December 8, 2017
by Dick Hauser, S.J.
Creighton University's Assistant to the President for Mission
click here for photo and information about the writer

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 689

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

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“God chose us in him before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).”

The initiative in faith is God’s! God chooses us! And we all need to be reminded of this truth. We may tell ourselves that the initiative for our faith is from ourselves not from God. Paul knew otherwise; Mary knew otherwise.

How unlikely that God chose Paul!

Recall the account of his conversion. Paul was on his way to Damascus with the intention of persecuting the followers of Jesus and bringing them back to Jerusalem in chains. Suddenly while on route Jesus appeared and confronted him: “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?”
Clearly the initiative for Paul’s conversion came from Jesus and not from Paul!  And so Paul reminds the Ephesians that like him they did not choose God but God chose them! Paul could not be more clear: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessings in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundations of the world.”

And Paul reminds them that it is only because of their communion with the Lord Jesus Christ that they have been chosen: “In him we were chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.”

How unlikely that God chose Paul! Yes, God chose Paul, and Paul responded fully!

And how unlikely that God chose Mary!

From all eons of the world’s existence and from all the women of the human race, God chose Mary! God chose an obscure woman, from an obscure country and an obscure village to become God’s earthly mother.  God chose Mary!

And God encountered Mary just as unexpectedly as God encountered Paul!  Startled like Paul, Mary heard God’s voice through the angel, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was frightened so the angel reassured her, ”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.”
Mary was troubled but Mary trusted, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

How unlikely that God chose Mary! Yes, God chose Mary, and Mary responded fully!
And God chooses us! How unlikely that God chooses us!

The most precious gift God gives human beings is the gift of faith! On this feast of the Immaculate Conception we look to Mary.  Yes, we look to Mary especially amid our sufferings.  Mary is our model, intercessor, mother! So we pray for our world, and we pray also for ourselves that we may actually experience the depth of God’s indwelling in us so like Mary we may be transformed by God’s Presence!

“All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation by our God. Sing joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; break into song; sing praise” (Ps 98,3-4).

Yes, God chooses us! On Mary’s feast day we pray that we may imitate her in responding ever more fully to God’s call!

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