“WHERE ARE YOU?”
The feast of Immaculate Conception celebrates the catholic teaching that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was preserved free from the effects of original sin right from the moment of her conception, when the soul animated the body. The teaching insists that Mary was further protected from the stain of sin during her lifetime to make her a fitting host for the incarnate son, Jesus Christ. This teaching is greatly misunderstood and attacked, but it goes to fulfill the mission of the Virgin Mary as a mediatrix of graces. Her mission is inextricably linked to the mission of Christ. The feast of the Conception of Mary has historically existed since the 7th Century, but an official declaration as a doctrine of the Church was established by Pope Pius IX, on December 8, 1854, who issued a public declaration entitled Ineffabilis Deus.
In the first reading of today, we listen to the story of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. The passage starts with Adam and Eve having consumed the forbidden fruit. Adam hears God’s voice and is afraid. Adam declares his nakedness and hides from God. When asked by God who told him he was naked, it became clear that he and his wife had disobeyed God’s injunction. What followed was a series of accusations, excuses, and projection of one’s offense to another. Adam says, “The woman whom you put here with me, she gave me the fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Eve says, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” The consequence was the punishment which befell Adam and Eve, and the serpent.
This fall of our first parents is what is called original sin. It is a departure from the state of grace intended by God. By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s commandment, they chose their own will. They lost the grace of original holiness and became subject to the law of death. By this, sin became universally present in the world. Original sin describes the fallen state of human nature and affects every person born into the world. It is the consequence of the wrong use of freedom, freedom meant to be of service to God.
Mary is preserved from sin for the sake of Christ and for our salvation. Come to think of Adam and Eve before the fall. They were completely free from every stain of sin. Their condition was sublime until they defiled it. Mary inherited that original sanctity from God for she was destined in accord with the favor of God’s will, for the praise and glory of God’s grace that He granted her. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary with the great announcement, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” No other creature ever received this kind of greeting from God’s messengers. The angel tells Mary that she has been chosen for a huge assignment, to conceive and bear the “Son of the Most High.” Mary is bewildered and asks, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man.” The answer is clear, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” The entire encounter is the unfolding of the mystery of salvation. Christ is the “source of grace” whereas Adam is the “source of sin” (CCC 388). Christ is the new Adam, “the firstborn over all creation” (Col. 1:15), the Blessed Mother is the new Eve through whom God brings this Fruit to save humanity from sin.
Mary’s response is important for us today, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church remarks, “In a wholly singular way she cooperated by her obedience, faith, hope, and burning charity in the savior’s work of restoring supernatural life to souls. For this reason, she is a mother to us in the order of grace” (CCC 968). Yes, “in the order of grace,” that is what we need.
Let’s go back to the very first question which God asked Adam, “Where are you?” This was a question about commitment. God must have been disappointed with Adam’s response when he said, “I heard your voice in the garden, so I hid myself.” All God wanted to do with Adam and Eve was to take a walk with them. God wanted them to commit to the relationship, to his friendship, but they absconded. But Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word.” Mary’s response can be said to mean, “I am present. I am ready to walk with you.” That is huge. It is a reversal of the disappointment of Adam and Eve. It is the expression of commitment to God’s love. Are you ready to walk with the Lord?
Take it from that God is asking you today, “Where are you?” Where are you in your faith journey? Where are you in your love for God? So many of us have absconded from our spiritual responsibilities, the reason why there is a growing rate of evil, falsehood, injustice, betrayal, and lack of commitment to God’s will. The leaders of the world in different categories have absconded from promoting justice and from seeking God’s will. In families, several couples have absconded from their marital commitment to each other. Many parents have absconded from their responsibilities of showing examples to their children. Fathers are not there anymore. They are scared and have hidden from being real dads. God is asking each of us today, “Where are you?” Where are you, dad, husband, and Mr. Man of your family? Where are you, mom, wife, and caregiver of your family? Where are you, people of God?
One thing that can make us hide from God is sin, just like Adam and Eve, after they ate the forbidden fruit. Is sin keeping you away? Have you become an anonymous Christian? Maybe you think you’re not worthy of being called dad anymore because of your past life, so you hide. You may be hiding in your addiction. You may be hiding in your anxiety. You may be hiding in your shame. You may be hiding in your negative behavior. That is the old Adam in you. The grace of Christ is what God has brought to you. St. Paul reminds you, “so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.” My dear friend, stop hiding and embrace God’s grace. Ask the intercession of our Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mediatrix of all graces. Invoke her maternal help in the rosary. She knows how to help. The angel says to us today, “for nothing is impossible for God.” Yes, nothing is impossible for one who believes. Mary leaves us an example. Let us pray, O Mary conceived without original sin. Pray for us who have recourse to thee. Amen.
Readings: 1st- Gen. 3:9-15, 20; 2nd- Eph. 1:3-6, 11-12; Gospel- Lk. 1:26-38