The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
[Scripture Readings: Gen 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-2, Lk 1:26-38]
Two dimensions of time intersect in Mary. Looking to the past she is the culmination of Israel’s hope. Looking to the future she is the promise of our hope.
Israel’s hope grew over the centuries. There was hope for deliverance from slavery in Egypt and hope for a land. There was hope for a king who would bring peace and justice for the poor and oppressed. At the time of the Exile there was hope for a new Exodus and the establishment of the kingdom of God. To some extent these hopes were realized, but the realizations always fell short of the hope. They were marred by Israel’s inability to be faithful to God. What Israel awaited and what the world through Israel awaited was a fidelity that could receive God’s response to hope.
Mary was the one God prepared for this from the beginning of her existence. She embodied Israel’s hope, the hope of all the world really, and brought it to fulfillment. Because she was free from sin from the beginning of her existence, she could be completely open to God’s word. She could say let it be done to me according to your word in a way that no other human being could. In her God could respond to Israel’s hope with the gift of his Son.
There is still more. St. Paul tells us that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. To be holy and blameless in love is our hope. It is not our experience. The evidence to the contrary, both individual and social is all too real. We hope to become what Mary is in her Immaculate Conception. She shows us that God can do this and that he has done this. Mary’s beginning is our end. Mary’s reality is our hope.