Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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)

At an interview for a job with the Church a young woman was asked what the Immaculate Conception means. The woman hesitated before answering and then sputtered the common misconception which many who should know better think.

The Immaculate Conception, of course, refers to the special dispensation from original sin which Christ’s paschal victory won for his mother. It means that sin never touched Mary from the moment of conception to her last breath on earth. It seems to be an exaggeration to say that she never knew the effects of sin. After all, she witnessed the terrible price that sin exacted from her son Jesus. But we may presume that at Jesus’ death her sorrow was not tinged by self-pity, as ours often is, or by contempt for Jesus’ executors.

In the polemics over the years about Mary’s Immaculate Conception Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, sometimes lose sight of the fact that Mary’s special grace is but an extension of every baptized person’s. Through Christ’s grace Mary never sinned, and through it Christians have their sins forgiven. Rather than contending over theological distinctions, Protestants as well as Catholics should seek to emulate Mary’s desire to have God’s will carried out in her.