The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Commentary on Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Ephesians 1:3-6,11-12; Luke 1:26-38

The Immaculate Conception means that Mary from the first moment of her existence was totally free from the influence of that universal sinfulness which touches us all from the time we are born. The reason behind this belief (which is not explicitly contained in Scripture, and was only infallibly defined in 1854) is that only a totally sinless environment was fitting for the Son of God in his becoming a human being. It has a very long history in the Church.

The First Reading reminds us that it was a woman (Eve) who was instrumental in bringing pain and suffering, the result of sin, to the whole world. It will also be a woman (Mary) who will be instrumental in bringing to the world its salvation and healing.

The Second Reading tells us that all of us have been called by God to share his love and blessings long before we even existed. This is even more true of Mary, who was singled out from eternity by God to be the Mother of his Son.

Today’s Gospel speaks, not of Mary’s conception, but that of Jesus. It begins the moment Mary says that ‘Yes’. The angel greets her saying:

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you…

In our Hail Mary prayer, “favored one” is translated as “full of grace”. Mary is filled with God’s love and God’s favour and especially singled out for this moment. “Full of Grace” has always been interpreted as indicating Mary’s total freedom from any taint of sin in her role as “Ark of the Covenant”. It was believed that the Incarnate Word should begin his human existence in an environment untouched by sin.

We can apply each of the readings to our own lives. We have been often the cause of sin and pain in other people’s lives. Let us rather be people who bring wholeness and healing.

Let us be deeply aware that, long before we were born, every single one of us has been called by God to know, love and serve him. We have been the constant recipients of his blessings. How will we respond? Unlike Mary, we were born touched by a sinful world. But we also can become filled with grace if, like her, we say a resounding and unconditional ‘Yes!’ to all that God wants from us.

Let us ask Mary today to help us to love Jesus as she did, right through the pain of the Cross to the joy of the Resurrection.

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