2020 - 4th Sunday of Advent - Yes, Even When…
Yes, Even When...
Katie Moran (ACE 22 - Indianapolis) and
Will Peterson (ACE 21 - Memphis)
“May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary’s fiat in this Sunday’s Gospel does not come with conditions. She does not say, “May it be done to me, as long as…” or “as soon as…” or, “until…” As an engaged couple preparing for marriage, we noticed a parallel between Mary’s yes to Gabriel and the vows we will make to one another at the altar. “I promise to be faithful to you, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, to love you and to honor you all the days of my life.”
Neither the marriage vows nor Gabriel’s message include conditions or details of what will follow. The initial “yes” or “I do” must be followed by a continual affirmation of that commitment in all circumstances. Regardless of vocation or stage in life, we are called to say yes to God’s unique invitation to each of us. In the moment when we initially say yes, we rarely, if ever, know all that our commitment will entail, but the commitment gains meaning and magnitude each time we affirm it with our actions, especially when it is difficult.
When ACE teachers say yes to their placement, they take a leap of faith and enter an unfamiliar city, school, and community. They strengthen their “yes” each day as they show up for their students and community members, even when faced with exhaustion or discouragement. Professed religious take vows of obedience, relinquishing a large degree of control over where their lives will lead; knowing that yes might lead them far away from family or into a role they would not have chosen for themselves. People say yes to jobs, moves, and children that –literally or figuratively – take on a life of their own. When that “yes” includes handling a tantrum, taking on unexpected responsibilities, experiencing loneliness, accepting a pay cut, or other sacrifices, it is strengthened as it become, “yes, even when…”
Saying yes to God might lead us where we do not expect, want, or feel equipped to go. Do you think that Gabriel’s promise of the “Throne of David,” “the rule over the house of Jacob,” and “a kingdom with no end” conjured images in Mary’s mind of her son washing feet, touching lepers, or dying on a cross? Probably not. The kingdom that God professes may not be the glamorous kingdom that we expect, and it may initially appear frightening, difficult, or undesirable. But in fact, it is a more profound and lasting kingdom—one where God rules not only externally, but in each of our hearts; where salvation isn’t reserved for some, but offered to all.
The Kingdom begins with God’s constant, unconditional “yes” to us: “yes, I choose you, even when…” “Yes, I forgive you, even when…” “Yes, I love you, even when…” He then awaits our response. Do you choose me? Do you accept my forgiveness? Do you love me?
But even though God’s offer is always and everywhere, we sometimes have to pause to hear it, or we can miss it. One great opportunity to pause and acknowledge God throughout the day is at the dinner table. A favorite tradition we have developed as a couple is alternating leading prayer before meals. After praying together the traditional “Bless us, O Lord” prayer, one of us leads a spontaneous prayer, thanking God for the gifts of that day and bringing to him our needs and intentions. This helps us to call to mind God’s presence at the table and in every part of our day, to see where he has said “yes” to us with his love, and to recognize where he is asking us to say “yes” to him.
With each yes we say to God, we are bringing about the kingdom as Mary did, inviting Christ to be born again into our hearts and into the world.