Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37
Question: How can Mary have never sinned yet have free will?
There certainly seems to be a contradiction between 2 Church teachings: free will and Mary's sinlessness.
If Mary never sinned, how is it that she had free will? It seems as if she may have simply been "programmed" never to sin, and therefore couldn't really make a fully free act.
I think the answer lies with this beautiful analogy:
Imagine a woman living in a cabin in the woods on a hill. From her elevated position she can see the origin of a river. A town is dumping sewage into the river. Downstream there is a family living near the river. From their position they cannot see that a town is dumping sewage into the river, so they drink from that river.However, the woman, from her vantage point, can see that the river is polluted--and while she certainly has the free will to drink from the river--has no desire to do so.
That, I think, is a wonderful way to portray the fact that there is no contradiction between having free will and never sinning.
And to complete the analogy, it might be appropriate to say: the family downstream has been informed that the stream is polluted (although it may appear invitingly clear), yet due to a "genetic" defect (Original Sin), wants to drink from it anyway.
That is, we as fallen human creatures know in our heads that a particular choice may be sinful, yet we choose to fully engage in that choice despite this knowledge. After all, the stream (sin) LOOKS clean, and we're thirsty and hot! Sin is alluring, and invitingly sexy and tempting and shiny and we think it will certainly quench our thirst!
We drink from the stream knowing it's got sewage in it because...well, because we want to.
Thankfully, we have a source, Jesus, the Eternal Logos, the Divine SignCarrier ("The stream is polluted!) that can knock us upside the head whenever we desire to drink from the stream.
And we have a source of strength--the sacraments--that can help us stay away from the stream despite our great thirst for this polluted water.
As a sidebar, I wanted to add a corollary to the above analogy: in some ways, all of us are, in fact, like this woman (Mary), for many types of sin.
For example, we are certainly free to: [fill in the blank with some mortal sin that we simply have no temptation to commit], yet we don't engage in that mortal sin, even with full access to our free will. We simply don't have the desire to commit that particular mortal sin. Just like Mary.
The only difference is that Mary did this with ALL her choices.
We only choose not to sin with some of our choices. Some times we have no desire to drink from the polluted waters.
But, unfortunately, some times we stupidly still choose to drink from the stream.
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