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Getting ready to conceive

– The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary –

The angel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.  And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.” [Luke 1:28-31]

The feast we celebrate today can seem a little odd to our modern sensibilities. It becomes even more confusing when we look at the Gospel text for the day. The text relates to the conception of Jesus. The feast is about the conception of Mary.

The crossover is intentional, and underscores the relationship between who Jesus is (the incarnate son of God) and who his mother is as part of God’s plan. There is no suggestion here that Mary was conceived in anything other than the most straightforward way. By the ‘immaculate conception of Mary’ we mean that from her very conception she was protected from the effects of sin that plague the human race. Through God’s gift and grace, she is prepared to be the worthy recipient of the One who is the origin of all.

It is in her exchange with the angel of God that we begin to see who Mary is.

Could we ever fathom the wonder of this tentative exchange between God and this humble, beautiful, strong young woman? But also think about this: the invitation to have Jesus Christ conceived in her is not for Mary alone. The whole point of your baptism was to immerse you in the fact that God wishes to take up residence in you. Of course, Mary’s experience of that is unique to her: she alone is the Mother of God. However, in her experience, we see what we are also invited to conceive: the life of the Holy Spirit in us that we might bring Christ to the world.

That God in his mercy wishes to reach down into your very being, take up residence in you and so transform you into a son or daughter of God, is the wonder we contemplate and celebrate during this Advent season.

By Shane Dwyer

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