We humans put up all sorts of barriers. Some are necessary, like the walls of prisons, or the sound barriers along a highway. Some are sad, like the old wall that used to separate East and West Germany. Others are exasperating, like the wall along the frontier into Mexico. The physical barriers that we accept every day keep us safe and warm, define our space, and keep us in our place. Not sure if that’s always good or bad, but there it is.
Perhaps the saddest barriers that we put up, though, are the spiritual barriers that keep us from God, or the spiritual barriers that are intended to keep God from being God, or are intended to force God to do what we would want. How often do we want God to answer our prayers in our own way, or not at all? Are we sometimes afraid of what God would do if we really let him open the dark places of our lives? Are we like the Israelites who could not bear to even look at Moses lest they be enlightened by the radiance of God at work in him? The spiritual barriers that we put up as some kind of laughable defense against God are heartbreaking, because they succeed only in defeating the outpouring of God’s mercy on us in this time and place.
During these final days of Advent, during Vespers or Evening Prayer, we pray what are called the “O Antiphons” which explore some of the prophetic titles of the coming King. So today, for all of us locked up inside barriers of our own making, the “O Antiphon” prays:
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.
In today’s Gospel Mary found out that nothing can stand in the way of God’s plans, that the Key of David can even unlock the barren womb of her cousin Elizabeth to provide a herald’s voice for the coming of our Savior. Perhaps today we can allow the Key of David to unlock the dark places of our hearts so that we can see a miracle happening in our own lives too.