How did she do it? How did the Mother of God not sin? (Remember, the teaching of the Immaculate Conception is that Mary was born without original sin.) What is it like to never sin…never to gossip about someone to hurt them…never to take revenge…never to hate…never to dislike someone so much that I want them dead…never to violate my conscience? What does it feel like never to be filled with so much anger making people miserable? In my prayer, often I wonder how did Mary not sin.
As we revisit the Garden of Eden scene with Adam and Eve, 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 nakedness is equated with 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, then remorseful. When someone catches us, we feel naked, hung out to dry for the whole neighborhood to see.
Mary, full of grace, knew no shame. Nor did she have to hide from God. Jesus, the Savior of the world, knew no shame. Nor did he have to hide from God. 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 filled her soul, we also remember how Anna and Simeon prophesied 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.
How did Mary show us how to live without sin? Mercy…Mary is also the Mother of Mercy. Though the holy doors are closed, mercy never ends. Again, in the words of Fr. James Keenan, “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” It may look like this: say a prayer for an enemy; reach out to someone who is struggling; forgive; call that family member who is estranged; ask for help; rearrange the sad lines on my face with a smile and a tender word…because if you think about it, we are all in need of mercy.
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary
December 8, 2016