Gn 3:9-15, 20 | Ps 98 | Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 | Lk 1:26-38
One afternoon, a chef, as she sliced a red onion to sauté in butter, said that the storyboard of her mind floated back to the tiny onion seeds she had planted the January prior. She shared how she kept the grow lights low, and one day, up popped tiny blades that looked like grass. She was so excited. She watered. They grew. Every Saturday, she trimmed back those shoots of green to five inches tall so that they would grow stocky and strong. In March, she tilled the soil and prepared the beds. In late April, she planted small onion plants. Even when her dog ran through the beds and trampled the tops in July, she kept weeding. She kept watering. Then, in December, one red onion slid off her cutting board to sizzle in the pan.
Mary of the Immaculate Conception was like that one tiny onion seed. Amid the brokenness of the human race, God spent centuries preparing the soil of the chosen People. Born of the faithful remnant, Mary was planted in the rich soil of faith and graced with every spiritual blessing. She was nurtured. She was cared for. She rejoiced and bore fruit. And even after the world had trampled her heart and crucified her Son, the Holy Spirit kept nourishing her with strength.
Do you remember your conception, before you were the size of an onion seed? I don’t either; none of us does. But if that chef, as a gardener, could put so much care into one red onion, with how much more care does our Creator tend to us? Even though we are trampled and wounded as part of the human condition, our reading from Ephesians tells us that we too are nourished by Christ with every spiritual blessing.
Mary wouldn’t have been able to recall the moment of her own conception either. But imagine the elation of the angels and the saints at that moment. They were so excited—a human being immaculately conceived!
In reflection and prayer, travel back to that day when you were created, regardless of the circumstances of your own conception. Try and comprehend how excited the heavenly host were about you also. Perhaps not immaculately conceived, but most dearly beloved! Relish their jubilation. One of them was assigned to you, in fact, as a guardian. Be washed with their love.
And set aside their joy, excitement, and jubilation for a moment – and try and fathom God’s joy, excitement, and jubilation for you, “He who knew you before He formed you in your mother’s womb.” If we, who remain sinful, know how to rejoice over the image of an ultrasound, imagine God’s elation for you at the moment of your conception.
Between now and Christmas, think about who and what nurtured Mary’s spiritual life—her parents, the psalms, the stories of Moses and the prophets, the prayer of her people, and her own Son. As this Advent continues to unfold, how can we purposefully enrich the soil of faith in which we grow? What do we need to keep telling ourselves to trim back? What will ultimately help us flourish?