December 8, 2011
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the
Blessed Virgin Mary
Listen to the podcast version here.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a
town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to
a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and
the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he
said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and
pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the
angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for
you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive
in your womb and bear a son, and you shall
name him Jesus. He will be great and will be
called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God
will give him the throne of David his father, and
he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and
of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary
said to the angel, “How can this be, since I
have no relations with a man?” And the angel said
to her in reply, “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. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age, and
this is the sixth month for her who was called
barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said,
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it
be done to me according to your word.” Then the
angel departed from her.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are the author
of life and of love. You wish to draw me
closer to you, and yet I seem to find so
many ways to escape from you. Forgive my dullness and
coldness of heart. At least here I am now, hungry
to know you and love you more and more.
Heavenly Father, help me to decide once and for all
to strive for holiness.
1. God Makes the First Choice: When
we read the Old Testament we marvel at the many
accounts of people chosen by God to fulfill a certain
mission. We are familiar with the calling of the prophets
Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 6), Jeremiah (cf. Jeremiah 1), Moses (cf.
Exodus 3), and so on. Mary is the New Testament
prototype of God’s calling. In all cases, God is the
one who takes the initiative; he sends his messenger to
communicate his choice. For Mary, the humble girl of Nazareth,
this calling comes unexpectedly and is beyond purely human possibilities.
For this reason she is troubled by the words of
the angel Gabriel and wonders about the greeting he gives.
Do I keep in mind that God’s plan for my
life comes of his own initiative? Have I given my
answer yet? Lord, help me to cooperate with you fully
in putting into action your ‘golden’ blueprint for my life.
A Case Presented to Confirm Freedom: God doesn’t want Mary
to act blindly; he wants a response that involves her
whole heart, mind and soul. For this reason the angel
Gabriel answers Mary’s questions and concerns, which do not manifest
doubt but, rather, humility in seeking to understand God’s will.
God created Mary free of sin and filled her with
grace and goodness. Yet he respects her freedom to choose
to do his will. What a mystery that the all-powerful
God who created all things and who lovingly cares for
us should be so generous in respecting our freedom! Lord,
keep me from abusing my freedom in willfully subjecting myself
to the slavery of my passions: pride, vanity, sensuality.
Is Just a “Yes” Away: After hearing God’s messenger, Mary
must give her answer. She does so with flying colors.
Her generosity perfectly echoes God’s. Every moment of the day
is a new opportunity for us to imitate Mary’s excellent
example. She dedicated her life to saying “yes” to everything
God asked of her, no matter what it was. She
was rewarded with the grace of the Assumption. Only saints
get into heaven, so we need to dedicate ourselves to
following the path of holiness, too. That means giving a
simple, humble “yes” to every opportunity provided by God to
become more Christ-like. Lord, give me the courage to offer
you my life as a blank sheet of paper, so
you can write whatever you wish upon it.
Conversation with Christ:
Jesus, I know that you are calling me to be
more like you today! I know this is not an
easy task, but you will give me the grace to
achieve such a high ideal. I need to trust you
and to see everything as something you send my way
to help me achieve my goal of holiness. Grant me
the grace, motivation, and continued good examples of others to
be generous like Mary, your Mother.
Resolution: I will take a
moment to encourage another person to strive for holiness, too.
In a special way, I will be mindful to encourage
young people to be open to the consecrated vocation, should
the Lord be calling them.