Feast of the Immaculate Conception: The Grace of “Yes”

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Mary, ca. 1914, oil on canvas

December 8, 2023  |  Mary Hallinan |  Today’s Readings

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”


It was a fun Thanksgiving week this year for a group of mostly strangers who responded to a call to help a young refugee family settle in the Midwest. 

The group quickly united around a common desire to provide this couple and their three, soon to be four, young children a safe refuge from the terror that drove them out of their home country. The family had spent the last two years living in a single room in a locked compound in a foreign county with nothing but what they wore when they fled. This Thanksgiving, a group of strangers would help them begin to build a new home.

What was the force that catalyzed this group of strangers? Halfway around the world, a woman named Susan said “yes” when asked if she would organize an effort to mentor this family. 

Like Mary in today’s Gospel, Susan was troubled by this call. How could it be that she, whose internet connection is broken by frequent storms, whose time difference is 11 hours, and who does not speak the family’s native language, could be helpful realistically?

Just as the angel’s “Fear not!” landed in Mary’s heart, engendering trust, Susan came to feel trust in the stillness of her heart. So, like Mary, she said “yes,” not knowing how the details would work out. Her “yes”, like Mary’s willingness to be a handmaid of God, was a “yes” to servanthood.

As the grace of Mary’s “yes” has rippled through the centuries to our own time, Susan’s “yes” rippled out to the family, friends, and colleagues who she turned to for help. On the long-awaited day the family was scheduled to move from their grim extended-stay hotel room to their new apartment, things did not go as planned. But as Susan coordinated in the middle of her night, volunteers adjusted to the ever-changing circumstances and the move was completed without a hitch.

Now begins the daunting process of integrating this family into the fabric of their community. They will need to learn to drive and speak English. They will need to find work, enroll their oldest child in school, and obtain services for their child with special needs. And the baby will be arriving soon. 

Susan’s not worried though. She’s had the joy of learning that with Mary’s “yes,” nothing will be impossible for God — so she is not sweating the details. Where in your life is God looking to teach you that nothing will be impossible for Him?

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