Mass for the school children.
I think we’re so blessed that we get to come to church and celebrate so many of Mary’s feasts. Today is a very special feast because Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States of America, and so she is very special to us. This is so special a feast for us that this day is a Holy Day of Obligation every single year; the only other holy day that is always a Holy Day of Obligation is Christmas. So this is a very special day!
I think today’s readings can be a little confusing. The Gospel makes it sound like this day is about the conception of Jesus, but it isn’t. We celebrate the conception of Jesus nine months before he was born, so somebody do the math … that would be March 25th, right? We call that day the Annunciation, because that was the day the Angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she would have a baby, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute. Today we celebrate the conception of Mary, nine months before her birthday, so if you do the math on that one, her birthday is September 8th, just a few months ago. This day celebrates that Mary was free from sin from the very beginning, the only person other than Jesus not to have sin.
The other confusing reading is the first one. Why do we go all the way to the beginning of creation when we’re talking about Mary today? Well, I think the reason is that Mary solved a problem that began all the way at the beginning. And that problem was sin. From the very beginning, we human beings have been tempted to sin. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, and people have been committing sin ever since. Again and again, God broke in to history, leading people back to him, giving them prophets to show them the way, and again and again, people turned away from God. And we continue that today. Again and again, we are tempted and we sin and we turn away from God.
But God didn’t want that to be the way things ended up for us. So he sent his Son to become one of us, and we are preparing to celebrate his birth during this Advent season. God knew that in order for Jesus to be born among us, his mother was going to have to be pretty special. So before Mary was ever in her mother’s womb, God chose her to be his Son’s mother. He made her free from sin so that no stain of sin would ever touch his Son while he was in his mother’s womb.
Because Mary was so special, she loved God very much. So when the angel came and told her she would have a baby by the power of the Holy Spirit, she said yes to God’s plan. I don’t know if she really understood what was going to happen, I don’t know if she really knew how this wonderful event would take place, and she probably didn’t fully understood what would happen to Jesus in his life, but she said yes anyway. We call that her fiat, her “yes” to God’s plan for her. She took a big leap of faith that day, and we have been blessed ever since.
This is all very good news. But there is even more good news: because Mary was so special to God, she shows us how special we are to God. As we celebrate God’s love for Mary today, we can also celebrate his love for us. Mary got to hold her Savior – the One God promised us – in her own arms. When those of us who are old enough come to Communion today, we will be able to hold our Savior – the One God promised us – in the palm of our hand. Mary’s life was brightened when Jesus was born. Our lives will be brightened too, this coming Christmas, and every time when we make room in our hearts for Jesus.
Winter can be a dark and cold time. And we can also see darkness in the world through crime and hate, and sometimes we can even feel coldness in our own hearts. But Advent reminds us, with the help of special people like Mary, that God will keep his promises and send us a Savior to brighten our world and warm up our hearts. Just as Mary was chosen and special before she was even in her mother’s womb, so we are chosen and special to God from the beginning too. God loves us so much that he sent his Son to free us from our sins and lead us home one day to him. Praise God for his great love and for the ways he comes into our hearts!
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.