The word conceive is to imagine something or to invent a plan or an idea; but very quickly it relates more to mothers. To conceive is to be pregnant, or to cause a baby to begin to form. Therefore, this topic gives us the opportunity to reflect on the motherhood of Mary. In Luke 1:31 the Angel Gabriel said to Mary you will conceive in your womb, and bring, forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. At this point Mary entered into a different stage of her life. Her role as mother was initiated. She was to give a physical birth to God the Son; but for us, to bring forth Christ again does not mean a physical conception and physical birth of Christ; because if you conceive now you will not give birth to Jesus. It was such literal understanding that led Nicodemus to ask in John 3:4 “How can a man be born when he is old?” “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time to be born?” In verse 5 Jesus replied that to be born again is to be born of water and the Spirit.
There is more to the topic ‘conceive and bring forth Christ again’ than the literal understanding of physical birth. It means bearing fruits or living a Christ-like life, becoming a witness to Him. Every baptized Christian is called to bear fruits, and by so doing brings Christ forth to his generation. That is why we say redemption is not reduction. We have not been redeemed to reduce; we have been redeemed to produce. In Gen. 1:28 God said be fruitful and multiply… in Matt.28:19 Jesus “go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” in John15:5 Jesus says I am the vine and you are the branches remain in me and I you and you will bear much fruits. Therefore, bringing forth Christ again means bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And so, any Christian that bears the fruits of the Holy Spirit brings Christ again and again to his generation. However, before Mary could bring forth Christ there were some essential stages that she went through. These stages are necessary for us to bring Christ forth. We shall discuss these stages under the umbrella of the annunciation.
This simply means announcement. Nine months before Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary to announce the conception of the Son of God through the Holy Spirit. What I am doing right now is an announcement. I stand here to announce the good news to you that you. Whenever you read the bible you are announcing to yourself the need for you to bring forth Christ. The homilies you listen to are announcements that charge you to bring forth Christ.
1.The Holy Spirit: One basic aspect of the annunciation was the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The announcement would have been meaningless if the Holy Spirit had not come. As a young woman from Nazareth, Mary felt inadequate; she continues a long list of people in the Bible who felt inadequate (Moses, Rahab, David, Jonah, Naomi and the likes). Therefore, she asked in Luke 1:34 “how shall this be, since I knew no man.” And the Angel said the Holy Spirit will overshadow you. Beloved in Christ, without the Holy Spirit we become so inadequate to bring Christ forth.
Before the descent of the Holy Spirit, the gospel recorded that the disciples were making terrible mistakes. In fact Mark gospel practically illustrated that the disciples persisted in errors. These errors expressed their inadequacy until they received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what makes the inadequate adequate; it was through the Holy Spirit that Mary brought Christ forth. Therefore, if we must bring Christ forth again we need the Holy Spirit. Christians today have become so lukewarm, sterile and unproductive because we never fan into flame the Spirit we received at our baptism and confirmation.
One of the things the Holy Spirit does is that it gives us supernatural power. Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” Every human is in need of power. Power is the ability or capacity to do something or act in a particular way. Without power we cannot come to this pilgrimage ground. In the same vein, the Holy Spirit bestows on us spiritual power to carry out spiritual works. Whenever, you lack power for spiritual good know that you need the Holy Spirit. Isaiah 40:29-31, says He gives power to the faints; and to them that have no might he increases their strength. The kind of power the Holy Spirit gives is called the Supernatural power. The Supernatural is the super on the natural. When the spirit came upon the Little Mary, she became supernatural woman. When the super comes upon the bread it becomes supernatural bread, when it comes upon the wine, it becomes supernatural wine. When it comes upon us we are able to do exceedingly well in our mission as Christians, bringing Christ to all and all to Christ.
Again, to bring forth Christ, is to witness for Christ. Without the Holy Spirit we cannot witness to Christ Acts 1:8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” No one can witness without the Holy Spirit. In fact, anyone witnessing without the Holy Spirit is only expressing his weakness. Evangelii Nuntiandi 75 Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit. (Dec 8, 1975 EVANGELII NUNTIANDI APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF HIS HOLINESS POPE PAUL VI.) That is why in John 20:22 before he sent his disciples out for mission he breathed on them and saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.”
2. VISITATION: Mary did not keep the “Gift” of Jesus to herself, but went in haste to share the gift to others. She started an 80 kilometer journey, travelling uphill to Ain Karim to visit her cousin Elizabeth. At that visit the Child in her womb leaped for joy.
This kind of visitation is necessary; your visitation can put joy in somebody’s house. Your visitation can bring about conversion and repentance. By visitation you can touch your neighbor’s life. Some people can’t remember the last time they visited somebody, including their relatives.
