(2Sam.7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Rom.16:25-27; Lk.1:26-38)
We often hear about ‘Mary’s Fiat,’ but what does it mean? And what does it mean for us today?
‘Fiat’ is Latin for ‘Let it be done,’ which is Mary’s response to the Archangel Gabriel in today’s Gospel. At the Annunciation, Gabriel asks Mary if she would agree to be the mother of God. ‘Let it be done to me,’ she replies.
Mary could have said no, but she doesn’t. With the most remarkable faith, wisdom and humility, she says ‘yes’ and she turns her life over to God.
Thereafter, Mary keeps saying ‘yes’ to whatever God asks of her. She agrees to travel to Bethlehem, despite her pregnancy. She agrees to stay in a smelly stable. She agrees to let dirty shepherds see her baby. She agrees to Jesus’ public ministry, and she stands by Him as He hangs on the Cross.
Through her fiat, Mary actively co-operates with God in His plan of salvation for us all. And despite the hardships, she discovers wonder, joy and purpose along the way.
Now, Mary isn’t the only one to say yes to God. St Joseph does, too, even though he has every reason to say no. He’s upset by Mary’s pregnancy, and plans to divorce her. But then Gabriel appears to him in a dream, saying ‘Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home’ (Mt.1:18-25). He, too, agrees to co-operate with God.
Saying yes to God often occurs in the Bible: Noah agrees to build the ark. Esther agrees to save her people, and the disciples agree to follow Jesus. And since then, many others have said yes to God, too, like the great American jazz musician, Dave Brubeck (1920-2012). He was raised as a Presbyterian by a Christian Scientist mother who attended a Methodist Church, but he was not baptised and for years he found himself searching for God.
In the 1970s he was asked to compose the music for the new English Mass translation. At first he said no, explaining that he was not Catholic, he’d never been to Mass and he knew nothing at all about it. But he was asked again and again, and eventually he agreed to try.
He finished the project in 1979 to great applause, but someone noticed that he had left out the Our Father. ‘What’s the Our Father?’ Brubeck asked. He didn’t understand that it’s the Lord’s Prayer.
‘Well, nobody told me to write it, so I didn’t,’ Brubeck said. ‘I’m finished with the Mass; I’m going to the Bahamas with my family (for) a vacation.’
While in the Bahamas, Brubeck had a dream in which he heard the entire orchestral and choral setting for the Lord’s Prayer. He heard it so vividly that he got up right away and wrote it all down.
This event not only completed the Mass setting,[i] it also changed his life. Brubeck became convinced that he was being called to join the Catholic Church, and in 1981 he was baptised.
He went on to produce many other fine works, including his reflection, In Praise of Mary. In 1987 he was asked to write the music for St John Paul II’s visit to San Francisco. He was initially reluctant, but again the music came to him in a dream. [ii] He later described it as the best thing he had ever written.
Like Mary and Joseph, Dave Brubeck initially didn’t understand what God was asking him to do. He responded slowly at first, but he came to trust God and he allowed Him to shape his life. And in his own way, Brubeck changed the world, just like Mary and Joseph.
This is Mary’s fiat: saying yes to God in faith, trust and love, even when we don’t understand.
How do you respond when God asks you to get involved?
Let’s close with an old Navajo tale about a warrior searching for God. Seeing God on a mountaintop, the scout rode up and dismounted. He took three arrows and held them high above his head, then he placed them at God’s feet. But God waved him away.
The scout returned to his horse, took his woven blanket, held it high above his head, and laid it at God’s feet. But God waved him away.
Then the scout took his most precious possession; he led his horse to God, and he placed the reins in God’s hands. But God waved him away.
Then the scout extended his arms towards God and dropped to his knees. God looked at the scout and smiled.
That is Mary’s fiat.
[iv] Mary Amore (Ed.), Every Day With Mary, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN. 2017:80.