Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

It all starts with a simple “yes,” one that is a risk on the future, a release of control.

We are celebrating the jubilees of friars who have professed vows or been ordained to serve for 25, 50, 60, 65 and 70 years. I am certain that most of them as younger friars were aware of brothers that were older who were celebrating these same milestones. They probably wondered whether that would even be them one day. They may have wondered about those older friars, may have deemed them “out of touch” with the present, may have wondered how they could possibly stay so long in this Order. Perhaps as younger friars, they would not realize the number of “yeses” required in living in such a commitment for life.

I wonder whether Mary, Mother of Jesus, realized all the “yeses” that her one “yes” would entail. The Annunciation was such a devotional feast for the early Franciscans that they frequently had artwork that would remind them of her bravery, her consent to God’s work in her. At Pleasant Street, we hold a similar devotion to Mary’s Annunciation, in such a way that we have it painted on the back of our three-story apartment building. Most paintings of Mary done in the Middle Ages reflect the ethnicity of Italians, or Spaniards. They were the people of the day. When John Quigley was working on this concept, he requested the ethnicity of people in our neighborhood: African and Hispanic Americans.

I am captivated by Mary’s eyes in this mural. While she is clasping her cloak about her shoulders, she also seems to be beckoning me, and asking, “C’mon Mark, what did anyone ever lose by trusting God?” Of course, I tell her: “I think you lost a lot, dear Mother Mary!” But in this little meditative time, she is undeterred in her ask of me. She just beckons: “C’mon!” She had a lot of consenting to do in her life—more than just this one “yes.” It was a lifetime through the temple loss, the loss of Joseph, her spouse, the letting go at Cana, the travesty of the Crucifixion. In all of these, she consents, whispers her “yes” to the unknown plan of God. We celebrate that our brothers have done the same. How could they know at the moment of their first profession or even their ordination, the “yeses” that would follow? Of course, they couldn’t. Maybe if they were miraculously aware, the risks would have seemed overwhelming. The reality is that each day, each of us are invited to that kind of consent, of allowing the presence of God to take more control in our lives—in fact, eventually, in every detail!

Again, Mary continues to beckon me, and us, “C’mon, brothers, sisters, what did anyone ever really lose in trusting God?” As we witness the joy of these jubilarians, we could just ask them that question.