C Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Advent 21
Gn. 3:9-15, 20
After Adam and Eve fell for the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit they immediately hid from God. Their reaction to sin teaches us something about ourselves and how we respond when we do not follow God’s will.
Keep in mind Adam and Eve were created sinless and enjoyed interacting with God in a perfect place where life was eternal and happiness complete. Their life with God before their fall remains God’s plan for each of us. We know that place, for now has been lost for us but it still exists, and we are destined to live there. But for now, we live in a broken world filled with natural and man made disasters, chaos, pain, sickness, and doubt. Yet there is a kingdom on earth where we can still interact with God, enjoy the fullness of joy and a certain knowledge we can overcome the tragedies of life for we are destined for eternal life with God.
I know that is our desire, our aim and we do all we can to make sure we do not lose as Adam and Eve lost it. Knowing we can lose it creates a doubt in God’s willingness to grant us access to it. This desire of ours drives us to do everything in our power to “earn’ it instead of embracing God’s plan to change us so we never doubt our destiny is to be with God. If we strive to avoid sin as we attempt to “earn” eternity with God we begin to define holiness by adherence to ethics, rules, laws, and rituals.
Thus, by rigorously following the laws of God and man, we believe we are living a life worthy of being rewarded. By living ethically and honestly with others we feel justified and holy. Yet because we are human, we fail and when we fail its impact on us fills us with a sense of losing our status with God. That inner feeling of unworthiness leads us o do exactly what Adam and Eve did – they hid from God. They saw their nakedness and they hid from God. Prior to sin they were “naked and unafraid” before God. That my brothers and sisters is the impact of sin on each of us.
Notice they were still in the garden but hiding from God. We do the very same thing when we sin. We remain in the presence of God, visibly present to others as we join in the mass, prayer services, adoration, novenas, and other acts of piety. These outward actions make us feel better about our relationship with God but in truth we are not interacting with God. We are like the Pharisees who like to be seen but our hearts are far from God.
By now you are wondering what all this has to do with the Immaculate Conception of Mary. That act of God on the day Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb, she was shielded from original sin which taints us all because of Adam and Eve. (If you desire more information on the feast, please go to the menu above and search Feast’s and Holy Days for the Immaculate Conception). But today that first reading is critical to our view of ourselves as vessels of God’s grace. Yes, our sinful selves are to be a place where God dwells, and we are to give birth to his presence within us. Adam and Eve show us how our response to sin is counter to how God desires us to respond.
There is no doubt Mary responded to God with complete trust in things she could not envision as God’s plan. How could she remain a virgin and give birth to a child? How could she face parents, relatives, friends, and society tainted by such a violation of the law? Could God overcome all obstacles, and would she ever hear his voice again? What can we learn from the sin of Adam and the obedience of Mary?
It is in her act of obedience we can see how God can come to dwell within us because he is the one who makes us holy, acceptable vessels of his grace. Think of this for a minute, we have dwelling within us the Third Person of the Trinity, God himself. Just a Christ grew in Mary that Spirt desires to grow within us. God sanctifies and God makes us holy. We cannot ever by anything we do make ourselves more acceptable to God. We are made holy by the purifying action of the Holy Spirit within us, and the purifying fire of God’s love poured into us by that same Spirit.
That grace is always there when we stop hiding from God and stand before him and like Mary say, let it be done to be according to your word. This is something we like Mary should ponder in our hearts. This transformation of us into vessels capable of bringing Christ to the world is God’s plan for us now. We submit to it instead of trying to work around it because we are not willing to bring the broken, sinful self before God.
Let us this day, as we celebrate her sinfulness, let us see how God touches our sin and makes us clean receptacles of God’s grace and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit within us. We are called to be witnesses of God’s grace and the cleansing power of Mary’s son, Jesus Christ our Lord.