A Perfect Game

(Homily for Immaculate Conception)

The formula for confession is a different in Spanish than in English. In English the penitent usually begins by saying, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” In Spanish the priest says “Ave, María Purisima.” Hail, Mary most pure. To which the penitent responds, “Sin pecado original concebida.” (conceived without original sin).

What do we mean when say Mary was conceived without sin? Perhaps an example from my own family will help clarify this teaching. My brother-in-law Alex loves to golf and he has had some pretty good games. On one occasion he made a hole in one. He was a plaque to prove it. It usually takes at least three or four strokes to sink the ball in the hole. To get a score of seventy or eighty on eighteen holes would be a darn good game. If Mary’s life were a golf game, you would have to say her score is eighteen. She made a perfect hole-in-one every time. For that reason we call her the sinless Virgin Mary.

For you or me, it would be extraordinary to make it through a single day without committing some sort of sin – a lie, an act of impatience or anger, the giving in to a base desire. By way of contrast Mary lived each day in God’s grace. It does not mean she had great strength on her own. In fact, she acknowledged that she was the lowly handmaiden of the Lord. Her perfection came from her steady dependence upon God’s grace.

Perhaps another comparison will help. When children go to the beach, they often carry small buckets with them. They collect bright rocks, sand, shells, crabs, barnacles anything which catches their eye. You and I do something similar. Our buckets tend to be so full that nothing else can fit into them. The problem is that God wants to fill them pure gold, but there is no room. Mary of all people was totally empty before God. He filled her with all that is precious and valuable.

God wants to do the same for us. Because of the stain of original sin, we are constantly collecting things of little worth – perhaps even things like barnacles and star fish which start to smell. But if we let him, he will empty us. It often involves some resistance. For that the Lord - in his mercy – may use what at first seems harsh and cruel.

Today we ask the intercession of the sinless Virgin Mary that we might allow God to likewise fill us with his grace. Hail, Mary, full of grace…pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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