Grace Can Time Travel

We all have regrets.  Those things in our past we’d change if we could.  Maybe it’s a relationship we let slip away from us.  Or that job we didn’t take in the career we’d always been drawn to.  Perhaps we spoke harsh words to a friend that we’d wish we could take back.  Or maybe it was something we didn’t say or do that could have mended a broken heart, or healed a wounded relationship with a family member.  Sometimes we might even imagine going back in time and changing things.  We can fix what we wished had turned out differently and make everything right.  But would it?  Even if time travel was available and we could go back and change things, what effect would our meddling with the past have on the present?  It’s an intriguing fantasy that’s inspired thinkers and writers for ages.
In all of human history, only one person has experienced a kind of rupture in time.  And the story surrounding her is both miraculous and rooted in everlasting love.  You’ve heard the term we use to describe it but many of us, even many Catholics don’t understand it.  It’s the Immaculate Conception.  No, it doesn’t describe Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit’s overshadowing of the young Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38).  While Christ’s Incarnation was indeed divine, the Immaculate Conception describes Mary’s own beginnings in her Mother Anna’s womb. My point isn’t to compare our own human regrets about the past with the actions of God in Mary’s conception.  God has no regrets because His divine will is perfect in all things.  And since He exists outside of time, everything and every moment is perpetually present to Him.  But talking about time and the past and traveling “back” to “fix” stuff makes it a bit easier for us to understand God’s unfolding plan of salvation.  So my flawed analogy about time travel is just that:  flawed. 
Since the beginning of the Church, Mary’s title of “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) was celebrated and contemplated. She was the vessel chosen by God to bear His Son, the Ark of the New Covenant, Who is Christ.  How “full” of God’s grace is “full enough” to bring Christ to earth?  Completely full.  Free from all sin, even the stain of original sin which we inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve.  Over the centuries, the Church’s understanding of God’s grace in Mary’s conception deepened.  Finally in 1854, Pope Pius IX wrote a beautiful document called “Ineffabilis Deus” which defines the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  The very title “indescribable God” expresses our human graspings at the truth of God in our limited abilities.  I have to share a bit from the Pope’s description of God’s love for the Blessed Virgin:  “He [God] attended her with such great love, more than all other creatures, that in her alone He took singular pleasure.  Wherefore He so wonderfully filled her, more than all the angelic spirits and all the Saints, with an abundance of all heavenly gifts taken from the treasury of the divinity, that she, always free from absolutely all stain of sin, and completely beautiful and perfect, presented such a fullness of innocence and holiness that none greater under God can be thought of, and no one but God can comprehend it.”
Did Mary need Christ for her salvation?  Yes.  The dogma of the Immaculate Conception reinforces that all salvation is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross.  How God accomplished that saving grace in Mary is a singularity of His love.  Mary was the first person saved through the Cross.  Here’s where our early discussion of traveling back in time comes in.  Christ’s victory over death and sin was applied by God to Mary at the moment of her conception.  Original sin never stained her spotless soul. Did God have to do this?  No.  He did it purely as a gift of love for her.  Of course even time itself is no constraint to God since He invented it.  Out of love, God’s grace is always sufficient and in Mary, His grace was most fully-realized.  She continued to grow in grace throughout her life, cooperating completely with God’s will in the Incarnation and life of her Son, til the very end as she stood at the foot of the Cross.  Her life was and is, an overflowing of God’s grace.  Across time, beyond time, the love of God beckons to us, calling to us to offer us His lasting peace.  God’s love isn’t bounded by time or space or sin or death.  His endless love seeks out a very small and humble home:  your heart.
                      “…You renew the face of the earth.”  — Psalm 104:30


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