The 'yes' that changed history
4th Sunday of Advent

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

After God finally gave him rest from his enemies, King David was bothered that while he lived in a house of cedar, the Ark of God dwelt in a tent (2 Sam. 7:15.8-12.14.16). So he told the prophet Nathan of his plan to build a house for the Ark. But God directed Nathan to tell David that it was his son who "shall build a house for my name." Nevertheless, He told Nathan to tell David, "Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever."

We may ask, "What had this shepherd boy become king done to deserve such gifts?" Nothing. Here we have an example of the manifestation of God's extravagant love and generosity and His freedom to bestow them to whomever He chose.

We see the same pattern in the action of God in Mary, a simple country girl from Nazareth. Her parents had arranged her marriage with Joseph. Though the two were already engaged, God had another plan for Mary (Lk. 1:26-38). He made this known through the angel Gabriel who appeared to Mary and said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.... Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus." He added that her Son "will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,... and of his kingdom there will be no end." Then silence followed as Gabriel awaited Mary's response.

Of this moment, the Holy Father once said, "Never in human history did so much depend, as it did then, upon the consent of one human creature." But before responding, Mary wanted a practical matter clarified first: "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" The angel answered, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." Mary then said without any hesitation, "I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."

As with David, we ask of Mary, "What had this country girl done to deserve to be the Mother of God?" And as with David, the answer is: Nothing. In Mary, too, we see God's extravagant love and generosity manifested and His freedom to choose whomever He wants to honor. Thus His choice of Mary to be the mother of His Son was sheer gift.

Because God asked Mary to do something He had never asked a person to do in the past nor would do again in the future, His very choice of Mary had made her, in the words of Gabriel, "favored one" or as we say in the prayer Hail Mary, "full of grace." The truth of this direct action of God in Mary is reflected in her Magnificat:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

But things did not stop there. Just as God, the Giver, had the freedom to give to whomever He chose, Mary, the receiver, also had the freedom to accept or reject what was being given. This is where the significance of Mary's exercise of her freedom with her 'fiat,' her 'yes,' her "May it be done to me according to your word" comes in. Just as God had freely chosen to give, Mary had also freely chosen to accept. And with her fiat -- unhesitating and full -- the course of history changed.

For at the moment Mary said her 'yes', the conception of Jesus, the Son of God, began. Nine months later, on Christmas Day, the Incarnation of the Son of God and Savior of humankind took place. And all this has happened because of Mary's fiat.

As one spiritual writer said, "Because of God's mysterious preference, because he has freely chosen to look on Mary in such a way, because he has made her full of grace, all generations -- as we do today -- call her blessed. God graced Mary for a mission that was not for herself; her mission in the plan of God was to give Jesus to every generation of the human family."

Obviously, God's choice of Mary to be the Mother of His Son was special. So was her response. But God has also chosen all of us for something special, namely and in the words of St. Paul, "to be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence" (Eph. 1:4). For this, like Mary, we are also "favored." Consequently, like Mary, we are challenged to use our freedom and respond with our 'yes' to God's call.

What has been our response to God's choice of us? Is it like Mary's - unhesitating and full? Then, like in Mary, God's Son will be born in us. Then, like Mary, we, can change the course of history -- of our lives as well as of those we touch - our families, friends, neighbors, etc., - and in the process, the whole of society itself.