December 8, 2022
by George Butterfield
Creighton Univeristy - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 689

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Luke 1:26-38

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Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teaching states that “in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin….” This doctrine applies to Mary but is primarily about the grace of God. Jesus has not even been born to her yet, but it is through his merits that she is preserved from original sin. Mary owes everything to her son, the Savior of the human race, including herself.

In the Genesis reading the serpent is told that God will put enmity between him and “the woman.” Her offspring will strike at his head while the serpent strikes at his heel. The earliest Christians understood her offspring to be a reference to Jesus. The ancient serpent will strike at him, but her offspring will crush the serpent’s head. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ highlights this during the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus is arrested. A serpent is crawling on the ground and Jesus stomps on his head. I also find Jesus’ reference to his mother interesting. On many occasions he simply calls her “woman.” I don’t think he’s being disrespectful. He’s using the language of Genesis. She is “the woman.” She is the one whose offspring will destroy the work of the ancient serpent. Eve became “the mother of all the living.” The new Eve is the Mother of God.

All the ends of the earth have seen
    the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
    break into song; sing praise.
R.    Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

The same grace that preserved Mary from original sin also saves us. St. Paul calls us blessed, chosen, destined for adoption, and all because of God’s love for us from before the foundation of the world. It was God’s will that Mary be full of grace; it is his will that we receive his favor. He grants us his grace so that we become holy and without blemish. In doing this in us we “exist for the praise of his glory.”

When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary he refers to her as “full of grace.” Although Origen said that he had not found this word anywhere else in Scripture, it is used once more in Ephesians 1:6, today’s second reading. Mary is highly favored by God and will be the bearer of the Son of God. St. Paul says that we, too, are highly favored by God. God granted his grace to the virgin, and he grants it to us.

God is love. Flowing from his love is his grace and mercy. Mary received his grace from the moment of her conception. We receive that grace as adopted children of God. Today we celebrate the Blessed Virgin. Let us also celebrate that grace that was poured out upon us when our Father brought us into his kingdom. It is a kingdom of grace.

Be blessed today, brothers and sisters. Mary and her children are full of grace.

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