Innocence tested, kept, enriched
- Fr. Roy Cimagala (The Freeman) - December 6, 2015 - 9:00am

That's what I think is the significance of the celebration of the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8. It is to remind us that God had intended us to be innocent, like him and like our first parents at the beginning, completely full of goodness. We lost that innocence, but we are given a way of how to recover it, and even to enrich it.

It's also to remind us of how we will be in the definitive state of our life in heaven, already incapable of sinning, when we will be completely identified with Christ, having passed and won our earthly test. It also signifies of how the Church started here on earth, with Mary as the Church's most ideal faithful member, and therefore the best model for all of us to emulate.

Thus, in the Eucharistic preface of this solemnity, we pray: "You preserved the Most Blessed Virgin Mary from all stain of original sin, so that in her…you might prepare a worthy Mother for your Son, and signify the beginning of the Church, his beautiful Bride without spot or wrinkle."

With Mary as our Mother, we are given a sure guide of how the ideal of innocence can be kept and enriched in spite of, and even because of the many trials all of us have to face in our earthly life.

Of course, it is only Christ, the only Redeemer, the only "way, truth and life" for us, who gives us everything to be what we ought to be. But it is Mary, the perfection of humanity, who will show and help us to be a most faithful disciple of Christ, not only a disciple in name, but a disciple who fully shares in the life and mission of Christ.

Mary's innocence did not prevent her from being tested and tempted. In fact, of all men who have to undergo the earthly trials, it must have been Mary who was tested the most, because she is the one closest to Christ who assumed all our sinfulness.

What Christ confronted and suffered, Mary must also have confronted and suffered in the most intimate way. The severest temptations of Christ were also given to Mary. It's her who shared the most in the redemptive suffering of Christ, winning for her the title of Co-redemptrix, a pattern for us who are supposed to be also our own co-redeemer with Christ.

But Mary knew how to parry all these temptations and bear all the sufferings. And the secret was her utmost humility that allowed her to be totally united with God, and therefore sharing all his wisdom, his power, his prudence, etc. It's her humility that enabled her to enjoy the fullness of faith, hope and charity to the extent that our earthly condition would allow.

She was not scandalized by the sins of men, including the worst evil of killing God, the God-man, Jesus Christ. She simply grieved and reacted with utmost mercy and compassion, the very same mercy and compassion shown and experienced by Christ on the cross.

That is why I find it most meaningful to note that Pope Francis chose to open the Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. There could be no better way to highlight the fact that Mary's innocence, which she managed to keep and enrich in spite of the severe tests, is due to the divine mercy that she managed to reflect in her own heart.

It's a mercy that comes as a result of her humility that in turn gave her that total faith, hope and charity in Christ. It's a mercy that has kept her innocence from her very conception all the way to her death and assumption to heaven.

And that innocence that she managed to keep and enrich is the one implied by Christ when he said: "Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves." (Mt 10,16). It's not a naïve innocence, rather ignorant and detached from the raw reality of our earthly life. It's one that has been tested by fire, very knowledgeable about our mundane world without losing the spiritual and supernatural dimensions of our life.

We have to see to it that in developing our devotion to our Lady, we don't fall into the trap of coming up simply with a sentimental and sugary type of devotion. Like Mary, we should try to be most humble, so we can live the fullness of faith, hope, charity and mercy, and keep our innocence intact in spite of the severe trials.

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