8 DECEMBER: THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Mary’s positive goodness
INTRODUCTION AND CONCEPTION
A woman had a dream that she died and came before the judgment seat of God. Holding out her hands she said to God: ‘You see, Lord; I’ve done nothing wrong. My hands are clean’. And God said: ‘Yes but they are empty’.
Mary’s greatness does not consist in the fact that she did no wrong, but rather in the fact that she said ‘yes’ to God. [Pause]
For our sins and lack of fidelity we ask God’s pardon and Mary’s help.
I confess to almighty God ….
READINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Genesis 3:9-15.20). When man and woman disobeyed God and fell into sin, God promised salvation from sin through another man and another woman, namely, Christ and his mother.
Second Reading (Ephesians 1:3-6.11-12). In his love for us God has adopted us as his children. Hence we are called to a holy and blameless life.
Gospel (Luke 1:26-38). Mary’s greatness and holiness are due to God’s grace and her cooperation with that grace.
Often we tend to see not only the immaculate conception, but the whole of Mary’s life, in a rather negative way. It is as if the greatness of Mary consisted not in any positive goodness, but solely in the fact that she was preserved from original sin. Here is a little illustration. that will show how wrong this is.
Snow white and Lilywhite were two spotless sheets of art paper. One day as they stood admiring each other’s whiteness they saw an artist approaching. With him he was carrying a palette, paints, and brushes. They looked at one another with uncertainty. Should they or shouldn’t they allow him to touch them? The following conversation took place.
Snow white No way is he going to touch me. Just look at his appearance! I don’t trust him. Then look at those rough, crude looking brushes, and all those evil-smelling paints he has! No, this art business is not for me. I was created pure, and that’s the way I’ll remain. I would rather be burnt and reduced to white ashes than to allow any stain to touch me or darkness to spoil me.
Lilywhite But what if he’s a really good artist? In that case you could become something beautiful.
Snow white What do you mean? I am already beautiful.
Lilywhite What I mean is if he painted something on you, you might turn into a masterpiece. Then you would become very valuable, and millions would come to see and admire you.
Snow white Ah yes, but suppose he’s no good, then I’d be ruined. And in that case you know what would happen to me? I’d be thrown into a refuse bin with all the other junk. Even if he does know how to paint, who can say that he will paint something good on me? What if he were to paint something evil? Then I’d be the bearer of ugliness, and people would despise and hate me. I’ll have nothing to do with him. It’s too big a risk.
Lilywhite But if you remain as you are people won’t find anything to admire in you. Surely even a poor drawing would be preferable to being as you are now – empty.
Snow white I still say it’s too risky. I’d rather preserve my purity. My name is Snow white. Snow white is what I am, and that is what I will remain.
Lilywhite Well, I intend to take the risk. I’m going to say ‘yes’ to the artist.
For Lilywhite it proved to be a risk well worth taking. The artist knew his job, and painted a picture of stunning beauty on her. As for Snow white, she stayed just as she was ~ spotlessly clean, but quite empty.
There is a tendency to see Mary in the role of Snow white. But this is a mistake. She is more like Lilywhite. She entrusted herself to the paint and brushes of the Supreme Artist, God, who in her and through her, produced his masterpiece – Jesus Christ.
We must not, however, imagine Mary as being just a passive sheet of paper in God’s hands. She was a free human being. She had first of all to give her consent, then to cooperate actively at every stage. It wasn’t easy or free of risks. There were plenty of black smudges and ugly stains (tears hardship, pain, and so on) which didn’t make sense at the time, and which caused her great suffering and anguish. But then there were also splashes of colour (times of joy, meaning, hope, and so on) which brought happiness to her and confirmed her faith.
Even though it took a long time for any clear pattern to emerge, she still continued to confirm the first ‘yes’ she said to the Artist. In the end it was well worth it, both for her and for us. She became the faithful and loving mother of God’s Son. And thanks to her we have a Saviour and a Brother.
Mary’s greatness, then, lies not so much in her sinless conception and life, but in what she became. It has been said that we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.
We too are called to entrust ourselves to the Supreme Artist so that he can reproduce in us that same Masterpiece, Jesus Christ. Paul prayed for his converts: ‘until Christ is formed in you’. What does it matter if it’s only a pale copy of the original?
Our calling is to reproduce Christ in our lives, that is, to imitate his goodness, truthfulness, and love. This is a task which is utterly beyond us sinful creatures. But Mary is our mother. She will help us. Let us draw inspiration from her example, and let us pray to her for. the help we need to undertake this task with generosity, and persevere in it with humility and steadfastness.
‘There is no need for us to be perfect, we are God’s beloved children.’ (Jean Vanier).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
As we honour Mary the mother of God, let us pray that we may draw inspiration from her life to follow her Son more closely. R. Lord, hear our prayer.
For the people of God: that they may not be frightened or contaminated by the evil which continues to darken our world. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For all the human family: that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, the world may believe that goodness and love are more natural to us than evil and hate. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
That those who are finding life difficult, and who can’t see any pattern in it, may not lose heart. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
That no matter what happens to us in life we may never lose sight of the fact that we are in the hands of a loving and caring Artist, God our Father. [Pause] Let us pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
God our Father, Mary has left us an example to follow. Living in a sinful world, she shared the pain of the world but not its wickedness, and so became a worthy mother for your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Once in a small town in Poland
a young boy stood watching a gypsy
as he drank from a well in the town square.
After drinking, the man stood there,
gazing down into the well,
as though looking at someone.
He was a giant of a man but had a friendly face.
So the boy approached him and asked:
‘Who lives down there?’
‘God does’, answered the gypsy.
‘Can I see him?’
‘Sure you can’, said the gypsy.
Then he took the boy into his arms,
lifting him up so that he could see down into the well.
All the boy could see, however,
was his own reflection in the water.
‘But that’s only me’, he cried in disappointment.
‘All I see is me’.
‘Ah’, replied the gypsy,
‘now you know where God lives.
He lives in you.’