Monday, December 8, 2014

Feast of the Conception of Saint Mary the God-bearer

Genesis 3:8-15, 20
Psalm 98
Ephesians 1:3-11
Luke 1:46-55

I've never been one for embracing fads in their prime. Do you remember bib overall shorts, you know, back in like 1992? Yea, I adopted those in 1994. Star Trek: The Next Generation? I was a year late to that party. And do you remember the 'WWJD' bracelets of the early 1990's? That's a fad I never embraced.

With the Bibs, I couldn't afford them when they were popular. With Star Trek, well, how could the bald guy from England who was supposed to be French possibly replace Captain Kirk? But with the bracelet... something never sat right with me.

It wasn't until seminary that I realized why it hit me so flat. There is something fundamentally flawed at the root of the contemporary use of the phrase 'What would Jesus do?' as a motivator for personal action: and that flaw is the fact that we do not have a dual nature, as Jesus does.

It's also why today's feast day is so very important.

You see, while we are adopted sons and daughters of the Father, and thus brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we do not share in what is known as the 'hypostatic union' of God and Man which is manifest in Christ. In short, this doctrine states that God became man, without becoming any less God, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Since the "WWJD" trend was directed at individual decision-making in a time of moral and cultural upheaval, it's not a fair question to ask, because when we compare our decision-making capacity with Jesus', we will always come up short. We are not hypostatically united with God. We are at a disadvantage.

And yet, for the better part of the Church's two-thousand year history, an answer has been present. The answer is biblical, it is beautiful, and it is relevant. The answer is Mary.

Today, we recall her conception in her mother's womb. Unlike the conception of Christ, which flowed from divine agency, Mary's was a conception like every other. She is not a partaker of a hypostatic union, she has no physical, spiritual, or moral difference from any of us in the manner of her entry to this world... and yet she is the one prophesied in our first reading. There would be hostility between her and the enemy, and indeed between her child and all of Satan's servants. In spite of her being a regular human being, in spite of her being a daughter of fallen Adam and Eve, in spite of her being born in a land under bondage to a foreign power... in spite of every disadvantage she faced, she rejoiced in the Lord, trusted in him, and spoke an all-important yes when the message of the angel echoed in her soul.

All of this figured into God's gracious plan of redemption, as we hear in our second reading today. Mary had a place prepared for her from the foundation of the world... a calling to bear within herself the Redeemer of the universe. We too have that same calling, my brothers and sisters... though, obviously in a different way. And yes, even there, God uses Mary to teach us how to do so.

In our Gospel today, Mary acclaims her Savior. The little son of her womb is already glorified in her words... her song points the way to Jesus, as does her every action. Mary seeks not her own glory. Mary speaks little of herself, other than to point out her humble state of life. But she consistently points to Jesus... just as at the Wedding of Cana where she tells the servants to 'do whatever he tells you."

Mary is so deeply beloved by the Church for precisely these reasons - she is a fully human, accessible, loving woman, who shows us the way to serve God and find joy in every circumstance.

So the next time you find yourself perplexed, confused, worried, or concerned, take a moment to ask yourself, "What would Mary do?" I ensure you, if you do, you will find yourself pointed to Jesus, and encouraged in whatever challenge or fears you face... for Mary's example is always one of trust, reliance, and hope in the one who is the author and finisher of our faith.
Is there a challenge today that I face that Mary's example could help me face with greater confidence and peace?