08Dec The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1st Reading: Genesis 3:9-15, 20

Enmity between the serpent and the woman

But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.” The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you among all animals and among all wild creatures; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The man named his wife Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

Responsorial: Psalm 97: 1-4

R./: Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvellous deeds

Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation. (R./)

The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel. (R./)

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord all the earth,
ring out your joy. (R./)

2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

The saving grace of God applies in a special way to our Blessed Mother

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him, in love.

He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

The annunciation, when Mary said her total Yes to God

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


Most Highly-Favoured One

The feast of the Immaculate Conception centers on God’s loving power to make us holy. Our Blessed Lady’s integrity or holiness right from the moment of her conception is not something she achieved by her own power. It is a pure gift of God, given to her for a saving purpose. It was in her genes, as we might say today, on behalf of us all. For it was supremely fitting that the woman who brought our Saviour into the world should be herself totally free from sin and available to do God’s work.

Belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary is belief in a provident God, who provides for the future, who prepares His children for their assigned task in life even before they are born, a God who foresees and equips us with all the natural and supernatural qualities we need to play our assigned role in the drama of human salvation. God anoints them already in the womb those men and women whom He appointed as prophets. Jeremiah was told, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” God does not just launch us into this world as beasts, meant to fight it out among ourselves. The evolutionary view of the survival of the fittest, of “Nature red in tooth and claw,” may well describe the animal kingdom, but it is not the destiny of the people of God redeemed by grace from the harmful effects of the Fall.

As we admire our Blessed Lady, God’s most favoured one (“Full of grace”) on the feast of her conception, let us thank God for His love and mercy which embraces us right from the moment of our own conception. As Scripture says, “or who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Cor 4:7). Everything is gift, everything good in us is by God’s grace. For we all, children of God, are also favoured and heirs of God’s grace. On this feast day, Mary inspires us as the most favoured one, the mother of our Saviour, who enjoys the fullness of the grace of God

4 Responses

  1. John Forbes

    I love the interpretation you have with the Immaculate Conception and tied it with us. It opens a sense of hope in a time of turbulence with COVID 19. In a way it is the traditional understanding but has a twist that invites us into it and makes us feel proud, not giving us the merit, that God does not just show us what we are capable off but keeps giving us nudges in the right direction. Thank you so much.

  2. Paddy+Ferry

    Peter De Rosa in “Vicars of Christ”, the first serious piece of church history/theology that I read, tells us that there is not one iota of scriptural evidence to support this doctrine. Is that true?

    I remember telling this to one of my closest priest friends at the time and he was genuinely shocked. I had assumed that students at seminary would have been informed of the dubious nature of things like this.

    Do I dare mention Mary McAleese again !

  3. Sean+O’Conaill

    Holy? Could someone unpack this please, authoritatively.

    Is it something different from ‘obedient to the Great Commandment’?

    At the time of the row over Liberation Theology was it possible to be holy if one did not see the Gospel as mandating a preferential option for the poor?

    If I stated an intention to succeed in making my way to the top of Croagh Patrick, at night, and doing that backwards – would that be regarded as a holy intent, even if the rescue services expressed reservations about the wisdom of the enterprise?

    I am getting at, I hope, the silliness of those who attach holiness to spectacular privations that everybody has to know about – when the holiness of Mary surely had to do with humility and self-effacement and the tenderest, quietest love.

    The Mary who is always in need of yet another title, and voluble somewhere right now, at great length, is an attention seeker, a ‘holy show’ – and not the Mary of the Gospel.

  4. Joe+O'Leary

    Holiness is a complex idea: http://www.senpiyer.org/holiness/documents/kim.pdf But it’s also simple: living in the presence of God, in total surrender, so that one becomes an icon of that presence. Newman’s prayer expresses this: “Stay with me, and then I shall begin to shine as Thou shinest: so to shine as to be a light to others. The light, O Jesus, will be all from Thee. None of it will be mine. No merit to me. It will be Thou who shinest through me upon others. O let me thus praise Thee, in the way which Thou dost love best, by shining on all those around me. Give light to them as well as to me; light them with me, through me. Teach me to show forth Thy praise, Thy truth, Thy will. Make me preach Thee without preaching—not by words, but by my example and by the catching force, the sympathetic influence, of what I do—by my visible resemblance to Thy saints, and the evident fulness of the love which my heart bears to Thee.”

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