Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Longing to be like Mary

December 8, 2010
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

By Colleen O’Sullivan

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the Lord God called to the man and asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself.” Then he asked, “Who told you you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!” The man replied, “The woman whom you put here with me - she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.” The Lord God then asked the woman, “Why did you do such a thing?” The woman answered, “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” The man called his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all the living. (Genesis 3:9-13, 20)

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.’ But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1: 26-38)

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

In reading the story of Adam and Eve’s conversation with God after eating fruit from the one forbidden tree in the garden and then the story of the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that she is the one God has chosen to bear his Son, I can’t help but see the contrast between the person I am and the person I long to be.

In the garden we hear God calling to Adam, asking where he is. Adam and Eve suddenly become aware that they are naked and they attempt to hide from God. Of course, there is no hiding from God for any of us and God immediately realizes that they have done the one thing he asked them not to; they have eaten from the tree in the center of the garden. How often do I play that same game, cover myself with the proverbial fig leaf, neglect to mention things in prayer, foolishly deceive myself into thinking that God doesn’t know all that I’ve done and left undone? All too many times, I’m afraid.

God lets Adam know that he knows exactly what he has done. If he realizes he’s naked, he’s eaten from the forbidden tree. Even then, Adam thinks he can fool God. Well, you see, God, that woman you created to be here with me in the garden gave me the fruit. What else could I do? I ate it.

When God confronts Eve, she attempts to pass the buck as well. Well, God, the serpent told me to do it. That snake said that as soon as I tasted the fruit, I would be like a god, knowing good and evil. Wouldn’t you eat it, too, under those circumstances? It’s so easy to turn our backs on God and sometimes so difficult to own up to our sin. Unfortunately, I know all the rules for that game, too.

I am a sinner like Adam and Eve, but what I long to be is receptive and faithful like Mary. She receives the shock of her life that day, when out of the blue, the angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appears before her. Even though she is perplexed at his greeting, telling her she is full of grace and that God is with her, she doesn’t brush him off or turn him away. She takes his words to heart and ponders their meaning. I wonder how many times God attempts to speak to me, but instead of pondering anything, I am oblivious or so afraid of things new and different that I just brush God off?

What the angel goes on to say must really rock Mary’s world. She’s just a young girl, betrothed to a carpenter named Joseph. And here is an angel telling her that she has found favor with God and has been chosen to bear the Son of God! This is going to be difficult to explain since she is a virgin! Whatever will Joseph say? But the angel tells her that this will come to pass through the power of the Holy Spirit. How I long to be like Mary in her response. I want to answer God’s working in my life with her openness and willingness to be God’s servant, but the truth is I like to be in control and often it’s difficult to say, okay, here I am, your servant, willing to do it your way, Lord.

O Mary, conceived without sin, mother of my Lord and Savior, pray for me, that I might be more like you, open to the movement of the Spirit in my life and faithfully responsive whenever God calls me.

On this day, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate Mary’s unique role in the mystery of our salvation. The Church teaches that Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of his Son and was conceived without original sin. Mary truly played an integral part in the Word becoming flesh.

Take a few moments today to reflect on Mary’s openness and receptiveness to God’s call. Ask her to pray for you that you may respond to whatever God is calling you to do with that same faith and willingness.