Immaculate Conception 2018

There’s no straightforward, simple argument I can give to those who find this doctrine either improbable or simply uninteresting.  I don’t know of one big flashing sign that points to our Lady being conceived without sin.  Rather, it’s the presence of a thousand small signs that all point the same direction.  The more you study the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, the more you find over and over that it’s fitting, it’s beautiful, it’s just... really cool that God did it this way.  So in the space of a single sermon, perhaps I could talk about Mary as the new Eve, and why her immaculate conception fits that perfectly.  Or instead I could speak for several minutes about Mary as the Ark of the Covenant, and why her immaculate conception fits that so beautifully.  Or Mary as the woman of Revelation 11, or Mary as the mother of the Church, or Mary as a type and symbol of the Church, they’re all true and they’re all beautiful.  Like so many of the mysteries of our faith, the Immaculate Conception is  a gem that reveals whole worlds from each different angle you look at it.

One angle that comes through strongly in these readings is what you might call the working of God’s Plan. That’s almost a cliche, I guess, “God’s plan.”  Sometimes people speak far too lightly of God’s Plan, for instance, when they’re trying to come to grips with a tragedy. But there is a plan, and in some lovely times we can see and enjoy it unfolding. Much more often perhaps we're wrestling and wounded like Jacob. But there is a plan, and the very fact that it’s God’s means we can expect it to be bigger and deeper than we can always understand.

So we start right at the beginning, when sin first enters the world, and Adam and Eve are ejected from the garden, and God already announces that someday he’s going to set this right. Eve will have a descendant, he promises, that will crush the ancient serpent. That’s why you often seen statues of Mary standing on a snake! Through Abraham and the patriarchs the promise is handed down. Moses stood against the mighty Pharaoh on that promise. David threw his sinfulness upon God’s mercy, knowing that God remained faithful to His promise however faithless his people became. Isaiah and the prophets repeated the Promise against all evidence, even when the tribes of Israel were scattered to the corners of the earth, even when the line of David seemed withered and ruined and never to return.

The history of faith is not full of people who trusted God easily and had easy lives as a result. Instead, it’s full of people who had to face the question, ‘where is God now?  Where is God in my life?’ Those who took their stand on God’s promise were vindicated in the end, but study their stories in the Bible, take them to heart, and see how they got there.

Somebody here is in a great struggle now, perhaps, in a very dark place, and your heart echoes the Psalmist: ‘Why is God silent?’  Others here tonight have less dramatic struggles, but all of us deal with doubt and frustration. To be a saint means not the absence of doubt and frustration, but the victory of faith over them. When you feel lost or alone or just spiritually empty, remember the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Because this is where God speaks, this is where God acts, this is how God can change everything… how God can change everything while the outside world barely notices. Take your stand on God’s promise, and He can do something new in your life. He wants to do something new in your life.  God wants to do something amazing.

At the time of the Gospels, most of the world may have forgotten the line of David, a story with a sad ending, ancient history even to them. But God remembers.  Certainly no one took much notice of this ordinary couple, Mary's parents… but that’s where it happens. God reaches into the home of Joachim and Anne. It’s time to do something new. It’s time for life to stand against death, for innocence to take its fragile stand. It’s time for the old world to fade away and a new creation to begin.  And just as God prepared a spotless garden for his first creation, just as He carefully fashioned a paradise in Eden for their arrival, so now He prepared a spotless garden for the new Adam. Joachim and Anne conceived a child, a girl named Mary, who stood alone in a world of sin and death as something very new indeed…

Innocence. A memory mistily sketched in the story of the beginning of the world, but never seen since before time was counted.

Purity. Not a skin-deep purity soon to be discarded, not a pretense to be mocked, but the kind of purity that makes the angels fall silent and bow in reverence.

Mary Comforts Eve, Sr. Grace Remington, OSCO

This is not a myth. It’s not just a nice story from far away and long ago. This is God’s plan for His fallen creation, His wounded image and likeness, for you. It can happen. It’s meant to happen, to you.

The innocence that is lost to some time before your earliest memory, the purity you gave up looking for long ago, they can be found again.

“Behold,” her son would say one day, “Behold, I make all things new.” Is it any surprised He started with His mother? Wouldn’t you?

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Given Up: 19th Sunday OT

Here for Him: 18th Sunday OT

On the Pennsylvania abuse report: a letter from a pastor