Fear Not, You are Full of Grace!
One day a young Hebrew man saw quite a marvelous sight. Off in the distance he saw a bush that appeared to be on fire, but it didn’t burn out. It was more like a torch. "I have to see this sight, the young man said to himself." As he drew closer to the bush, the man heard the voice of God calling to him from the bush, "Moses, Moses," Then the voice said, "Come no closer, you are standing on holy ground. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look on God.
One day a young Hebrew man was praying to God about the horrible plight of the Hebrew people. The Midianites had conquered them. Now, any time they planted crops, the soldiers of Midian would come and steal their crops. They also stole or killed their finest animals. No one could withstand them. Who could ever be the champion for Israel? The young man was thinking about these things while working hard to beat wheat into flour and hide it from the Midianites. Suddenly he saw a man he had not noticed before sitting under a tree. The man wore shining robes, his face was glowing. He called the young man and told him that God had made him the champion of Israel. "How is it that I should believe you," the young man asked? The splendid looking man told him to go into his house and get him something to eat. The young man returned with, among other things, a basket of raw meat. The man told him to put the meat on a rock. Then the man touched the meat with the tip of his walking staff, and immediately fire came out of the rock and consumed the meat. The young man knew that he was in the presence of God. "Help me," he cried. I have seen the face of God. "Don’t fear," the Lord responded to him, "you will not die." And Gideon went on to become the champion of Israel.
Throughout the Old Testament and even in the New Testament we read about people filling up with fear when the realize that they are in the presence of God. Even St. Peter cried out to Jesus, "Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man." It was not that they thought that God was mean. It was that God was so holy that they were sure that they could not exist in his presence. Often God would tell the prophets, that they had no reason to fear, he was choosing them for a particular mission. Still, there was and is this fact that when we all participate in all that is not God we exclude ourselves from ever being in his presence. Participating in all that is not God is the same as doing evil or sin. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he called out to her in those words we recite at the beginning of the Hail Mary. He called her Full of Grace. He also said, "Fear Not!" Mary had no reason to fear. There was nothing about her that was not God. There was no sin in her.
God in his goodness and love decided to show us how much He loves us by becoming one of us. To do this He took up His presence in a human being, Mary. To be so close to God's presence, Mary is conceived by God's plan to be a person who has totally with no participation in any form of evil whatsoever. Mary was chosen not just for what she would do but for whom she was. Mary was totally holy. There was nothing about her that in any way participated in that which was not God, that participated in sin. Mary’s complete freedom from sin is what we celebrate today, the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
Totally different from Eve, the first woman, or from all people for that matter, Mary is was always united to God and always obedient to God. She would do all he instructed her to do. Therefore, she is obedient and accepts the mission to be the mother of the Lord.
Today’s feast reminds us that God’s plan is more marvelous then we could ever imagine. To make his holiness physical by becoming one of us on Christmas day, he would first prepare someone who would always be open to his holiness. Moses and Gideon were afraid to stand before God because they recognized their own sinfulness. But there was nothing about Mary, that would contradict the holiness of God. She is Full of Grace. We celebrate her holiness today as we celebrate her Immaculate Conception.