Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mary, The Children Of Narnia, Adam And Eve—And Us!

The Kings and Queens of Narnia

(Immaculate Conception 2005: This homily was given on December 8, 2005 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. Read Genesis 3: 9-20; Luke 1: 26-38.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Immaculate Conception 2005]

In case you haven’t already heard, C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, has been made into a feature length film that premieres in theaters tomorrow. You’ll definitely hear more about the book from me in a future homily, but today I simply want to focus on one important detail of the story. The four children who wander through the wardrobe and into the magical world of Narnia (Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy) are referred to in the book as “the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.”

That is not a coincidence. These titles were given to them by C.S. Lewis for a very definite reason.

The reason goes back to the very beginning of the Bible, to the sad and tragic story of Genesis 3 (part of which we heard in today’s first reading).

We all know what happened . . . Adam and Eve disobeyed the Lord by eating fruit from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the Garden of Eden—the one tree from which God had forbidden them to eat.

And ever since that day, human beings have suffered the terrible consequences of this “original sin”: sickness, evil, conflict with others—and physical death.

So by giving Peter and Edmund the title “sons of Adam,” and by giving Susan and Lucy the title “daughters of Eve,” C.S. Lewis was telling his readers that these four children were weak, fallible people who were struggling (as we all are) to deal with the residual effects of original sin.

And yet, in the midst of their fight against temptation and the inclination to sin, it’s clear from the very beginning of the story that these four also had the potential to be something more, something better—something great! With the help of Aslan, the kingly lion, they had the potential to become kings and queens themselves, and to reign with Aslan in a renewed, transformed Narnia.

Sound familiar?

It should. That’s the human situation in which we live. That’s reality! And that’s what C.S. Lewis was ultimately trying to portray. Keep that in mind when you see the movie. It’s not just a cute children’s story!

We, like Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy, are sinners. We are children of Adam and Eve, who are born into this world with original sin (which means that we lack sanctifying grace, the grace we need to get into heaven).

But we have the potential to be something more, something better, something great! In a word, we have the potential to be saints!—not by our own power, but by the power of a Lion!

Here, of course, I’m not talking about Aslan! I’m talking about the man the Bible calls “the Lion of the tribe of Judah”; I’m talking about the one whose birth we are preparing to celebrate in a few weeks, namely Jesus Christ our Savior!

And the process has already begun. Whether we realize it or not, each of us began to “reign” with this “Divine Lion” on the day we were baptized. That was the moment when we were born again, received sanctifying grace into our soul, and were given (spiritually speaking) a “crown of glory” as God’s adopted son or daughter! And that crown will remain on us throughout our time on this earth, provided we stay in the state of grace by living a life of faith, hope and charity.

But even if the crown happens to fall off at some point along the way because we commit a mortal sin, the good news is that it can be quickly and easily restored through the sacrament of Confession.

So please get to Confession if you need to!

The ultimate goal, of course, is to die with the crown on (to die, in other words, in the state of grace)—because then we will reign with the Lion of Judah forever, in his heavenly kingdom (as St. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, verse 12).

I mention all this today because at this Mass we honor a woman who had this “crown of glory” on her head from the first moment of her life—our Blessed Mother!

In a certain sense, that’s what her Immaculate Conception was all about!

Remember, this feast does NOT refer to the virginal conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb (the event we heard about in our Gospel reading a few moments ago). The Immaculate Conception prepared Mary for the virginal conception of Jesus at the Annunciation; but the Immaculate Conception itself refers to Mary’s conception in the womb of her mother, Ann. Here’s how Pope Pius IX defined the dogma: the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin.”

And so the crown was hers from the beginning.

Many people don’t realize it, but this event was actually prophesied in the passage from Genesis 3 that we heard in today’s first reading. There God indicates that at some point in the future he will do something extraordinary FOR a woman and through a woman!

He says first of all that he will put enmity (hatred) between this chosen woman and Satan. God promises to act in such a way that this lady will be at odds with the devil from the very first moment of her life. Well, who is the only woman after Eve to come into the world “at enmity” with the devil? The answer is: Mary! Because she was immaculately conceived, and had sanctifying grace in her soul at her conception, she was the devil’s enemy from the first second of her existence.

That’s what God did FOR her.

And then through her—specifically through her Yes to Gabriel at the Annunciation—God brought his Son into the world, so that his Son could “strike” at Satan’s head by dying for our sins on the Cross.

Let me conclude today with this simple thought: In Christian art, our Blessed Mother Mary should probably always be pictured with a beautiful crown on her head. I say that because, when you stop and think about it, in the spiritual sense she always had one on!

She had a crown on at the start of her life, because she was immaculately conceived; she kept it on throughout her life, because she never committed even one personal sin; she died with it on when her earthly life was finished; and, as Revelation 12 and the 5th Glorious Mystery of the Rosary remind us, she continues to have it on now in God’s eternal kingdom.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, crowned in glory both on earth and in heaven, pray for us—and pray for the many other sons and daughters of Adam and Eve living in the world today. Pray that we will all receive our crowns from “the Lion,” Jesus Christ, your son, and then keep them on always—following your perfect example. Amen.