Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
This is probably the most confusing feast on the church calendar.  Part of the reason is the Gospel that we just heard talks about Mary’s “yes” that allowed her to conceive Christ.  But today we are celebrating the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  We are celebrating when MARY was conceived, NOT when Jesus was conceived.  We celebrate that Mary was totally preserved from the stain of original sin AND that she remained pure from ALL personal sin throughout her life.  That is why the angel Gabriel greeted her with, “Hail, full of grace!”  She truly was Immaculate and full of grace as befits the mother of Jesus. This is a relatively new solemnity with Pope Pius IX declaring this dogma in 1854. 

Last weekend we talked about waiting, watching and hoping during this Advent season.  And there is no better example of waiting, watching and hoping than Mary.  There is much that we can learn from Mary about what our attitude and habits should be during Advent and in fact throughout out life.  Three thoughts on Advent habits from our Gospel.

First that simple statement from Mary: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”  Mary understood that she was not the center of the universe.  She knew that place belonged to God.  Sometimes we forget that and the result is stress, irritation, even anger.  Don’t people realize I have to do everything?  I am the one that keeps everything going.  When we acknowledge that God is in charge it lifts a burden from our shoulders.  We don’t have to make everything work out.  Take a deep breath and let God be God.  We’ll be the handmaids.

Secondly, May it be done to me according to your word.”  Mary said “yes” to God’s invitation.  We have to constantly say “yes” to God’s call.  And those calls often come from family and friends, from Guild captains and fellow parishioners when we are asked to do something that might not be our first choice, or even what we want to do.  But we do it.  We commit ourselves, we say “yes” to God’s call.  Don’t pass up an opportunity to bring Christ into the world!

Finally, when the angel told Mary she was to bear a son her response was, How can this be?”  Mary asked Gabriel how, she didn’t blindly say yes, she looked at this choice with open eyes, she wanted to know what she was getting into, even though there was no way for her to know all that would happen in the next 33 years.  Making a choice involves some knowledge, asking how, why.  During Advent we can easily get overwhelmed with choices.  Invitations, who to visit, presents to buy, food to be cooked.  When we become overwhelmed everyone and everything suffers, including those close to us.  Mary shows us that it is OK to ask why, how and then make a choice.  Good advice during Advent and all our life.

This Advent remember God is in charge; say “yes” to His invitations, whatever angel announces them; and look at the choices we make so that this Advent can truly be a time of waiting, watching and hoping for Christ.