Often we reflect on how Jesus’ birth changed everything and how Jesus’ crucifixion changed everything. But, maybe this year, we need to give a little more time to how neither of those things were possible without Mary’s yes.
As we just celebrated the Immaculate Conception, think about it. Without Mary’s willingness to do God’s will, everything turns out differently. Sure, Mary is in the nativity scene, but we underestimate how important her belief, her faith, and her willingness were foundational to literally everything.
How often do we consider that when she said yes, she was only somewhere between 12 and 14 years old? She was unmarried. This was not a “yes” that carried with it no consequences. She did not know, at that time, everything her son would suffer, but she did know what it meant for her – the judgments, the condemnation, the gossip. She did it anyway. Her response, when talking to Elizabeth, is amazing! She is thankful for the opportunity.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me,” Luke 1:49.
In 2016, Pope Francis explained that Mary’s response “is “the most important ‘yes’ in history.” In his Angelus address that year on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the pope compared readings from Genesis and the Gospel of Luke. In Genesis, man (Adam) in the Garden of Eden essentially said “no” to God.
“Man preferred to look at himself rather than his Creator, he wanted to do his own thing, he chose to suffice with himself.”
Mary did the opposite.
What if Mary had said “no” like Adam did?
John Paul II reflected in his papal encyclical about Mary’s other yes. Jesus, from the cross, tells the disciple to behold his, Mother— Mary (John 19:26). At that moment, we know that Mary agrees to and becomes Mother of all disciples of Jesus. In a papal encyclical, John Paul II says the following:
“This is true not only of John, who at that hour stood at the foot of the Cross together with the Mother (of Jesus), but it is also true of every disciple of Christ, of every Christian.” (Redemptoris Mater, 1987).
At that moment, she said yes to being mother of us all. Again…wow! While her son was being crucified, she took on this responsibility.
Mary was saying yes to a vocation, to a calling. I think about what God asked of Abraham, Moses, or Noah. He asked a lot of them too. Is what He is asking of us really that hard? How enthusiastic are we about our vocations? How about just in our everyday lives right now?
It is especially hard with Covid-19. I think about the yes that our nurses, doctors, and EMTs are saying every day as they come to work. Doing the hard, emotional work day after day.
We have children saying yes to online distance learning. OK, maybe they don’t have a choice really but they are doing it. They are accepting it, perhaps not as enthusiastically as Mary, but they are.
We are asked to say yes to mandates and follow restrictions about gathering because of covid and we even struggle with that. We are asked to say yes to masks in stores and we even struggle with that. I witnessed in a local store on the night before Thanksgiving an incident between pro-mask and anti-mask people. The anti-masker intentionally and purposely coughed in the face of the pro-masker.
But I also dislike the term “pro-mask” but I do not have a better one. No one really likes these things, especially when we wear them ten hours a day, but it is what we do because we are called to do it right now.
Father Don Talafous at St. John’s Abbey wrote this week,
“The Apostle Paul probably was not thinking about our nine month-and-holding oppression by the Covid-19 virus. But he did urge on us receptivity to and the practice of the nine fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) for the common good.”
Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Even if we struggle with joy right now, we can focus on the other eight.
As Advent continues, I am trying to be more thoughtful and consider what God is asking. Where is he in this covid world? When Mary was called, her answer was
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
God asked way more of her than he asks of us. What do we say?
Mary, Mother of Jesus,
you who accepted, teach us how to accept;
you who adored, teach us how to adore;
you who followed, teach us how to follow.
(Franciscan Spirit Blog)