Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception:
Assuming Her Role, Assuming Our Roles
Now this is confusing. This celebration, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is about Mary’s beginning within her mother, Anne, nine months before she was born. The feast is about her conception. But the Gospel is the Gospel of the Annunciation. The Gospel is about Jesus’ conception within Mary.
If we delve deeper into the celebration, though, today’s gospel is really the right gospel for this feast. God had a plan to restore His life to mankind. His holiness would come into the world as the New Adam, the Perfect One. The Perfect One would respond to the Father with obedience. The Perfect One would save mankind through sacrificial love. The Perfect One would become a human being. But how could God’s holiness be formed within a sinful person? How could someone whose soul carried the death of sin give birth to the Lord of Life? A woman would have to be formed who would be fully related to God. The future Grace of the Resurrection would be given to her. Today’s prayer over the gifts calls it her prevenient grace, a grace that was anticipated for her. And so Mary was conceived without sin, the Immaculate Conception.
Still, God’s plan was not forced on Mary. She could have chosen not to become the mother of the Lord. She was without sin, but not without free will. Adam and Eve were created without sin. But they chose not to be obedient to God’s plan. Mary could have done the same. She could have thought that others would persecute her and mock her for getting pregnant before living with her husband. She could have feared that Joseph would reject her. She could have realized that her life would be very difficult if she said “Yes,” to the angel. Only, she chose God no matter what toll this would take on her. She chose to allow God to enact His plan. Today’s Gospel is the right gospel for the Immaculate Conception because it relates how the Immaculate Conception bore fruit: Mary remained united to God. She would allow his plan to take place within her.
We who are related to God by the grace of our baptism are also given opportunity after opportunity to allow his plan to reach its fulfillment within us. We are called upon to be loving in a world that celebrates hatred. We are called to be kind to the rude. We are called to be giving to those who want to take everything they can from us. We can allow God’s plan to take place within us. We can choose just as Mary chose. Or we can reject God and follow the choice of Adam and Eve.
Choosing God’s plan may appear to be so much harder than pushing God aside and caring only for ourselves. But happiness and joy can only be present where God is present. Has there ever been a saint, canonized or not canonized, who has not died happy? All people who die united to God die with the deep joy of knowing that they have been part of His Plan.
Like Mary, we have the choice of our lives set before us. Will we choose God or choose to go our own way? We pray today for the intercession of Mary to obtain for us the grace we need to assume our role in God’s plan for mankind.