The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at St Peter and St William Churches in Naples, FL

Genesis 3, 9-15, 20 + Psalm 98 + Ephesians 1, 3-6, 11-12 + Luke 1, 26-38

 December 8, 2016 at St Peter and St William Churches in Naples, FL

There are two women in tradition that were conceived without sin. Did you ever think of that? One’s name is “Eve” and the other’s name is “Mary.” This day invites us to think about the difference between the two of them and decide which one we shall be like.

Sometime back when I was pastor of a parish with a large school I dropped in to speak with one of the seventh grade classes, and we got around to talking about vocations. I asked one of the girls what she would do if God were asking her to be a sister in a religious order. She was very honest with me and said: “I would say, no.” Unfortunately, I did not find her response too unusual. Most young people at that age and up would probably say the same thing. Yet her response made me a little sad. So I asked another question: “Why not?” Her answer was just as honest. “I am afraid that I won’t like it.”

Now think about her answer. “I am afraid – that I – won’t like it.” The words “I” and “afraid” suggest that her happiness is dependent upon herself not upon God. There is this disturbing implication that she believed that her fulfillment in life was all about her and not up to God. Isn’t this exactly the problem with Eve? She thought that her fulfillment and happiness would be based upon what she and Adam did with no thought about God’s wish or will. The two of them could not have what they wanted, so they took it thinking that their fulfillment and their happiness rested upon themselves rather than upon what God wanted to provide them. That kind of thinking is challenged today by this feast and this other woman who shows us a different way. Dependent upon God, trusting in God, open to God’s will and God’s call in her life she was not afraid that she wouldn’t like it. Eve however ended up being very much afraid – so much so that she hid from God.

There is so much of Eve still in this world. There is still too much fear witnessed by that young girl’s response to my question. Too many people respond to opportunities that God’s providence provides by saying: “I am afraid that I can’t do it.” “I am afraid that I am not qualified.” “I am afraid that I don’t know how.” “I am afraid of failing.” There is something missing here, something that Mary found by grace, the belief that nothing is impossible with God. With that we see the difference between the two women. One tried to live on her own, doing her own thing. She ended up hiding in fear. The other woman lived full of grace, which means, full of God, and she became fearless giving courage and hope to anyone willing to look carefully at what God wants and asks of us.

Father Tom Boyer