This Sunday’s Gospel brings us the familiar and beautiful recounting of the Annunciation. In reflecting on this reading, the importance of Mary’s fiat, the message of being open to God’s plan and saying “yes” when he calls to us, cannot be overstated. We should all strive to imitate Mary’s radical trust in God and his plan for her life when she says, “May it be done to me according to Your word.”
I want to focus on what Mary is saying “yes” to. She is not merely agreeing to the arrangement of becoming Christ’s mother, but saying “yes” to the literal and physical presence of Jesus in her life. When the angel Gabriel first greets her, he says, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Mary is troubled by this. Do we find ourselves similarly troubled by the idea of God being with us, of Jesus being present in our own lives? If we do, it’s no doubt for different reasons than the Immaculate Mother but so often in our busy and modern lives, we are quick to forget the Lord’s presence here with us.
Perhaps there are even places we’d prefer not to take him along. I remember a homily given by Father Jeff Belger at the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City, in which he emphasized Christ’s desire to go with us wherever we go. Whether it’s to home or work, serving or socializing, Jesus wants to be with us always! Father Jeff said, “If there’s any place you go where you think you might not want Jesus going along, STOP GOING THERE!” I find this to be both humorous and so entirely true.
If we each examine our lives, we may discover there are places we prefer to keep Jesus separated from, for whatever reason. Maybe we fear judgment or desire to keep our own comfort or are avoiding confronting our own behaviors. Regardless, it is a great disservice to ourselves to try to deny God’s presence in any area of our life. In my own life, I have noticed the more I’ve made the conscious decision to carry Jesus with me in my mind and heart, the more transformative it has been for myself, my thoughts, my interactions and, by extension, for the people around me. Though I fail at this often, it gives me a glimpse of how beautiful our lives can be when we choose to carry Christ with us with a renewed intentionality and to carry him to others by our example.
As Advent comes to a close and Christmas rapidly approaches, let us follow Mary’s example in accepting Jesus’ presence in our lives. Although we can’t carry him as tangibly as a mother carries her child in the womb, we can practice turning to him with the consistency of a mother tending to her child.
We will experience a great renewal of peace and strength if we strive to keep the infant Jesus as close to our hearts as his own mother did and act in his presence with the mindfulness of the one who carried him in her womb, guided him through his early years and received him at the foot of the cross. Let us strive to imitate this great constancy.
Through her example, we can grow in trust and come to believe, as Mary did, the words of the angel Gabriel, “nothing will be impossible for God.”
(Valerie Teets belongs to St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Iowa City.)