The Holy Year of Mercy began only a few days ago on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. What a perfect day to begin. This feast calls to mind the beginning of God’s plan of merciful love. When all seemed lost because of the sin of our first parents, the Father turned his gaze to Mary, the holy and immaculate virgin, so that the Word could become flesh and mercy could have a face. The drama of this precise historical moment, when the angel brings this stunning proposal to Mary, is what the Church presents to as anew during Advent.
Mary’s generous “yes” is also, I believe, an invitation for us to reflect on our own response to God, particularly at the beginning of this Year of Mercy. Personally, I can’t help but think of the million and one ways that the Father, while respecting my freedom, asks, “Will you, through your words and action and very way of being give ‘flesh’ to Jesus today?” Love incarnate was entrusted to Mary; shortly after the visit of the angel, she goes to visit Elizabeth to share with her the good news, a wonderful reminder that we are all called to both receive and give God’s merciful love.
That God the Father truly entrusts the task of love is apparent throughout the twists and turns of the infancy narrative: The decision to go the Bethlehem; the surprise of having to give birth in a stable; the hardship of living as a refugee in Egypt; and later, raising Jesus in Nazareth. It is clear that the infant Jesus was entrusted to Mary and Joseph’s resourcefulness and each one’s masculine and feminine gifts. In a related way, through our Holy Father Pope Francis, God’s plan for this coming year of mercy has been given to us too. Each of us is invited to receive God’s merciful love in the sacrament of Reconciliation. We are also invited to discover how we can extend the reach of God’s love through our own resourcefulness and gifts. Perhaps we would like to ask Mary to help us offer a generous “yes” to this year of grace, so that God’s plan of loving mercy can in some way become flesh in us too.
Fr. Jason Smith LC is the director of Regnum Christi in New York. He helps at Sundays at the Basilica of Saint Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan and was chaplain at the Way of Beauty Course at the Theology of the Body Institute last June.