8 December 2016
Solemnity of IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
Gn 3: 9 – 15, 20/ Ps 98: 1, 2 – 3ab, 3cd-4/ Eph 1: 3 – 6, 11 – 12/ Lk 1 : 26 – 38
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary, the Immaculate One
The Biblical scholar Scott Hahn, a Lutheran who became a catholic convert, narrated an exchange he had with a professed atheist. One day he was lecturing on the philosophical proofs for the existence of God. After the talk, during the question and answer part, an avowed atheist spoke up and said, “Professor Hahn, if God did not exist, we would invent Him anyway.” In response, Scott Hahn remarked, “If God does exist, we would invent atheism anyway.”
What do we make of the atheist’ remark? For that atheist, God was just an invention of the human mind, an infantile projection of human insecurity, of man’s inability to cope up with the mysteries of life. What do we make of Scott Hahn’s reply? Now why would we invent atheism? I believe it is because we do not want a demanding God. We do not want a God who will challenge us. We do not want a God who will tell us things that we do not want to hear. If ever would invent a God, it would have to be a convenient God, a God who will never make me feel uncomfortable, a God who will never bring me out of my comfort zone. That is the God of atheism. And that is no God at all.
Mary, in today’s Gospel is a corrective to the modern day attitude of rebelling against a God who can make us uncomfortable. We have heard the Gospel of the annunciation countless times already that sometimes we fail to appreciate how disturbing it was for Mary. With the revelation of the Angel that she was to be Mother of God, her life was turned upside down. Surely, she must have been branded as a lunatic with her claim of a virginal conception. Surely her reputation was besmirched and she must have been seen as a harlot and immoral. She he was put in a real danger of being stoned to death, were it not for Joseph’s selfless sacrifice of not exposing her to the law.
In front of all this, Mary’s response was, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to according to your word.”
What can we learn from Mary’s receptivity before the Divine “interference” in her life? God comes to us not only to make us feel good. He comes to make us good. And it is only after being good, that we shall genuinely feel good about ourselves. Being good entails a decisive choice of the good over the bad. That will entail purification, purgation, a dying to one’s self. And that is difficult.
Therein lies the beauty of Mary, the Immaculate one!