December 8, 2011
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
Today’s reading: Luke 1:26-38
Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Since many Catholics do not actually know their faith, let us make clear what this Church dogma is. No, it is not that Mary conceived even when she was a virgin (we can make this mistake especially since the gospel today is about her as virgin who will conceive a child). What it is is that Mary was conceived without original sin.
Her immaculate conception is important because she was to carry God in her womb. She needed to be a clean and perfect vessel. The holy God could not be contained for 9 months in a tarnished vessel.
* * *
When told that she would conceive and bear a child, Mary asked the angel Gabriel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” (Lk 1:34). It was a perfectly reasonable question, not lacking in faith but simply wanting to know how God would act.
Gabriel then explained. And to hammer in his point, he told of her cousin Elizabeth also conceiving, though barren and already in her old age. It was an impossible thing that had happened. Now what was being told to Mary was another impossibility, according to human thought. But here was Gabriel’s point: “nothing will be impossible for God” (Lk 1:37).
God is in fact a God of the impossible.
- God made Abraham the father of many nations, even as he was childless and his wife Sarai was old and barren.
- God miraculously liberated a slave people from centuries of bondage in Egypt, sustained them in the inhospitable desert, and finally brought them into the promised land.
- God allowed Gideon, with 300 men, to defeat an army as numerous as locusts.
- God allowed Elizabeth, barren and advanced in years, to conceive and bear a son.
- God allowed Simon and the fishermen to catch a great number of fish with one casting of the nets, when they had just given up after a fruitless night of fishing.
- God raised His Son Jesus from the dead.
Have we ever found ourselves in a rut, at a dead end, in the dark with no light at the end of the tunnel, experiencing our dark night of the soul? Israel experienced such a crisis, as recorded in the book of Lamentations. With the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C., the Israelites had lost their lives, their freedom, their national sovereignty, their nation, their temple, their future, their hope. Once they were God’s people, now they were no people.
The writer of the book was in anguish. He knew severe affliction, he walked in darkness, he was wearied by poverty, he felt desolate, his face was pressed in the dust, he was deprived of peace, his future was lost, his soul was downcast. But wait. There was still hope. Why? Because “the favors of the Lord are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent” (Lam 3:22).
No matter how low we are, God can raise us up. No matter how desperate our situation is, God can deliver us. No matter how hopeless we are, God can change our lot.
No one knows this reality, that for God nothing is impossible, more than Mary. With faith, trust and hope, she, who was a lowly maiden in some remote corner of the world, gave birth to the Savior of the world.
Now we, told that God wants to bless us abundantly, may at times find ourselves in a rut, or worse, in an extremely hopeless situation. At those times we may ask, “How can God deliver me? How can God overturn my hopeless situation?”
Ask Mary, and worry no more.
[This article is taken from “Forty Days with Mary” (Day 11)]