“For no word shall be impossible with God.”
When facing a crisis, we are often tempted to doubt God’s control over the situation. Events such as floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and epidemics are beyond our own control, and because of this, we easily find ourselves worried about what the future will hold. The pandemic we are currently facing has been especially difficult for Catholics. It is now the third Sunday in which we have been forbidden to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This has been difficult. As authority figures continue to impose restrictions upon us and deny us certain privileges, we might have feelings of frustration and resentment, especially if they are not responding in the way we think they should. How should we respond to this crisis? How should we receive these restrictions and react to our bishop’s mandates? Mary shows us the answer.
We recently celebrated the solemnity of the Annunciation, in which the angel Gabriel came to the Blessed Virgin Mary to ask if she would consent to become the mother of the Savior. Mary’s answer was one of simplicity and perfect faith in God’s divine will: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). It was through these words of humility and obedience that Redemption came into the world. It was through this “Fiat”, or “yes”, that we were given the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary submitted to God’s will completely and without reservation. Because of this act of faith and obedience, Christ became man for us and re-opened the gates of heaven.
Mary’s entire life was one continual “Fiat” to God. It was one of complete submission to and acceptance of God’s Divine will. We should seek to model our own lives after the life of the Blessed Mother, striving to obey God’s will in everything we do. How do we know what God’s will is for us? An excerpt from Divine Intimacy reminds us, “The will of God is expressed in His commandments, in the precepts of the Church, in the duties of our state in life; beyond all that, there is still a vast area for our free choice, where it is not always easy to know with certitude exactly what God wants of us” (Divine Intimacy 342).
Yet there is a sure way of submitting to God’s will. The reading continues, “in the voice of obedience, however, the divine will takes on a clear, precise form; it comes to us openly manifest and we no longer need to fear making a mistake. Indeed, as Saint Paul says, ‘there is no power but from God’ (Rom. 13,1), so that by obeying our lawful superiors, we can be certain that we are obeying God” (Divine Intimacy 342). One of the principle ways God reveals His will to us is through authority. Thus, we see the immense importance of obedience.
Obedience is not merely a virtue reserved for children, but it is rather the anchor of the Catholic faith. Without obedience to ecclesiastical authority, the whole structure of the Church would deteriorate. God has given us authority to show us His will. It is a safeguard. As long as a command is not sinful, we are obliged to obey those placed over us. When under holy obedience, one is given special protection from the Devil. Outside of obedience, we are left vulnerable and exposed. Divine Intimacy stresses this point: “one who, under the pretext of doing the more perfect thing, departs from the way of obedience, leaves at the same time the sure path of God’s will to enter upon the perilous and treacherous road of his own will” (Divine Intimacy 355). Even when authority seems to be doing that which is imperfect, it is still God’s will that we remain obedient. The saints assure us that this is what God wants of us.
This applies particularly to our current situation. While many Catholics might not agree with our bishops’ decisions, we are being asked to submit to God’s will though obedience to authority. As a priest explained well in his recent sermon:
“We have been asked to say Fiat to God through legitimately established authorities for something that they have a right to ask us. If we cooperate, perhaps God will cause this crisis to end sooner. In the meantime it is a test… it is a sort of interdict, a time to examine our conscience, a time to hide with His Majesty.”“Fiats Bring About Great Victories”
This pandemic is showing us many things about both ourselves and the Catholic faith. One of these may be both the importance and even necessity of obedience. There is a widespread mistrust of the hierarchy today, among laity and priests alike. Yet these leaders are placed, by God, in authority over us. The same priest continues:
“But truth be told, we are not confident in our leaders… having endured so much failure and scandal. We think we know better, having been clued in to some diabolical goings on below the surface. Maybe. God knows. Nevertheless, the decisions revolving about this plague are indeed our superiors to make, not ours. And so far, no one has asked us to sin. Instead the flood gates to indulgences have been opened.”“Fiats Bring About Great Victories”
We might be troubled because we seem to have lost the Mass. Yet even though we are no longer able to attend, it is still there, pouring grace out on those who unite to it spiritually:
“It is true that for the present we are unable to attend the Holy sacrifice of the Mass. However it is still there; it has not been taken away. God’s Divine justice is still being satisfied, and we can still unite ourselves to the Holy sacrifice though our prayers… The Sacrifice is still being offered. We have not lost this precious treasure even if we have lost the Banquet.”“Fiats Bring About Great Victories”
Obedience is often difficult, and we might be tempted to grumble about the decisions made by our bishops. However, our Lord is calling us to accept this suffering with cheerfulness, not contempt. As members of the Catholic Church, we must stay true to our baptismal promises. Through these promises, we have accepted the authority of Christ’s representatives on earth. Even if the choices of our bishops are less than perfect, God’s will is for us to obey:
“Yes, this is a trial, but it is from God. Therefore, we should not resist or resent authority, but submit to it. We have promised our obedience to the Church through our baptismal promises. It is God’s will that we fulfill those promises and obey.”“Fiats Bring About Great Victories”
With Easter quickly approaching, we all surely have feelings of regret that we will be unable to celebrate this feast by attending the Holy Mass. Although it may be difficult and painful, our duty is for us to say “Fiat” to God through obedience. The saints tell us everything that happens is a part of God’s Divine plan. Not only should we believe He is in perfect control of this pandemic, but our faith tells us that He could stop it at any time. This trial is for our sanctification and perhaps even a mercy for the world. During this time, pray to Our Lady and St. Joseph for the strength to obey and for peace in this troubling time. Let us ask for the grace to accept this trial well, echoing Mary’s “Fiat”—“be it done unto me according to thy word.”
Below is an excellent sermon, from which I have taken numerous excerpts for this article. The priest wishes to remain anonymous. I highly recommend it.
“Fiats Bring About Great Victories”, March 25, 2020.
– Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Mother and patron of the universal Church, pray for us.
“Fiats Bring About Great Victories”, Homily. Regena Prophetarum, March 25, 2020. http://www.reginaprophetarum.org/audio/20200325-Fiats-Bring-About-Great-Victories.mp3.
Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. Divine Intimacy. Desclée Company, 1964. Reprint, Baronius Press, 2019.