit,” he explained.
According to the Pope, the word “hail” that Gabriel greeted Mary with is present four times in the Greek version of the Old Testament.
“The angel’s invitation to Mary is an invitation to a deep joy and announces the end of the sadness that is in the world caused by suffering, death and the darkness of evil, which seems to obscure the light of the Divine goodness,” he said.
“It’s a greeting that marks the beginning of the Gospel and of the Good News,” he added.
A Double Promise
Pope Benedict then reflected on the angel’s words, “The Lord is with you,” which he described as a double promise made to Israel, the daughter of Zion, that God will come as a Savior and will also dwell in the midst of his people.
It is a promise mentioned in the Book of Zephaniah, which says “sing aloud, oh daughter of Zion … the King of Israel, the Lord is in the midst of you,” and then again in Luke’s narration of the Annunciation.
The Pope stated that, in the dialogue between Gabriel and Mary, she represents the covenant of God with the people and is also the daughter of Zion in person.
St. Luke’s recounting of the story also parallels the trial of Abraham’s faith.
“As a father of believers,” he explained, “who responded to God’s call to leave the land in which he lived and his safety to begin the journey to an unknown land, possessing only the Divine promise, so, too, does Mary rely on full trust of the messenger of God’s words and becomes a model and Mother of all believers.”
The Holy Father also recalled when Jesus was lost for three days in the Temple and told his mother he was in his Father’s house.
“The ‘Yes’ of Mary to the will of God, the obedience of faith, is repeated throughout his life until the most difficult moment, that of the cross,” the Pope underscored.
“Faith tells us that the defenseless power of the Child wins in the end against the noise of the powers of the world,” after asking people to live in humility and obedience of faith.
Pope Benedict ended the audience by greeting pilgrims in several languages and offered a “special greeting to the young, the sick and newlyweds.”