December 21, 2014
Have you ever seen the movie called “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?” (C.S. Lewis). If you have, you would know that it is about some children from our world who enter a parallel world called Narnia. The creatures of Narnia don’t quite know what to make of the children so they try to find out what they are. For example the child who first enters that parallel world is a little girl named Lucy. A faun asks her, “Are you a daughter of Eve?” It takes her a while to understand the question, but eventually she says that she is. Later, a Narnian asks one of the boys if he is a “son of Adam.”
To understand this Sunday’s readings we must go back to our first parents. The Bible calls them Adam (“the man”) and Eve (“mother of the living”). From them we have inherited some good things, most important, the image of God. It makes us capable of art and culture – and all the beautiful things humans have created. That capacity comes down to us from our common parents.
At the same time, we have inherited some things which can only be described as shameful: the tendency to war, greed, deception, violence and indifference – our whole sad human history. Moreover, we each experience an inner division. As St. Paul said, “I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate…What a miserable person I am!” Or as the Vatican Council stated “Man is split within himself...man finds that by himself he is incapable of battling the assaults of evil successfully.” That inner division is sometimes referred to as original sin, a terrible debility we inherited from our first parents.
Once I was talking with a guy who was complaining about how unfair this is: We didn’t commit the original sin, why should we be punished? I don’t know the full answer to that question, but I would make two comments. First, complaining does no good, don’t you think? Secondly, we all inherit good things and bad from our parents. A priest, friend of mine was diagnosed with diabetes. It was no surprise since the disease runs in his family. It seems unfair that he has to avoid certain foods that others can enjoy with no problem. But instead of complaining, he accepts his diet like a man (although he sometimes gives in to the temptation of hash browns and fried eggs). He recognizes that he needs outside help in the form of medicine and that he has to follow a regimen of daily exercise. In a word, he knows he has a diabetic condition and he is determined to make the best of it. In a similar way, you and I have inherited the “human condition” and it includes original sin. We have to make the best of it. We are children of Adam and Eve.
Nevertheless, there is something more positive to say than simply “grin and bear it.” We get a hint of it on this final Sunday before Christmas. We are not only children of Eve; we are children of a New Eve. Long ago, the first Eve tried to exalt herself. Today, a second Eve said that what she wanted was to be a handmaid, a serving girl of the Lord. She desired to empty herself so that she could be filled with God. In the case of Mary, it happened in the most literal way. The Second Adam, the one who would undo the sin of the first Adam, took flesh from her. Jesus had (and still has) Mary’s DNA. We do as well. Let me explain.
The virginal conception of Jesus signals a new way of generation, that is, a new way of handing on life. As St. John says, it happens “not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.” (1:13) If I call it spiritual rebirth, it might mislead you because the word conjures up images of something immaterial, something which lacks substance. That is not the case. On the day of our baptism, we were substantially incorporated into Christ. If I can put it this way: more physically united than the marriage union. And when we receive the Eucharist, we take his flesh, his blood, his DNA into us. His DNA came from his mom Mary so we share her DNA whenever we receive the Eucharist.
On this Sunday before Christmas, we hear Mary's beautiful words, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” How privileged we are to have such a Mother and to receive through her the only one who can heal the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve. That explains why Mary has had an important role in the faith and worship of the Catholic Church. Have you ever come to seek help from the motherly love of Mary yet?
Maranatha, Come, Lord Jesus!