Getting to Yes
An Examination of Conscience for Advent
A young woman from an insignificant village in an occupied land said it first, said it best, and said it in a way that changed the world: Yes, Lord. “May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 ).
Mary was the first among us to receive the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). And believing it, she gave the model response—the complete gift of herself to God and his rescue plan for the human race.
What made Mary so quick to recognize the coming of God’s kingdom on earth? How is it that she embraced her part in it so swiftly and completely? One of Jesus’ sayings points to the answer: “From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Mary didn’t have to get to yes in her conversation with the angel Gabriel. She was already there. Long before the Holy Spirit overshadowed her, Mary was attuned to God. Her heart rejoiced in his love, and she lived for him with every fiber of her being. Her verbal assent burst forth as the natural outpouring of a life that was always saying yes to God in its every thought, word, and deed.
None of us has gotten to yes the way Mary did. But Advent is a time for taking another step in that direction.
This Advent, Jesus is inviting you to prepare your heart for his coming—not just his first one, in Bethlehem, but his second, when he comes again in glory. He wants you to know the joy of being one with him and of playing your part to build his kingdom on earth. He is ready to remove every barrier, big or small, so that you can say and live a deeper yes and receive more of his life. And so he invites you to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify areas of your life that need God’s healing and loving touch. Take time to reflect, and use the following questions as a starting point. Ask Mary to pray for you, too. She is your mother, after all, and she longs to see you traveling the narrow road that will end with Jesus’ welcome, “Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Yes to Love of God. Am I loving and serving God with my whole heart, mind, and strength? Where could I do better? Am I waiting and watching for the Lord through daily prayer? Am I learning to meet him and listen to him in his word? Have I sought him through faithful Mass attendance and the sacraments?
Have I used my gift of speech in a way that honors God and builds up his people? Is there anything about it that needs cleaning up—foul language, gossip, complaining, verbal abuse? Do both my mouth and my actions say, “yes, Lord!”
Does God hold first place in my life, or has something or someone else weaseled in? Is he the Lord of my time, money, and other resources? Have I been using these gifts to build his kingdom? Has desire or anxiety over money and material things affected my decisions and distracted me from God? Can I honestly say I trust God with every part of my life?
Yes to Love of Neighbor. How am I doing in my relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, neighbors, parishioners? Have any of my words, attitudes, or actions caused disunity? Am I harboring anger, resentment, or hatred toward someone? Is there anyone I need to forgive? Is there anyone whose forgiveness I need to ask?
Do I give appropriate respect to parents, teachers, employers, and all legitimate authority? Do I accept correction from them or from others, or have I sometimes pridefully insisted on my own way?
Have I done violence to anyone or treated them with disrespect? Have I used or taken advantage of anyone? Am I helping to build a world where every human being is valued and seen as having dignity?
Am I more focused on building myself a cozy, comfortable life than on caring for others? Is God inviting me to say “yes” to some service to people in need? How am I working for the coming of Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace? Am I sinning by omission in any of these areas?
Mother Mary, help me to surrender my whole life and self to God, with complete confidence in both his love and his power to transform me. Let everything about me echo your own total gift of self: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).