Saturday, December 8, 2012

An Advocate of Grace

     In the history of our young diocese (Greensburg, Pennsylvania) December the 8th holds a very special day of remembrance.  It was on this date in 1959 that our first bishop, Hugh L. Lamb, died after leading us for a little less than ten years.  He had come to us from Philadelphia and took a fledgling local church that had been a part of Pittsburgh and formed a new diocese.  I remember hearing of his death from my grandma Lenard in her backyard that day after she heard of his death on the radio.  I had met him once, at my Confirmation, but knew little of the man.  There was sadness nonetheless.  Say a prayer for him today.

     Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Confusing to some, this is a feast about Mary and her mom and dad, by tradition known as Joachim and Anne.  Her conception was rooted in the love of this man and woman for each other.  Her birth brought great rejoicing to two people of faith and their families.  Her childhood was rooted in being a daughter of Abraham, being attentive to the teaching, word and promise of her people, and being obedient to the will of God.

     But then that day came when Gabriel appeared to her and announced Good News.  He acknowledged that she was "Full of grace" and that "the Lord was with her".  Her life of quiet holiness, her resistance to the temptations of life to sin, her unqualified trust in God suddenly began to make sense.  The Lord was with her, and she was full of grace.

     Later the Church would honor that gift given to her from the moment of her conception, the gift that would become a part of our life from the moment of our baptism - a freedom from sin and the inherent weakness which it brings into our human existence, and a realization that we are called to be holy and, in fact, have been graced to live a holy life.  She did not live in a protective bubble that shielded her from temptation, but rather knew that her God had empowered her to resist that temptation and live in his love.  The Preface for this feast says that "you placed her above all others to be for your people an advocate of grace and a model of holiness."  She, who gave form and life to the One who would set all people free of sin and death, would be free of the effects of that original sin and death, and would choose to live in holiness of life.  She stands as a great advocate of grace and a true model of holiness.  And she is our Mother in Faith.

     If you have ever watch "The O'Riley Factor" on the Fox network, he often would at the end of a broadcast give a "word of the day".  I have found our "word of the day" in the Prayer Over the Offerings in today's liturgy.  The word is "PREVENIENT".  The prayer speaks of the prevenient grace given to Mary.  My Latin may be rusty, but "venio" means "to come" and "pre" means "before", thus it should mean the grace given Mary even before the coming of Jesus.  Not your every day English word.

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