Mary: Jesus’ Mother, Our Mother
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Gn 3:9-15,20: Ps 98; Eph 1:3-6,11-12; Lk 1:26-38
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis High School
Today we are celebrating one of the many feast days that honor Mary, who fully and completely became what God asked of her. What I’d like to do is step back and examine Mary’s life as she was living it forward. As St. Therese of Lisieux once
said, “I am sure that her real life must have been very simple.”
To begin with Mary spent long years in a small place: the hill town of Nazareth in Galilee, where she pondered the Word and the will of God—both of which would prepare her for the most momentus, challenging choice that any human being has ever encountered: she would be asked by the Archangel Gabriel to conceive and give birth to the long-awaited Messiah.
Who was this young woman who would become the Mother of God? In terms of appearance, she probably looked like today’s Middle Eastern women: she’d have an olive complexion and brown, auburn hair. Growing up in an occupied territory with Roman soldiers about, she practiced some kind of purdah or modesty in dress. She may have been veiled from head to toe when she was in public for self-protection. She did not wear blue or white in her entire earthly existence, because the only ones who could afford clothing like that were the occupying Romans. Blue dye was so expensive that it was worth 200 slaves.
At the time of this encounter with Gabriel, the messenger of God, Mary probably was about 13-14 years old. (If Mary was with us physically, she’d be sitting in the Freshman section of our gathering.) Following the custom of the time, Mary was engaged young, because many women died in childbirth. In sum, Mary was a down-to-earth, poor young woman. She lived life the same way we do and dealt with the same relational issues with which we have to deal. We need a healthy understanding of Mary because through the Immaculate Conception, Mary is being prepared to be the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church. She is Jesus’ Mother and she’s ours as well. Just as she gave birth to the Son of God, she will help us give birth to our Lord and God in our lives.
Mary is able to do this because she was conceived without Original Sin, which prepared her to be the Mother of Jesus. In this respect, Mary is unique among humans. But, can we really relate to someone who is sinless? We can because our Blessed Mother is the human being that we are meant to become: free of sin, totally united with the loving triune community and in perfect harmony with our brothers and sisters. So, Mary guides us to her Son, who is the source of Life and Goodness.
How does she do that? The clue lies in Gabriel’s greeting: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” What is this grace what she wishes to share with her children? It’s not something that God gives to Mary—it’s not an object; rather, grace is what happened between Mary and God: she has opened herself entirely to God presence by Going into the Quiet, pondering the sacred Word, and yearning to do the will of God. Mary has placed herself boldly and totally in God’s hands. And, Troubies, we are called to do the same. We are made in the image of God; we are God’s beloved daughters and sons. That’s reality. We come from God and are meant to return to God, which we do in and through Christ Jesus, the Word made Flesh. That’s reality. Mary shows us how to live a life wholly centered in God. She is “full of grace;” she is fully human. She is free. She is the first person to be liberated from the primitive fall of our first parents, but not the last.
Sisters and brothers, Mary is the Christian we are all meant to become; she is the first disciple because God comes into her life and announces the divine presence within her, and she willingly acknowledges that presence. In the Magnificat, a beautiful canticle the Church prays at every Evening Prayer, Mary says, “My soul magnifies the Lord!” That’s redemption, which, I believe, means that God, acting as God, empties Himself into our hearts; God gives to us nothing less than Himself. And, this life is right here and now. We simply have to accept Him into our lives by saying with Mary: ‘YES!” All we are asked to do is to be willing to do the Father’s will, to be present to the moment which is the dwelling place of God, and be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. When Mary manifests this presence and openness, God enters her, praises her, believes in her, and invites her into intimacy and the fullness of life. GOD WILL BE BORN IN HER! And, God wants to do the same within us—personally and as a community!