“Before the world was made, God chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in God’s presence.” Ephesians 1:4
How perfectly this phrase describes Mary, she who was conceived without sin, she whom we greet: Hail, Mary, full of grace! God prepared Mary from the moment of her conception to be the spotless mother of His Son. In this way, we can say that even before her birth she was on a journey to fulfill God’s mission. As a young woman visited by God’s messenger Gabriel, she spoke her fiat to God’s invitation to bear His divine Son and at that moment God’s plan of salvation began to unfold in our world. Invited and prepared by God, she said yes, and her mission began.
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Though the groundwork was laid from the moment of Mary’s conception, it was at the moment of her “let it be done to me according to Your word” that events could begin to happen.
St. Paul reminds us in today’s reading that, like Mary, we are chosen by God to be holy and spotless and to live a life of love as we submit to His loving plan for the unfolding of salvation history. Although unlike Mary, we are born tainted by original sin, at the moment of our Baptism we claim our innocence and purity and receive our mission. Thus cleansed of sin and initiated into salvation history, we receive our invitation from God; we set forth on our earthly mission.
In my years as a missionary I have lived in the Philippines, where the feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated with widespread devotion and even pageantry that spills out from the churches into the plazas and streets. I have also been missioned in Japan and China where few outside the small Catholic faith communities give it so much as a nod. Wherever I have been misssioned over the years, including now here in Omaha, my own meditations on this feast naturally focus on Mary the missionary. Prepared and invited by God, what was necessary for Mary’s mission, her role in the unfolding of salvation history, to begin, was her fiat.
Perhaps it would be fruitful for us, this Advent, to reflect on the stages of Mary’s journey from the moment of her Immaculate Conception through her yes to God and then her life of mission that took her to the foot of the cross of her Son and ultimately to her Assumption into heaven. May we, like Mary, respond each day to God with a heart full of yes.
Sr. Jeanne Janssen, CSJ
Communications/Mission Education Director
Missionary Society of St. Columban