Saturday, December 8, 2012

Where Would We Be Without Mary?

Homily from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - Year C

Does anyone here have a birthday very near Christmas?  My friend Tony was born on December 24th.  As it so happens, his parents’ names are actually Mary and Joseph.  For those of you who have a birthday very near Christmas, do you ever feel gypped out of presents?

Well, here we are on a Saturday, celebrating the Solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  And we’ll be right back either tonight or tomorrow night to celebrate the Second Sunday of Advent.  Naturally, the question has been asked a number of times if one Mass can count for satisfying both the Holy Day of Obligation and Sunday.  However, the answer is “no.”  Just as one’s birthday is a distinct day from the Lord’s birthday, so too the Immaculate Conception is a distinct celebration from Sunday.  And we don’t want to gyp Mary out of her day.

We have a lot of days on which we honor Mary.  There’s today, the day in which she was immaculately conceived in her mother Anna’s womb.  In just four days, we’ll celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas.  There’s her birthday, her presentation in the temple, the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, commemorating the grief she bravely endured as she stood by the Cross of her son, the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, January 1st - Mary, Mother of God, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, The Annunciation, The Assumption, The Queeenship of Mary, and many more.

We make a big deal about Mary.  Why?  The simple answer is, without Mary, we’d all be in Hell.

Perhaps this sounds shocking.  Like we’re heaping too much credit on her.  Of course, we know that to Jesus Christ alone goes the credit for our salvation.  However, the Lord has an interesting way of saving us.  Certainly, God could have simply snapped his fingers and wiped away the debt of man’s sin and rebellion against Him.  However, its amazing that God chose not to save us without getting us involved in the process.

How did He do it?  By asking permission.  By sending His angel Gabriel to “propose” to Mary if you will.  To ask if she will be the spouse of the Holy Sprit and the mother of His Son.  And she said, “Yes.  Let it be done to me according to Your word.”

Without her “yes,” Jesus would not have been born.  
Without his birth, Jesus would not have died.  
Without his death, Jesus would not have risen.
Without his rising, we would not be saved.
Without his saving us, we would all be in Hell.
Without Mary’s “yes,” we would all be in Hell.

So we gather, with joy, to celebrate the moment Mary entered the world.  The moment she was conceived, free from Original Sin, within her mother’s womb.

She is free from the finger pointing and blame shifting we hear of in the first reading.  When Adam is asked why he sinned, he does what every man does: he blames his wife.  “The woman whom you put here with me - she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”  And when Eve is asked why she sinned, she does what every woman does: she blames the devil.  “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Mary does not point a finger of accusation, she does not blame, she does not pass the buck.
Rather, she lowers herself in humility, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”  And like an authentic human being, created in the image and likeness of God, she says not: “The devil made me do it.”  But rather, “God made me do it.”  The fullness of grace, given to her by God, from the moment of her immaculate conception, compels her complete obedience to the Father and empowers her to exercise her free will to say “Yes.  Let it be done to me according to your word.”

And this is the greatest virtue of Mary and why we look to her and celebrate her so much.
Because even when, it would seem, so much credit should go to her, she points us away from her and toward the Father.  From her very beginning, her immaculate conception this Saturday, she points to the Father on Sunday.

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