Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2018

Author: Pope Francis

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2018

Pope Francis

Empowered by trust in God

Mary's "here I am" in response to the Angel must become a Christian's "key phrase for life". The Pontiff made this recommendation at the Angelus in Saint Peter's Square on Saturday morning, 8 December [2018], Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The following is a translation of the Holy Father's reflection, which he offered in Italian.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning and happy Feast Day!

Today the Word of God presents us with an alternative. In the first reading there is the man who, at the origin, says no to God, and in the Gospel there is Mary who, at the Annunciation, says yes to God. In both readings it is God who seeks mankind. But in the first case God goes to Adam, after the sin, and asks him: “Where are you?” (Gen 3:9), and Adam responds: “I hid myself” (v. 10). In the second case, however, God goes to Mary, without sin, who responds: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Here I am is the opposite of I hid myselfHere I am opens one to God, while sin closes, isolates, causes one to be alone with oneself.

Here I am is the key phrase for life. It marks the passage from a horizontal life, centred on oneself and one’s own needs, to a vertical life, ascending toward God. Here I am is being available to the Lord; it is the cure for selfishness, the antidote to a dissatisfied life, which is always lacking something. Here I am is the remedy against the aging of sin; it is the therapy for staying young within. Here I am is believing that God counts more than my ‘me’. It is choosing to bet on the Lord, docile to his surprises. This is why saying here I am to him is the highest praise we can offer him. Why not begin our days with a ‘here I am, Lord’? It would be beautiful to say each morning: “Here I am, Lord, today let your will be done in me”. We will say it in praying the Angelus, but we can repeat it now, together. Here I am, Lord, today let your will be done in me!

Mary adds: “Let it be to me according to your word”. She does not say “let it be done as I want”, but “as You will”. She does not place any limitations on God. She does not think: “I will dedicate myself partly to him, I will deal with it and then I will do what I want”. No, Mary does not love the Lord when she feels like it, off and on. She lives by entrusting herself to God in all things and for all things. This is the secret of life. One who trusts God in everything can do everything. However, the Lord, dear brothers and sisters, suffers when we respond to him as Adam did: “I was afraid, and I hid myself”. God is Father, the most tender of fathers, and desires his children’s trust.

How often, instead, do we mistrust him; we mistrust God! We think that he might send us some trial, deprive us of freedom, abandon us. But this is a great mistake; it is the temptation of the origins, the temptation of the devil: weaving mistrust in God. Mary overcomes this first temptation with her here I am. And today we look at the beauty of Our Lady, born and lived without sin, ever docile and transparent to God.

This does not mean that life was easy for her, no. Being with God does not magically resolve problems. The conclusion of today’s Gospel passage recalls it: “the angel departed from her” (v. 38). He departed: it is a strong verb. The Angel left the Virgin alone in a difficult situation. She knew the special way in which she would become the Mother of God — the Angel had said so — but the Angel had not explained it to others, only to her. And problems began immediately: let us imagine the irregular situation according to law, to Saint Joseph’s torment, the life plan tossed aside, what the people would have said.... But faced with problems, Mary places her trust in God. She is left by the Angel, but believes that God remains with her, in her. And she trusts. She trusts in God. She is certain that with the Lord, even if in an unexpected way, everything will be fine. This is the wise approach: not to live depending on problems — when one ends, another appears! — but by trusting God and entrusting every day to him: here I am! “Here I am” is the phrase. “Here I am” is the prayer. Let us ask the Immaculate for the grace to live this way.

L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
14 December 2018, page 6

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