Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Why We Love Mary, and Why Some Others Hate Her

(Immaculate Conception 2010: This homily was given on December 8, 2010 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Genesis 3: 9-15, 20; Luke 1: 26-38.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Immaculate Conception 2010]

We gather on this feast of the Immaculate Conception, first of all because it’s a holy day of obligation and we’re obliged as Catholics to go to Mass on holy days; but also (hopefully) because we love Mary, our Blessed Mother, and we want to honor her as the Mother of God and as Jesus’ most faithful disciple.

Of course, it’s important for us to remember that not everyone loves Mary as we do. In fact, even some who say that they believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior do not like our Blessed Mother—at all.

And some people out there just plain hate her.

Now you might ask, “Why?—Why would anyone hate Mary? Why would anyone hate a woman who did so much for the world? Why would anyone hate such a holy person who was filled with the Holy Spirit and every virtue?

Well, the answer is: FOR THE VERY SAME REASONS THAT ALL OF US LOVE HER! Believe it or not, Mary is hated by her enemies for the very same reasons that she is loved by all of us.

First of all, she is hated because of her SINLESSNESS. Now that may sound ironic, but it’s true nonetheless. Most people are disliked because of the evil they do; Mary is disliked by some people precisely because of the evil she did NOT do!

This ties in with today’s feast. Remember what the Immaculate Conception means. The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb at the Annunciation (which is what many people think it refers to); rather, it has to do with Mary’s conception in the womb of her Mother, Anne. The glossary of the Catechism defines the Immaculate Conception in this way: “The dogma proclaimed in Christian Tradition and defined in 1854, that from the first moment of her conception Mary—by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ—was preserved immune from original sin.”

We’ve all heard the saying, “To err is human.” Well, Mary reminds us that, when it comes to sin, to err is NOT HUMAN! We weren’t created by God to sin; we were created to be holy. We were created, in other words, to be like Mary. To sin is not to be human; to sin is to be less than human in our conduct.

Many people try to make excuses for what they do by saying, “But I’m only human”—as if human beings must sin! Well Mary, by her sinlessness, nullifies that excuse—which is why some people do not like her. They don’t want to change their lives, and they like to think they have an excuse for staying exactly as they are.

Mary tells them, “No—being human is not an excuse for committing sin.”

Another reason Mary is hated is because of her PURITY. She was a virgin, and we happen to live in a hedonistic age where virginity is looked upon by some people as a disease! Mary lived by faith, not by her emotions; whereas we live in a culture where the prevailing attitude is, “If it feels good, do it,” and where people like Hugh Hefner are glorified as heroes.

No wonder Mary is not very popular in certain segments of modern American society!

A third reason why our Blessed Mother is hated is because of her OBEDIENCE. The words that Mary spoke to Gabriel in today’s gospel were not an emotional reaction to a heavenly vision—they were words that expressed Mary’s core philosophy of life: “Be it done unto me, Lord, according to your word.” In other words, “Whatever you want me to do, God, I will do; whatever you want me to say, God, I will say; my life is in your hands; my life will be lived by your rules, not mine.”

That was the philosophy Mary lived by in every situation—not just when Gabriel happened to be around. How different that is from the philosophy of a young woman I had a conversation with the other day. She was telling me about a particular sin in her life, and then she said to me, in effect, “I will do what I want to do, and I will say whether it’s good or evil.”

I will do what I want to do, and I will say whether it’s good or evil. That, of course, was not the attitude of Mary, the new Eve; that was the attitude of the original Eve whom we heard about in today’s first reading.

It was also the attitude of her husband, Adam.

That’s the attitude that led to the original sin; that’s the attitude that got the world into the mess it’s currently in.

Needless to say, I don’t think that young woman has a deep love in her heart for our Blessed Mother at the present time.

But she could change—by God’s powerful grace.

And Mary, I’m sure, would agree. God’s grace, after all, did some incredible things in her life.

May it convert this young woman and all those who currently hate our Blessed Mother because of her sinlessness, her purity and her obedience; and may that same grace strengthen our love for Mary every day, and help us to become more like her in all that we say and in all that we do.