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Monday, December 7, 2020

Reflection 2020-12-08 Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
Mary to St Bernadette in Lourdes:
"I am the Immaculate Conception"
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on December 8 1854 in an Apostolic Constitution entitled: Ineffabilis Deus (God Ineffable). Some have accused Catholics of believing something that was invented in 1854. This comes from a misunderstanding of how the Church proclaims a matter of faith as True. Isaac Newton formulated the law of gravity in the 17th century. This does not mean Newton invented gravity only then. It just meant that Newton was able to articulate this theory at that time through study and observation. This proclamation works in the same way. The Pope did not just invent this truth. There was study and prayer that went into it. The Pope was articulating a fact that had been recognized since the time of the Apostles. Luke himself shows his respect for Mary when he included her, not only in the Gospel, but also in the Acts of the Apostles.
The Pope proclaimed infallibly: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.
At her conception, God preserved Mary from original sin. This shows that we are saved, not by good works, but by the grace of God because God took the merits of Jesus Christ and applied it to Mary even before she can do anything. Mary was saved by her Son even before he was conceived. God can do this because God is beyond time and space.
What is the scriptural proof of this? While this term is not in Scripture, just as the terms Trinity, Bible, hypostatic union are not in the Bible, we can infer this from Scripture. The Gospel shows us the greeting of the Angel: Hail, full of grace! The term full of grace means there is no space for anything else but grace. When we pour water to a cup, when it is full, there is no space for anything else to fill it.
Why is the Immaculate Conception a matter of faith all Catholics should believe? It shows us the power of God, first, to apply the merits of the death of Jesus several years later to Mary’s conception. It also shows that the life of Mary is the life God originally willed for us. God created Adam and Eve without sin. But Adam and Eve rejected the life God had planned for them which opened creation to the original sin. In contrast, Mary was conceived without original sin but she accepted and surrendered her life to God. Was Mary tempted? Scripture did not say, but probably, just as Jesus was tempted. Did Mary suffer? Simeon told Mary a sword will pierce her heart. Did Mary sin? The answer is NO because she is full of grace, by the grace of God. Although she was tempted, she did not sin. If sin is rejection of God, Mary could not reject Jesus who is God, because he is her Son. Normally speaking, a mother’s love is the most intimate love any human being can give. Therefore, the love of the Mother of Jesus for her Son is the most intimate love any human can give to jesus. Because she is the Mother of God, no one can love God more than Mary.
At the end of her life, Mary was assumed to heaven. She is in heaven today, body and soul, seated with Jesus.
The life of Mary, from her immaculate conception to her assumption to heaven shows God’s original plan for humanity. As St Paul said in the Second Reading: he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. God wants us to be holy and blameless. Mary has shown us how to live that life: one of total surrender to God, of total trust in the Father, echoing her song: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. We acknowledge God for who he is: our God and Savior. We come before him in humility so God will bless us – because the mighty God will do great things for us, his name is holy.
The Immaculate Conception shows us God’s love by calling us to himself. It also shows us his love by giving us power to live this life if we allow him to do so. In the end, holiness is a work of God: the Mighty One has done great things for me. God works in us, when we invite him to our lives. The only way to holiness is to tell the Lord: Let it be done to me according to your Word.
Lord, you have called me to be holy and blameless in your sight. Here I am. I give you permission to enter my life to make me holy. Do great things for me I allow you to do to me according to your Word. Mary, you are blessed of all women, lead me to the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

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