Thursday, December 07, 2017

How do I know God loves me? Mary's Immaculate Conception is how (homily)

There is frequently confusion about what we are celebrating today. 
I am determined to correct this mistake every chance I get.

Pop quiz: whose conception – whose beginning of life – 
are we commemorating today? 
Is it (a) Father Martin Fox? No.
Is it (b) Jesus Christ? No, because that would mean
he was conceived on Dec. 8 and born 17 days later. If Mary had a 17-day pregnancy,
I think that would have been mentioned elsewhere.
So that leaves (c) "Someone else." And that someone else is Mary.
Mary's birthday is September 8; back up nine months: December 8.
It’s Mary who is conceived immaculately, or, without sin.

We mark Jesus’ conception on March 25, 
nine months before Christmas.
Today we recall when Mary was conceived 
in the womb of her mother, Ann. 
Mary’s birthday comes nine months later, September 8.

So, again, the Immaculate Conception is about how Mary began her life.*

The mistake is understandable, 
in part because the Gospel reading 
talks mostly about Jesus being conceived. 
Even so, this Gospel reading is still the right one, 
because it is the place where the Bible 
most clearly points to Mary’s Immaculate Conception. 

First, we have a single, powerful word, in the original Greek: kecharitomene
This is the word we translate, “full of grace.”

Let’s notice a couple of things. First, it’s a greeting. 
This isn’t a statement about Mary; 
it’s the name Heaven gives to Mary; it’s who God says she is. 
Moreover, to say Mary is “full of grace” is actually not strong enough.

Here’s a more literal sense of what the Archangel Gabriel said to Mary:
Hail, You who have been, and now are, 
perfectly, completely, and uniquely graced.
Get that? Mary was, and remains, 
perfectly, completely, and uniquely graced by God.

There it is: Mary has been free from sin 
from the very first instant of her life. 
Otherwise, it would not be true 
that she was “perfectly and completely” graced. 

Then there is another detail in this passage that confirms this. 
Later, Gabriel says, “the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” 

This is an unusual phrase, used only a few times in Scripture, 
as when the Glory of God overshadowed the tent of meeting, 
which was where God’s People gathered to worship the Lord. 
That tabernacle God desired to be prepared perfectly.

So what Gabriel’s words mean is that Mary is that tabernacle, 
first made perfect by the Divine Craftsman, 
in preparation for being “overshadowed by the Most High.” Christ to enter.
Mary is the temple of the Lord,
Prepared with the greatest care for Jesus, 
Who enters Creation through Mary,
fulfilling the promise from Genesis, that He, 
the Seed of the Woman, would crush the enemy.

Here’s a beautiful quote by Blessed John Duns Scotus. He asked:

"Would the God of justice and mercy grant the first Eve, 
who He foreknew would betray Him, a greater glory in her creation 
than He would give the second Eve, 
who He foreknew would be His handmaid forever?"

And, of course, the answer is no!

The remaining question is, what does all this mean to me?

All this gives each of us cause for the greatest confidence.
All this ought to fill you and me with the greatest joy.

Think about it: God went to a whole lot of trouble, 
a terrific amount of planning. Why?
Even at the moment when Adam and Eve fell, 
Why did God plan for there to be a second Eve? 
Why so much fuss and bother? 

You are the reason. And so am I.
You and I were chosen; we were destined.
Never, never, never, never doubt that you matter to God!
Never, never fear that God will not move heaven and earth 
to bring about your salvation.

Today’s feast is the proof!

* Edits made when delivered.

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