Immaculate Conception: 8 Dec. 2021
It probably began like any other day. . .
There were prayers to be said. Chores to be done: bread to bake, clothes to clean or sew. Water to draw from the well.
We don’t know what the weather was like. Perhaps there was a storm which kept her indoors that day. Or the sun was warm and she wanted to get out for a walk.
But at some point – in an otherwise forgettable day in an ordinary town in an overlooked corner of a vast empire --- a Jewish girl name Mary made history. An otherwise forgettable day became unforgettable – and the world has never been the same since.
And Mary did it with just a few words: May it be done to me according to your word.
Put another way – Mary said YES.
And so here we are, 20 centuries or so later – remembering that moment, honoring the young woman who is at the center of it all ---- and celebrating God’s extravagant wisdom, generosity, and love.
And we do this because this moment in time did not just happen. This feast we celebrate, the Immaculate Conception – remembers a great mystery and a miracle: that God so loved the world that not only did he send us his son. . . but God also gave us Mary.
God planned for Mary to be the perfect vessel for Jesus – for Mary was conceived in her own mother’s womb as sinless and pure – untouched by what happened in the Garden of Eden.
The miracle of creation brought us to another miracle of creation – the Annunciation we just heard in the Gospel of Luke.
But before going forward – let’s go back to that key phrase at the heart of this Gospel – which is also at the heart of this feast:
May it be done to me according to your word.
This is where everything began. Here is the complete and selfless desire to do the will of God – offered with humility and a sense of purpose.
And I have to ask myself – and you should ask yourself: can I say anything close to this? Can any of us be so bold and be so willing to surrender to God as eagerly and so completely as did Mary?
In an age when personal freedom is prized above all else, including the safety of others – when the culture tells us you don’t have to do anything that is uncomfortable or inconvenient to you --- this girl named Mary – says something most people living today would find altogether shocking.
To an angel of the Lord – and to the God who created her and sent the angel – Mary says: if you want it --- I will do it.
Her son would later put it another way in a prayer we pray most likely everyday: Thy will be done.
But Mary’s words carry the added weight of history being written. Think of what came about because of her YES:
Bethlehem. Egypt. Calvary. ….
Easter came about because of these words. Our salvation was made possible because of these words.
Because of that moment – we are here today – hearing God’s word proclaimed, receiving the Eucharist, worshipping God in faith and hope and love.
It all began with that one YES.
And yet this feast of the Immaculate Conception also reminds us it began even before that – when Mary, herself, first began.
What a wonder to ponder in this season of joy and hope of Advent:
The life and sacrifice of Mary serves as a model for each of us – and a bold challenge. Because the reality is: like Mary, each of us is called to be a vessel for Christ.
Each of us is called to bring Jesus into the world. To take him to others. To announce him. To sacrifice for him. To surrender to him. To love him. To live our lives in such a way that we can, as did Mary “proclaim the greatness of the Lord.
Know this: God had a plan for Mary before she was born – and God has a plan for everyone in this Church. God has a dream for each one of us ------- our job is to discover what that dream is and to cooperate with God to make that dream come true.
So today, overwhelmed once again by the humility and trust of Mary – her ability to say YES to what God had planned from the first moment of her immaculate conception --- we should carry these questions in our hearts:
--How can we be more like Mary?
--What is God asking of us?
--What is God’s dream for us?
--What particular gifts has God given to us? What plan does God want us to fulfill?
--How can we cooperate with God and make God’s dream for us come true?
I would hope we can begin to answer these questions by beginning as Mary did – with a response on an otherwise forgettable day in an ordinary town in an overlooked corner of a vast empire which change everything:
May it be done to me according to your word
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Moments in time...