Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Lk 1:38).
Whether this is the first or thousandth time you have read this verse, the more important question is how many times have you said to God, “May it be done to me according to your word”? How would it be for us to begin each day with this prayer and then at the end of the day reflect on how well we have heard and answered yes to God’s will?
Mary’s yes changed the course of human history. Her willingness to bear the Son of God who dwelt among us in our wounded human condition, was for the purpose to heal and to lead us home to communion with his Father. Jesus is the gift that keeps giving – and we receive his gift each time we say yes to him. When we do so, we become less, as he becomes more, and the kingdom of God continues to expand.
Along with Mary, the yes that we make is not a one-time, yes, but we are to affirm a daily, moment by moment yes. As St Paul wrote to the Church of Thessalonica, we are to: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 16-17). We are able to rejoice always and pray without ceasing when we say, “Yes,” to God by developing and sustaining our relationship with him such that even when we experience pain, suffering, and struggles, we are not overcome or overwhelmed. We can even feel joy in the midst of them because we experience Jesus’ closeness. He does not abandon us to random fate. He is our source, our refuge, and our strength, present to us in all that we experience.
Our prayers of petition for ourselves and intercession for others are another yes to his will because they are an “admission of one’s own helplessness” (Lohfink 2014, 240). Prayer is a, “No,” to pride. Our willingness to ask for help and to help others are also practical ways of saying yes to God. There is no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto. Two by two, just as Jesus sent his disciples. Prayer is a yes to our acknowledgment that we need Jesus to guide and help us, also to save us from ourselves! Service is a yes to the love we have received from him and a willingness to share this love with others.
We are to rejoice as we begin this fourth week of Advent because we draw ever closer to celebrating the birth of Jesus who is Emmanuel, God with us. May we have the grace to experience his love in our time of prayer and serving one another. This reality was made possible by the handmaid of the Lord. Say yes to Jesus as Mary did and rejoice!
Photo: Who says that you can’t experience joy in Religion Class?
Lohfink, Gerhard. No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.