We have just passed through the richest period of the liturgical year, following Jesus through Holy Week, focusing on his Passion and Death, and then rising with him on the third day and celebrating his Resurrection throughout the Easter Octave and Divine Mercy Sunday. With today’s Solemnity, we go back to the beginning, to the first moment of Jesus’ life in the womb of Mary. The Annunciation is a celebration of the dawn of our salvation, when Mary, by her simple and profound “yes,” opened the way for Jesus’ earthly mission to begin.

From our vantage point two thousand years later, we can see the great work of God that unfolded based on that “yes.” Mary, however, only knew what the angel told her, that the Lord was asking her to accept being the mother of the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a bewildering request, but once she was convinced that it was truly the will of God, she declared herself to be his lowly servant, “the handmaid of the Lord.” She accepted whatever it was the angel was talking about: “May it be done to me according to your word.” This brief and secret conversation between an angel and a young woman marked the beginning of a spiritual revolution, a whole new creation.

Mary’s “yes” was in the first place an interior response of acceptance of God’s will. There was no indicated action required of her; God was taking the action. He was the initiator and Mary the receiver. But in addition to saying “yes” to God, Mary had also heard from the angel some surprising good news: “Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.” Having heard this, Mary’s heart knew that her “yes” to God included also a “yes” to her neighbor, Elizabeth; she must go to her. Although today’s reading ends with the angel’s departure, we know that after the angel left, Mary immediately got up and went in haste to help Elizabeth. She did not need an angel to tell her to go, because the law written on her heart directed her behavior. Raised in a Jewish household, Mary was familiar with the words of the Psalm, cited today in both the Responsorial Psalm and in the second reading: “Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”

We know that, unlike Mary, we do not always act promptly to follow God’s will. Our original sin condition leaves us slow to respond. How often our actions are ruled by selfishness, rather than by prompt assent to God’s word. The perfect life of Mary can seem like an impossible ideal. As we ponder the Annunciation, however, we are not intimidated but instead greatly encouraged. Mary shows us the key to overcoming all impossibility. We are not required to do great things but only to say “yes.” When Mary said, “yes, may it be done to me according to your word,” the Lord was able to do great things! Today we are celebrating the power of a simple human “yes.” With our own “yes,” God will be able to do great things for us as well, “for nothing will be impossible for God”!

We can do this part. Sin has not robbed us of all freedom. We can make an act of the will, a decision, to accept the will of God. If we find this step too difficult or overwhelming, we can still be willing to be willing, and ask the Lord for the grace to be able to say, “yes.” And the Lord will work with that. He is faithful and he is powerful. A tiny mustard seed of faith is enough for him to begin great things. The simple act of repeating many times each day, “Lord, may it be done to me according to your will,” trains our hearts in acceptance. Then when the opportunity for service presents itself, we find that we are ready to give ourselves, with a gift that has already been included in our prayer, “Thy will be done!”

What prevents me from accepting the will of God as Mary did? What are some of the marvels God has accomplished in my life when I said “yes” to his will? In what circumstances do I find it more difficult to do the will of God?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 4. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.