The Party of Yes - December 22, 2014

For years on end, the captive media has termed the Republicans the Party of No. But the latest talk is that perhaps the Democrats will soon be considered the Party of No. I will leave that to the back-and-forth of political punditry. What I want to talk about here is our understanding of “yes” and “no.”

Jesus, in his Sermon on the Mount, spoke of the care we should take in ascribing fault or praise in matters of opinion. He suggested: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)

I bring this up only to point out that the central matter in this is who is saying “yes” or “no” and, perhaps even more important, to whom is that person saying “yes” or “no.” But if your “yes” is said without conviction or, worse, as a falsehood, then it matters little to whom you are speaking. Your word is meaningless and your “yes” is worthless and demeaning.

Then Jesus continued with his Sermon by advocating “yes” in all means: yes to friends but also to enemies, yes to reconciling with people who hold grudges against you, yes to purity that is difficult to follow, yes to giving beyond what you can afford, until he ended the Sermon with these words, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) “Yes,” it seems, asks for everything, leading us to believe that “no” asks for little.

The “yes” that is the centrality of Christianity must certainly have been with Jesus’ mother. Frightened by the appearance and introduction of the Archangel Gabriel, confused by what was asked of her, in wonder of the pregnancy of Elizabeth, Mary is told that “with God nothing will be impossible,” (Luke 1:37) and her answer to Gabriel is the very essence of “yes”: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)

From those words of submission, Mary assured the world that what came to be Christianity is the Party of Yes. The nature of “yes” is always difficult, demanding, even dangerous. We see it shown so well in the tragedies associated with Christmas: the Massacre of the Innocents, the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr, the first of so very many martyrs to come, those who said “yes” out of love.

Life surely is easiest with “no,” but we were not promised ease.