The Immaculate Conception
Luke 1: 26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph
of the house of David,
and the virgin's name was Mary.
And coming to her he said,
"Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."
But she was greatly troubled by what he said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her,
"Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end."
But Mary said to the angel,
"How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?"
And the angel said to her in reply,
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold Elizabeth, your relative
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God."
Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word."
Then the angel departed from her.
And then I've personally imagined the rest:
And when the angel returned to God the Father
God asked him:
"What did she say?"
The angel said, "She said Yes!"
And the Father smiled.
The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary though formally defined as an Infallible teaching of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854 was a belief of the Church for centuries before. We see it implicit in the Gospel from today above as the angel states Mary's condition before he calls her name: "Full of Grace." Mary experiences what we ourselves can only wait to experience after our own death and at the time of the resurrection of the dead. To live totally and completely in a state of pure grace, redeemed from all stain and tendency towards sin by the redemption accomplished by her son and the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
Mary's condition is a future hope for us but she remains for us a powerful example and a significant intercessor before God. Conceived and born the natural human way, she is one of us, singularly chosen by God to bear his own Son who had taken on human nature, born from a human mother. The perfect Mother for the perfect Child; the new Eve and the new Adam.
God offers us the grace we need to set out on the road towards holiness. In the end, Mary is our example of following the will of God; to do what he asks of us, which will be far less than what he asked of Mary but the point is the same. "Let it be done to me as you will."
In your married or single life we are all called to the same - to carry out his will for us. In my ordained ministry and for any vowed religious man or woman, we too must particularly do what he has asked of us. Yet, how do we know we are on track?
To live by the Gospel, by his Commandments, to do good and avoid evil, to sacrifice for others, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty and to always seek what we know is right and good. That is his will for us, it seems. To pray regularly and simply to ask him.
Hail, Mary full of grace - pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.