Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Genesis 3:9-15,20 — Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12 — Luke 1:26-38
December 8, 2010
Freedom is something that it’s hard to have too much of. Who doesn’t want to be free? Who doesn’t want to be as free as possible?
In the midst of Advent, preparing for Jesus to come into our lives, we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of Our Blessed Mother, Mary. From the first moment of her life, when she was conceived in the womb of Saint Anne, Mary was without sin. God granted Mary a special dispensation from the penalty of Original Sin. God gave this unique gift to Mary because she had a unique vocation. In other words, Mary was going to need all the help that she could get, with what God was about to lay before her.
This is true in general for us, also. God gives us special graces with an eye towards our vocation. God gives us gifts for a reason: that is, to help us be who He calls us to be.
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Everyone has his or her own vocation. Most Christians, of course, are called to the vocation of Holy Matrimony. But there are no two married couples on the face of the earth, or throughout human history, who are exactly the same. Every couple faces unique challenges. Every husband, and every wife, faces certain challenges that are absolutely unique to her or him. And God, being eternal, can foresee those challenges from outside time: He knows them at the moment that life begins for that male who will someday become a husband, and for that female who will someday become a wife. Seeing those challenges from the beginning, God grants us graces from the beginning of our human life, to equip us for the challenges that lay ahead.
But sin raises its head in our life by tempting us to turn away from God, and believing that we can handle our lives by ourself, by believing that the goal of our life is to do what makes us happy, and by believing that freedom is something that grows in proportion to our independence from others.
What is freedom? Where do we see freedom in the life of Our Blessed Mother? How can our Blessed Mother help us, her children, to free up our lives in order to follow Jesus more closely?
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Let me use an illustration of what freedom really is, and isn’t. Some of our PSR students will recognize the example: it has to do with driving.
Many people might define freedom as being able to do whatever you want: in other words, not being held back, bound up, or tied down by others. This is what makes driving great for teenagers: they can get far away from their parents and other adults who are always setting down rules. And the farther away they get from those people, the more free they are. This is external freedom.
Think about driving. Turning old enough to drive is one of the great milestones in a young person’s life. But the freedom to drive is not absolute. There are all sorts of rules that are bound up with driving. Obviously, a person has to pass a test before the government will give you the “license” (that is, the freedom) to drive. But the government won’t grant you that driver’s license, that freedom, unless you demonstrate that you know the rules of the road.
Not that the government is just going to leave things to chance. That’s what the police are for: to make sure that the government’s rules get enforced. Of course, you could always buy a radar detector, to outwit the police, and get away with going as fast as you want, so that you could be truly…. free: to be free from the police, free from government rules, and free from anyone telling you where to go and how to spend your time. But this is only external freedom: freedom from others: freedom from others imposing their morality and opinions on you, so that you can do what you want to do. This external freedom, for all the time that we spend pursuing it in so many different ways, does not have the power to bring lasting joy into our lives.
Real freedom is interior freedom: freedom from ourselves. That might sound strange. The reason we have to find freedom from ourselves is that each of us—as a child of Adam and Eve—is a fallen creature. It’s almost as if we are two persons: our fallen self, with all the traits and characteristics of our original human father, Adam; and our redeemed self, with the traits and characteristics of God our Father, who redeemed us in Christ.
We were redeemed by Christ at the moment that we are baptized into Christ’s Body, the Church. But receiving the gift of redemption doesn’t change where we came from: you are always a child of Adam and Eve. And you will always feel the pull of your fallen nature. And the focus on the self, the pride, the desire to do whatever you want, just as long as you are happy, always remains inside of us. We carry that with us inside of us, no matter how far from home we travel.
Real freedom is not about escaping the control of others. Real freedom is about mastering our fallen self, and handing our self over to God each and every day, for His purposes. Our Blessed Mother Mary received a gift from God—the grace of her Immaculate Conception—so that she could give the gift of Jesus to mankind. Mary did not seek after being free from the control of others. Mary’s freedom lay in handing over her life completely to God, in being that gentle woman whose Son would give up His life on the Cross for our salvation.