The Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception when we remember that Mary was free from original sin from her very conception We set aside this day to commemorate this tenet of our Faith and to honor Mary in her complete holiness.
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
This verse from today’s Gospel reading tells us of Mary’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel. In the last few years, we have heard this referred to as Mary’s “yes”. But we should remember that before Mary said yes she expressed if not a hesitation, at least astonishment. She wondered, how can this be? It is important to note that she asked this because it means that she was aware of what the angel was telling her and what she was being asked to do.
As she asked this, she must have been thinking of what it would mean to her to be pregnant. What could happen to her and to her family if Joseph rejected her? Being an unmarried mother in those days would have been unbelievably difficult. She could have been stoned to death, and her family would have suffered greatly. People were not seen as individuals as they are now, but members of their extended family, and what an individual did reflected on the whole group. Mary’s family would have found it very hard to believe that there was no human father; and her pregnancy could bring dishonor to all of them.
And this is why her acceptance of God’s Will takes on such importance. She knew that she was being asked to walk a journey she had never anticipated; to change all her plans; to become someone new.
Yet she said “yes” . And throughout the life of Jesus, she continued to say yes. When Simeon predicted her sorrows, when Jesus was lost, when she saw her Son crucified and when she held his body. For Mary, it was always the yes of acceptance.
God honored Mary by filling her with holiness, free of original sin. Mary honored God by saying yes throughout her life, continually repeating “May it be done to me according to your word.”
What of us? Do we accept the will of God in our lives? Can we accept our lives as Christians no matter what it may mean? Can we say, may it be done according to your will? Can we live our lives according to God’s Word, according to the message of the Gospel?
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.