Mary is our model and teacher; she is teaching us how to visit. She wants us to know that visitation is an indispensable aspect of evangelization. If we must bring Christ forth we cannot neglect visitation and charitable services just as Mary did. Let us learn to visit the sick, visit the lonely, visit those in prison, and visit the less privileged. In Job 2:11 we are told of how Job’s friends came visiting during Job’s adversity; in Matt.25:36 we have that beautiful hymn: naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me; in Rom.15:29 visitor brings blessing. Therefore, let us visit one another and renew the face of the earth.
Again, one very essential aspect of visitation is greeting. Mary greeted Elizabeth and the Scripture says as soon as your greetings entered my ears the Child in my womb leaped for joy. Greeting is a good thing. Christians who want to bring Christ forth again must greet people. Don’t just freeze your lips and begin to frown everywhere in the compound, No! You will discourage believers. You can’t attract souls when you are not simple and humble. Christianity values modesty. The Church recognizes the importance of greeting that is why after the sign of the cross the next thing is greeting: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ…. Again, the Church will also invite us to greet each other with a sign of peace. Greeting brings peace. The Child leaped for joy because there was peace. There can never be joy where there is no peace.
Beloved in Christ we need to revive the culture of greeting in the society, we need to revive the culture of greeting amongst our children. Mary the Mother of our Lord greeted Elizabeth you ordinary mother of Idowu, or mama Tunde you are waiting for everybody to bow down and greet you. All of us we are called to this humility and greet one another and permeate the whole society with joy and the presence of Christ.
3. DO NOT BE AFRAID: The Angel Gabriel said to Mary Lk.1:30 Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Like Mary we must put aside any fear, in order to bring Christ forth. We know that the demands are tough but do not be afraid to permeate the society with the presence of Christ. Ps. 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid? Today Christians have become too fearful and as a result of that they are bringing embarrassment to the faith. They believe nearly every preacher on the street. While some are afraid to tell the truth; others are scared to be identified as Catholics.
Again, some people are not just afraid but equally ashamed to bring Christ forth. There some individual who are still ashamed to carry the bible on walk ways, there are some legionaries who will not comfortably speak about Mary and the church. Some people are afraid of what people say about them when they get to know they are now so close to God.
Just as Joseph was afraid of what people will say if she carries Mary home. People will say what they want to say but what is important is what Christ is saying about you. In Matt. 11:18 the Pharisees said John had a demon; but in Matt.11:11 Jesus said of John of all born of women John is the greatest. Do not be afraid to speak the truth or to tell people that abortion is evil.
4. Hearing and Practicing: Lastly, Mary heard and did as the Angel had foretold. Jesus himself told us how we become his mother. Through ‘Hearing the word and practicing it’. In Luke 8:21 Jesus says “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” These words of Jesus about his mother and his family are not a slight on Mary but are reminding us of how he wants everyone to belong to His family through hearing and practicing the word of God. These words of Jesus present to us a new dimension of relationship as different from blood relationship. To hear and practice God word is summarized in the word obedience and it is this obedience that puts us into God’s family.
In Genesis Adam and Eve were driven from the garden of the beautiful family of God because their disobedience: they heard but did not practice. Therefore, whenever we hear and practice we enter into the family of God; were all those on earth who obey God’s will are our brothers and sisters, including those in heaven, and in purgatory. And so Blood relationship is limited but relationship by obedience is unlimited.
To be related to God is not by blood but by obedience to God’s will in John1:12-13 the bible says “but to all who received him, who believed in his name he gave power to become the children of God, who were born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man but of God. John15:14 says you are my friend if you do what I command you, John 14:15 says if you love me keep my commandment, again.
Therefore, hearing and practicing make us mothers, brothers, and sisters of Christ in so doing we can bring him forth to others. If we say we are children of God, then we should behave like children of God. A true child will listen to his father and do what he says. Today Christians are gathered in their thousands in churches and the territory is not affected simply because we hear and don’t practice. James 1:22 says “ But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Jesus is not born today in the hearts of many because we have become deceptive Christians. We conceive evil desires in our heart just as James 1:15 says ‘Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.’
If we hear and don’t practice we are going to remain at the level of unfilled maternity. That is to conceive and don’t give birth and one of the things that can lead to that is abortion. No doubt, some people are in this act of spiritual abortion. Who conceive the word and don’t give birth by practice. On the other hand, we have those who practice out of gain, these are Christian actors, they know how to live out the Christians rules without in-depth conversion. These are they, like the bible says worship with mere lips but their hearts are from him. (John4:23-24)
Therefore, in that Great advice in John 2:5 Mary said at the wedding Feast at Cana “Do whatever He tells you!” (tell someone that advice don’t joke with it. if you don’t do what he tells you; then who told you what you are doing?) God bless you!
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Diocesan Marian Pilgrimage 2019