"What would have happened if Mary had said no?"
That was the thematic question that Damian Zynda asked a group of our priests who attended today’s Advent Day of Prayer at Notre Dame Retreat House, Canandaigua.
I thoroughly enjoyed the question and the thoughtful way in which Damian, faith-formation coordinator at Church of the Transfiguration, Pittsford, developed it in the first of her presentations today. I have heard her first talk; I was doubly sorry that I had to miss the remainder of the day because of other obligations.
On the drive home I rested with the ideas she planted in my heart. Several appealed to me: the example Mary is to all of us as humble, faithful disciple of the Lord; the trust that God places in us in our call to discipleship and God’s delight with us when we, like Mary, say yes; the delicate, deep interplay between divine initiative and human freedom.
It may be a function of my schedule of recent days that Damian’s promptings led me to think about the people I have been or soon will be privileged to meet through these Advent days. I mean people of faith who in the midst of often hectic and complicated lives still manage to say a generous yes when they are asked to serve the Lord and their faith community in extra generous measure.
I think of the residents at St. Ann’s Community and those at Monroe Community Hospital with whom I celebrated Eucharist over the weekend. Their fidelity, patience and concern for others always inspire me, and spark in me the hope that I might be able to respond to the challenges in my life with the grace with which they meet their own.
My mind turned to a range of other gifted women and men who generously share their gifts of time, talent and treasure in support of the vitality and fruitful activity of our local church. In this Advent time frame we have meetings of the diocesan board of Catholic Charities, the Catholic Courier board, the board of St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry and our diocesan Stewardship Council. These hundred or so gifted, generous women and men work very hard as an expression of their faith and in service to our community, and they are just examples. Thousands of others offer themselves in similar ways in all of our 12 counties.
To the above I can add the candidates who made up our last two confirmations for the fall season; a group of young adults with whom I celebrated Eucharist at Blessed Sacrament, Rochester; some friends with whom I searched for better, more consistent ways to express the pastoral care of the church to gay and lesbian people; a group of priests of the Buffalo Diocese whom I will join for a day of prayer; the lively boys and girls at Siena Catholic Academy with whom I celebrated Eucharist on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. All of them, the young and the old, the well and the infirm, those beginning their careers and vocational paths and those coming to maturity in them, those on peaceful paths and those who struggle, yearn to say yes to God’s bidding in their lives. It’s not always easy. At times it’s difficult to grasp the invitation. At times the yes can be very demanding. What I admire in them all is their humble and genuine, often courageous, effort to respond fully and freely to God’s initiative in their lives.
Can you think of anyone in your life just now whose openness to God and spirit of service you genuinely admire?
Are you aware of any particular call in your life at this moment to go a step further in your journey of discipleship?
I hope that these last days of Advent will hold many blessings for you.
Peace to all.