Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
A month after I got married I had an ‘almost’ argument with one of my sisters-in-law. I was wearing a t-shirt that says “To err is human; to arr is pirate.” I personally love the shirt, but I am often a terrible judge of when clarifying comments are needed. So, in my wisdom, I thought our 8 AM drive to go clamming our beach vacation was the perfect opportunity to raise my contention with the shirt. I disagree that “To err is human.” Ironically, I was very erroneous in assuming anyone else wanted to have that conversation early in the morning on vacation. Today though, we celebrate the feast that says, “To err is less than human.”
The aforementioned feast is that of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In this feast, we celebrate the mystery of our faith that professes that Mary was born free of original sin and through God’s grace, and by the cooperation of her unfallen will, she was preserved from personal sin. She was 100% human and 0% God, unlike her son who was 100% of both, and yet she did not sin. She had true “enmity” with the deceiver, the enmity that we see spoken of in today’s first reading. She was “full of grace” as Gabriel proclaims in the Gospel. More than anything else, she is God’s promise to us that Ephesians will be fulfilled. In being chosen by God we will be made “holy and without blemish before him.”
This is good news! For often we can feel as though our sin and our failings pile upon us and we will never be rid of them. Or worse yet, we make room for them. We use lies like, “To err is human,” to perpetually excuse our sins. We stop having enmity with them and start to accommodate them. But we are not meant to look in the mirror and see a hopeless sinner, but see a repentant disciple. We are to lean more heavily on the radical love and grace of God, knowing that one day, we will know sin no longer. We will not “seem” holy and without blemish before God, but we will be holy and without blemish.
Our first step in getting there is recognizing the connection in the language between Ephesians and Exodus. The lamb of the Passover had to be without blemish. Jesus was that new lamb without blemish. When we allow his grace to transform us into his likeness we begin to lose our blemishes. That only happens when we become like Mary, full of grace and docile to the Word of the Lord. When we are like Mary, we see that sin is not a part of me, it takes me apart. To err is what destroys the humanity God created and declared as good.
So how do we rework that old saying? I propose that Mary shows us that to be human is to need the Lord, hear the Lord, and obey the Lord for His glory, our good, and the good of all those God has loved into existence. That might not be a catchy t-shirt, but it is the profound truth that we are offered by today’s feast.
I am forever, my sin does not have to be.
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us.