Sunday, December 18, 2011
We Said "Yes."
Luke 1:26-38: 26In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.l 28And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”m 29But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31n Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32o He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”p 34But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”* 35And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.q 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived* a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37for nothing will be impossible for God.”r 38Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
It was an emotional morning for me as Monsignor Frost, who presided over Gabriel's funeral, read this chapter from the Book of Luke, in which the Angel Gabriel announced the impending birth of the Savior. Gabriel's name was chosen with the Archangel Gabriel in mind. I knew Gabriel would be special, and that those who would open their hearts to him would be forever changed by him. His name needed to reflect his importance, and since he brought such a special message to earth, the name of the Archangel and messenger Gabriel seemed fitting. Sometimes, when I try to answer impossible questions such as why I got to be the lucky mommy who got to keep her baby for ten days, I wonder if it was because I gave Gabriel back to God so early after our diagnosis, asking that if God must take Gabriel from me so soon, that he would allow us both to be instruments of change. I also held fast to my promise to name him also after St. Gerard, who I petitioned to bring Gabriel through birth alive. Ben leaned towards the middle name Michael. We decided it wasn't worth bickering over, so Gabriel's full name became Gabriel Michael Gerard Cude, though his middle names weren't revealed until he was born.
Armed with a specially chosen name, my special little boy changed the world.
But when I heard these verses from Luke today, I also recalled what it was like to be told that the child I was carrying was not what I expected. Of couse, January 31, 2011 wasn't nearly as full of supernatural wonder. An angel didn't appear to me. Instead, an ultrasound tech told me there was a problem, to wait while she got the doctor. I wasn't told I was carrying the Son of God; I was told that I was carrying a child who was incompatible with life. Mary didn't know what to expect of her Christ child, but I was informed that my child, if he survived birth, would live only minutes, maybe hours, or if I were very lucky, days.
Monsignor reminded us today that Mary still had a choice. She had free will, as we all do, to decline to carry this child. How does one say "no" to God, though?
I wonder if Mary also felt that while she had a choice, "no" was not an option for her. She may have been frightened, and wondered what people would say about her. It's no secret that for a minute there, Joseph wanted to bail on her and she must have had to consider the possibility that she might have to carry her child on her own. Clearly even if she considered the risks, she still said "Yes."
Something about just saying "Yes" sets you free. I suppose some people think I am a slave to my God and my Faith. There was a time in my life when I thought being Catholic was nothing more than being a drone. Little by little my heart opened, though, starting with just going back to Mass, an order family friend Father Ralph (Monsignor Bellomini) gave me after Sean died. I started asking the questions I never got answers to as a child, learning where to find answers in the future. I felt called to the pro-life movement, not sure why and surely not anticipating that I would be asked to be a living example. When God presented me with what has been the ultimate challenge in my life so far, it was with a trusting fear that I placed my life and Gabriel's in God's hands. Ben, my steadfast supporter, agreed to hold my hand as we took this leap of faith. We said "Yes" to God, and we were rewarded beyond our dreams. We said "Yes," and the seemingly unnatural death of our child felt perfectly right in the moment. We said "Yes," and we still cry and we still long for things to be different sometimes, and we still miss our child with every beat of our hearts. We said "Yes," and it is a decision we will never regret.