"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Lk 1:27
Mary, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the Patroness of the United States. Today's feast therefore, whose focus is Mary's sinlessness, is a good time to reflect and pray about the effects of being without sin. Sin often results from self absorption and self centeredness, but it is only when we are other centered that we reflect the glory of God and the holiness of Mary.
Think for instance about those times when you experience a deep freedom. Nothing clutters your mind or your heart. You can listen without searching for an answer. You can respond without having to be right. You can give of yourself totally to another not because there is a reward for doing so, but simply because it is the right thing to do. When we experience this kind of freedom, we touch a bit of what Mary knew as a way of being in the world. To be born without sin, to be able to resist sin in all its forms, freed her to be Christ's mother and ours. What a gift Mary is in this regard.
Whenever I get a glimpse of authentic, uncluttered love I am always moved. I remember watching the Special Olympics a few years ago when one young man stumbled running around the track and two of his competitors stopped to help him before continuing their own quest for a medal. Their action was so natural and so pure that I knew they were challenging everyone watching to reexamine their priorities. While being the best you can be is a worthy goal, the desire to win at any cost can destroy our integrity and belittle others.
Mary's arms, in so many statues and paintings, are always open to the world. Never closed and defensive, Mary's gesture of inclusiveness and service challenges us to seek justice for all upon which we can build a lasting peace. Especially for us Americans who can be seen as greedy and patronizing, Mary is an inviting figure of care for others before all else.
Today, ask for the gift of other centeredness.