More Spiritual Reflections

Spiritual Reflections


Mystery of a Heartfelt Yes

Sr. Kathryn Clauss, IHM
September 14, 2005

Words, what would we do without them? They carry meaning, convey thoughts and feelings, create images that bring us into relation with God, ourselves, and one another. Emily Dickinson had an interesting spin on the notion of words. She wrote:

A word is dead
When it is said
Some say.

I say it just
Begins to live
That day.

The word that is at the center of our time together is "Yes," in particular, Mary's "Yes." Mary's "Yes" that did not die when it was said, but it began to live that day.

Before I begin, just a few words on "Yes." When I speak about saying "Yes," I am not suggesting a need or responsibility to say "Yes" to everything - that can become part of our shadow side that we need to explore and resolve. I am referring to our response to the choices we have to act on what matters, to act or not to act on a particular request. To say "Yes" to everything, suggests Mary Jo Leddy, indicates that we may not be convinced that the choices we make matter. That is not where we are headed tonight. Tonight we are reflecting on a "Yes" rooted in what matters.

Having said that, let me ask you a question: How would your life, how would our lives change if we really believed that God longs for our heartfelt and wholehearted "Yes?" A "Yes," not a "maybe" or "perhaps" but a "Yes" that is clear, explored, discerning and committed. Not so much a "Yes" about tasks or what we are going to do, but a "Yes" to who we are willing to be whenever we do what we do. A "Yes" that is uttered in the spirit of mystery, calling forth in us a unique form of knowing, what Gabriel Marcel names "Creative fidelity' as we allow ourselves to maintain a permeable and fluid way of being. This state of creative fidelity invites us to replace chronic certitude with a sense of wonder and only wonder, according to St. Gregory, only wonder understands anything.

We see in Mary's Annunciation a sense of wonder. We witness Mary's creative fidelity in her open posture during her extraordinary dialogue with the Angel Gabriel.

Gabriel: The Lord is with you.

Mary: Mary was deeply troubled by the Angel's words and wondered what this greeting could mean.

Mary didn't stop at being puzzled or troubled by the greeting, she wondered about it. You get the sense that Mary was really trying to understand what she was being asked to do, sensing that it was something that mattered.

Gabriel: Don't be afraid, you have found favor with God and will conceive.

Mary: How could this be? Not what should I do or how could I ever do this. Mary asks: How could this be? Her question is a search for truth, a question of larger purpose.

Gabriel: The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you. For nothing is impossible for God.

Mary's response: I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.

In the mystery of the moment, Mary is perplexed. She wonders, believes, discerns, and agrees to live into what is asked of her. Her acquiescence to live into God's will for her was not offered within a context of being at odds with other interests or desires. Her "Yes" was a wholehearted, heartfelt response. Mary understood that her purpose for being in the world was related to the purpose or mission of God. Her "Yes" was another installment of her lifetime of "Yes" intended to help recreate the face of the earth and to transform the world for God.

There is a story told about a pilgrim in the 13th Century who was visiting what was the construction site of the Cathedral of Chartres. He stopped along his journey and spoke with three stone masons who were carving away. The pilgrim asked each of them the same question: "What are you doing?"

The first mason said, "Chipping stone as you can see." The second mason stated: "I am making a living so that I can provide food and shelter for my family." And the third mason declared: "I am building a great cathedral."

How do you, how do we view the significance of our life's work and our presence? Do we see ourselves within the context of the big picture – building up of the body of Christ, furthering God's mission, transforming the face of the earth one face at a time? Or have we painted ourselves into a narrow and confining corner – understanding ourselves as doers who perform discrete tasks, important and necessary tasks, however, our focus is on ourselves as doers whose responsibility it is to get the job done by virtue of what we do rather than by who we are?

Lent can be our time to challenge how we view ourselves and our life's work. It can be our time to explore and understand better how our purpose in life is related to the mission of God embodied in Jesus mission: to bring good news of God's unconditional love to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and release for those held captive.

I invite you to allow the challenge of living within the context of God's mission to lay claim on you anew. During these remaining weeks of Lent, let us encourage one another to explore questions such as:

  • How has our "Yes" conveyed God's unconditional love today?
  • How has our "Yes" freed or brought solace to someone held hostage by illness, anxiety, poverty, fear, or loneliness today?
  • How has our "Yes" been truth spoken in love in moments of discord or anger?
  • How did we choose to ask the questions of larger purpose before jumping into what was practical and doable?


Mary's initial questions and fears were addressed by good advice from Gabriel:

  • Believe that God is with you.
  • Don't be afraid
  • Know that nothing is impossible for God.


Perhaps something in Mary's encounter with Gabriel lead her to believe at a very deep level that the essence of who she was and always had been was enough for God and that her "Yes" offered in faith was the right response to a profound invitation.

As we celebrate the feast of the Annunciation, let's pray for a renewed conviction that the essence of who we are and always have been is enough for God and that our wholehearted and heartfelt "Yes" is something for which God longs.