Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Gn 3:9-15, 20; Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12

Our scriptures today reflect the Fall, and Mary’s consent to God’s plan of salvation;
the first Adam, and Jesus, the new Adam; the first Eve, and Mary the new Eve.Francis lived his life out of the Scriptures and Mary’s “do what he tells you”. He was a lover of God and a lover of all God’s creation. As a teacher he took the Word of God seriously. He taught by gesture–as he approached the Wolf of Gubbio–and in writing –as when he wrote to the friars going on mission: ” they are not to engage in arguments and disputes”.(Rule of 1221, ch.XVI vs 5-7). “Do what he tells you” is undoubtedly fixed in Francis’s mind and in his heart.As the Crusaders returned to Europe from the Holy Land they brought home and conveyed their experiences to all. One thing powerfully conveyed was a portion of the Zoroastrian Religion of Persia, called Albigensianism. In that religious there was not one God but two, a good god and an evil god. The good god’s realm was the sphere of the spirit, the evil god’s realm that of matter, . One of the corollaries to this was that Jesus could not have been a human because good is only found is spirit, and therefore Jesus was truly an angel, impersonating a human being. Using the Old Testament Canticle of Daniel, Francis quotes the Scriptures “sun and moon praise, the Lord, “water and air praise the Lord” and calls our attention to the goodness of creation in right relationship to the Creator. His canticle “Brother Sun and Sister Moon” is widely known, and appreciated. It is his way of saying that all things created by Our God are in themselves good, and that we are family.

Francis wrestled with an explanation of the humanity of Jesus. With the permission of the pope through gesture in a tiny cave in Greccio on Christmas Eve 1223 Francis after installing a live ox and an ass preached about discomforts of the Babe of Bethlehem in such a new and unexpected way that the Lord John of Greccio saw in a vision that the Babe of Bethlehem had awakened in the hearts of many gathered “and many went home with joy” 1Celano 86.

Francis lived the words of Mary “do what he tells you”. If today you hear his voice (Ps 96)
will you?

Br. Thomas Barton, O.S.F