Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday word, 08 Dec 2007

Immaculate Conception (08 Dec 2007) Gn 3. 9-15,20; Ps 98; Eph 1. 3-6,11-12; Lk 1. 26-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Cooperating With God: Our Model

From earliest days people have known that the world is broken, fractured, at the whim of powers not favorable to humans. These invisible powers even move to sow strife among people. The long line of Jewish and then Christian prophets and sages gave the name “sin” to the powers which sow discord among people.

When people collude with these powers, that name becomes a verb: I sin; I consider myself the center of the universe and act accordingly. This is what the valuable, foundational Genesis tale of Adam and Eve described. They decided that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God forbade them to eat, would be good for them. Genesis has us note that they did not come to consider this on their own; they acted after the tempter seduced them: “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.”

Human history became enmeshed in sin but not without hope, hope offered by the Creator. The tempter would not have final power over us. God’s verdict on the tempter continues to be our hope: Then the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

Because we would lose heart standing against the tempter; because we could not be victorious on our own, God chose to become human. God chose to become the human offspring, who would gain victory over the tempter; limit sin’s power; and create us anew in our Messiah.

God chose to become thoroughly human and remain divine. God came quietly, born of a virgin, and grew to give particular attention to people, whom others forced to the margins of society and of life. Because God created us in freedom, God desired a woman freely choose to cooperate with God’s desire and plan to save us and to begin our re-creation.

As our opening prayer reminded us, God prepared the Virgin Mary to be the...mother of [God’s] Son. God kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception as a human. Yet God never interfered with the Virgin Mary’s freedom. God invited her to be the New Eve, not only the mother of the Messiah Jesus, but the mother of re-created humans, temples of her son’s holy Spirit. Mary was prepared from all time to mother God’s son into our world. Mary alone could choose to cooperate with God’s gracious love, and she did.

Mary’s preparation to be Jesus’ link to humanity, the sinless womb to bear him into the world, is her Immaculate Conception at her birth, which we profess and celebrate. The church never remembers her Immaculate Conception alone. It remembers her faithful exercise of her freedom at her Annunciation. Feasts of Mary always point us to her son, Jesus, our Messiah.

The mystery of the Incarnation, the focus of later Advent and the season of Christmas, is not confined to Mary, even though her role in it is unique. She is our mother, given to us by her Son from his cross. As her children we share her splendor. Not only has God created us; God recreates us. God sanctifies us so we are temples, wombs of Jesus’ real presence, who give birth to Jesus by our deeds.

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