Gn 3. 9-15,20; Ps 98; Eph 1. 3-6,11-12; Lk 1. 26-38
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Given and Received
Creation runs through scripture from beginning to end. Creation is a principle theme with many variations. Yesterday, the Second Letter of Peter reminded us that God assures and encourages us to look forward to new heavens and a new earth./1/ How we live, how we witness to our Savior testifies to that new creation. How we live shapes how we anticipate what has been emerging since Mary’s Son lived, died and rose to absolutely new life, promise to us. Jesus gives us a taste of that new creation in word, sacrament and service, both given and received.
Recalling Mary’s immaculate conception previews new heavens and a new earth. Mary was conceived without sin to be a fitting vessel for the Son of God. The Mother of God was full of grace for that very reason! This dogma of ours has a practical aspect because Mary’s immaculate conception blesses us with new confidence.
Hers is new confidence because confidence evaporated early in the first creation. The first stewards of creation had the noble vocation to cultivate and care for/2/ their garden-home and to name every living thing./3/ Both took confidence: a trust; a self-possession; and a feeling at home with oneself as well as with one’s surroundings. The enemy of our human nature, which Genesis depicted by a serpent to impart the subtle, crafty wiles abroad in creation, twisted trust into pride: God had given them only a single prohibition, “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and bad. From that tree you shall not eat.”/4/ Pride made that tree like any other for the first human stewards. After eating it they became afraid to meet God, who accompanied them and moved with them day by day. Humans have suffered a crisis of confidence ever since. Mistrust, loss of self-composure and not feeling at home with oneself or one’s surroundings have warped humans from that time.
Yet time has always been pregnant with God’s salvation. In the fullness of time, that is to say, when the Lord made known [the Lord’s] salvation to Mary, she overcame her anxiety at the angel’s greeting and announcement that she would be the Mother of God. She was greatly troubled: the human crisis of confidence insinuated itself in her mind while she was in her own home! If that moment were to have a center, it would be the angel’s greeting, “Do not be afraid, Mary...you have found favor with God.” Mary made everything--present and future--revolve around that center by taking the angel, and therefore God, at God’s word: “Let it happen to me as you say.”
Mary’s response was so compact that we might easily dismiss it as the reply of a greatly troubled girl, whose married life was soon to begin. It was anything but! Mary’s response was her unequivocal Yes, her confidence in God and God’s promise of salvation. She was different after it, and the world is different because of it. Our world counts on us and others Christians to imitate Mary’s new confidence so that we may transform our crisis to renewed faith and be witnesses by actions of new heavens and a new earth, already emerging because of Mary’s son and his life, death and resurrection. Christian faith and its incarnation by action is the Lord’s salvation, both given and received.
1. Chapter 3.13. This rests between its early mention in Isaiah 65.17 and 66.22 and the Book of Revelation (22.1), which specified it with vivid imagery.
2. Genesis 2.15.
3. Genesis 2.19.
4. Genesis 2. 16-17.
Wiki-image of the Zubaran's Immaculate Conception is in the public domain.