December 8, 2022
Do you like to be called by name when greeted with a good morning, a hello or a so good to see you? I do and I make it a point to do so when greeting others. Our names are important. Bound up in them are our identity, our history, who we’ve been and might yet be. Not so much because of the assortment of sounds and letters that make up our names but because of the many lips from which our names have emanated, the places our names have been written down. The people to whom our names point.
An example of the power of being called by name is found in Scripture. Mary Magdalene finds the empty tomb and she sees someone she takes to be the gardener and asks him if he knows where they have taken Jesus. When Jesus speaks her name, she recognizes Jesus and she feels the love of being known by Jesus and she is called to act, to witness to the apostles the truth of Jesus’s resurrection.
Many lips have and do speak the name Mary and there are songs to Mary, artists renditions of Mary and many prayers to Mary. Mary also has innumerable titles, a litany of titles. Today’s feast identifies a very significant title of Mary’s; Mary’s Immaculate Conception became a Church dogma when promulgated in 1854 by Pius IX. It is rooted in Luke’s account of the announcement of the Birth of Jesus: “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” And the angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” calling her by name. Though today’s Gospel is titled “Announcement of the Birth of Jesus,” in our Bibles, Jesus is not the focus of today’s Feast. Rather the focus is on Mary who was conceived without sin. Favored one, indeed. The name Mary was derived from the ancient Hebrew name Miriam. Miriam was the name of Moses’ sister in the Old Testament of the Bible. This name may have come from a root word meaning “beloved.”
“Grace is God’s favor; grace is participation in God’s life. … Thus, grace is not a thing that comes from God but is an act of God that shows us something of who God is. To ‘receive grace’ is to experience God acting… in our lives.” This quote from Sacramental Theology by Kurt Stasiak, OSB is at the heart of the feast of the Immaculate Conceptions which we celebrate today. The Church is reminding us that Mary had grace, participation in God’s life, from the first moment of her conception. Though we are not full of grace as Mary is, we do through our Baptism also have grace, participation in God’s very life!
Let us spend some time with Mary today, calling on her by name, asking her to help us grow in our graced relationship with God, and learning from her what it means to say “may it be done unto me according to your word.” Reflect on when you call on Mary. Recall your favorite title for Mary, song, artist’s rendition, or prayer? Pray and reflect on the words of the “Hail Mary.”
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, “Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her. “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?” “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” the angel answered “and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God.”
“I am the handmaid of the Lord,” said Mary “Let what you have said be done to me.” And the angel left her.
The Gospel of the Lord
Meet Sister Marilyn Kerber, SNDdeN