Immaculate Conception, December 8

ImageWhat I don’t care about this feast day is that the cards seems to be stacked about this young girl.  The stage has already been set.  The end of the play has already been written.  The “fat lady” already sang her twenty minute dying aria.  Doesn’t it make sense that if you’re born without sin (pretty divine stuff!) then the “yes” you give to the visiting angel doesn’t seem to have the same power as we sinners contend with or the free will stuff that we thought we all have.

So what kind of control did sinless Mary have over her life?  Was Mary’s “yes” an “you already know my answer,” to the angel Gabriel?  It is a matter of control.

We, free Americans, wake up every morning and know we’re in full control of our lives.  Why, we can sit anywhere we want when we come to church although we choose to sit in the same place every time like the old Catholic “pew rent” days.  We know our family’s medical history plays a huge percentage in our health history.  Breast cancer, heart disease, mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease…it’s a long list that frightens the offspring.  I guess our control in that situation is prevention to the tenth degree.  We feel we have control over our emotions but during a simple movie’s scene our eyes start to water up. (And you’ve already seen this movie several times.)  We think that we’re over a long relationship when one radio song triggers strong emotions – good and bad ones.

I guess that’s the control part.  What about the parts of our lives, which sometimes is everything, where we have no control.  “Was it something I said or didn’t say?” that causes this chasm between two friends?  “I thought I did everything I could to prevent a heart attack because my father died from that?”  How often we try to take control of the uncontrollable.  And how often is the uncontrollable really controllable?

For me, the hallmark of Mary’s life is her “yes.”  She said “yes” to whatever would happen to her.  She said “yes” to an angel, no less.  If she was God’s puppet then our fairy tale religion would fall apart.  Then it’s no longer “yes” but “I guess so since I’m without sin.”  The Church would probably insert here the word “temptation,”  Mary, like her Son, was without sin but both were tempted throughout their lives.  (That keeps this religious story alive.)  Mary could have said “no” or “why not come back next week when I’m feeling better.”  Gabriel would then have to reschedule another miraculous visit to the future mother of God’s Son.  Mary’s hallmark is not only her “yes” but the beautiful prayer that she offers to God and it’s the same one we use to offer ourselves.

Did Mary know she was sinless?  Did she know that she’d never shoplift or cheat on her taxes?  Does sinless include a “white lie” telling Elizabeth that she feels fine when she felt awful?  Mary said “yes” to an unknown future with unknown results.  I like to think that her “being without sin” is a Catholic Church bookkeeping effort to keep line items clean. ” Jesus is born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus cannot be born in a sinful womb so let’s make Mary sinless and the story is now complete,” say a Church record keeper.  “Now, it’s complete.”

For you and me it is never complete.  We need to say our “yes’ everyday and everytime amid all the infractions and distractions that come upon us.  Our “yes” is able to be lived because it’s based on the those who’ve said “yes” throughout faith’s history – Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Samuel, Johanna, Jonah, and even sinless Mary.

Because you see, our “yes” makes it complete.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). He is associate pastor of partnering parishes, Christ King and St. Bernard parishes in Wauwatosa, WI.
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