The Immaculate Conception

Genesis 3, 9-15, 20 + Psalm 98 + Ephesians 1, 3-6, 11-12 + Luke 1, 2-38

It does not take a scholar to realize that the church would have us look and reflect upon the two women put before us in the readings today. Both of them are loved by God from the very beginning. Yet, there is a difference between them that we can hardly ignore. One says, “Yes”. The other says, “No.” One listens to a serpent. The other listens to an angel. As Luke tells it, the one who says, “Yes” stands before us as a figure of hope because she is the reminder that the one who listened to the serpent is not forgotten nor abandoned by the God who loved her into existence. Even in shame she will find God’s mercy.

What our readings today really reveal is that sin and disregard for God’s will does not stop God’s mercy. The relationship God desired at the beginning will be restored. Those words spoken to the serpent reveal what God has planned for us. Satan, serpent, and evil are defeated, and that defeat begins with another woman who listens to an angel rather than a serpent.

This feast we celebrate every year in the middle of Advent is not just a theological statement about the Mother of God. It is an invitation to explore the very reason for our existence revealed for us in the Blessed Virgin. What the angel says to a virgin in Nazareth is said to us all as she breaks from a past ruled by a serpent and steps into the future of redemption. The first woman hid from God in fear. Now, that fear is challenged by an angel because God’s favor is renewed.

Yet thinking that she is the only one who has found favor with God is to miss the message of this day and then miss being reminded of why we exist to begin with. St Paul in his letter to the church at Ephesus speaks today to the church at Naples. Listen again to what you just heard minutes ago: “He chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.

The church puts the Virgin Mary of Nazareth before us today to remind us who we are and why we exist. In the new creation that begins with her “Yes”, we are no longer subject to the serpent. We too are holy and bound to be blameless in God’s sight filled with every spiritual blessing in the heavens for just as God chose that young woman, God has also chosen us.

She stands before us today as the promise of what we can be and what we must be. Today and everyday, because of her willingness to embrace God’s will rather than her own, we know why we exist, and in this place we do what we have been created and called to do: give praise and glory to God.

Father Tom Boyer