Monday, December 8, 2014

Hail, Full of Grace

Painting by Cano.
The Immaculate Conception is by far one of my favorite holy days of "obligation" in the Church. I think for me the wonder and the possibility of that moment captures every corner of my imagination (as though my imagination was a box with lots of corners). Can you imagine? From the beginning of time, God had already had in mind the role He had for Mary in the history of salvation. 

Hail, full of grace. 

Painting by Rubens
Mary had to be created in a special way, set apart from all other human creation. She would bear God in her womb. She had to be created immaculate to carry the Christ child, the Savior, our Redeemer and hers next to her heart. 

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,and you shall name him Jesus.

Painting by Antolinez
Mary, the mother of God, created without sin, didn't simply bow her head and say, "You got it!" She was taken by surprise at the news of the angel. She was in awe of what was being said to her and asked of her. In her perpetual state of grace, she met that awe and bewilderment with reverence and docility to the work of the spirit. But she appeared to be taken aback just the same. "Do not be afraid," the angel said to her. "You have found favor with God." In her stupor, what immense faith Mary had to even think this possible. In her undefiled soul, God had prepared her from the time she was even thought of for exactly this, to be receptive in this moment, to believe in this moment. 

As it was with the virgin mother two thousand plus years ago, it is with us. While we have not been prepared immaculately to bear in our womb the Savior of the world, we have each been prepared for some specific purpose by God from the moment we were thought of by Him. He says to us what the angel said to Mary, though perhaps it begins a little differently. 

Perhaps to me it sounds more like, "Hail Rakhi, with a bit of grace..." 

Yet, He says the same thing to each one of us. "Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God. Behold, you will..." That's the challenge isn't it - to be docile to the Spirit that is calling us to cooperate with God's plan? To discern how God has prepared us to participate in the work of salvation is a lifelong endeavor. Some days the whispers are difficult to decipher, and other days the angel is loud and clear. Sometimes we hear that call and cower in fear. "Not me, I'm not good enough, I'm not smart enough, I'm not holy enough, I'm not {enter disqualifier here} enough, I'm not enough."

That angel says to us, "Be not afraid. You, yes YOU, in all your mess, in all your sin, in all your brokenness, YOU have found favor with God and He has a plan for you. A beautiful, wonderful, seemingly daunting, fulfilling plan just for you. You will not know all the details, but you can trust that at the end of the day it will play a part in His plan to redeem the world and draw you back to Him for all of eternity. You have found favor with God."

Happy Advent!

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