Feast of The Immaculate Conception
Beginning the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy
As I began to read today’s scripture, I thought about why Pope Francis chose the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to open the Year of Mercy. Why not begin the year on the first Sunday of Advent or on January 1st, and make it a calendar year? However, I soon realized that this feast and today’s readings are filled with signs of God’s mercy. In the first reading, God, in Divine Goodness, has created Adam and Eve and given them Paradise with just one rule to follow. Afterwards how could God hold any mercy out to them (us) when they (we) couldn’t even follow one little command? But God IS mercy and so really pulls out all the stops – God gives his son to us. The second reading elaborates on that gift, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ” and then our beautiful gospel tells us of the Angel’s visit to Mary. Mary, this young girl, becomes the bearer of God’s mercy. Wow! She becomes the actual bearer of Jesus, who is God’s mercy for us. Mary herself lives that mercy as she visits her cousin, Elizabeth, to help Elizabeth prepare for the birth of her child, John, and again, at the marriage feast at Cana as she asks Jesus to help the hosts.
Reading the scriptures and recalling our own lives, we know that our God is indeed a merciful God. In fact, all of us and each of us are in need of forgiveness and of God’s love and mercy. It is that very mercy that will enable us to see the love of God and be transformed by it. It is that mercy that will help us understand God’s love and how we reflect that love when we show mercy to others.
Today as we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and as we open this jubilee, we look to Mary, the very bearer of God’s gift of mercy, his Son. In Pope Francis’ words, “”We entrust it as of now to the Mother of Mercy, because she looks to us with her gaze and watches over our way.”
And our question for today and for the next year must be how can I, like Mary, be a bearer of mercy, how can I, like Jesus, show mercy to all – sinners and saints, rich and poor, those in need and those with whom I walk daily. During this special year, may God’s mercy touch our hearts and through us touch the hearts of all we meet. May God’s mercy transform us and through us, transform the world.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.