The Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen always began his television presentations with a joke. One particular joke went like this: The Lord was upset with St. Peter one day and set out to speak to him about his job. “St. Peter, I entrusted you with the keys of heaven. In other words, you have the power to let people into heaven and the power to keep people out of heaven. Lately, I am seeing some shady characters up here. What’s going on?” “Well, Lord,” responds St. Peter, “I know I am in charge but sometimes you like to exert control over my job. And every time you close a door, your Mother opens a window!”
This solemnity always fascinates me. Mary is born in the fullness of grace. She does not know revenge, or violent anger. She knows not hurtful gossip or war. Hatred and dislike of persons remain far from her soul. She is Mary, full of grace. It is almost inconceivable that someone like this once existed in human history.
It all begins with Adam and Eve. As we revisit the Garden of Eden, remember that Adam and Eve hide from God because of their shame. When God goes walking in the garden during the breezy part of the day, God cannot find them. God says, “Where are you?” And Adam tells God that they hid themselves because they were naked. And God responds, “Who-told-you-that-you-were-naked?” In other words, who told you about your shame? The shame of nakedness is a metaphor for sin. Sinning is one thing and we humans enjoy it. But when we are caught only then are we shameful, and, only then remorseful. When someone catches us, we feel naked, hung out to dry for the whole neighborhood to see.
Mary, full of grace, knows no shame. Nor does she have to hide from God. Jesus, the Savior of the world, knows no shame. Recall the words of the angel Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you…you have found favor with God!” And while we remember how the grace of God fills her soul, we also remember how Anna and Simeon prophesy that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart. Mary full of grace is also Mary the Mother of Sorrows: she would witness her son act as a contradiction; she would be puzzled by her son’s actions; she would hear her son proclaim that his real mother is one who does the will of the Father; and finally, she would suffer the horrible pain of a mother watching a brutal execution. Mary could avail herself to bitterness and anger. Mary could have turned from God for all the things that happened in her life. Instead she relies upon God’s Grace and teaches us how to open a window when sin slams the door.