Mary’s yes to God untied the knot of Eve’s no. Rooted in faith and humility, Mary’s yes was born of an obedient heart attuned to God’s word. Eve’s no to God was rooted in prideful disobedience and distrust of God. With her yes, Mary became the Mother of Divine Mercy, the handmaid of the Divine Physician. Born of a dual yes the Church is the hospital of mercy. We need the Church to be a hospital of mercy to heal the countless wounds of her members –wounds that occur and fester because of our no to God, our no to sacrificial, self-emptying love. Saying no to God is never a good idea. The consequences are real and harmful.
Yes to God: Surrender, Sacrifice, Self-Emptying
“At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy as a special time for the Church; a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective” (Pope Francis, Bull of Indiction, n. 3).
How strong and effective is our witness to the Father’s mercy? At the Twenty-Eighth World Youth Day in Rio de Janiero, on Sunday, July 28, 2013, Pope Francis said, “Go and make disciples of all nations…Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission!” The baptized have a mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the kingdom, like sanctity, is not the privilege of a few but the call and duty of every disciple. How we go about proclaiming Christ to others depends on our vocation in life.
Whether we are called to priesthood or to the religious life, to consecrated single or married life, our yes is key to the fulfillment of God’s design for our life. Foundational to all vocations is falling in love with Jesus Christ. When was the last time you experienced God so realistically that you could not deny Him? If you have not yet had such an experience of divine love, pray and ask the Lord for the grace. Your desire is born of His desire. His yes and your yes combine to enkindle the fire of a love above all loves.
When we ponder the vocation of Mary, we begin to understand that she led the way for us to be open to the surprising adventure of God’s call in our life. Like Mary we are chosen for something greater than ourselves—something greater than we have imagined. Nothing is impossible with God who seeks to work small and big miracles of grace in and through us. Yet the God of love will not burst through our free will and force us to respond to Him. Divine Love is the supreme respecter of human freedom.
The singular mission of Mary was God’s idea, not hers. This is an important reminder that God has ordained a mission for each person within the context of our unique vocations. Each believer has a vocation to magnify Jesus Christ in the world. All vocations share a common calling: transformation in Christ. We are called to be Christ-bearers. Mary’s yes to the Trinity required a decision to surrender, self-empty and sacrifice. She emptied herself so that God could fill her. Mary’s Magnificat is much more that her hymn of praise to the Trinity, it is her identity. Mary is the embodiment of the Magnificat. How does this relate to our vocation? Because of Christ’s yes and Mary’s yes, our identity as a child of God is realized. Our yes to God is key to our identity also. It unlocks the door of mercy so we can enter into our unique place in the drama of salvation history where divine love lives.
The Healing Journey from No to Yes
Consider Adam and Eve’s no to God. The result is that the false self emerged—the self that wants to hide from God and run away in shame. Our yes to God binds us to Him so that we are unbound from what is not of God. How does saying no to God wound the Church and the world? Many people say no to God by refusing the gift of children. Abortion is one of the wounds of that no. Numerous couples say no to sacramental marriage and cohabitate instead. Fornication is the wound of that no. Some people say no to fidelity in marriage, and adultery is the wound of that no. When priests say no to their priesthood, and leave, scandal is the wound of that no. When young people refuse God’s call to the priesthood or consecrated life, the wound of that no is empty rectories and convents. Most of us have experienced the negative impact of someone’s no to God. As with Adam and Eve’s no, there are negative consequences that cause increased suffering.
The challenge is not with the process of discernment as much as it is with our perception of a vocation. Whatever our vocation, it is not meant to fulfill the God-shaped hole in our heart. God alone is the fulfillment of all human desire. In the present narcissistic culture, filled with false promises of complete happiness and fulfillment based on everything but the gospel of Jesus Christ, we fail to arrive at a complete yes to God because of our self-concerns, preferences, and failure to commit to anything that is lifelong, sacrificial, or less thrilling than the exciting transitory allurements of the flesh, the world and the devil. Contrast this with the persistent call of Jesus to serve Him and others humbly, with self-emptying love and sacrifice. Whether we realize it or not, our expectations are simply unrealistic, and they can set us up for failure and disappointment. Christ said, “deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me” (cf. Luke 9:23). No servant is greater than the Master who laid down His life for us. With the complete gift of self we discover the beauty of the Christ-life and live it.
Mary was led by the Holy Spirit and formed by God to mirror the yes of Jesus to the Father. Whatever she may have imagined her life to be, she let go to say yes to God’s plan. Can we let our preconceived plan go in favor of God’s surprising and superior plan? Certainly, we discern, receive counsel, and test the promptings, but then we say yes without hesitating—we commit and let God lead us on the adventure of merciful love and service.
Saints like John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Faustina remind us that God’s will for us in usually the harder choice, the more difficult path, the one that requires more of Him and less of me. Our vocations are not meant to solve the mystery of human life, love and longing. They are where we work out our salvation while keeping our eyes fixed on Christ and Heaven. The answer to our human longing will be forthcoming in the Father’s house. On earth we walk by faith, hope and love; we toil and press on amid temptations and trials. Merciful love is strong, capable of great things, capable of withstanding the cross—because Jesus remains with us always.
A Prayer for the Grace to Say Yes to God
Lord Jesus, you have helped me to understand that I am not fully surrendered to your will in my life. My self-will is strong. Self-love hinders my yes at times. I realize that you desire my yes in totality. You invite me to trust in your merciful love.
I repent of the times when, knowingly or unknowingly, I interfered with your plan for my life either by weakness of will, neglect in prayer, procrastination in doing what you asked, fear of making a wrong decision, fear of failure, or of letting go of options that make me feel that I have control of my life.
With all my heart I ask for the healing that I need; the healing of the wounds that are the result of folly; the healing of my heart that is fearful, the healing of my thoughts that are not Your thoughts, the healing of my life that is in knots.
With the full strength of my free will, I now offer you, my unreserved yes. Thank You for Your patience, providence and peace. Your will be done in my life. I surrender. I say yes with of my heart. I am yours and with you I am safe. O Divine Mercy, please never let me refuse your holy will that is infinite goodness.
“The Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of one’s self. Consequently, wherever the Church is present, the mercy of the Father must be evident”(Pope Francis, Bull of Indiction, n. 12).
Editor’s note: this article contains excerpts from God’s Healing Mercy, which is available from Sophia Press.