- Ryan G. Duns, SJ
Last weekend, I spent two days in prayer and fellowship with several other Jesuits. Before we celebrated the Eucharist on Saturday, one of the Jesuits posed the question, "What advice would you give to next year's Regents?" (Regency: a formation period for Jesuits; I am a Regent teaching in a high school).
My response was simple: Just Say Yes. If I have learned anything over the course of my Jesuit formation, it is that God has always given me more than I could ever have imagined...even when receiving it was at first painful. When we began plans for "U of D Jesuit: Pledge Detroit!" last year, it seemed like a daunting task. Nothing like this had been executed before and I, in my second year, had to shoulder the burden of making sure it was done well. Were it not for the support of good friends and colleagues, the program would have failed. In the early stages of planning, in fact, it often did look like it would fail.
Back in August, our committee had a particularly disheartening meeting at one of the sites we were going to use for our project. Frustrated and dejected, I was playing with the radio of my friend's car when I heard the opening notes of a song that caught my ear. I can't recall ever hearing it before but, in that moment, the song "Just Say Yes" by Snow Patrol became my anthem for the project. Although I was tempted many times to abandon the project, I took courage and strength and peace in the simple Yes that I have grown accustomed saying to God.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. What is so remarkable about Mary, so Immaculate, is that she never uttered a 'no' to God. Her life, in a sense, was, prior to this day, an infinity of small 'yeses' to God such that, when visited by Gabriel, this world-shifting "Yes" could be uttered. Mary's humble "Let it be done unto me according to your word" comes not out of the blue but, rather, as a culmination of a life lived welcoming God's grace into her life.
Perhaps today will offer a few moments for each of us to reflect on how we might imitate Mary, she who is full of grace. Where are those places in my life that I am reluctant or wary of saying yes to God? Where are those places that I am holding out, bracing the door of my heart against what feels like God's incessant pounding? Where do I feel myself almost threatened by God's grace...a grace which is undoubtedly inviting me to leave the narrow confines of my current life and embark upon a new and deeper adventure of faith?
The Blessed Mother had no strategic plan or forecast of the future. She had only the confidence that her "yes" would be matched by a greater "Yes" from the God she sought in her everyday life. We are, each of us, offered a similar opportunity to make God's life our life, to give flesh to God's grace here on earth. May this Lent give us both the opportunity and strength to say a deeper and more joyful 'yes' to God.