The Immaculate Conception
8 December 2018 at Saint Elizabeth Seton Church in Naples, FL
Genesis 3 9-15 + Psalm 98 + Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12 + Luke 1, 26-38
The reading from Genesis assigned for today is a reminder that this world, God’s creation, is broken. It’s not as though we have to be reminded, but the struggle to live in that brokenness might cause us to forget that God made a promise to restore creation to its original sinless and perfect condition so that it might more clearly and consistently mirror the goodness and the beauty of the creator. The first step in that restoration is the woman we honor today, a new Eve, whose very sinless conception is the beginning of that restoration. Being born without sin, she is what the first Eve was in the very beginning. This Immaculate and sinless birth is the beginning of God’s plan to restore all creation to its original sinless and perfect state.
What we can discover from being attentive to the brief and infrequent appearances of her in the Gospels reveals a great deal about what God must have hoped for when life was first breathed into human kind. What little is said about her is very significant even though it is just a glimpse. She appears at crucial moments in the story we have in the Gospels. She who conceives and gives birth to Jesus begins the story of our restoration. She is there when Jesus begins to discover his calling to be about the Father’s business. Then again, at the beginning of his ministry at Cana’s wedding, speaking to us all as she says: “Do what he tells you.” She is there in the middle of the story when worried about his safety because of the direction of his life, she wants to bring him back home. She is there at the end of it, present on Calvary, and she is present at the launching of the church on Pentecost. More than any other figure in the Gospels, she is there with a role to play in salvation.
What we can discover from those glimpses is that she was concerned about other people, that she had courage and strength of character that came from knowing that she was loved by God. She had faith, and because she believed, then acted on that belief. She is the first disciple, and for us a model of holiness. We learn from her that even with faith we may not always understand everything. But, faith commits us to a life of searching, of holding things we may not understand in our hearts. Essentially, faith like her faith simply means trusting in God, and allowing God to do things we never dreamed of or thought were impossible.
She is a woman of our time, a woman of all time, a friend of the poor, giving hope to those who struggle for justice, challenging us all to live more simply and trust in God. She stands before us as the model of holiness and a reminder of what God had hoped for us all in the beginning. Unlike that first Eve, the new Eve attained holiness and perfection simply by obedience to God. She is blessed not just because she gave birth to the Son of God, but because she heard the Word of God and did it.