Today (December 8th) we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This year it falls on Saturday but because it is our National Feast Day in the United States, it remains a Holy Day of Obligation. I serve as Pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Ithaca so it is also the patron feast day of our church and school.
When some people hear “Immaculate Conception” they think of Jesus’ conception in Mary’s womb. The gospel reading for today is the story of the Annunciation but the Immaculate Conception we celebrate today is not Jesus’ conception but rather Mary.
At the Annunciation, Mary said yes to God. At the Wedding Feast of Cana, Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. Mary is the one who does God’s Will.
God transcends time and knew from the beginning that Mary was say yes. Thus, when Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb, God ensured that she was conceived without Original Sin so that she would be worthy to carry Jesus in her womb. Our prayers at Mass today speak of “prevenient grace.” That’s grace given before that is given in anticipation of Mary’s yes. That’s the Immaculate Conception.
Our first reading from Genesis and our gospel reading for this feast tell the story of two women, Eve and Mary. Eve was the first woman. In those days there was only one commandment from God. They were not to eat of the fruit of just one tree. Just one commandment and Eve, tempted by the serpent, broke that commandment. That’s Original Sin. That sin that began with Eve lead to the suffering we knew in this world.
Our gospel reading tells how the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to proclaim that she was to be the mother of our Savior Jesus Christ. Mary did not understand how this could be but she trusted in God’s Word and said yes. From her “yes” comes our salvation.
God has a plan for each of us. When we say ‘no’ to God bad things happen. It’s not that God is mad at us and causes the bad things to happen. Rather God doesn’t want us to do “bad things” because He knows what will happen. When we say “yes” to God, incredibly good things can happen.
Mary is our example. Let us all have the grace we need to say yes to God.