Mary’s “yes” is most profound to me in the way that it changed her life. It is believable, even without God’s request, that she and Joseph would have become parents. Because of her “yes” though, she became not only a mother, but the mother of Jesus. An ordinary life was made sacred by way of an invitation that she affirmed. Her life was deepened but the shape of it remained mostly the same: Like any mother, she was still needed by the infant in the middle of the night, chased the toddler with the hopes of a nap soon to come, and turned her life towards her child’s. The difference is that her attention turned toward the child who was Jesus. When Mary said “yes,” she welcomed God into the content of her already given life.
So it is with our lives. When we say “yes,” God is most often inviting us to what is already within our capacity—inviting us to see our ordinary roles as sacred. Like Mary, can we accept the deepening of the lives that we have already been given? Can we say “yes” and let life be sacred?
Imagine the scene of Mary’s “yes.” What details do you see and how do these affect your understanding of her response? We know her answer was “yes,” but what was beneath it? What thoughts do you think she had? What knee-jerk feelings were formed and how did they become part of her response? What do you imagine the conversation in her mind was as she formed her response?
We are told that Mary did not run or hide when the angel came to her. Somehow, she was present to the experience and the request. While I do imagine that she had many feelings in that moment, they did not usurp her attention or her ability to respond. This presence of mind inspires me. I think of her “yes,” and I long for the kind of presence she might have had in the encounter.
Today, think about some common feelings that distract you in your encounters. Maybe it is fear that you can’t do something or anger that you feel you must. Maybe it is resentment that another needs you or guilt that you do not want to be needed.
As you go about your day, notice these feelings and then practice your way back to what is actually at hand. You can do this by writing, “yes” on a piece of paper to remind you visually of Mary’s response. Or perhaps you would rather choose a word to repeat or mental image to use when the feelings you’ve named surface. Choose a simple action that will help you refocus on what is actually before you.
At the end of the day, ask yourself, “When I was present today, what happened?”
Prayer is the practice of attending to that which is true. When we pray, whatever method we use, we notice our needs, our desires, and our relationships. Only by noticing what is within are we able to connect with what is beyond ourselves. As such, prayer is our participation in the deepening of the sacred.
Mary taught us this when she said, “yes.”
I invite you to finish this prayer:
God, you are my ever-patient creator. You are my abundant invitation. Help me to respond to the layers of my life with a Yes you have heard before. Help me echo the Yes that Mary gave in these places of my life…
Catherine Wiecher Brunell is a pastoral minister of the everyday. Her life's work is about finding meaning in ordinary things by teaching and practicing faith. She has a master's degree in pastoral ministry from Boston College. She lives in Natick, Massachusetts, with her four children and husband.