Today we celebrate Mary’s Immaculate Conception – our belief that Mary was free from all sin from the moment of her conception until the moment of her Assumption into heaven. At first glance, this belief seems mythical and unrealistic. After all is not sin just part of human nature? Is it not greed and ambition that drive our economy forward, inspiring innovation and new ideas? They would say that Chastity is unnatural frustrating and repressing healthy human desires. The Church’s invitation to virtue and holiness are unrealistic ideals that merely make people feel guilty and discouraged. That teaching Mary’s Immaculate conception makes her somehow “unhuman” different from the rest of us.
Our faith teaches us something different. We read in our first reading today that sin was not part of God’s original plan but entered into the world through the disobedience of our first parents. Along with sin entered conflict between the sexes, suffering, pain and death. Sin makes us less human, not more human. Sin destroys our happiness, it does not increase it. Greed and ambition might bring success to some – but poverty and suffering to many who are exploited in the demand for profit. Wealth does not lead to happiness – how often to we hear about politicians and celebrities with all the money you could imagine, yet are struggling with addictions, affairs, and many other personal problems. If you’ve ever worked with the poor, you soon realize that they are often happier and more content than people who are well off. Sexual license has increased betrayal, divided and broken families, and the spread of serious disease. One sin leads to another – someone steals to maintain his addiction, lies to cover up stealing or cheating, commits abortion to hide illicit sexual activity. Sin does not make us more human, it makes us less human.
What makes us unique among all the creatures of the visible world is not our love for pleasure, cunningness, or competiveness – the animals possess these things. What makes us unique is our capacity to know God and to love him.
Our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception does not make her less human – it makes her more human. She is not tethered by selfishness, she is free to love God and love others with her whole heart. Our Lady shows us what it really means to be human. She shows us the full potential of our human nature. We are more human the more we share what we have and what we know with others. When we discipline our passions to serve higher values. When we are able to see beyond the temporary and emphemeral to see that God is our Father, that he calls us to be his children, to be Holy as he is Holy, to be brothers and sisters united in charity.
St. Josemaria Escriva says: “No existe corazón más humano que el de una criatura que rebosa sentido sobrenatural. Piensa en Santa María, la llena de gracia, Hija de Dios Padre, Madre de Dios Hijo, Esposa de Dios Espíritu Santo: en su Corazón cabe la humanidad entera sin diferencias ni discriminaciones. —Cada uno es su hijo, su hija.”
“There is no heart more human than that of a person overflowing with supernatural sense. Think of Holy Mary, who is full of grace, daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, spouse of God the Holy Spirit. Her heart has room for all humanity and makes no distinction or discrimination. Every person is her son or her daughter. Following the Mass several of our brothers and sisters will consecrate themselves to the Heart of Mary – the Heart most human, the heart most Holy. May our hearts like hers make room for all humanity, may hearts make room for God.”