Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Remember that, for Catholics, today is a Holy Day of obligation. I hope you will make it a point to attend Mass. Let’s talk briefly today about what the Immaculate Conception is, and isn’t. Probably the most common misconception (no pun intended) that people have is that the Immaculate Conception refers to the moment when Jesus was conceived in the womb of Mary. This is incorrect. Others think that it refers to Mary being conceived without her parents having intercourse. This, too, is false.
The Immaculate Conception was defined officially by Pope Pius IX in 1854. But it has always been believed and taught by the Church. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 491, it says, “The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” In essence, Mary participated in the redemption of Christ from the moment of her conception.
Mary has many titles; the New Eve, the Ark of the New Covenant, the Immaculate Conception. As the first Christian (see today’s Gospel reading from Luke 1), it only stands to reason that she would be the first to receive the gift of Christ’s redemption. And notice that the Church does not say that this was because of any merit of her own. No, this was a singular grace, given by God, by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ. Mary herself intimates this in her magnificat…”For He has looked upon his lowly handmaid..” And, for every moment of her life, Mary exuded this grace and always pointed the way to Her Son.
Father, we thank you for the Immaculate Conception; for the example of our Blessed Mother. As we honor her, we thank you for allowing us to participate in that same redemption. Amen.