The visit of frs Bruno and Vivian was brief but a very special occasion for us here in Tehran. It was repeatedly said to me afterwards that their presence was a wonderful reminder that we are not forgotten but are part of a greater family of brothers and sisters who remember us and pray for us. On the first evening, we went to visit a small group of the Chaldean/Assyrian community who had gathered for Mass with Archbishop Ramsi, a bishop who had studied with the Dominicans in Iraq. We joined them for tea afterwards and fr Bruno spoke to the people about his meeting with the Christian community in Iraq. Fr Bruno spoke in French which was then translated into Assyrian or modern Aramaic.
Do we long to do the will of God, or not? Today we are presented with two rather interesting persons who encounter God. Mary, the Mother of God, and Ahaz, the King of Israel. Both are presented with unbelievable experiences of faith. But each responds in an unique way. For Mary, it is her “may it be done to me according to your word”, the yes she gives to God, but for Ahaz, it is a rejection of God, albeit couched in language that might at first seem quite pious. Why such different answers?
Perhaps it would be helpful to look at Ahaz, the King. He reigned at a time when Israel was threatened. He choose to side with Assyria over the promise of God made to David. The reason God wants Ahaz to ask for a sign is so he might be convinced that God will be faithful in keeping his promise. So before Ahaz is the ability to see God offer a sign that will remind him of the powerful promise God made with David, or to trust in something that appears to be more certain, the military power of Assyria. Ahaz chooses Assyria, and he is doomed. Ahaz will not ask God for a sign, because he does not want one.
Mary, on the other hand, is open to the uncertainty of the message of the angel Gabriel, because she trusts in God’s word. She is frightened, but she says yes anyway. She is willing to be the vehicle for Jesus to come into the world as a human being, not fully understanding or comprehending how this can even be. She trusts God’s word through the angel, and the Incarnation becomes real.
Today’s readings remind me of the choice Moses set before the people, that of death or of life. Ahaz, though he probably does not fully realize it has chosen death. Mary has chosen life. Today, God places before you the choice of life or death. What will you choose?