I attended Mass at one of our surrounding churches for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. The homily was another scholarly definition of the Immaculate Conception which certainly is confusing for many people. But I found myself wanting something more… some suggestions on how this concept of Mary being born without the stain of original sin impacted me… how it affected my life… what did it really mean. As I pondered this, it occurred to me that God ‘stacked the deck’ in Mary’s favor so that she would say ‘yes’ to God’s invitation to birth the divine. Without original sin, there was no roadblock to Mary’s willingness to participate in the incarnation. She still could say ‘no’ – still had free will- but there was nothing to get in the way of ‘yes.’
In the Incarnation, God has stacked the deck in our favor also. When God became a human person, we caught a glimpse of what true humanity looks like. We see how God would like us to relate to one another….how we should act… what we should do. At one point, I would have said, the Incarnation shows us what we have to do to get to heaven. But that’s not correct, since heaven – unity with God – is pure gift. But Jesus’ modeling of how we should live our lives does show us how to be truly happy.
Many people in our world today feel that the deck is stacked against them. Men and women living in war torn, violent, or poverty stricken cities. Parents who can’t afford insurance for their families. High school students who fear another shooting in their schools. People who are discriminated against because of the color of their skin, the religion they practice, the nation of their birth. Environmentalists who see safeguards that protect the earth eroded. Women caught in the pain of addiction and trafficking. There are many more.
The Incarnation can speak to these people as well. God coming to dwell with us speaks of hope – hope that humanity is worth investing in…. hope that relationships can be forged between peoples who have different faiths and beliefs and cultures…hope that the good in people will overcome the bad…hope that people of privilege will speak out for those who have none.
As we begin another year, let us look to the Incarnation and recognize that God has stacked the deck in favor of humanity and work to make that a reality for all.