On the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we celebrate how Mary was conceived without Original Sin in the womb of her mother. To believe this we must first believe that God acts in human history, and that He does so with design and with love.
In Mary He saved humanity once more. Like Noah, whom God called to save us from the flood, God called Mary to save us from our sins. Noah could have refused, and so could Mary. However, Mary said “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word” – this “yes” to God changed human history.
Pope John Paul believed that a loving God has a plan for our good; even when he was shot, he believed that good could triumph, not by itself, but with the help of open hearts.
God revealed His love for us in the person of Jesus. In order to do this He needed Mary’s open heart. Jesus was born fully free; and to ensure this freedom, God protected Mary from Original Sin, which distorts our freedom. It is called “Original” because it goes back to the choice of Adam and Eve who freely chose to distrust and dishonor God. By God’s intervention in human history and by the gracious response of Christ and Mary, who were free to choose God completely, the Creator renewed man by the help of man. For unlike Adam and Eve, Christ and Mary chose to love and honor God without reservation. Christ even endured death, death on a cross.
Thus was humanity made new. In the Covenant, which God made with Noah, the sign given was the rainbow. The sign of the new covenant is not a rainbow, but the Eucharist: the breaking of the body of Christ and the shedding of His blood. The Eucharist was made for us the sign of a new humanity in Christ.
Now it is our turn to choose. Which way shall we choose. The way of fallen Adam and Eve who wanted their own way more than they wanted God’s, or the way of Christ and Mary, the new Adam and new Eve, who showed us that the way to God is by means of the Eucharist to become Eucharistic people?
If we believe that God intervenes and acts in our lives, we must also accept that God desires to act in us as well. This belief imposes upon us an obligation of an appropriate response to so great a gesture as was given to us in Christ’s self-offering death on a cross.
To believe that God acts for our good also means that we can choose either to make a generous response or to make a lame response to such a personal God. Do we have the courage to say with Mary “I am the servant of the Lord…”? Dare we say with Christ “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done?”
Here are some of the ways that I can choose:
- Do I choose to honor life as sacred from conception to natural death?
- Do I choose to honor my promises, my marriage vows?
- Do I choose to respect my body and honor it as a gift?
- Do I tell the truth? Do I respect others, myself?
- Do I live chastely, modesty, purely? (Unfortunately, we don’t speak much about the virtue of purity anymore.)
- Do I choose to confess my sins so that I can receive correction and pardon or do I try to “go it alone?”
- Am I open to God’s workings in me and in my neighbor?
- This Christmas, do I dare to let God’s will be done in me as it was in Pope John Paul, Mother Theresa, and in the saints? Lord give us the courage to pray with Mary, conceived without Original Sin, and to use our free will to Your greater honor and glory. O Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
Bishop Gregory J. Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)