Advent and Mary’s Immaculate Conception
Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas, for the birth of the Messiah, the Immanuel—God with us—the Incarnate Word of God. This week we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is how God prepared Mary to receive the child Jesus on the first Christmas.
The Immaculate Conception is the dogma that says that Mary was conceived without sin. The concepts “without” and “sin” are negative concepts. Sin is the lack of a right relationship with God. This means the statement, “Mary was conceived without sin,” doesn’t say anything positive about her. Yet Scripture puts this double negative into the positive: that Mary was conceived with a good healthy relationship with God, that she was conceived as His “highly favored” daughter. In other words, that she was conceived “full of grace” (Luke 1:28,30).
Some people object to praising Mary in this way, saying that she should not be treated as an exception: she is just like the rest of us sinful creatures in need of a Messiah. But is Mary the anomaly or are we? God also conceived Adam and Eve immaculate: when God created them, he saw what he had created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31); they even walked with God in the Garden of Eden as they had a good, healthy relationship with God. God granted them this grace so that they could fulfill their mission of parents of the human race. He would have granted this grace to all of us, had Adam and Eve not sinned. So sin created an anomaly in God’s original plan.
Yet Mary is more blessed than any woman: “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:42). God blessed Mary more than he did Eve, whom he conceived without sin. Therefore it doesn’t surprise us that God prepared Mary for her more lofty mission—to be mother of the Messiah—conceiving her without sin and preserving her of all sin: “even as he chose [Mary] in him before the foundation of the world, that [she] should be holy and immaculate before him” (Ephesians 1:4). God wants the same for each one of us. He wants us to be able to receive the Child Jesus on Christmas “holy and immaculate.” So, a good way to prepare for Christmas this Advent is to rid ourselves of sin by making a good examination of conscience and then a good confession.
Perhaps it could also be good to identify those areas in our lives where we can improve: triggers that provoke our anger or selfishness. For example, when something is not in the place where we expected it to be, do we get angry and start blaming other people? Perhaps we need to be more detached from our things and realize that they are there to help us serve others and make their lives happier.
Another example is when I am tired and want to rest—perhaps in that moment someone wants help or needs some attention from me. Do I get irritated and annoyed, and then show it in my response to them? Perhaps I need to warn the others when I’m tired: “Hey, folks, I’m tired and you know how any little thing will set me off when I’m this way… I just want to warn you.” It is amazing that such a “warning,” an act of humility, can strengthen us not to get annoyed and upset when things don’t go our way. Also, if we do lose it, we will be quicker to apologize: “Hey, I’m sorry. It’s not you but me.” Then everyone can move on and serve each other without resentments!
Let us ask Our Lady, then, to purify us of sin this Advent through a good confession and by taking steps to distance ourselves from every little thing that leads to sin.
Fr. John R. Waiss
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