Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception as Kick-off for the Year of Mercy

Contrary to popular misconception, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (always on December 8) is the celebration of the Blessed Mother Mary being conceived without sin.  It is considered a holy day of obligation, a day in which Catholics are invited and encouraged to participate in the sacrifice of the Mass as part of the solemnity. 

This morning I went to 9:00 Mass at St. Bridget Church along with some 450 children who attend the parish school there.  Hearing the voices of children singing the songs warmed my heart.  Seeing all of them there in uniform with their teachers made me think of the days when I used to attend St. Mary School many years ago.  I smiled, thinking of how wonderful it is to be at Mass with the three silly sisters singing right beside me. 

Monsignor Carr stood before the statue of the Blessed Mother to one side of the altar to begin his homily.  He pointed out Mary’s position in life and in Heaven as one that welcomes us in, offers us solace.  When gazing at the statue, I felt Mary beckoning “come to me.”  Her hands are outstretched and open, ready to receive us.  She’s ready to hold our hand, draw us into her arms, listen attentively, and comfort us. 

Mary is the best example I know (besides Christ, of course) who said yes to God, though she knew right away that it would completely change her life, require some huge risks, and major adjustments. 

Today begins the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy announced by Pope Francis.  The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a fitting kick-off, because it illustrates how God has loved us and longed for us to be reconciled with Him.

He made Mary without sin from the moment she was conceived in her mother’s womb to be a stainless tabernacle for the Son of God.  This didn’t mean she had to say yes and be open to God’s grace, but it certainly helped her to accept the grace the Lord had already given her to do what He would ask.  What to her was an unplanned pregnancy to the rest of humanity was the redemption and salvation of all humanity.

It’s far too easy for me to fall into thinking that my yes to God doesn’t really mean that much or make that big of a difference.  To some extent, it makes sense God won’t ask something as monumental of me as He asked of Mary.  Or will He?  Each one of us is asked to submit all that we are, were, and will be in mind, body, and spirit to the Lord. 

In my life, there have certainly been times when it takes every ounce of strength, grace, and energy in me to do what God has asked of me.  Long before I understand the how or why, He asks me to move forward in faith.  He doesn’t force me or give me an ultimatum.  God invites me to trust Him more.  He waits more patiently than I do when I’m not ready, yet. 

Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion:

Do we realize that our faith, hope, love, inspiration, joy, peace, prayerfulness, kindness, generosity, and gentleness can have a significant influence on those around us?  

How can we be more open to the Holy Spirit in big and small ways each day?  

What is one way the Lord has brought you closer by working in and through someone else?   

My Prayer: 

Lord, thank You for the gift of Our Blessed Mother Mary who by her openness to Your Will shows us the power, honor, glory, and humility of saying yes to whatever You ask of us.  Please give us the courage to turn to You in our doubts, questions, fears, and weakness to listen for Your still small voice guiding us ever closer to Christ.  Amen.
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