Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We celebrate God's preservation of her from original sin right from the moment of her conception. The mystery of God's love is such that the privileges given to an individual are also privileges meant for the whole community. He gives us talents and expects us to make use of them to benefit others. The singular privilege to Mary of the Immaculate Conception is also a gift to the whole of humanity, for through her we obtained a Savior, while she remains our most powerful intercessor.
The three readings invite us to draw from this solemnity a lesson for ourselves. The first reading narrating the fall of Adam and Even, shows us how we forfeited, and continue forfeiting the privilege to be children of God; by disobedience to his will. That disobedience brought a curse to the whole world. Not even Mary in her immaculate conception was spared its consequences, for she suffered the consequences of sin just as her son did. She suffered to see his continual persecution and eventual execution in her presence.
The gospel shows how Mary added to the privilege of immaculate conception the merit of personal holiness, by obedience to God. What she said once to the angel characterized the whole of her life: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” We must not assume that because Mary was conceived without original sin she was not capable of sinning. Also Adam and Even were conceived without original sin, but they sinned. She had her freedom and decided to use it correctly in choosing God's will.
In both the first and gospel readings we see our perennial struggle. In every willful choice we can chose like Adam and Eve, or we can choose like Mary, and each of these choices has corresponding consequences. But because of the damage of original sin, we cannot consistently choose good in preference to evil all our life. That is why today's feast is one of joy for us too. We don't just regrettably contemplate in Mary what we were intended to be, but can no longer be. On the contrary, we see that what Mary was from the very beginning of her life we are called to become through the Christian vocation. Thus, the words Paul addresses to the Ephesians can also describe us: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him."
In baptism original sin is removed from us. In Penance our personal sins are wiped away. The Eucharist and other sacraments help us in our weakness and constant inclination to sin. But all this leaves us a margin of freedom in which we can say "no" to God like Adam and Eve, or "yes" to Him like Mary. Through her intercession may we one day rejoice to be in the kingdom which was destined for us from the foundation of the world.