Summary: Mary is the opposite of Eve, totally open to the plan of God as Eve was closed in, and thus she was able to accept the Greatest Gift, Jesus Christ.

Immaculate Conception

December 7-8, 2009

Caritas in Veritate

“Charity in truth places man before the astonishing experience of gift.” (CV 34) These words of Pope Benedict from the encyclical begin a new section that is incredibly appropriate for the solemnity we celebrate today, the patronal feast of the United States of America. It is ironic that the nearness of Christmas has millions of Americans feverishly using their cars, clodhoppers and left-mouse clicks to shop for gifts, but the same consumerism makes it difficult to recognize the fundamental gratuitousness “present in our lives in many different forms.” The fact is that our human nature is made for gift, and this gifted-nature “expresses and makes present our transcendent dimension.” When the eyes of the first humans were opened and they saw how naked, how vulnerable to evil they were, that darkness obscured their fundamental relationship with their creator. When they listened to the serpent and tried to seize divinity on their own terms, they began the process of rebellion that has left modern man “wrongly convinced that he is the sole author of himself, his life and society.” Genesis, in a passage just prior to the one read today, pictures Adam and Eve running around collecting fig leaves for garments to paste together as some sort of cartoon protection from the elements. With the warmth of the Holy Spirit absent from their lives, the best they could do was try to keep out the physical cold.

When man is “selfishly closed in upon himself,” enmeshed in the effects of original sin, he creates personal and social structures that are based on that selfishness and closed-ness. Here the Holy Father quotes the Catechism: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.” In that list of areas where “the pernicious effects of sin are evident, the economy has been included for some time now. We have a clear proof of this at the present time. The conviction that man is self-sufficient and can successfully eliminate the evil present in history by his own action alone has led him to confuse happiness and salvation with immanent forms of material prosperity and social action.” As I read it, the most egregious example of this kind of hubris is found in these words of the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, penned in 1992: At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

These words defined individualism and relativism as the supreme Law of the land, and they are straight out of the mouth of Satan. I can no more define in truth my own concept of existence, meaning, the universe and the “mystery of human life” than I can redefine the law of gravity to make it possible for me to float.

To contrast with this evil and risible misinterpretation of reality, the Holy Spirit gives us the paradigm of womanhood, the New Eve, in this wonderful pericope of acceptance and humility, the scene at Nazareth. The proclamation of this Gospel today has given rise to the misconception that we today celebrate the conception of Jesus rather than His Mother. Not so. We’ll do that on March 25. Today what we celebrate is the gracefulness, openness and spirit of obedience of Mary, that was the precondition for the entry of Grace, Obedience and Redemption in the person of Her Son, Jesus Christ. Here is the woman who was from the first moment of her existence totally open to God. She understood that she was made for gift, the gift of grace, and that made it possible for her to be open to The Gift, the Son of God. God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. This is our sole hope. Accepting the gift of God on God’s terms is the only future for humankind. Let’s then conclude with the words of our Holy Father:

Then, the

conviction that the economy must be autonomous, that it must be shielded

from “influences” of a moral character, has led man to abuse the economic

process in a thoroughly destructive way. In the long term, these

convictions have led to economic, social and political systems that

trample upon personal and social freedom, and are therefore unable to

deliver the justice that they promise. As I said in my Encyclical Letter

Spe Salvi, history is thereby deprived of Christian hope[86], deprived of

a powerful social resource at the service of integral human development,

sought in freedom and in justice. Hope encourages reason and gives it the

strength to direct the will[87]. It is already present in faith, indeed it

is called forth by faith. Charity in truth feeds on hope and, at the same

time, manifests it. As the absolutely gratuitous gift of God, hope bursts

into our lives as something not due to us, something that transcends every

law of justice. Gift by its nature goes beyond merit, its rule is that of