Mary was very young when she received God’s call to be the mother of Jesus. So too does God invite each of us to discover God’s plan for our lives. During Advent we celebrate the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. It is our Catholic belief that God’s mother was conceived without the original sin that other human beings have when they come into the world.
With that in mind, we can fall into the trap of seeing Mary as someone programmed to do what God asked of her. Believing this is to deny her humanity and the depth of her faith in God.
Mary’s greatness lies not in the fact that God preserved her from original sin, but that she responded affirmatively to His call to be the mother of Jesus and that she strove to live God’s will throughout her life. It is about her great faith, trust, love and her willingness to say yes to whatever God asked of her, not knowing what the future held.
We believe that both she and Jesus had the same gift of free will that every human possesses and they chose God’s will over their own. It was not a forced decision.
The story of the Annunciation, which is proclaimed during Advent, can teach us a lot about answering our own call from God.
First of all, artists often portray Mary in a stance of prayer when the angel comes to her. Mary had a relationship with God. She was in love with God. Her heart was prepared to listen to God. Through her prayer and union with God she was open to his will. If this were not the case, she probably would not have recognized the angel.
Mary also discerned the situation. She asked a practical question: “How can this be?” She knew she was a virgin and what the consequences of becoming pregnant out of wedlock were. Because of her great faith and trust in God, she believed that He would make everything happen even though she did not understand how.
It was Mary’s trust in God’s goodness and love that enabled her to risk her future even though she did not know what her yes would mean. But she was absolutely sure of one thing, that God loved her and would stand by her no matter what the consequences of her yes might be.
So it is with us. It takes prayer, faith and trust to answer God’s call. We need to discover His will in the context of prayer and in the other circumstances of our lives.
Preparing our hearts through prayer is very important because we are saying yes to a future we are not sure about. When two people marry they have no idea what their lives together will bring. And when a person enters the religious life the same thing is true. I had no idea the life of a sister would change as radically as it has during the past 30 years, and no one knows what will happen in the next 20. One thing I am convinced of is that God will be with me and take care of me no matter what life brings.
Like Mary, it is our ongoing love-relationship with God that sustains us and supports us in our attempts to answer his daily call. Our trust in and assurance of God’s faithfulness gives us the courage we need to carry out his will for us each day.
Mary’s greatness is not only because she was chosen to be God’s mother, but also in the fact that she was a woman of faith, trust and love who said yes to God even though she did not understand all that He was asking of her.
During this season of Advent, let us pray to God to deepen our faith and help us bring hope to an often-hopeless world. Like Mary, let us always have our hearts prepared to say yes to God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.Sister Margie Lavonis is a Sister of the Holy Cross from Notre Dame, Ind. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.