Feast of the Immaculate Conception
December 8th 2019
In a few days’ time we will be celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Traditionally this feast is preceded by three days of recollection. It was Fr. Médaille’s wish that that each of us should ask Mary “to obtain from her Son, the grace of a true desire for holiness, an ardent zeal for the salvation of the dear neighbour and great purity of intention in all our conduct (Spiritual Directory). Mary was first and foremost a human being and was given a specific mission and calling just as each of us have been called. Pope Francis calls us to celebrate and imitate Mary’s deep trust and openness to God when faced with serious problems.
In his address to pilgrims, Pope Francis wrote “Today we look at the beauty of Our Lady, who was born and lived without sin, always docile and transparent with God. This does not mean that life was easy for her. Living with God does not magically solve problems.” He highlighted Mary’s radical trust at the moment of the Annunciation found in her response to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Pope Francis suggests that we might start each day with these words “Here I am Lord, today may your will be done in me” We hear this phrase in the Angelus prayer and it is a call to each of us to surrender who we are to the will of God.
Once the angel had left Mary, it seemed like as though her problems really started. Mary knew that she would become the Mother of God, but the angel had not explained it to other people. Her irregular situation according to the law, the torment of Joseph her husband, all her dreams and plans seemingly all for nothing and what the people would say, were only some of the difficult situations Mary found herself in …
The angel leaves Mary alone in a difficult situation … And she trusts. We ask Mary Immaculate to give us the grace to live like that.
How many times have we found ourselves in our own difficult situations, with all our hopes and dreams at our feet? How many times have we too, found ourselves alone and afraid. It is in this moment that we are called like Mary, to trust.
The "wise attitude" of Mary, which all Christians are called to imitate, is not to concentrate on all of life's problems -- one ends and another presents itself -- but to trust in God and entrust ourselves to him each day, Pope Francis said “This is the great mystery of the Immaculate Conception: that Mary had full and perfect freedom, undiminished, untainted and undistorted by any trace of sin, and therefore could speak on our behalf and in full freedom. ”In that freedom, and in the name of each one of us, Mary accepted the gift of Jesus. And Mary never distanced herself from that love: throughout her life her whole being is a “yes” to that love which is at the heart of our Charism. This is what we celebrate today. Mary lived a simple life and was always in tune with her God. These days we might take time to ask ourselves if we are sufficiently in tune with what God is asking of us in this present moment. It may be to let go, it may be to step back, it may be to commit more deeply, it may be to be more fully engaged……..
God needs our wholehearted “yes” which cannot be judged on what we can achieve. We are constantly invited by God to watch for the new thing. “Behold, I am doing a new thing can you not see it……” Is. 43
In the prayer addressed to Mary, we read, "In this Advent time, thinking of the days when you and Joseph were anxious for the imminent birth of your baby, worried because there was a census and you had to leave your village of Nazareth, and go to Bethlehem -- you know what it means to carry life in your womb and sense around you, indifference, rejection and sometimes contempt.........
So, we think of the families who today in Europe, India and Africa and throughout the world are living in similar situations. Pope Francis asks Mary to “intervene "so that they will not be abandoned, but safeguarded with their human rights that come before every other, even legitimate, demand. The Pope here was referring to the rights of migrants and refugees and the right of nations to control their borders.
So, Sisters, on this great feast of the Immaculate Conception, let us take to heart the “Here I am Prayer” of Pope Francis. This prayer opens us to God whilst our selfishness closes, isolates, and keeps us alone with ourselves."'Here I am” is the key to life. It marks the passage from a life focused on ourselves and our own needs, to a life, reaching towards God.
Openness to God and to doing God's will "is the cure for selfishness, the antidote to an unsatisfying life where something is always missing. It is a prayer which helps us to stay young at heart.
Pope Francis challenges us "Why don't we begin each day with a 'Here I am, Lord'? It would be beautiful to say each morning, 'Here I am, Lord, may your will be done in me today”
Turning our lives over to God and doing his will does not mean life will be free of troubles and problems. Mary's wasn't. Being united with God does not magically resolve problems, In fact, the Pope said, for Mary the problems began immediately. But Mary put her trust in God.
The teaching of the Immaculate Conception makes sure that we go beyond Mary and look with gratitude to God, the source of all grace. The initiative for holiness always comes from God’s Word, the Word to whom she always responded with perfect love. It was her perfect response that made it possible for God to love her with that special intimacy that enabled God’s Word to become incarnate.
Maybe we can all recall causing some pain in other people’s lives. Let us strive to be people who bring wholeness and healing. Let us be deeply aware that, long before we were born, every single one of us has been called by God to know, love and serve him. We have been the constant receivers of his blessings. How will we respond? Unlike Mary, we were born touched by a sinful world. But we also can become filled with grace if, like her, we say a resounding and unconditional ‘Yes’ to all that God wants from us.
This time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord, who will visit us all on the feast, but also, each one, in our own hearts. The Lord is coming! Let us wait for him!
And as we do this, let us look to Mary our Mother, and allow her to look upon us, for she is our protector and guide and she loves us so much. Let us allow ourselves to be watched over by her so that we may learn how to be more humble, and also more courageous in following the Word of God. Then at Christmas, we will welcome the birth of her Son, Jesus the one who gives us life, hope and peace.
Sisters, may each one of us make the words of Mary our own “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to your word”.
A Happy Feast!