Frank Sinatra is known for his hit song, “I did it my way.” In it he says that he is “facing the final curtain.” He boasts that throughout his life, “I did it my way.” Granted, it is just a song and may or may not reflect Sinatra’s real life; we still must ask ourselves “whose way” do we ultimately choose to follow? Our answer makes all the difference in this life and the next.
In today’s readings we find three men who make major choices. By examining their decisions and the ultimate outcomes, we may better understand the course we want to take.
Ahaz, king of Judah, was in a tough spot. The Assyrians were “breathing down his neck.” His choices: align himself with strong pagan nations for protection, or trust God. Ahaz chose the former. Isaiah, the prophet, confronts Ahaz and invites him to ask for a sign to show his faith in God. Ahaz had already made his decision. He chose the support he could see, which seemed more realistic than the support from the God whom he could not see. Ahaz’s way led to destruction for him and his nation. God gave Ahaz a sign anyway to show that he is faithful, even if Ahaz wasn’t. “A virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” That prophecy may have been fulfilled in Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, who was a faithful ruler. However,a much fuller fulfillment of the prophecy occurred eight centuries later when the Virgin Mary conceived a son, who was destined to save his people from sin and death.
St. Paul calls himself a “slave of Christ.” He talks about the “obedience of faith.” As God’s faithful servant, Paul chose to do it “God’s way,” even when that way led to house arrest in Rome for two years and eventual martyrdom. Because of Paul’s faithfulness, God’s message was spread to the Gentiles. As servants of God, we are also called to holiness and the “obedience of faith.” That means that sometimes we may not understand “God’s way,” but choose to follow it anyway. Some examples:
- We choose to tithe regardless of personal needs, acknowledging that all we have comes from God.
- We choose to be faithful in marriage even when our spouse may not be.
- We choose to sow justice so as to reap peace rather than promote war and hatred.
- We choose chastity rather than promiscuity.
- We choose to speak up for principles, willing to face rejection or economic sacrifices.
St. Joseph was a law-abiding Jew. When he discovered that his betrothed was pregnant, he only assumed that Mary had been unfaithful. As a just man, but a sensitive man, he was going to help Mary save face by quietly divorcing her. When an angel came in a dream and told Joseph that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit, Joseph followed God’s direct command and married Mary. Joseph “did it God’s way.” Because Joseph adopted Jesus as his son, Jesus was of the house of David, thus fulfilling the promise made to David by Samuel that his kingdom would last forever. Because Mary remained a virgin, doing it “God’s way,” much was demanded of Joseph.
“Thy will be done … ” Jesus and Mary both submitted to “God’s will” when great sacrifices were asked of them. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus, sweating blood, said to his Father, “Not what I will but what you will” (Mk 14:36). Because of Jesus’ obedience, we all inherit eternal life. When the angel asked Mary to be the mother of Jesus, she said, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Because she risked everything to “do it God’s way,” we have Jesus Christ, the Messiah, our savior and redeemer. Unlike Frank Sinatra’s song, ours should be: “I did it God’s way.” When we “face the final curtain” at the end of our lives, it is doing it God’s way, not ours, that will matter.
In one week we will celebrate the birth of Christ. But we don’t have to wait a week to meet Christ. We will meet him in a most “up close and personal way” today in the Eucharist.