Good News Reflections:
Making scripture meaningful to your daily life
by Terry Modica
“Grace is God’s power received as a gift when we need it, regardless of what we do or don’t do.”
Good News Reflection for:
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 8, 2022
Praised be to You, my Lord, because You propose to me wonderful paths, which You have traced from Your infinite love. You simply wait for my decision to surrender to You. Amen.
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Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
The grace that protects us from sin
Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate the awesome miracle that God the Father granted to his specially prepared daughter so that she could become the mother of God the Son. We celebrate the all-knowing nature of God, who planned ahead for Mary’s participation in salvation history, knowing – before her conception – that she would choose to say yes in faith.
We celebrate the Holy Spirit, Giver of Life, who prepared a holy womb for the conception of Jesus’ human nature by first creating Mary without the effects of Original Sin. As a new Eve, her conception was “immaculate” (untainted by Original Sin), because Jesus, who is fully divine and perfectly holy, could not grow in the womb of a sinner. Only later, when he had complete control over his decision as an adult, could he join himself to the sins of the human race.
We celebrate Mary’s motherhood. In today’s reading from Genesis chapter 3, we see Eve become the mother of all the living, but she sins and she passes this sinfulness onto all generations. In the Gospel reading, Mary becomes the Second Eve, saying yes – through faith empowered by grace – to the vocation of becoming the mother of the only one who could redeem us from sin. Thus, Mary becomes the mother of all those who share in this faith, all those who want to be redeemed from sin and who want to give birth to Jesus in others.
We also celebrate the Church’s official pronouncement of Mary’s immaculate conception, which Pope Pius IX made official in 1854. Because this occurred in recent history, it seems like an “invention” of Catholicism, but Christians have understood this dogma and taught it to each other since the early days of the Church. Pius IX merely drew special attention to it, because the world’s influences had been eroding belief in this ancient dogma.
The idea that Mary could be conceived without bondage to Original Sin, and the related idea that Mary could spend her entire life free of sin, is not a glorification of her. It’s a glorification of God, who filled her with grace in order to protect her in a special way, to strengthen her faith, and to enable her to resist temptation throughout her life. “Let it be done to me according to your word” was not a sudden or temporary leap of faith for Mary; it was her life-long attitude. The power that enabled her to fulfill this desire came straight from the Holy Spirit as a gift of grace.
Grace is a gift, pure gift. Grace is God’s power received as a gift when we need it, regardless of what we do or don’t do. Placing ourselves into God’s grace, however, does depend on what we do. We were given this grace by baptism, but when we sin, we remove ourselves from the state of grace. We cannot sin and remain in God’s good graces.
When we repent, God’s mercy restores us to his grace. When we rely on this grace at the moment of temptation, we overcome the sin and we are restored to the peace of Christ.
For more on the topic of this subject see our WordByte, “What does it mean to be full of grace?” @ wordbytes.org/spiritual-growth/full-of-grace.
(For a classroom handout on this, see https://catholicdr.com/calendar/december/immaculate-conception/.)
© 2022 by Terry A. Modica
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