The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lectionary 636

 We know that all things work for good for those who love God,
who are called according to his purpose.
For those he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
so that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.
And those he predestined he also called;
and those he called he also justified;
and those he justified he also glorified.

Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans has been regarded by many as the key to the New Testament, and one of its most difficult doctrines has been predestination, especially among Protestants.
However, I think they started their discussion on the wrong foot when they ignored the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the model and mother of all Christians, she shows us how God’s plans develop from his purpose through his foreknowledge, predestination, conformity to the image of his son, justification, and glory.

She also shows us that God’s ideal is not idealistic, in the sense of impossible or unrealistic. An ideal founded upon an idea – as, for instance, Communism was based upon a romantic notion of equality, and the NRA’s interpretation of the second amendment is based upon an unrealistic understanding of freedom – is doomed from the start. Innocent people die when ideals like that take root in society.
An idealistic reading of our calling as Christians says no one can be sinless. They base that belief on the idea that human beings are evil, or depraved, to start with. But Mary shows us that God can conceive a sinless human being and, with her courageous and willing obedience, keep her sinless throughout her life. God has that authority even over one who is not, like Jesus, God.

Created in God’s own image, we realize that we are not doomed to sin; we have a choice and we make our choices. We are given that freedom not to sin by the grace of God, even as Mary also received that grace. Without grace she could no more remain sinless than you or I could flap our hands and fly.

Mary’s innocence reveals my guilt, of course; but it also reveals the promise and power of grace. My guilt is all the more obvious because I cannot plead, “Everybody sins and I’m just like everybody else!” No, as Mary was singled out by her Immaculate Conception, I was singled out – “blessed” – by Baptism and Eucharist.
There’s no need to wallow in shame and remorse about my guilt; that only heaps layers of ego upon my foolishness. Rather, I shed my ego, admit my sin and receive God’s mercy with a grateful heart -- a grateful heart like Mary’s. Then, along with all the Church, I continue on the road to glory

Her birthday gives us one more delightful opportunity to thank God for the promise of justification and glory. The day will come when we will not feel any desire for sin; it will have no fascination for us. Open to and compelled by the Holy Spirit we will instinctively know God’s will in every circumstance; and we will be eager to do it.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.