In Advent, we celebrate the creative presence of God in Mary and in the birth of the Christ Presence within us, for us and through us. Mary’s joy today comes from a release of judgment from others and especially from herself. She has joy because she is able to birth Jesus free from the anxiety that societal norms placed upon her. She is truly free and joyful!
Our tradition tells us that Mary is the immaculate conception. What does that really mean?
Unlike the theory on original sin that St. Augustine presented and the institutional Church still teaches, we are not born with a sinful nature. We are born perfect but into a society that remains blind to that perfection and seeks to impose its view on every minute of our existence, until like Mary, we choose not to buy into this view, this view born of generational trauma and the systemic wrongs built into society. Mary was born immaculate in the minute she said ‘YES’ to God and chose not to be defined by anyone else. If we do not give Mary a choice then Jesus cannot be born.
Mary was indeed blessed because she received and cooperated with God’s creative power. Mary was given a choice to birth and become a mother. And because she, herself, was already birthed into a paradigm where she was able to see, to transcend, the sins of the world, and because her human body was capable, she was able to say a big and joyful YES! This should also be the grounds to eliminate any doctrine that supports punishing women who choose abortion with excommunication as it is our failings as a society, not to make this world safe and our collective failings to not wholeheartedly support the journeys of all mothers.
Mary’s story can be our story too. Mary birthed herself in that moment when she accepted to carry Jesus to term because she was clear enough to know that this was what God asked of her. Mary was indeed blessed because she received and cooperated with God’s creative power. Like Mary, we are called to live our lives pregnant with possibilities to give birth to Christ each day.
Advent is a reminder for us to release, to let go of the man-made ideas about ourselves that hold us back from saying:
YES to God,
YES, I am worthy of this task, and
YES I will cooperate with God’s creative, pregnant power in me, working through me and for me.
How each of us becomes free enough to say YES to God is dependent on our culture, are we safe, accepted, and supported? I wonder if that frankincense and myrrh were given to help with Mary’s postpartum bodily changes and emotions, as frankincense is good to heal skin and their medicinal properties, when combined, increase their effectiveness exponentially. When used as incense, they alleviate anxiety and uplift one’s mood at the same time. Do frankincense and myrrh represent Mary and Jesus? Both equally effective but when combined together, work exponentially more gloriously? Was the gold also used to help the family to be able to afford to care for Jesus so that he could really fulfill his destiny? It is apparent that Mary had individual and community support to raise Jesus. We know that Joseph had agreed to help her and that the wider community offered support, including the wealthy in the form of the gifts from the three kings. What if everyone believes that all children are born perfect, images of God, and that each child could grow to be much greater than their individual potential if we provided solid support for their mothers too? Would we help their mothers then?
Let us celebrate all the types of caregiving roles that are illustrated in the Christmas story. Mary for direct care, Joseph for supporting her needs so she can provide direct care, and society in the form of the three kings who generously made sure that they had medicine or healthcare (Frankincense and Myrrh) and money (gold) to raise this beautiful child. We’re also celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe today. In this apparition Mary appeared as a pregnant mother. Her story lies within this one and all stories of birthing and caregiving that lift up the lowly with a mother’s sense of compassion and justice.
Please share any reflections that came to you during the liturgy thus far. (My Homily from Liturgy at Mary Mother of Jesus December 11, 2021)