HOW DO YOU SAY “YES”? (Luke 1:26-38): 21 December 2008 (Fourth Sunday of Advent)
How do you say “Yes”? Teach me, my Mother. Praying yet again over the Annunciation story, I can’t help but wonder again if you were able to say “Yes” because you were just generous or because you didn’t completely understand what you were getting into. I suspect that it was both.
I mean, how can anyone agree to let God turn one’s life upside down? Isn’t that’ what your “Yes” to the angel meant? To agree to be the mother of the “Son of the Most High” isn’t a simple thing. First of all, you didn’t have to stretch your imagination to know what agreeing to the proposed pregnancy would do to your engagement to Joseph. I’m sure you knew it would ruin and end any prospect of marriage to him. When you said “Yes,” you certainly had no idea that this same angel would visit Joseph in his dream. And even if you knew that Joseph was a righteous man and someone who loved you, there was no telling how he would react to the whole situation.
Secondly, you must have guessed that by saying “Yes,” you would endanger not only your relationship with Joseph, but also your own life. You knew of the law of Moses that prescribed stoning for those caught in adultery–and certainly you must have known that it wouldn’t be easy to convince people to believe any talk of angels–not even those closest to you.
And if you did manage to survive, saying “Yes” to the angel would most certainly be saying “Yes” to a life of ruined reputation. As is the case today, the villagers and neighbors would flock around your life and feast on your story. In fact, even as an adult, Jesus was still referred to as your son–and not Joseph’s–a clue, we’re told by biblical scholars, that the rumor about the illegitimacy of his birth had not exactly died down.
But finally, what does the “Son of the Most High” mean anyway, and what does being his mother entail? Did you know that he wouldn’t be your usual king, but would, in fact, be almost the complete opposite–someone who would make himself servant and would even be executed among criminals?
It’s hard to imagine that you said “Yes” understanding fully well what you were getting into. I mean, it just wasn’t possible to understand everything about that decision and commitment of yours–as it is impossible today to understand every consequence and implication of our decisions and commitments. As I reflect more about the Annunciation, more and more I can’t help but suspect that you must have accepted the angel’s invitation without complete understanding! But that, more than anything else, reveals the generosity of your “Yes.”
It’s easy to say “Yes” when we know exactly what we’re getting into, and when we’ve been able to do the math as far as the costs and benefits are concerned. It’s much tougher to be generous when we can see some of the costs but don’t see the benefits too clearly. But just the same, you paused and thought for a while, took a deep breath, summoning all your faith, and said “Yes.”
Teach me how you say “Yes.” Too often I count the coins and perform what has become the prerequisite number-crunching before I agree to get into anything. There are two problems with this type of accounting: First, in this life, it’s simply impossible to foresee all the benefits and costs of one’s decisions and actions. Often we need to make the decision first before we can understand and experience its consequences. Secondly, we’re simply not supposed to play the accountant with God. When we think about it, God doesn’t play accountant with us because we deserve none of the gifts that he has given us. If God opts to count the coins with us, we will be left with nothing because we deserve nothing.
God invites us to faith and to generosity–even to extravagance–because he puts his faith in us and pours out everything for us.
Dearest Mary, help me learn how to say “Yes” the way you did that first moment with the angel and every single day that followed that. Amen.
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