Homilette for Monday, December 8, 2008

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(Genesis 3:9-15.20; Ephesians 1:3-6.11-12; Luke 1:26-38)

Once in a while in newspapers, Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is referred to as her “Luke 1:26-38.” Both events are mysteries of faith, but we must be careful not to confuse the two.

We believe that Mary, by virtue of a special grace anticipating her being the mother of Jesus, was immaculately conceived. This means that from her conception in her mother’s womb she suffered none of the effects of the sin committed by Adam and Eve. We remember that the first humans disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit. Actually concupiscence – the desire to be like God – caused Adam and Eve to disobey. What to them was a radical decision, to their descendants has become an innate defect. Mary alone, except for Jesus, the “God-man,” was spared of this fate.

The gospel today demonstrates Mary’s innocent nature. Addressed by God’s messenger as “full of grace,” Mary has difficulty understanding that the angel is referring to her. And when told that she will conceive of the long-awaited Messiah, Mary expresses no desire for illicit sexual relations. We can say that Mary possesses neither pride nor lust, two of the graver manifestations of the sin inherited from Adam and Eve. Rather her disposition is one of submission to God’s authority. She responds, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Of course, Mary gives birth to Jesus who eventually gives himself over to death so that humans might overcome their inclination to disobey God’s commands. We are not conceived, like Mary, with a completely innocent nature. But through Christ’s efforts, we can conquer pride, lust and other forms of sin.