Today Catholic Christians celebrate the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
On this day, we hear the story of the Annunciation of Jesus in the Gospel of St. Luke (1: 26-38).
The story tells of an angel named Gabriel who was sent to a town of Galilee called Nazareth.  There, he appeared to a virgin named Mary and greeted her by saying, “Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.”  Mary was very troubled and confused by this greeting, but Gabriel told her not to be afraid, for God found favor with her.

Gabriel then went on to let Mary know that she would conceive and bear a son, and his name would be Jesus.  Further, this son would be called Son of the Most High, and he would inherit the throne of David, rule over the house of Jacob forever, and that his kingdom would have no end.

Mary wondered how this could be, for she had not had relations with her fiancé, Joseph.  Gabriel replied that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her.  Before departing, the angel Gabriel told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth was also going to have a baby even though she was advanced in years and believed to be barren.  After all, the angel noted, with God, all things are possible.

Mary, though she had no crystal ball to foretell the future, simply said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  Then, the angel departed.

This story, the Annunciation, is the first of the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  And though it contains many dimensions that we could explore, today we look at the fact that Mary took a leap of faith.

A leap of faith refers to following a dream when we don’t know where it will lead.  Rather, we take a path that we hope will make the dream come true, relying of solely on faith.  That is what a man named Stephen did in the following story.

Stephen was a deaf man who never wanted his deafness to shortchange his dreams.  But, after working very hard for a prestigious Wall Street firm for ten years, he felt that the nine-to-five job he had was not inspiring.  Therefore, he decided to switch gears and look for something else.

Fortunately, Stephen learned about a financial giant firm looking to hire more stockbrokers.  So, with help from friends, he landed an appointment to get an interview with a branch vice president.

On the day of the appointment, Stephen had a fever and felt very sick, but he was determined to make the appointment.  The interview lasted over three hours, and instead of being hired, he learned he was required to have 12 more interviews with top salespeople.

Each of the interviewers told him the same thing: He would be better off with his nine-to-five job.  80% fail within the first year.  You have no investment experience.

Stephen’s last job was with a vice president on a cold, blustery January day.  Five minutes into the interview, Stephen discerned that the man did not know what to do with Stephen.  The vice president nervously played with a paper clip and pretended to read the report Stephen had prepared on how he would build his business if he were hired.

With all the courage he could muster, Stephen blurted out, “Sir, if you don’t hire me, you will never know just how much I could have done for this firm!”

The vice president said, “Okay, you’ve got the job on one condition.  First, you have to leave your current job two weeks from today and enroll in a three-month training program.  When you’re done with that, you have to take a Series 7 stockbroker exam.  It is 250 questions long, and you must pass on your first try.  If you fail by even one point, you’re out!”

Stephen was faced with a huge choice.  He could either choose the security of his nine-to-five job with a regular paycheck, or he could take a leap of faith by chasing his dream.  Stephen took the leap of faith.

Stephen passed his exam and became a successful stockbroker.  In fact, he received many awards for his sales successes, for his personal sales soared to 1,700%.

Four years later, Stephen left his wonderful job to become an inspirational speaker and author.  Fortunately, he is successful at both.

Stephen believes his success confirms the truth of Henry David Thoreau’s observation that, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he had imagined, he will meet success unexpected in common hours.”

Like Mary, Stephen took a leap of faith.  He trusted that what he was doing was right for him.  He believed that even though he did not if he would pass or fail, he would always wonder if he had shortchanged himself by not taking the leap of faith.  He believed that win or lose, he would feel good about giving his all to follow his dream

Like Mary and Stephen, we too must from time to time take a leap of faith.  We, too, must stretch to follow our dreams.  That is where our faith and hope come into play.

As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to reflect on how we, too, took a leap of faith.  How did that work out for us?  What kind of hopes and faith did the leaps require?

And that is the good news I have for you on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, 2017.

                                                                                                                                               

Story source:  Stephen J. Hopson, “Leap of Faith,” After Hours Inspirational Stories, no

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