Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Luke 1: 38
On today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we hear related to us through the passages from Genesis and Luke the never ending struggle of our lives. Is our life ours alone, or do we truly belong to another? The reading from Ephesians offers us the clear and compelling answer: “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory . . .” (Eph. 1:11). Our destiny is in the word and will of the One who has created us out of love “that we might exist for the praise of God’s glory.”
For Christians, the entire trajectory of human history hinges on the faith and abandonment of Mary, who thus becomes the mother of the new creation. Unlike Adam and Eve, Mary knows her true place and from that place the loving redemptive purpose of God can be made manifest. We, however, live a constant tension between the desire to “be as gods” and the loving acceptance of our place as creatures.
As the Year of Mercy begins today, we are reminded that God’s “purpose” for creation is mercy, love, and redemption. What will always stand in the way of our serving those purposes is our arrogance, our refusal to see that our life is but for one thing: “that we might exist for the praise of his glory.” What contends in us constantly is our willful demand that we be glorified, that our ego be exalted, that we be recognized as powerful, competent, good, holy. This demand is the great tension we feel, the source of the shame, envy, resentment and frustration that so often fuels our emotional lives. On the other hand, to be put in and then accept our true place is to know the mercy of God for us. It is to experience the joy and the peace that comes when we, as Mary, lay down our will to serve God’s will and word.
One of the greatest obstacles to this is our mistaken belief that we do this spontaneously. In fact, unfortunately, our default or unconscious position is the discharge of our willfulness, or demand to be special. It does not come easily to us to realize that it is when we live from what is common to all that we are living the life of God in us. I can only know that God loves me when I also realize that God loves all of us in the same way. I alone am not special, but rather we are all special. We all exist “for the praise of his glory.” The way for each of us, as Ruusbroec says, is the “way common to all.” Our Mother Mary is the constant teacher that, as Dante said, “In his will is our peace.” When we stop working to accomplish, be recognized, exert power over others and instead become the handmaid or servant of God’s will, then we touch the peace and joy of living in the mercy of God which is God’s gift to all of us.
God’s mercy can make even the driest land become a garden, can restore life to dry bones (cf. Ez 37:1-14). … Let us be renewed by God’s mercy, let us be loved by Jesus, let us enable the power of his love to transform our lives too; and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can water the earth, protect all creation and make justice and peace flourish.
Pope Francis, Easter Urbi et Orbi Message, March 31, 2013