Gen 3:9-15, 20 Lk 1:26-38
Dear friends! The gospel today can confuse us somewhat because it tells us about Jesus’ conception. It was read today, first of all, because there is no gospel telling us about the moment when Mary was conceived. And secondly today’s gospel does give us an important piece of information about Mary related to today’s feast. The angel greeted her as: “Full of Grace”. Our feast celebrates what the angel stated. There was no moment in Mary’s life when God’s grace did not fill her. She was full of grace. The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady is a dogma of our faith which is in Sacred Tradition although not explicit in the Bible but implicit. There are hints of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady in the Bible.
We get one hint of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in the Gospel today, the account of the Archangel Gabriel’s visit to Mary announcing the birth of Jesus. The angel said to Mary, “Hail, full of grace!” (Luke 1:28) Sometimes this is translated as “Rejoice, highly favored one” but that is not really a good translation of the Greek in which Luke wrote his Gospel. The particular word Luke used to describe Mary as “full of grace” means that Mary was full of grace all her life. It means that Mary is full of grace not just at the moment the angel comes to her but that she is full of grace since the beginning of her life. Luke could have used a different word to show that Mary was full of grace only at that particular moment as when he described Stephen “full of grace” only for a moment in Acts 6:8 before he was stoned to death. But Luke insists that Mary was full of grace all her life. So indirectly we get a hint of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the account of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary in the Gospel today.
We get another hint of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in the Bible. Mary carried Jesus in her womb for nine months and we think of this especially during this Advent season. One of the titles given to Mary is “Ark of the Covenant.” The Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament was a chest made of wood to carry the two stone tablets containing the commandments God gave Moses (Ex 25:16). So we could say the ark contained the word of God and Mary contained Jesus the Word of God in her womb, so for that reason Mary is sometimes called Ark of the Covenant.
In the Old Testament those who were called on to move the Ark of the Covenant could not be sinners because the ark was considered so holy since it carried God’s word (1 Chron 15:14). In like manner, Mary, who is the new Ark of the Covenant, could not be touched by sin. It makes perfect sense that God would specially prepare Mary in holiness to carry Jesus in her womb. God and sin are opposites, and God prepared the sinless Virgin Mary to be a fitting mother to Jesus his Son. It is also fitting that Mary who was free from sin from the first moment of her existence was assumed body and soul to the glory of heaven at the end of her earthly life.
As we rejoice with Mary, God’s most favored one (“full of grace”) on the feast of her conception, let us thank God for His love and mercy which embraces us right from the moment of our own conception. Everything is gift, everything good in us is God’s grace. For we all, children of God, are also favored ones and heirs of God’s grace. Yet Mary remains the most favored one, the mother of all favored ones, the one that enjoys the fullness of grace.