Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, ©, December 8th, 2018:
Today’s readings give us a side-by-side comparison of two conversations. One is between God and Eve and the other is between God, through His Archangel Gabriel, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The comparison is revealing.
In fact, you can add a third conversation to this. It is the conversation between the serpent and Eve. The serpent tells Eve that if she eats the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, she (and Adam) will be like gods, and can decide good and evil for themselves. The evil one appeals to Adam and Eve’s pride. That is how Satan gets them to disobey. Now, they have both disobeyed. After God confronts Adam, and Adam blames Eve (and God), God confronts Eve about her disobedience. Eve says “The serpent tricked me into it so I ate it”(Genesis 3:13). Eve blamed someone else for her disobedience. Eve is a proud, sinful woman. She speaks honestly but she didn’t do it. Eve denies responsibility for her disobedient, sinful act of disobedience. Then, the author of Genesis says “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living”(Genesis 3:20). After their disobedient act, Adam and Eve have children and transmit sin and a fallen, sinful nature to them, and to us today. She “was the mother of all the living”(Genesis 3:20). Eve’s act of disobedience (and Adam’s) transmitted original sin to all the living up to today. That is Eve’s identity. She disobeyed and transmitted original sin and separation from God to us.
Compare that to St. Luke’s Gospel, where today we read the Annunciation. God is going to announce to Mary that it is time for the Messiah to appear. This Messiah will be God’s own Son and God wants her to be His Mother. St. Gabriel’s salutation is important: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you”(Luke 1:28). Verse 29 says “But she was greatly troubled at the saying,…”(Luke 1:29). Mary is troubled because she is humble. So St. Gabriel has to explain this to her. Mary is in the same state of grace that Eve was before the Fall. Mary is “full of grace” and “the Lord is with you”(Luke 1:28). Notice that God has favored her by filling her with grace before she consents to anything that God asks her to do. Eve had contact with the evil serpent. Mary will have contact with God’s Holy Spirit to conceive in her womb. The child will be God’s own Son, without any violation of her virginity. The bottom line is that Mary obeys God’s plan while Eve disobeys. Mary is the new Eve. Mary is absolutely that. The Blessed Virgin Mary obeys and reverses Eve’s disobedience. She says “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word”(Luke 1:38). It is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s obedience which enables God’s salvation plan. Mary obeys and conceives God’s own Son. His name is Jesus Christ and He is Savior of the World. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Mary’s “yes” enables the Savior to be born. Her “yes” brings the Savior who saves us. The Blessed Virgin Mary consents to being a way for our sinless God to come into contact with sinful man here on this earth to forgive sins, exorcise demons, cure diseases, feed the hungry, make paralytics walk, and save the disenfranchised, those on the periphery. The Blessed Virgin Mary is not a corridor, or a street. The Blessed Virgin Mary gave Jesus Christ His human nature, His flesh, His body, His blood, in her womb. It is important to say that Jesus’s human nature is sinless. He never sinned. So therefore, the human nature He has is not a fallen, sinful human nature that Adam and Eve transmitted to each of us. So she has to be sinless, in order to give Jesus his perfect human nature. That’s why Holy Mother Church, in her infinite wisdom, has declared that she is sinless from the moment of her conception. Jesus Christ, the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity, saved her from sin at the moment of her conception. God fills her with grace before she even decides to obey God’s plan. Mary is completely unique in this way. Mary is the only human being God can come into complete unity with in order to save us. God saves her from sin from the moment of her conception so she can fulfill her part in this incredible plan of God’s love and salvation for each of us. Notice that the Blessed Virgin Mary responds by expressing her identity: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word”(Luke 1:38). Mary’s identity is being an obedient woman to God. She is an example to us all to follow. Eve’s identity was to be a disobedient woman to God. She is an example for us to avoid.
There is one more important point in today’s solemnity. It is that the Blessed Virgin Mary’s “yes” alerts us to the fact that Jesus Christ is coming this Advent. Jesus Christ will come at Christmas when He is born through God’s love and mercy for each and every one of us, and Mary’s “yes”.
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