Mary, Mother of God

Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J


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A very old man was asked to what did he attribute his very long life. He smiled and said, “I chose my mother well.” Of course, he was kidding. None of us has the opportunity to choose our mother. How could we choose when we did not even exist? But Jesus Christ, being God, did have that opportunity. And he took advantage of it.

Carefully surveying the whole world, his eyes finally rested on a young Jewish girl, by the name of Mary, in the little town of Nazareth. She would be perfect. So he sent his Archangel Gabriel to ask her if she would be his mother. She consented. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to your word.” She conceived Jesus in her heart by faith, before she conceived Him in her womb by the Holy Spirit. So began the greatest Cinderella story of all time. This little Jewish girl would become the mother of Jesus and the very Queen of Heaven.

Not only did Jesus have the opportunity to choose his mother, he also had the power to prepare her for this extraordinary mission. Nothing would be too good for her from whom he would take his human nature. With divine diligence He searched through his vast treasury of gifts for the most precious gift of all. What gift did he finally choose? Was it wealth? Mary was numbered among the poor. Was it fame? “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Was it freedom from pain and sorrow? Mary was the Mother of Sorrows, the Queen of Martyrs.

Jesus chose what in his infinite wisdom he knew to be the most precious gift of all. Mary would be sinless. She would be Immaculately Conceived. She would be the “Immaculate Exception,” “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.” She would be conceived without Original Sin and live her whole life without Personal Sin.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary is not to be confused with the conception of Jesus, as it sometimes is. The Immaculate Conception means that Mary was conceived in the natural way through the intercourse of her parents, Joachim and Anne. But at the very moment of conception, by a very special privilege of God, she was preserved free from sin. Later on when she was a young Jewish maid she conceived Jesus, not through intercourse with Joseph, but by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the beginning of Advent because the Immaculate Conception was God’s preparation of Mary for the birth of Jesus at Bethlehem. Advent is our time of preparation for the birth of Christ at Christmas. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception teaches us that the season of Advent, the preparation for Christmas consists essentially in cleansing our hearts of sin. But this is precisely the problem today. Today there is no sin.

How different the Bible that tells us that the just man falls seven times a day and that anyone who says he is not a sinner is a liar! Sin begins in Genesis and continues unabated to our daily newscasts. We are all sinners actually in the past, potentially in the future and always carrying this great treasure in a very fragile vessel. We foolishly think that if we could by-pass sin everything would be fine. We could live in peace and joy. What a delusion! Such peace would be superficial and short-lived. Sooner or later we are confronted with evil, evil in the world, evil in others and evil within ourselves, and this peace is shattered.

When we deny sin we repress it, shove it back into the subconscious. Although we are no longer conscious of it we feel fear, anxiety and guilt; we feel alienated from others, ourselves, and from God. And we do not know why. Psychology, psychiatry can fish it out of the unconscious and help us to become conscious of it again. They can help us verbalize it, objectify it, relive it. And if it a false guilt they can help us get rid of it. But if it is real guilt it is beyond their power. Only God can forgive sin.

We live in an age of contradictions; we are the non-confessing confessing generation. We don’t want to confess our sins yet there has never been a generation that confesses as much as we do. We confess on the psychiatrist’s couch, in sensitivity sessions, group therapy and all of the 12 step programs. It is a contradiction indeed when someone says he would never tell his sins to another human being and then pays a substantial fee to someone to tell him all of the sordid details of his life that he would never have to tell in confession. And the fee does not include an absolution!

The message of Mary Immaculate is this: sin must be confronted, confessed and forgiven. If we refuse to do this; if we deny it, repress it or call it by some other more euphemistic name we will cause ourselves great physical, emotional and psychological harm in addition to spiritual disaster.

“Mary conceived without sin, pray for us sinners, who have recourse to thee.”



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