Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8)
Today we celebrate the Feast of The Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception is one of the most misunderstood Catholic dogmas. It has nothing to do with the conceiving of Jesus within the womb of Mary – even though the Gospel reading today gives us an account of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel told Mary that she was to become the mother of Jesus. However, within today’s Gospel passage we can find the basis of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.
In today’s Gospel the Archangel Gabriel addressed Mary in the words ‘Hail Mary full of grace’. She was full of grace because of the Immaculate Conception, a divine gift to her from God. She didn’t earn it or merit it. God freely gave it to her, so she could provide a worthy, spotless and pure human nature for Jesus.
From the first instance of her conception in the womb of her mother, St Anne, by a singular grace and privilege granted by God Almighty, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the saviour of the human race, Mary was preserved free from stain of all original sin. So the Immaculate Conception is about Mary’s conception in her mother’s womb.
Today’s feast day gives us the perfect Image for Advent, Mary. Mary shows us the joy, the patient waiting, the hope and the promise of the season. She is the one who said yes to God’s will to become the mother of the Saviour. This is rare. Most of us go miles out of our way each day to avoid God’s will. God’s will is mysterious, consequential, it can unsettle us. But Mary trusted in God, she knew in saying yes that it was the essence of what it means to love. Mary’s great yes to the message from the angel is the perfect example of surrender to the will of God. God chose Mary and Mary accepted this and eventually consecrated her life to the mystery of salvation. Her consecration was a total self-offering to God’s will and purpose. God chose Mary and Mary answered and chose to do God’s will.
In baptism, all of us have been chosen too. The question remains as to the degree of consecration we will make. Because of free will, we can give or withhold ourselves from this commitment to the Lord. Mary surrendered her will to what the Father asked .The Holy Spirit invites us and empowers us to do the same. We are given the grace to do this but our co-operation is required. Mary serves as our model .She became the humble servant of God. And so can we.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen