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Archive for December 18th, 2017

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I’ve Never Done That Before

“I’ve never done that before.”  That’s an excuse that I’ve used countless times, and I wish I had a dollar for each time I’ve relied on it to get me out of a jam.  Even richer would I be if I had a dollar for when I’ve been part of a group that collectively invoked it.

On the one hand, it’s certainly not a fib when I’ve resorted to that line.  It’s almost always been a statement of fact.  But it’s also served as justification for inaction, as in:  “I’ve never done that before, and I see no good reason to start doing it now.”

One of the central characters in the Advent story is Mary, who had to be stunned by the angel’s message.  She was to give birth to a son, if she said “yes.”  Who could blame her if she said “no” to this preposterous idea?  So Mary bought time to think by pointing out the obvious.  She was neither married nor living with a man, so how could this possibly be?  That, of course, was a statement of the obvious facts.  But equally obvious had to be her fear and reluctance, and nobody could have blamed her had she responded with a hearty “no way!”  But that meant saying “no” not just to an angel, but to God.  From that refusal Mary shrank.  So she gave it a few moments’ thought and then utttered words that for her were life-changing:  “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”

IMG_4957God’s invitation to Mary was certainly unique, but never for a minute should we conclude that God has left us off the hook.  In fact, on any given day God puts to us all sorts of invitations.  A few are huge, and most are inconsequential.  Yet, after all these years and all sorts of missed opportunities, I’m still surprised by my own hesitation to dive right in.  Whenever that happens I remind myself that at core I’m risk-averse.  When God or anybody else asks me to step out of my comfort zone my immediate reaction is caution.  I hesitate to try new things.  I delay and mentally dig in my heels.  But when I do swing into action, I always wonder why I hadn’t done it sooner.

A key message of Advent is the story of someone who decided not to let fear paralyze her.  So it was that Mary threw in her lot with God.  Despite everything, she said “yes,” and life was never the same for her.

Sadly I, who am better-schooled and have advantages that Mary never had, fear to take the leap when God beckons.  Perhaps I’m just too good at thinking up great excuses, and sometimes I’ve even imagined that I have too much to lose.

But Mary teaches me and all of us a good lesson.  She was one of the first to act upon an idea that Jesus preached over and over:  those who lose their lives for his sake gain everything.   Could it be that was one of the things that Mary taught Jesus as he grew in age and wisdom?

IMG_4980In response to God’s invitation Mary threw all her caution out the window and said “yes” to God.   And that might shape the sort of advice she would give to us today.  She’d likely say that her “yes” made all the difference in the world for her.  Perhaps our “yes” might do exactly the same for us.

 

Notes

+On December 12th I presided at the Abbey Mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

+On December 13th I fought the snow as I drove to the airport to fly to Fort Myers, FL.  There was no snow in Florida, but there was traffic, and lots of it.  On the first day I witnessed two accidents, one of which looked horrible.  Lest anyone conclude from today’s post that “caution” is a bad idea, I quickly affirm its value on the roads and highways in the run-up to Christmas.

+In today’s post I have images from two altar panels, housed in the Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona.  Both are of the Annunciation, and the first is a ca. 1350 panel made for the Church of Saint Vincent in Cardona..  The second is a 14th-century image from a church in Valencia.

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