Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 8, 2023 — Year B
Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 / Ps 98 / Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 / Lk 1:26-38
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor
A preacher once said, “Saying yes to God does not mean perfect performance. Rather, it means perfect surrender to the Lord, day by day.” Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, perhaps it is a good time to reflect on whom we are going to follow: Adam, who in our first reading said no to God, or Mary, who in our gospel reading said yes to God.
Today, in our first reading, we hear the Lord call to Adam, saying, “Where are you?” Adam replies, “I hid myself.” In our gospel, we also hear Mary, whose response to the angel’s prophecy of her Son was, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
In a homily many years ago, Pope Francis said, “’Here I am’ is the opposite of ‘I hid myself.’ ‘Here I am’ opens one to God, while sin closes, isolates, and causes one to be alone with oneself.”
The words of Mary today are full of wisdom. We should use these words every time we pray to the Lord each morning. If we say to the Lord, “Here am I, your servant,” like Mary with all sincerity, that shows humility within us. These words would show that we are willing to do what God asks us to do for the rest of our day. This is an act of humility because a person who is open to the will of God is a person who recognizes that God will continue to work in his life no matter what happens along the way. Mary is our example in this. Mary experienced many difficulties, especially witnessing the suffering of her son. She was able to endure everything because she knew very well that God was with Him, blessing Him, giving Him the grace that He needed in order to survive any challenges in life.
Some people, however, do not love or respect the Lord and are not willing to admit that they are God’s servants. They think that they can live without God. These are the people who are proud, because they do not want to be told what rules to follow, such as the commandments. For them, the ten commandments are a hindrance to their happiness. They think they want to be independent. If they are independent without any moral guide to follow, then their only guide is their own personal desires and cravings in life. That’s what they follow. People without a moral guide, or no God, are guided only by their desires. If they like to eat, they do that, if they get angry, they hurt people. They are not much better than animals.
Christians have a moral guide, a guide that does not curtail our freedom, but rather gives us freedom. The more we follow this moral guide, the more it makes us realize the true meaning of what we are doing. It will make us realize the meaning of our existence in life.
Sin puts us away from the grace of God. It isolates us, as Pope Francis says. It causes us to be alone with oneself. Every time we fall into sin, we feel like Adam who hid himself. Every time we fall into sin, we have no face to show in front of the Lord. That’s the normal feeling brought about by sin. That is why we should always remember that the Lord is willing to search for us when we lose our way by sinning. Every time we fall into sin, God always searches for us. He will always claim us as His own. God will tell us, “You are mine. I created you. I made you. I made you to be good. When you go astray, I have to look for you.” We sinners should not continue hiding ourselves as Adam did. We should get out and show ourselves with all humility before the Lord. We must say to the Lord, “I’m sorry. I want to start over.” There is no sin that God cannot forgive.
Nothing is impossible with God, as the angel said to Mary. God can take the most evil thing in the world and make it holy. One example of something evil that God made holy is the cross. Before they hung Jesus on that cross, a cross was a symbol of shame, a symbol of death, a symbol of defeat, embarrassment, and everything negative. But after they hung Jesus on the cross, the cross became holy, a source of life, a symbol of salvation, a symbol of power. That’s how powerful God is. God can take the most impossible thing and make it possible. There are many examples of this in scripture. Today’s gospel provides the example of what happened to Mary. How could she conceive? Mary asked the angel, and the angel told her nothing is impossible with God.
We should not be afraid. We should strive our best to offer our whole life to the Lord. Every time we fall into sin, we should remember what Saint Paul says, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Ask the Lord’s forgiveness. Go to confession and start all over again. Never give up in following the Lord. One day, the Lord will show us how He has prepared us for the place He has made ready for all His faithful followers. Let us not forget that saying yes to God does not mean perfect performance, rather it means perfect surrender to the Lord day by day.