5th Day of Simbang Gabi (December 20, 2022)
Did Mary Doubt?
In our gospel reading today, we see Mary having a dialogue with Angel Gabriel. She asks him, “but how can this be…?” A similar question was posed to the same angel by Zachariah in the gospel reading of yesterday. Both were faced with a similar situation, both posited similar questions but the outcomes were different. In the case of Zachariah, it could be that he had a dismissive attitude, a heart closed to the possibility of the truth that the angel was presenting to him. In the case of Mary, we can say that when she asked the angel, with a heart open to all possibilities that the angel was presenting her along with its implications; rather than making a push back, it is as if she is asking for clarification, as If to say, “help me understand, help me see from your perspective.” She makes her plea with confidence and trust. She asks with confidence because she knows she belongs to God who will not make a mockery of her. She asks with trust, because she believes that the words of the angel will be proved true in due time. She asks with confidence because she knows that her question will be given an answer, she asked with trust because she believes that even though the answer to her question may not be one she can fully understand, she knows that she will not be misled.
At the end of the day, we may ask, was Mary confronted with moral uncertainty? The answer is yes; was she tempted to doubt? The answer is Yes; did she doubt? the answer is no. She did not doubt because in the face of her moral uncertainty, she sought clarification from the angel and she made a decision to surrender herself to God’s will. She was not depending solely on her own understanding but was asking for guidance from the angel and then made a decision to believe and trust God.
It is important to highlight the fact that moral doubt and moral uncertainty are two different things. While moral doubt is a decision not to trust or not to believe based on what he knows or what he does not know, uncertainty is not a decision but a state of insufficient necessary knowledge. A state of moral uncertainty (especially when it is not our fault) is not a sin but how we respond to that state is what counts. When we choose to doubt in response to truth especially when we become obstinate in doubting, that is a sin since doubt is a rejection or a denial of truth.
Mary’s question to the angel is one very familiar to us. She shows us what to make out of a situation of moral uncertainty. She reminds us that in the face of moral uncertainty, we must be willing to trust God and all those he has given to us for our formation.
Mary also also teaches us how to enter into dialogue with God. Dialogue is not about convincing another about something or about winning an argument; rather it is about mutual opening of one’s self and giving of one’s self to another in humility and trust and receiving the other with gratitude and respect. Through this honest, mutual exchange of ideas and experiences, together, the persons involved in dialogue can arrive at truth and embrace it together. Dialogue is not about making compromises or seeking middle ground. It is about finding the truth no matter whose side it may be and a willingness to embrace it.
Finally our gospel reading reminds us that Mary was in every way human like us. The fact that she was conceived without sin did not exempt her from our human condition of limitedness, fears and worries that arise from uncertainty and temptations that we are all so well acquainted with. She experienced everything we experience as humans and from our gospel reading, we can see how she responded to them.
We all know how crippling uncertainty can be. Hence we should from time to time ask ourselves how do I go about overcoming moral uncertainty? who do I turn to in the face of doubt? When I gain sufficient knowledge needed for making a decision, how do I decide? Am I ready to embrace truth and all its consequences? Am I willing to submit myself to God’s plan?
Moral uncertainty is no stranger to us; temptations especially temptation to doubt perhaps knows us by name. It may be a grave matter or an insignificant one. It makes no difference which ever is the case, in Mary we have a model of how to face them. So the next time you are in a moral dilemma, look to Mary and remember who to turn to and how to dialogue. Perhaps those moments may be an invitation to become another Mary willing to say fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.