Today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of the two highest Marian feast days in the Catholic Church. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception confirms and clarifies that, through a special privilege of God, Mary was free from original sin from the moment of her conception. This makes our Blessed Mother a powerful symbol of purity for a world that has lost its way.
These days, it’s difficult for the average person to remain pure with all the sexual images, messages and inuendos thrown in our faces at every turn. I, like you, have to guard my eyes and ears nearly every second of the day to avoid impure messages that attempt to infiltrate my mind when I’m just going about my daily business. For example, there is an electronic billboard on my way to the grocery store that flashes a dry cleaner’s ad with the slogan “Drop your pants, here.” It’s accompanied by a photograph of a man’s legs with shirt tails barely covering his groin area and his pants down around his ankles. It’s not the most lacivious ad I’ve ever seen, but you know what? I don’t need that in my face!
We all know how bad it can get with TV commercials, suggestive song lyrics, crude jokes and the galling audacity of television shows and Hollywood films that show unadulterated graphic sex and sexual situations. But probably the most difficult battle we face is the fight against pornography. Men and women alike struggle with this; even adolescents and teens are succumbing to addictions to pornography. I knew someone some time ago who was open about regularly viewing pornography and when I asked why he—a self-proclaimed Christian—was okay with it, he simply said, “Hey. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” I was so sad that, even though he knew it was wrong, he just stopped trying altogether and gave in to it. This leads me to write something I really want to share with you, especially if you are struggling with sins against purity… It’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received in spiritual direction.
I was struggling mightily with various sins and was so discouraged with myself because, although my intentions were good, I kept failing. I actually began to mock myself whenever I tried to renew my intent to overcome these particular sins, telling myself, “You’re a hypocrite. Don’t even try because you’re just going to fail.”
That’s when my spiritual director said, “We’re all hypocrites! We all struggle! Struggling is pleasing to God because He see’s you’re trying. Pride is what makes you feel discouraged and makes you feel like you shouldn’t put forth any effort. Forget your pride. Do your best, and when you fall, don’t beat yourself up. Just get up, ask God for the grace to be better, and try again. That’s what God wants.”
That’s great news for anyone who is struggling with sin, especially sins against purity. It’s so easy to feel a) like a hypocrite, and b) like you’re the only one struggling. As if everyone else seems to have their life in order but you. But don’t believe that. Fighting the good fight means you will fall at times, just like everyone else.
This is a great reason to get to know and understand Mary better. You might think of her as some distant historical figure you can’t relate to, but you’d be amazed at how Mary relates to you. True, she was perfect. But, she still had a free will and lived in a sinful society just as you do today. She struggled with confusion and disappointment just as you do. She knew what it was like to be hungry, lonely, scared and frustrated. Mary faced the very real possibility of being divorced by her betrothed spouse. After Joseph died, she was a single parent, working hard to make sure Jesus had what he needed while he was home with her. She understands you because during her life, she experienced many of the same joys and endured many of the same sufferings and hardships that you do.
So, embrace your heavenly mother! Make a special effort to follow her closely through this Advent season and really get to know her better. And when your struggle to be pure seems overwhelming, here is a wonderful, quick prayer you can say to invoke her protection and assistance:
My Queen and my Mother, I give myself entirely to you and in proof of my affection, I give you my eyes, my ears, my tongue, my heart, my whole being without reserve. Since I am your own, keep me and guard me as your property and possession. Amen.
Count on my prayers for you and as always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.