Dec 8, Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Readings: Gen 3:9-15,20; Eph 1:3-6,11-12; Lk 1:26-38
A Catholic theologian once said: “If you were able to create your own mother, wouldn’t you have made her the most beautiful, virtuous, perfect woman possible? Jesus, being God, did create his own mother (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), and he did just that--he created her immaculate and, in his mercy and generosity, kept her that way.” Today on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, we sing a new song to the Lord, because God chose Mary who would reverse the sin of Eve. We honor Mary because by her obedience, God’s salvation is made known to all the nations (Ps. 98). There are a number of biblical references that support the Church’s teaching on the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
1) In today’s Gospel we get one hint on the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the greeting of the Angel Gabriel: “Hail full of grace”. Here the Angel confirms that Mary is full of grace not just that moment, but from the very beginning of her life. From the moment of her conception in the womb of her mother Anne, God preserved Mary from all stain of original sin, because she would be the Mother of the Lord Jesus. The sinlessness of Jesus is the basis for the sinlessness of Mary.
2) The second hint on the Immaculate Conception comes from tradition in which Mary has been given the title “Ark of the Covenant”. In the Old Testament the “Ark of the Covenant” was a wooden chest that contained the Tablets of the Law given to Moses by God as we read in Exodus 40:18, and Deuteronomy 10:5). No sinner was allowed to touch or to carry the Ark of the Covenant because what it contained was most holy. Just as the Ark of the Covenant contained the Word of God, similarly Mary contained the Word of God physically in her womb. This confirms Mary’s holiness and freedom from sin from the beginning of her life.
3) What is more important is not the arguments from Scripture and Tradition to prove the Immaculate Conception, because we accept it as a teaching of the Church. What is important is what we learn from celebrating this feast. One important lesson we learn in today’s readings is the obedience of Mary. There is a sharp contrast between Adam and Eve in the first reading and Mary in the Gospel from Luke. While our first parents disobeyed God and denied any responsibility for their sin, Mary gives her total unconditional obedience to God. Because Eve failed in obedience, God gives us a New Eve in Mary. Her response is indeed an example for us: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done according to your word.” From her obedience, salvation comes to all humanity. Mary is not only a model of obedience for us, but also a model of faith, trust and hope in the Lord. ”Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45). Let us pray that we may take Mary as our Model of faith and hope in God as we wait to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
©2009 John S. Mbinda