Immaculate Conception, Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
Today’s Gospel gives us an important perspective on today’s Solemnity.
First and foremost, the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception hinges on the Incarnation of the Word of God. When the eternal Word is circumscribed by human contingency, eternity is encapsulated by time and the redemption to come through Christ is already effective in Mary.
That admitted, Mary must still question because her knowledge is imperfect, must deliberate to decide, exert effort to do the right thing, will suffer pain and loss—and she will die even if death is not the final word. She may not be undermined by sin, but Immaculate Conception does not return Mary to the paradisiacal state of Adam and Eve in Eden. That phase of innocent unconsciousness is over and humanity has matured to another level: once sin becomes possible, freely embracing the will of God becomes possible and that is the life Mary lives.
Because a human being does not exist as an isolated entity but is necessarily part of the human network, her son, Jesus, is no exception. Even the sinless One, will receive John’s baptism of repentance, will be labeled a sinner, and die, really die, executed as a criminal. Mary Immaculate bears that same burden of humanity.
Because, as human beings, we are not isolated entities but part of a human network, we are not quarantined from the existence and holiness or mission of either Jesus or Mary. Like beacons in our murky struggles, they exemplify the freedom and rectitude that are possible for humans, no matter how gradually we grow into them. We can hope that one day we could learn, unfettered by the lethargy of sin, to grow in grace, in hope and even joy from life’s challenges rather than trip over them into some dead-end.
Mary’s very human life challenges our self-centered notions of an easy life, as life free from sin. Her example encourages our suspicions of a complacent, unchallenged—basically immature—life to embrace the sovereign, unpredictable sway of Grace.