Abbot Damien Toilolo, O.S.B.
I don’t know what qualifies a day in the Church calendar to be a holy day of obligation, but it seems that today ought to be one. Today is the day we celebrate God entering the world as a human being, the beginning of His human life, the Incarnation. Nine months later, Dec. 25, is the day we celebrate His birth into the world. There are only 2 days in the Church calendar when we genuflect during the Creed: Christmas is one of those days, and today is the other day. This shows us just how important this feast day is.
The Creator entered His creation. As we heard last night, St. Leo the Great wrote, “Existing before time, he began to exist at a moment in time.” This feast of the Annunciation highlights the ‘condescension’ of God, the humility of God, a humility that the Blessed Virgin herself imitated.
What Eve in the garden could not do, Mary, the New Eve, did: she became selfless. She trusted and obeyed the will of God, rather than her own. What God wanted, Mary also wanted.
One of the beautiful things about this event is that Mary was a young, unassuming, humble girl of Nazareth…and God didn’t ask Mary to change a thing. He didn’t ask her to change her plans, to change her looks, to put her life on hold, or wait for her 18th birthday. He wanted her to go forward with her marriage to Joseph as she planned, to live the life of a carpenter’s wife as she planned, to continue whatever she had planned to do—to live her life as she normally would.
It is similar with us and God’s will in our life. When God chooses us or asks us to participate in His will in a very particular way, He doesn’t ask us to change anything. If anything needs to be changed, He Himself will see to it. But when He calls us, He asks only that we continue to be ourselves—with our strengths, gifts, weaknesses, defects, and imperfections; there is no need for us to get ready for anything. In fact, the reason He has chosen us is because we are already ready. He has already been preparing us. We are the most perfect person for the job. Everything and everyone has been prepared. Again, if there is anything that needs to be changed, He Himself will do it. He is the One who causes the interior transformation and the growth. The only thing that is needed is our “yes”.
We all know that it’s difficult at times to say “yes” to God because most times we don’t know exactly what we’re saying yes to. That’s when the fear creeps in and we begin to wonder and question and doubt, because we are taught the value of planning ahead. We are taught that it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan. We want to know what’s going to happen to us so that we can be prepared.
But in the spiritual life, it’s not that way. God hardly ever lets us know in advance what’s going to happen to us when we say “yes”—for obvious reasons: He wants to protect us. He doesn’t want to overwhelm us or scare us by showing us the bigger picture. He simply wants us to trust Him.
Today’s feast reminds us that when it’s all said and done, what is most important to remember is not the what of our yes…what’s going to happen to me when I say “yes” to the Lord, what’s not going to happen to me….but the who of the “yes”. Who am I saying “yes” to? Who is the One calling me? Who is the One asking me?
Our life is not about us, it’s about God. When we remember Who it is that is doing the calling and the asking, then all the other things, whether known or unknown, become virtually irrelevant. He has already proven Himself trustworthy by dying a cruel death for something He didn’t do, so that we sinners, the guilty ones, could benefit from it for all eternity.
This is what we celebrate at each Eucharist: the generosity, love and humility of God as seen in the death and resurrection of His Son. May the Holy Spirit help us, like Mary, to be humble enough to respond to God more frequently and more readily each day with the words, ‘be it done to me according to your will’.