One 'Yes' does not last a lifetime

Annunciation by Fra Angelico
This year I have really sought to live a Marian Advent, walking with Mary as she cultivated the gift of life within her. I think this sensitivity towards this gift was heightened by a few things: the birth of my beautiful nephew Isaac in October, becoming part of St. Paul's Students for Life group which prays regularly outside the abortion clinic in Ottawa and thirdly, the ongoing debate and attempt to legislate abortion in Ireland. Today during the homily for the celebration of the Eucharist, Fr. Michael gave us plenty of food for thought with his reflection on Mary's 'yes'. The liturgy of the day offers us Luke's narrative of the Annunciation for our reflection. We all know how the story goes. I wish I could always muster a classy yes like Mary’s. “Let it be done with me according to your word” is a far cry from my usual “OK Lord, if you say so.” We do the best we can.We notice the very human details of the Annunciation. It happened in a specific place, to a specific person and so I look at my story and how I give my 'yes' for the small and the big moments of life. 

Mary’s fiat, as it is called (fiat being not a cute little car but Latin for “let it be done”), was a yes to the Unknown. These are the only yeses that really count. A yes to the Unknown—this was the fiat of Mary as she accepted the impossible message of the angel. This was the yes of those Wise Men following the star to only God knows where. This was the yes of Jesus as he accepted baptism by his cousin John. This is my yes to the Lord as He continues to lead me to different places, to different communities and to meet different people along the pilgrimage of life.

Getting back to the homily, Fr. Michael spoke of three elements of Mary's 'yes':
1) one 'yes' does not last a lifetime: the 'yes' she pronounces at the Annunciation is renewed at the birth of Jesus, at the Presentation, in the daily ups and downs of life, it is purified during the Passion and death of her Son, it is rewarded on that Easter Sunday when He rose from the dead. I often joke and say that my daily 'fiat' is when the alarm clock goes off in the morning. It costs me a lot to get up at 5.30 am and make my way to the chapel but I know I need to begin the day with a sure foundation and in the presence of the One who loves me so as to face whatever might spring up thoughout the course of the day.
2) Our 'yes' is more than often given in the ordinariness, amidst the pots and pans than in the extraordinariness. It is saying 'yes' to go a different way which is not necessarily my way but to trust that it is the best way. This takes guts but more so it takes complete abandonment to the One who leads the way. To go a different way to often tread a new path and prepare the way for others.

3) Our 'yes' is a free and freeing 'yes': it frees us and it frees others. A response that is given out of coercion or fear is not free. Nothing is impossible for God.

One of my favourite readings from the Divine Office is the one which we read today taken from St. Bernard of Clairvaux which tells the same Annunciation event with an air of expectation which is tangible:

 "You have heard, O Virgin, that you will conceive and bear a son; you have heard that it will not be by man but by the Holy Spirit. The angel awaits an answer; it is time for him to return to God who sent him. We too are waiting, O Lady, for your word of compassion; the sentence of condemnation weighs heavily upon us...Answer quickly, O Virgin. Reply in haste to the angel, or rather through the angel to the Lord. Answer with a word, receive the Word of God. Speak your own word, conceive the divine Word. Breathe a passing word, embrace the eternal Word. Why do you delay, why are you afraid? Believe, give praise, and receive. Let humility be bold, let modesty be confident.Though modest silence is pleasing, dutiful speech is now more necessary. Open your heart to faith, O blessed Virgin, your lips to praise, your womb to the Creator. See, the desired of all nations is at your door, knocking to enter. If he should pass by because of your delay, in sorrow you would begin to seek him afresh, the One whom your soul loves. Arise, hasten, open. Arise in faith, hasten in devotion, open in praise and thanksgiving. Behold the handmaid of the Lord, she says, be it done to me according to your word."
As we continue our Advent journey God continues to draw us to Him. His Holy Spirit has “overshadowed” our lives in some way. And we are beginning to believe that, like Mary, we too are being asked to “carry Christ into the world,” to bring him to birth…in our own lives and in the lives of others. Happy journeying!