“Fear Not, Mary.” The angel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary reminds us of the reaction that the ancient Hebrews had when they realized they were in the presence of the Holy. All of the Old Testament and even New Testament figures were convinced that they would die because they were in the presence of God. It was not that they thought of God as hateful. It was that God was so holy that they a sinful people could not exist in His Presence. “Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man,” was not just Peter’s pious expression when he experienced the presence of Christ in Luke 5. Peter was expressing what all people recognize: our sinful lives cannot bear the Holiness of God.
Mary is different, though, very different. From the beginning of time, she was chosen as the one who would be completely holy. This highly favored daughter, Gabriel calls her, full of Grace, is completely removed from any sinfulness. She can bear the presence of the Holy Spirit overshadowing her. She can carry the Word of God within her. She is holy. Her holiness is our celebration for today, the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
God’s choice of Mary is evidenced in her response to His choice. She freely chooses Him. Different from Eve, the first woman, or from all people for that matter, Mary is obedient to God. The sin of Eden was not having room for God. Adam and Eve felt that they did not need God. Mary wanted God in her life. She would do all He instructed her to do. She is obedient and accepts the mission to be the mother of the Lord, even though this would bring her public shame and scandal as well as personal suffering.
The message of the feast for us is that we, like Mary, have to decide if our lives are going to revolve around God and His will, around goodness and love and reverence and charity, or if our lives are going to revolve around ourselves and our own needs. It takes a lot of courage, it takes a lot of strength, and it takes grace from God pushing us and pulling, but we like Mary have got to say, “Lord, whatever you want, let it be done unto me according to your will.”
We are not immaculately conceived, but due to Jesus's death we can be like Mary instead of like Eve. We can put God first in our lives. Eve was called the mother of all the living, but she failed her offspring by turning towards death. From the cross Jesus gave Mary to us as our mother. Mary’s continual choice of God, her decision to embrace the Life that matters, His Life, made her the true mother of the living, the true Eve.
Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception is the patroness of our country. We pray for the United States today. We pray that through the intercession of the Immaculate One we might return reverence for God to the center of our government, our families and all our lives. May we Americans like Mary, our Immaculately Conceived Patroness, be holy.