One homily I heard about the Immaculate Conception has always stayed with me. It was given by the bishop ordained me a priest. Here’s basically how he attempted to explain one way of understanding today’s feast. All of us of heavy experience I think, or at least most of us have, of flying. And if you have, you know that there is a certain order and strategy to how people are allowed to board the plane. Usually, people needing special assistance, young children traveling alone, and others are allowed to board the plane first. Then, the rest of us are allowed to get on the plane.
However, once we are on the plane, we all experience the same flight. There is not a special section of the plane where turbulence is guaranteed not to happen. So today, we celebrate a similar reality. Mary, the mother of God, in her unique and special role of faith, is given a special privilege. In a word, she is the first one allowed to board the plane that is the Church. That is to say, she is the first recipient of baptism. She is the first recipient of her Son’s salvific grace.
But like every action of God, this too is directed to our benefit and our salvation. Because like Mary, we are given the ability to say yes in faith. Like Mary, we are given the opportunity to receive baptism to live the life to which we have been called. It is with great joy, that we celebrate this feast. And it is particularly important that we celebrate this feast in the heart of the Advent season. We are reminded that being ready for the coming of God however it occurs is an important thing for each one of us. Certainly was for the Blessed Mother.
As we consider this feast in light of the first reading, we see a special grace given to the Blessed Mother. Namely, she was able to trust that God knew best. The first reading, Adam and Eve believe they are better than God. They know better than God. They know better than God what is best for them, They know better than God what they should eat and what they should wear. Perhaps most especially, they believe they know better than God how to live.
We too can fall into this trap. We can look, in our limited experience, and believe that we know better than God knows for us. We must remind ourselves that God’s ultimate concern is our salvation, and most especially it is that we would become the person we have been called to be and made to be by God.
At the very heart of today’s feast, however, is the gospel. Even though she does not understand how all the things the angel of tells her will come to pass, she says yes. Fiat. Let it be done. Mary opens her heart and her will to God, by giving her entire self to the Lord. And so should we.