The summer before I entered the seminary, 1984, I built a grotto in the backyard.  I got the idea from my uncle, Fr. Bernie Voges, who built a shrine for the Blessed Mother in my Grandmother’s backyard.  I planted two small evergreens next to the grotto.  Today, the trees are a good twenty feet tall and completely cover the grotto…just what I envisioned twenty six years ago.

I often wonder if I am becoming what God envisioned when He created me.  I wonder the same about each of us, about our society, and Church.  Are we what God envisioned?  Are we accomplishing God’s plan?  Only God knows the answer to that question.

Today, on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we celebrate the gift of our Redemption in Jesus Christ, and the unique way that Mary both shared in that grace, and cooperated with it.  We believe that Mary, as the Mother of the Savior, was conceived free from the stain of original sin.  Her freedom from sin marks the beauty of this gift of redemption that is ours through the work of Jesus Christ.  This is the marvelous work we recall in Psalm 98 in Mass today:  Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

This gift of redemption is what allows us to fully become the person God created each of us to be.  Mary is our model of sanctity and holiness, for this is God’s will for us all, that we be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:5)  The holiness of each individual is what the Church Father’s clearly defined in the Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium.  This is true for every member, clergy, religious, and laity.  There is a particularly eloquent passage in Lumen Gentium regarding the laity:

…by reason of their special vocation it belongs to the laity to seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and directing them according to God’s will.  They live in the world, that is, they are engaged in each and every work and business of the earth and in the ordinary circumstances of social and family life which, as it were, constitute their very existence.  There they are called by God that, being led by the spirit of the Gospel, they may contribute to the sanctification of the world, as from within like leaven, by fulfilling their own particular duties.  (#31)

Because of the exalted role of Mary, we sometimes forget her humanity.  She, too, is a member of the laity (if you will), who benefited (uniquely) from the grace accomplished through Christ.  She lived in the world and indeed had her own struggles, but always lived in fidelity her love for God.  We are the beneficiaries of her unique role in the history of salvation.  We are now called to freely live in fidelity according to the same gift of redemption that is ours in Christ.  We, too, live in the world.  We, too, have our own struggles and temptations.  It is particularly in the midst of these where we are called to cooperate with this grace of redemption, to both be transformed, and to transform the world around us.

Mary allowed the power of God to dwell within her, and to keep her on the path of holiness.  The power of God (Jesus Christ) now dwells within us through Baptism.  May He keep you in the paths of holiness all the days of your life!

Mary, Queen of Peace, Pray for us!

Happy Feast!