Friday, December 07, 2012

'Our tainted nature's solitary boast' (Immaculate Conception homily)

Before going any further, I want to explain something very clearly,
because I know many people get mixed up about this.

Today, the “Immaculate Conception,” is not the conception of Jesus, our Lord.
Nine months before Christmas is March 25—the Annunciation.
That’s when we mark the conception of Jesus.

Today is Mary’s conception. Nine months before she was born.
Her birthday is September 8. Go back nine months brings us to December 8: today.

Now, the Gospel reading is confusing, because it talks about the conception of Jesus.
There’s a reason for the readings we have.
The first reading is “problem”; the Gospel is “solution.”
The first reading describes how the first Eve—with Adam, chose to reject God’s way.
The Gospel, shows the new Eve doing what the first Eve should have.
No becomes yes; sin yields to grace.

OK, but what is this “immaculate conception”?
God had long prepared for this moment.
The Old Testament is filled with foreshadowings, including the first reading:
The offspring of Eve would one day defeat the enemy.

Part of God’s plan was to prepare Mary to cooperate fully in his plan.
She still came into existence through the love of her parents, Joachim and Anne.
But what God did was to protect her, at that first instant,
from the flaw we all have, of being prone to sin.
Mary was without sin: hence, “immaculate.”

Now, several questions arise.

First, how do we know this is true?

We know it’s true because Christians have always believed it.
From the beginning, Mary was known as the “all holy” one.

We know it’s true because Scripture supports it.
Notice what the Gospel says: “full of grace.” Not mostly full, but FULL.
To be full of grace is to be exactly what Adam and Eve were, before they sinned.
To be full of grace is the antithesis of sin; it is to be full of God; full of Life.

And we believe it because it’s fitting.
Which brings us to another question we might ask:
Why would God do it this way?

Because it’s fitting that the Mother of God
should be truly free when she responds to God’s Plan.

It was fitting that she not be under the power of evil to even the slightest degree.

And it is fitting that her “yes” to God’s Plan should bring with it such a suitable gift from God.
What gift would God give her? What gift could be better?

Finally, we might ask, OK, so what does it mean to us?

Mary is the first, not the only. She is not over us; she’s ahead of us.
She is, as the poet said, “our tainted nature’s solitary boast!”
She shows us what God will do in us—if only we say “yes.”

No comments: