Published in WelCom December 2020
Fr James Lyons
A popular interpretation of the ‘Immaculate Conception’ is that it refers to the conception of Jesus, because he was born of the Virgin Mary. But that is quite false!
The Catholic Church believes and teaches that Mary was herself conceived immaculate – that is, without the stain of original sin – in her own mother.
This happened through the foreseen merits of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. It was most fitting that she who was to be the mother of the Son of God should be free from the corruption that sin brought into the world.
There was nothing unusual about Mary’s conception. Her parents – tradition names them Anne and Joachim – conceived and brought her to birth as any other parents, but within her own being Mary was preserved from anything aligned with sinfulness.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8, celebrates the beginning of Mary’s life, and her birthday is honoured nine months later on September 8.
A correct understanding of this teaching is important for an appreciation of Mary’s role in the life of the Church and in our personal lives today.
As Mother of Jesus, Mary is also Mother of the Church, his Body, and mother of all who follow his way. Mary is not divine, except that like us she is made in the image of God, but her motherhood embraces the entire People of God and she is the perfect model of Christian discipleship.
Conceived immaculate, she is uniquely blessed by God and positioned to be the guiding light for a world seeking truth and justice, peace and security.
Without sin, she had profound confidence in the mission of Jesus, even though she did not know its outcome.
She could say ‘Do whatever he tells you’ to the servants at the Cana wedding, because she was not held back by the hesitation that comes with the pangs of guilt.
She could stand at the foot of the cross, at the scene of terrible torture, and grieve for her Son with a love that could never dissolve into despair.
She could support the Apostles broken by sorrow and doubt, and witness the birth of the Church with a heart full of forgiveness, because her privileged purity allowed a compassion untroubled by anger or pride.
The dying Jesus gave us into her keeping, assuring us we could not go wrong by walking her path and heeding her wisdom.
By modelling our lives on Mary Immaculate, our faith cannot but grow in confidence, our love reach out in service and our hearts beat an untiring rhythm of compassion and mercy.
May we rejoice again this year that, in Mary Immaculate, we are so richly blessed.
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