Thursday, December 07, 2006

God always gives more than necessary (Immaculate Conception homily)

A lot of people think today’s feast—
the Immaculate Conception—
is about when Jesus was conceived.

That’s an understandable mistake to make.

But here’s the correct information:
the Immaculate Conception refers to
when Mary’s life began,
long before Jesus was born.

Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim,
loved each other, and in the normal way,
God gave them a daughter.
Mary was conceived—her life began—
in the natural fashion.

So—why is it called “Immaculate”?
“Immaculate” means clean and pure,
without any spot or stain.

That’s what we all want to be:
without a spot or stain.
When I was a boy,
and mom got me ready for Mass,
she wanted me to be “immaculate”—
clean clothes, clean hands, hair combed.

But as we walked to the car,
if there was a puddle,
you know what would happen:
I’d want to jump into it!
And that would ruin my being immaculate.

Our souls are the same way:
God wants them to be immaculate—without stain;
but we keep going for the puddles,
and our souls get stained.

That first reading explains why—
at the beginning of the human race,
the first man and woman “fell into a puddle”—
they sinned.

Their sin was very serious:
they stopped trusting God,
and turned against him.
As a result,
we all have the same tendency,
and it keeps tripping us up.

Well, if that were the end of the story,
it would be a very sad and dark story.

But recall what God said to the serpent—
the one who tripped up Adam and Eve:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike at your head,
while you strike at his heel.”

That is a prediction
of what would happen much later:
there come another woman,
a second Eve,
who would undo the mistake.

And there would be a second Adam
who would give that serpent
the beating he so richly deserved!

That second Eve is Mary;
the second Adam is her Son,
Jesus Christ!

When the time was right,
God chose to help Mary—
the second Eve—make the right choice.

That’s why, when her life began
inside her mother, Anna,
God prevented the stain of sin,
which touches all of us,
from touching Mary.
That’s what we celebrate, today.

Notice, this feast day
is not nine months before
Jesus’ birthday—but only 17 days!
But notice, it is nine months before
Mary’s birthday,
which we celebrate on September 8!

Now, some might ask, why did God do this?
What does this have to do with Jesus?

God could have merely given us Jesus—
and that would have been enough.

Jesus is our Savior,
the one who delivers us from evil.
He’s our super-hero,
only he is God as well as man.
He smashes the head of that serpent.

Jesus courageously died on the cross,
and with awesome power, rose from the dead.

You want a big-brother, a friend,
a Mighty Deliverer?
He’s the one to have!

But then, God loves to give us extra gifts,
beyond what we need.
We needed Jesus—he would have been enough.
But he also gave us Mary!

He gave Mary herself the extra gift
of beginning her life immaculately.
He didn’t have to.

That was also a gift to his Son, Jesus—
so he would grow up
with the best of all mothers.
God always gives more than the bare minimum!

So, not only was the best of all mothers
a gift for Jesus;
Jesus shares the gift of his mother with us!

Remember what the first Adam called his wife:
Eve, the mother of all the living.
Mary is the new Eve:
She is the mother of all
who have life in Jesus Christ!

When Mary said “yes” to Gabriel—
and she said “Yes” to Jesus being her Son,
she also said “Yes!”
to each and every one of us.

What God did at the beginning of her life
gave her the freedom to give that “Yes,”
when the time was right!

That was pretty thoughtful of God!
By doing it that way,
it means Mary is a beacon of hope
for each of us.

Jesus is the one who saves us;
Mary is the one who shows us
what that looks like!

Jesus saved her, too—only he did it early.
What God did for Mary,
at the beginning of her life—
preserving her from sin—
he will do for all of us,
if we, like Mary, say “Yes.”

What Mary is now, we hope to be—
and with her powerful prayers,
and the almighty power of Jesus our Savior,
we have reason to know it will happen!

God himself, through his angel,
said: “Hail, Mary!”
And we her joyful children, say the same!

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