The Power of Yes

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8 December 2017

Aficionados of History will be familiar with counterfactuals, where experts speculate on how the world might be if a particular event, perhaps seemingly unimportant, had turned out differently. The idea has also been explored in films such as Sliding Doors and the Christmas classic; It’s a Wonderful Life.

A similar idea is encapsulated in the phrase The Butterfly Effect where the microscopic effect of an insect beating its wings ultimately causes a tornado in another part of the world. If we reflect on our own lives, we can see the chain of events unleashed by decisions: The nervous decision to ask someone out that may lead to embarrassment or the altar. The changing traffic light ignored or heeded. The level of effort in a school assignment that leads to a career – or not. Choices made by us; choices made by others about us; choices made on the other side of the planet in ignorance of our existence. It seems that ‘butterflies’ govern our lives.

Today’s Gospel reading provides an extraordinary example of the Butterfly Effect. A simple peasant girl is presented with a remarkable choice; Yes or No to a seemingly impossible situation. What would our world have looked like if Mary had merely said “No”?

In the book of Esther another young woman facing a similarly terrifying choice is told:

For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but…who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?

Would Salvation have come in another way? Who knows?

But Mary did say yes, and so the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.

Mary could see the immediate danger of becoming an unmarried Jewish mother. Later she will be told that “a sword will pierce your own heart”, but for now the threat is clear enough. Shortly her fiancé will also be visited by Gabriel and will face his own moment of truth.

As always Mary points us to her Son. At the proper time, and as a result of His mother’s response, Jesus will be confronted with the ultimate Yes/No choice. His choice will be even starker and the whole of Creation will depend on His decision.

His earthly parents prefigured Jesus’ response in the Garden and at Calvary.  But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, after all saying ‘Yes’ to the Lord ran in the family.
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