Today, we honor the Blessed Mother on this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. As we hear about the Annunciation today in Luke’s Gospel, we can reflect on how today’s feast is a celebration of Mary being specially disposed and chosen to say “Yes” to God and how, in a lifetime of opportunities that we all have to say “yes,” Mary made the best “yes” of all.
Every day, we are confronted with choices and decisions to which we often say “yes”. Usually, these decisions are trivial or so small as to seem insignificant in the course of a day—can you stop at the grocery store for milk, will you get a work out in, can your son go to a friend’s house (which is a less trivial matter these days, but still…). Sometimes, though, we are faced with some very big choices to make and saying “yes” to them can have a huge impact on our lives and other people’s lives, too—will you marry him, will you take that job, will you move to a new city or a new state?
I am here in this place and in this time because of some big yesses that other people made for me. About 46 years ago, a young woman in South Korea made a decision to say “yes” when she gave birth to a baby girl. She made another decision, probably a very hard one, to say “yes” to a better life for that baby. And then a couple halfway around the world in the town of Glen Burnie, MD said “yes” when they learned that girl could be theirs. This was a couple that had enough love to grow their family and enough faith to trust that God was at work in giving them a daughter. They gave what I would consider their best “yes” (although my brothers might argue that it was just one of their three best yesses).
I am also here in this place and in this time because of a very big “yes” that was made, not only for me, but for all of us. Over 2000 years ago, there was another young woman—a girl, really—who learned that she was going to have a baby. We hear in this passage from Luke’s Gospel that Mary—young, betrothed, and born without the stain of original sin—will conceive a child by the Holy Spirit who will be the Son of the Most High. Mary’s response: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). In her great fiat, with enough love and trust in God, she gave all of us the hope and the promise of JOY, of fulfillment, of a love that we could never know on earth.
She gave God and gave us all the best of all possible yesses.
As you consider where you are in this time and in this place, think about the yesses that got you here. Maybe they are ones made for you by others or maybe they are ones you’ve made for yourself. Maybe there is some disappointment or regret because of some of them, but, hopefully, you have found JOY in many of them. Ultimately, wherever you landed, wherever you are right now, God has been at work with all those responses to get you where you need to be, just as he was at work 40-some years ago in South Korea and Glen Burnie; just as he was working over 2000 years ago in Nazareth; just as he has always been at work for us.
And as you are confronted with more decisions to make—for yourselves, for your families, for your communities—I invite you to consider how your response to them could be your best “yes” to what God wants for you and for those you love. And even if it’s not your best yes, even if you might say “No” every now and again, know that God can use your response, whatever it is, for his good, for yours, and for ours.
Because we know the great, mighty, wonderful works that God can do. And every Advent season, we are reminded of his loving care and his promises of JOY when we celebrate Mary and the best “yes” ever. In the end, when we think about where we are in this time and in this place, that’s the “yes” that matters most of all.