Conceived Without Sin
Saturday September 8, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Birth of the Virgin Mary
Reading (Romans 8:28-30) Gospel (St. Matthew 1:1-23)
This homily was given at a Poor Clare Monastery in Central Minnesota
Today we celebrate a most beautiful feast: the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the Church's calendar there are only three times in the year that we celebrate anyone's birthday; that is, the three people that were born without original sin: Jesus Himself, Saint John the Baptist, and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Jesus, of course, is God, so He had no sin. Saint John the Baptist was freed from sin at the moment of the Visitation when he leapt in his mother's womb upon hearing the words of Our Blessed Lady. At that moment, Our Lord removed original sin from his soul. He had been conceived with sin, but was born without. And, of course, now our Blessed Lady, who was conceived without original sin and, consequently, born without original sin. For not even one instant of her entire being did Satan have any dominion over her.
As we heard in the first reading today: "Those whom God foreknew He predestined, and those whom He predestined He also justified." The Greek word for justified means "to make righteous" - and to be righteous is to be in the state of grace. Even from Old Testament times, God justified or "made people righteous." He was able to forgive their sins. They did not have the means of the forgiveness of sin that we have today, but God is way beyond anything we can place upon Him and even in this situation, prior to Our Lord's coming into the world, we see that salvation has already begun.
We can only imagine the rejoicing of the angels in Heaven, as they see that the mother of the Redeemer of the world is born. They knew that what had been awaited from the very beginning of creation was now finally beginning to unfold. We see the rejoicing of the angels in Scripture at Our Lord's birth, but there must have been great rejoicing also at Our Lady's birth because here, for the angels, was a little tiny baby girl who was more holy than they, who was higher than they, and who was predestined by God to be the mother of His own Son.
God had chosen her, as He did with the other women who were listed in the genealogy of Our Lord that we heard in the beginning of Saint Matthew's Gospel. We do not always understand the importance of these genealogies, but for the Jewish people this was the most important part of Scripture. Who was it that came before you? What is the family line? How can we know who this person is? In this, we hear all about who the father of So-and-so was.
But four times we hear about women, and each one of these women are in there because they are not ordinary; they are extraordinary circumstances, not always necessarily the best of women. For instance, we hear about King Solomon having Bathsheeba as his mother. Well, Bathsheeba was the woman who committed adultery with King David. We also hear about Rahab. Rahab, remember, was the prostitute from Jericho who saved the two spies; then, when they destroyed Jericho, they saved her. Ruth was not a Jew, she was a Moabite woman, who then converted to Judaism. Her mother-in-law was Naomi. These different women are included because they are not the "ordinary woman" - they are not the upright, upstanding Jewish woman that one might expect. Yet, we see that God chose them from all the other women to be part of the genealogy: the family history of our Blessed Lord. Take all these women, who would be considered great sinners that God had justified, and then take the one who is without sin, who is justified from the very first instant of her being and place her name with the other women.
And so, above all the people, we hear about Abraham; we hear about David; we hear about Saint Joseph - all these holy men. They all pale in comparison to the little baby who was born this day. As we consider all the things God has done throughout history, we realize that He predestined Our Lady from all eternity. We must understand that God chose her. He knew from all eternity that He was going to create her, and that He was going to create her without sin. From all eternity, He knew that He was going to send His Son into the world and that He was going to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In Our Blessed Lady, from the first instant of her creation, and now in her birth, God had created a fitting home, a fitting place for the beginning of the life of Our Blessed Lord. He had created a heart without sin, a heart that from the first beat, from the first instant was absolutely in love with God - so perfectly in love with God that God could make Himself in her image as she was made in His. We begin to see already why the angels would be rejoicing; why all the saints, who at this point had not been able to enter into Heaven, but who awaited the day that God would come into the world as the Messiah, would be rejoicing because of the birth of this little girl.
Today, also, we reflect upon our own selves as we think about our spiritual mother. God sent her into the world so that we, too, could have life through her Son. As we consider all these things that we spoke of about Our Lady: that God foreknew her, predestined her, justified her, and, indeed, has glorified her, we can say the same of ourselves. From all eternity, God knew that He would create each one of us, that He would make us members of His Son through Baptism, that we would become spiritual children of Our Lady, that - through the waters of Baptism and through Confession, if we have fallen thereafter - He would justify us, and that His Will and His desire is to glorify us for eternity. That, of course, requires our cooperation.
We look to Our Lady and we rejoice in her birth. We ask today for her intercession that, as we celebrate our own mother's birthday, she too will pray for us that we will be able to rejoice with her as we enter into birth in Heaven, into a new and glorified life that God has already brought Our Lady into and that He holds out for us. As long as we remain faithful to Our Blessed Lady and to her Son, we too will be justified and, in turn, be glorified.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.