Yesterday, I was invited to concelebrate a party with someone who shares my birth date although they were born 36 years later than me. I must say I had a great time and felt like I was 6 years old again like my little friend. I enjoyed watching the fun all the young ones were having. At that age they are free to enjoy themselves and follow their imagination. This evening I want us to try to have a similar approach on this feast day and try to use our imagination. Let us imagine that we were all 6 years old again. Can you remember? How innocent you were, how much you enjoyed simple things.

You could have hours of fun with simply a box and a stick. It is because little children are not afraid to use their imagination, they are more free. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A solemnity is the highest level feast day (or party) that the Church has. It is because the Immaculate Conception is a great historical event. Mary was saved from sin by God’s grace at the moment she was conceived in the womb of her mother. Therefore, she was the first person in human history born without sin. Now we can hardly imagine what that is like. No one had that level of purity since the very first two people that ever existed, Adam and Eve. But they fell into sin. And now we are so used to the effect of sin in our world and in our on life that it’s hard to imagine someone who is sinless. But this evening I want you to try. Imagine that with God all things are possible. Now imagine that the Immaculate Conception is with us, that Mary is present here in this sanctuary this evening, with all her beauty and all her humility, and let us not be afraid to allow these thoughts to fill us with joy, with happiness and with peace. That is what the presence of Mary brings to us: joy, happiness and peace. But the truth is that she really is present with us and it is not just in our imagination. We just have to have faith, the faith of child, even if we don’t have a very creative imagination anymore as adults.

Mary was conceived without sin so that she could be a fitting place to conceive in her womb Jesus, the Son of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. But Mary, although she was full of grace as the Angel Gabriel said, had to accept her role and not be afraid to follow it. Mary was filled with grace at the moment she was conceived. We are filled with grace at the moment we are baptized and then grow in this grace through the other sacraments. But we have to learn to act on the grace just like Mary. The Gospel gives us the description of Mary’s reaction to the Angel. She doesn’t just blindly follow. She discerns the calling first. So we see that we although we are called be innocent, we are not called to be naïve, we have to be smart like a serpent. We have to know how to recognize the devil’s temptation and avoid. So we have to be innocent but smart. That is the best description of Mary - she is all pure and innocent, Immaculate! But she is not naïve. Naïve people accept all things without consideration and if they aren’t careful they are seduced into a bad decision, like Eve who was innocent but perhaps naïve. Mary on the other hand is very familiar with the history of sinfulness although by grace she was preserved from sin. And so when an angel comes to hear she doesn’t just follow him right away. Her power is her humility. So being pure and immaculate doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong.

Mary knows the Devil is an angel, too, although a fallen angel, and so she is cautious at first, until the angel reveals to her that his message was not a plan to make her like a god as Eve was tempted into believing, but a plan to use her to bring God into the world. Once she recognized that the message of the angel complemented God’s plan to bring the messiah she humbly said yes to it. So she was able to crush the head of the serpent, crush his pride with her humility. This the power of her Immaculate Conception.

So we are called to this level of innocence. To be childlike. Even if we are not children anymore. Like Juan Diego. Mary visited him much in the same way that the Angel Gabriel visited Mary. And Juan needed some time until he followed her words. Mary helped Juan and she will help us, too, to be holy, pure, full of grace, Immaculate. This is possible, not for us to accomplish by ourselves, but possible for God to accomplish in us. We must learn how to use the grace that we were given to discern what is from God and what is not. And when we have determined that something is authentically from God we should be like Mary and say yes to it. Then God can carry out his plan and Jesus can come into our world, into our parish, into our homes, and into our families through our cooperation. May the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary give us the courage that with God all things are possible, and let us not be afraid to allow Holy Virgin Mary to guide us in this Advent Season to enjoy the innocence of little children, like little Juanitos, who await the coming of Jesus into the world. Amen.  

St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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