Browsing Homilies

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

8 December 2020

Gn 3:9-15, 20 | Ps 98 | Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 | Lk 1:26-38

John Henry Newman, reflecting on Mary’s nurturing of the child Jesus, wonders in one of his sermons what the mother of the Lord—the one who cares for him, heals his bruises, and encourages him as a child—what she should be like who had such an important function.

He says that if John the Baptist was sanctified by the Spirit before his birth, shouldn’t Mary be prepared in a similar way for the birth of her Son? From her birth, he says, she was without sin in order that she might surpass all the saints not only in her holiness but in being the first to benefit from the grace of Christ.

All of us baptized receive the life of God within us; it means we become the sons and daughters of God, destined for eternal life, members of the Body of Christ, branches on the vine that is Christ.

The great Catholic theologian Karl Rahner wrote that Mary is like us in receiving the gifts of God’s grace, but the main difference is that she had them from the beginning of her earthly life. What God gave to the mother of His Son pictures for us what grace intends for all of us. What God gave to the mother of His Son was given to prepare her for that honor; in our case that closeness to God is given only after our birth.

In both cases it is made plain that such a great gift is just that, a gift, something we could never have produced or imagined on our own.

Everyone, Mary included, at all times receives salvation and closeness to God as a gift. We observe in Mary Immaculate the first untainted example of the gift and love God intends for every human being. Too, in her willing and generous response to the angel we have modeled for all of us the responsiveness to God’s grace that allows that gift to change us.

Mary, Mother Immaculate, you who are humanity’s solitary boast, pray that we learn in this Advent season to be ever more open to what God intends to do in us.


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