During the Christmas season we pause, remember, and enter into that profound mystery of God becoming Man. It is inconceivable to celebrate Christmas without considering Mary and her “yes.” In Mary we have the model of someone who gave herself perfectly to God. Her fiat – may it be done according to your word (Luke 1:36) – envelopes us this time of year and gives us inspiration. At the Annunciation, God approached Mary though the Angel Gabriel who asked her to give birth to God’s son. At hearing the greeting Mary was confused and in a search for understanding asked, “how can this be?” (Luke 1:34). Gabriel assured Mary of God’s faithfulness and she freely accepted God’s will in her life.
The story of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) perfectly describes the origin of a vocation and the process of vocational discernment. Before we ever seek God, He is seeking us and initiates the conversation. We are hesitant and fearful. As we seek to understand, God reminds us that we are loved and that “nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37). In the end, we are free to say yes or no. Let us take a closer look.
God Initiates: Every spiritual journey, every vocation, begins with God’s initiative. All of us have received a vocation from God, a multifaceted calling. It may come to us as a feeling or an urge. We could have a strong sense of God’s call during prayer or when reading Scripture. We might even hear God’s call in the words and actions of others.
Our Hesitation and Fear: Often our first response to God’s call is hesitation and fear. Who me? There is no way I can do that! This is a natural response to something that seemingly comes out of nowhere. This initial response is not a bad thing. Yet, we cannot give into those feelings.
Struggle to Understand: Discernment is the process of determining God’s desire for our lives. When we struggle to understand an encounter with God, to understand God’s call, we are participating in God’s grace. It is in the struggle that we are shaped, and it is how we move closer to becoming fully who God is calling us to be.
God’s Fidelity: The most wonderful thing about responding to God’s call is being able to trust that God is faithful. When struggling to say yes to God, it is always good practice to remember what has happened in the past when we have submitted to God. Whenever God makes a promise, He keeps it. God will never fail us nor leave us to fail.
Our Freedom: One of the greatest gifts that God has blessed us with is the gift of freedom. Freedom allows us to choose our actions and proves to us that we were not created as pre-programmed robots. We are free to say yes or no to God’s call.
The most beautiful characteristic of Mary is the way she responded to God’s call. Her response was intimate and sincere. Anyone who wishes to live out their own vocation must also be able to unite himself or herself closely to God and give consent to God’s Will. In doing so, like Mary, we can also experience the joy of being God’s servant and, with her, proclaim the greatness of the Lord (Luke 1:46) and make God present to this world.