Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Gospel Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“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 called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
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.
No one would write a love letter on a coffee stained sheet of paper. No one would paint a picture on a damaged wall. And God would not become flesh in anything less than in an immaculate conceived woman.
You would not put an important letter on a coffee stained piece of paper. If you are going to write a love letter to a spouse but the only paper you have in the house was a coffee stained I would dare to say you would go to the store to get a clean piece of paper. Or if you were an artist painting in a building and the wall you are painting was damaged you would not paint over that spot until the damage is fixed.
The same logic applies when God the Father preserved the Virgin Mary from all stain of sin. When the Word of God took on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary is was only proper that that womb would be immaculate. From the beginning of all time God planned for Mary to be immaculately conceived. She was preserved from sin from the first moment of her conception because is it fitting that her purity would match the purity of the Word of God. Why? Because the Word was inscribed into her flesh. Just like ink seeps into paper, the Word of God penetrated into the flesh of Mary. God knew that His word needed to have a proper place to be received. Mary was preserved from sin because her heart is the treasure trove of the entire life of Jesus.
Mary is the only person who witnessed the entire Gospel message. There is no other person who saw the entire life of Jesus Christ, including the birth of the Church after His ascension into heaven. Mary existed before Jesus was born, accompanied Jesus thought out His entire life, and was present at the moment of his death on the cross. She accompanied the apostles in the post-resurrection experiences, watched her Son ascend into heaven and was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles. She is the only one who saw the entire Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Consider other key figures in the Gospels. Joseph died sometime during Jesus’ teenage years. John the Baptist lived for most of Jesus' life but he died three years before Jesus. St. Peter, St. John and St. James only knew Jesus for three years of His earthly life. Paul never even knew Jesus while walking on earth as a man. We ascribe with an incredible amount of dignity to all of these men: St. Joseph, John the Baptist, John the apostle who wrote a gospel, and St Paul who wrote many of the letters in the New Testament. We respect them as the source of revelation and some of them wrote the scriptures that we consider infallible to this day. Yet none of them saw the entire life of Jesus Christ.
But Mary did. Mary is THE primary witness of Jesus’ entire life.
Mary was prepared to receive Jesus in her womb because she contemplated the Hebrew scriptures throughout her childhood. In this way she prepared her heart and mind to be the proper place to receive the true Word of God, Jesus Christ. Mary was a contemplative woman. A word that the Gospels associate to the Blessed Virgin Mary is ponder. Mary pondered what sort of greeting came from the angel Gabriel. And two times in the second chapter of Luke it said that “she pondered all these things in her heart,” referring to the events of Jesus' life.
Because Mary pondered Jesus' life she was the first place were the entire memory of his life was stored. Consider this: We honor the sacred scriptures with marks of respect. If Bible has any dignity, if it has any value, it is because it records the memory of Jesus. We would never damage a bible because of the great message contained within. Now consider that the Bible was not completed until 412 A.D. at the Council of Hippo. The first letter in the New Testament wasn’t even written until around 60 A.D.! But prior to any book of the bible being written Mary herself was the first place entire message of Jesus Christ was kept. Mary's heart is the paper on which the Gospel was first written!
Now just like we would protect the dignity of the bible, so Jesus preserved Mary from sin so that her heart would be the proper place where all the memories of Jesus' life would be stored. Mary's heart is the paper on which the Gospel was written. The Gospel was not written in ink. It was written in flesh… the flesh of Jesus Christ. He IS the Gospel. He IS the good news. He IS the message that we speak and that we preach. And Jesus took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. More certainly than ink on paper Jesus, the Word, was inscribed in the Virgin’s flesh.
Scriptures testify that Mary, “pondered all these things in her heart.” These “things” are the events of Jesus life. Mary was present at all the key moments of Jesus' life: When He was incarnated; When He was born; When he was found at the temple. Even when He performed his first public miracle it was at the direct request of the Blessed Virgin Mother who said, "Do whatever He tells you." Jesus did not choose to start His public ministry; Mary chose to start His public ministry. Mary was also present when Jesus was preaching and teaching.
And she was present when Jesus was hanging on the cross. It could be said that she was His focal point while He suffered on the cross. While on the cross Jesus said, "Woman behold your son" and then He said, "Behold your Mother." At that moment Mary became our mother. Jesus gave His mother away to US on the cross.
Then after Jesus died Mary waited silently. Now, I know that this is not recorded in the Gospels as we have them today but it is a pious tradition, and I think that it is the right tradition, that says when Jesus was raised from the dead the first person he saw was His Mom. I know that if I rose from the dead the first person that I would probably go see is my mother, especially if she was the one who was there when I suffered. And when Jesus rose it’s fitting to think that He rose and said, "Mom I’m here."
Then after Jesus rose Mary was present at his Ascension into heaven. Mary was also in the upper room when Pentecost took place. Mary was there for every key moment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the very reason why we pray the rosary. I encourage every single one of you to increase your devotion to the rosary. If you do not pray the rosary frequently, then you are missing a key devotion of our Catholic Christian life. In four mysteries of the rosary we meditate on a different aspect of Jesus’ life. In this way we imitate Mary who, “Pondered all these things in her heart.” When we pray the Rosary we ponder the life of Christ in our heart.
Consider the mysteries. In the joyful mysteries we ponder the early childhood of Jesus on up to when He was a teenager. In the luminous mysteries we ponder the public ministry of Jesus Christ including the transfiguration. In the sorrowful mysteries we ponder the death and suffering of Jesus Christ just as Mary did when she stood at the foot of the cross. In the glorious mysteries we ponder Jesus resurrection and ascension into heaven.
The rosary is not about Mary, it’s about Jesus. Even the Hail Mary signifies this: the central word of the Hail Mary is “Jesus.” To know Mary well is to know the Gospel well. So I encourage you to pray the rosary often or even daily. If you do in one week you will have recall the entire Gospel of Jesus’ life; and in doing that we imitate Mary who pondered the life of her son.
No one would write a love letter on a coffee stained piece of paper and no one would paint a picture on a damaged wall. And when God became man he entered the immaculately conceived womb of Mary. Mary’s heart is the paper on which the Gospel is written.