The Immaculate Conception: ‘You have found favor with God’

December 7, 2023 at 12:48 p.m.
This stained glass image of the Immaculate Conception is found in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Long Branch, part of Christ the King Parish. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on Dec. 8. File photo
This stained glass image of the Immaculate Conception is found in Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Long Branch, part of Christ the King Parish. The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated on Dec. 8. File photo


We have heard St. Luke’s narrative of the Annunciation so often in the Church’s celebrations of Mary, the Mother of God. Today that Word is proclaimed once more as the Church throughout the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation for all Catholics.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, as our opening prayer mentions, "sinless from the first moment of her conception," accepts the Word of God spoken by Gabriel – and the salvation Christ would bring by his death was then conceived in her.  “The Word was made Flesh (John 1:14).”

What a beautiful relationship between her destiny at the time of her own “immaculate” conception in the womb of her mother St. Anne and the destiny of the Church at the time of her own conception.

As we read, as we listen to the Gospel, we can only imagine what it must have been like for this young woman — barely a woman, really — to hear the words "you have found favor with God … you shall conceive a son, Jesus … to be called Son of the Most High." Amazed, startled, "deeply troubled" as Luke tells us, Mary "wondered" what this was all about. "How can this be?" was her simple reply. Not a doubt, not a protest but an expression of wonder. Mary "wondered” what his greeting meant.

In her own mind and experience, her life was ordinary. She lived her life without much difference from her peers at the time. And yet our faith tells us that from the time of her conception, hers was a "life of love that never knew sin," far from ordinary and quite different than any other human being who ever lived. "How can this be?" The grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most-High. And in the experience of "wonder," Mary’s question was followed by her marvelous statement of faith, "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me."

What had happened in her own regard, in her own conception now was to bear witness to what would be as she herself conceived. And as she conceived Christ in her womb, the Church was conceived, we were conceived.

Quite simply, today’s solemn feast is set aside as a holy day – an  opportunity for us to reflect upon our own faith. Unlike Mary, we have been touched by sin. And yet, like Mary, we have also experienced the grace and power of God in our lives, drawing us beyond weakness, moving us closer to him. When we are tempted, our weakness often prevails. When we sin, we diminish our own destiny. At those times – at any time when we encounter human frailty – we must hear the Angel Gabriel’s announcement of salvation. How can we remain strong? How can we overcome? How can this be? The answer for us is always the same: the grace and power of God. And in our faith, like Mary, we hand ourselves over to God, to Christ remembering that "nothing is impossible with God," that in him and only in him, the impossible is possible. The unconceivable is conceived. "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me."

Today, Mary’s faith touches us deeply once again. The words of the opening prayer of the Mass should, indeed, be the prayer of our lives: "Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared … trace in our actions the lines of her love and in our hearts, her readiness of faith."

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”


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We have heard St. Luke’s narrative of the Annunciation so often in the Church’s celebrations of Mary, the Mother of God. Today that Word is proclaimed once more as the Church throughout the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation for all Catholics.

The Blessed Virgin Mary, as our opening prayer mentions, "sinless from the first moment of her conception," accepts the Word of God spoken by Gabriel – and the salvation Christ would bring by his death was then conceived in her.  “The Word was made Flesh (John 1:14).”

What a beautiful relationship between her destiny at the time of her own “immaculate” conception in the womb of her mother St. Anne and the destiny of the Church at the time of her own conception.

As we read, as we listen to the Gospel, we can only imagine what it must have been like for this young woman — barely a woman, really — to hear the words "you have found favor with God … you shall conceive a son, Jesus … to be called Son of the Most High." Amazed, startled, "deeply troubled" as Luke tells us, Mary "wondered" what this was all about. "How can this be?" was her simple reply. Not a doubt, not a protest but an expression of wonder. Mary "wondered” what his greeting meant.

In her own mind and experience, her life was ordinary. She lived her life without much difference from her peers at the time. And yet our faith tells us that from the time of her conception, hers was a "life of love that never knew sin," far from ordinary and quite different than any other human being who ever lived. "How can this be?" The grace of God, the presence of the Holy Spirit, the power of the Most-High. And in the experience of "wonder," Mary’s question was followed by her marvelous statement of faith, "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me."

What had happened in her own regard, in her own conception now was to bear witness to what would be as she herself conceived. And as she conceived Christ in her womb, the Church was conceived, we were conceived.

Quite simply, today’s solemn feast is set aside as a holy day – an  opportunity for us to reflect upon our own faith. Unlike Mary, we have been touched by sin. And yet, like Mary, we have also experienced the grace and power of God in our lives, drawing us beyond weakness, moving us closer to him. When we are tempted, our weakness often prevails. When we sin, we diminish our own destiny. At those times – at any time when we encounter human frailty – we must hear the Angel Gabriel’s announcement of salvation. How can we remain strong? How can we overcome? How can this be? The answer for us is always the same: the grace and power of God. And in our faith, like Mary, we hand ourselves over to God, to Christ remembering that "nothing is impossible with God," that in him and only in him, the impossible is possible. The unconceivable is conceived. "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me."

Today, Mary’s faith touches us deeply once again. The words of the opening prayer of the Mass should, indeed, be the prayer of our lives: "Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared … trace in our actions the lines of her love and in our hearts, her readiness of faith."

“O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

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