Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
We all know that life is not fair, but it really comes home to us when we encounter people who are specially gifted. They have an ability which seems to come from “nowhere” – not from extra work, effort, or study. They just “have it.”
They might be athletes, artists, musicians, or cooks, but they have a grace and skill that raise them way above normal. They bring natural abilities and talents to a new level. They show us what is possible, what human nature is capable of. We can pout or sulk because we can’t perform at their level. Or we can rejoice that we are living in a world that welcomes such creativity and grows richer because of it. We are given a vision of what we may hope for. Isn’t my world richer because someone named Beethoven could write such symphonies, because Dostoyevsky wrote such novels? I remember the movie Amadeus in which his contemporary composer, Salieri, struggled and prayed to work out a composition which Mozart reworked in a flash to a brilliant revision. Not fair.
The gifts and graces that some are given are a gift to all. No grace is given to one which is not meant for the benefit of all. We celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Mary as a unique grace bestowed on her at the moment she entered into life, but which was the beginning of the redemptive grace flowing from the life and passion of Christ. That is a grace offered to us and so is the beginning of our own redemption and salvation. Her grace is a revelation of God’s presence in our world, God-with-Us. She is greeted: Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. The reality of God permeates her life. The Lord is with you is not just a vague wish, but an acknowledgement of her being as immersed in the reality of God, the new beginning of grace and life and hope.
Where do we draw the lines between human reality and grace? The influx of grace permeates and “stains” the fabric of human life so that there is an invisible and indivisible union. The communion with God in Eden was lost by the willfulness of Adam, the unwillingness to live in harmony and accord with the plan of God. The question, Where are you?, drew Adam from the shadows and bushes where he concealed and isolated himself. I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself. Mary did not conceal herself from the call that the Holy was addressing to her life. So much of sin has its roots in fear, isolation, and concealment. Holiness appears in freedom, communion, and transparency.
The mysteries of Mary’s life are mysteries because they are revelations. Unless we understand how God works in Mary’s life, we will not understand how God works in our lives (Bishop Flores). God’s gift, grace, and call prepare us for the gift. It is useless of receive a gift if we can’t (or won’t) use it. Mary was preserved from sin by the grace that was foreseen in the redemptive life of her son. The grace of God comes to us in forgiveness that heals our woundedness. The grace is God himself, ready to permeate our being and action. It is an “unthinkable” gift until our hearts open themselves to accepting it. It is deeper than our “thinking.” The Immaculate Conception is “unthinkable”, the beginning of the gift that raises human nature above itself to reach for what is possible for God. We then discover that we have been chosen in him before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish. In him, we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intentions of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory. This is the grace we share in the communion of life and hope revealed in our celebration of Mary’s unique grace.