Thursday 8 December 2022 The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
After Adam had eaten of the tree the Lord God called to him. ‘Where are you?’ he asked. ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden;’ he replied ‘I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.’ ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ he asked ‘Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it.’ Then the Lord God asked the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’ The woman replied, ‘The serpent tempted me and I ate.’ Then the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, ‘Be accursed beyond all cattle, all wild beasts. You shall crawl on your belly and eat dust every day of your life. I will make you enemies of each other: you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. It will crush your head and you will strike its heel.’ The man named his wife ‘Eve’ because she was the mother of all those who live.
Psalm 97 Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders.
Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ. Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, And it is in him that we were claimed as God’s own, chosen from the beginning, under the predetermined plan of the one who guides all things as he decides by his own will; chosen to be, for his greater glory, the people who would put their hopes in Christ before he came.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
The Church always speak of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as the model of all Christians.
She first heard God’s call to her through the Angel Gabriel. When she heard this call, she wondered what it could mean for her, not only at the time the Angel confronted her, but in fact its meaning for the whole of her life. She was aware that this call concerned her whole person. As she was wondering about this, the angel assured her not to be afraid, but that she needed to trust and believe that God loved her so much; God “favoured her”. God promised her, “the Spirit will be with you”.
And the Angel said to her, “LISTEN”.
That was an invitation to hear and be open to God’s Will for her. That means she had to be ready and act upon that call immediately.
At the end of all that the Angel had told her, her response was, “let what you have said be done to me.” From that moment onwards, the whole life of Mary became a concern for her, a number-one priority in her life. This marked a life-changing transformation for her whole life from that moment on, a pivotal point of conversion in her life. Paul says that God’s choice took place even before the world was made.
The question to ask ourselves is, do we really believed that God loved us in our calling? As Paul says in the reading from Ephesians, “before the world was made, God chose us in Christ.” Do we believe this? For Mary that was what was important. She depended on the help God promised her. She journeyed through her life with the help of the Holy Spirit.
It is easy to say I believe God calls me to be a religious, a sister, a brother, a priest, a single or married person, but the hardest part is to continue to live that identity of being. Each and every moment, every day we have to hear the Angel say to us again, “Listen, God is calling you.” It is the Spirit that helps us say yes, to say “I am your servant, do unto me.”
The Spirit that leads us to say “yes”, is a totally different spirit to the one we were brought up with. The spirit of society. The spirit of self-interest. And here you are today convinced that you really want to follow the life of the Spirit of God.
Are you convinced that God really loves you through the call you have heard? Do you see it as a joyful commitment to God with Mary’s answer: “may it be done to me according to your word?”
Today marks the 168th Anniversary of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. An unknown diocesan seminarian in Bourge, France, heard a call and he believed that it was so. That man, Jules Chevalier, went on to an obscure, unreligious township called Issoudun, and from that obscurity the little society of the MSC was born. Over 8000 men have followed in his footsteps until today to over 50 countries of the world. In 1870 Chevalier said,
“When God wants something done, obstacles for him are means. He makes sport of human wisdom, upsets its expectations, calls to life what, in its view, should never see the light of day. He gives growth, strength and fruitfulness to what human wisdom had condemned to death. The foundation and growth of the little Society of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart is proof of this truth.“