‘Those who dislike any devotion to Mary are those who deny His Divinity or who ﬁnd fault with Our Lord because of what He says.’
These words of the Venerable and Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen remind us of an important truth when we consider the Blessed Virgin Mary: she is always pointing to God – it’s all about God and not about Mary. But, I hear you cry, we have come here to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, surely it’s all got to be about her? Well I am sorry to disappoint you, but it isn’t.
We are not here today to celebrate a doctrine, or a philosophical concept, because that is not what the church does. We celebrate a person, and through her, God. Mary, the spotless vessel, through whose loving obedience our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ became incarnate and was born, for the salvation of all humanity, is marked out for a life of perfect love and obedience. She becomes the first Christian, the tabernacle, the Ark of the new covenant, the new Eve, Mother of God and Mother of the Church.
In her response to the angel’s message Mary becomes totally open to God, totally vulnerable and totally reliant upon him alone. In her openness and her vulnerability there is the space in which God can be at work. In Adam and Eve we see how sin can separate us from God. In Mary we see how God begins to put that right. From the moment of her Conception she lives the life of the baptised: filled with sanctifying grace, united with God, because of what her Son will do. She is the model of what humanity can be, she gives us hope as Christians, and points us to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, whose coming as our Judge and as a baby in Bethlehem we prepare for in this season of Advent.
Mary trusts in God, she says ‘yes’, and is filled with love, a gift which must be shared. She offers the church the perfect example of how to live a Christian life, in joyful hope and obedience: at the Marriage in Cana she says to the servants ‘Do whatever he tells you’. She stands at the foot of the Cross and watches her Son die to reconcile God and humanity. But in her joy and her sorrow she is truly free, to love and serve God. She is freed to show us, as Christians, how to live our lives loving and serving God and one another, and to show us the wonderful work of her Son who frees all humanity, who saves them, and who loves them.
So, today, let us pause to ponder the love of God shown to us in Mary, let us be fed by word and sacrament, the Body of Christ, which became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, let us treasure him, and let us respond by loving and trusting God, by living lives of service, of God and of one another, and proclaiming the Good News in Jesus Christ, so that all creation may resound with the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.