“I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3: 15).
There is a never-ending warfare between mankind and the powers of evil. Evil affects each of us who are the offspring of the first woman, and at times we wonder whether there’s any hope of victory.
Mary was full of grace from the first moment of her existence when she was immaculately conceived. “God the Father made a gathering of all the waters and called it the sea; he made a gathering of all graces and called it Mary.” Jesus came to us through Mary, and Mary, full of grace, can help us on our way to Jesus. Pray to Mary every day, especially the Rosary. Let us take Mary’s hand and allow her to lead us to Jesus. As Catholics we believe that the Virgin Mary at the moment of conception was preserved in advance from all defilement of original sin by a unique privilege of grace in view of the merits of Jesus Christ (dogmatic definition, 1854).
The Immaculate Conception means that the redemptive act of Christ has begun. It is a celebration of Christ’s victory over sin, the victory of an offspring of woman over the power of evil. There is already life, the fullness of life, the divine life of Christ’s grace, in the womb of Mary’s mother.
Perhaps it boggles your mind that anyone who is fully human, as Mary was, could be sinless. You and I, after all, don’t know anyone who is without sin. In the Immaculate Conception our faith tells us the grace of Christ is effective; it does triumph over the sinfulness of mankind. If we cannot believe that the grace of Jesus Christ overcomes sin in Mary, how can we believe his grace touched our lives in Baptism? We’re still in sin and always will be. Either his grace can save us, or it can’t. Either it can be totally victorious over evil, or there is no victory over evil. Mary’s Immaculate Conception, then, is an anticipation of our own Baptism in Christ, an anticipation of the day when, if we say “yes” as Mary did, we will be totally submitted to God’s will for us, the day of our full redemption.
We look on the purity of Mary with admiration. She is the first believer in Jesus. She is the first Christian. We look on Mary as a model for us. Everyday we struggle against temptation and sin, or because of events in the past that have hurt us. We can and should pray to Mary to help us on our journey, to help us fight temptation and sin. In our first reading we heard about Eve leading Adam into sin. Mary is the New Eve because at the Annunciation and all through her life Mary restored the relationship broken by the first Eve. She is the New Eve because she is the mother of all those born into new life through the grace in Christ. For this reason another translation of Gen 3:15 in the first reading today reads as Mary crushing Satan’s head. In our moments of trial let us turn to Mary for help. She like us had to struggle with what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In the temple Simeon predicted that a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). When Jesus was lost she had to learn that Jesus’ heavenly Father comes first (Luke 2:49). Mary too had to take up her cross after Jesus even though she was immaculate.
Today we celebrate in honor of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and not just because of this special grace given to her but also because we regard Mary in a special way a mother to all of us, a mother whom we love and a mother who loves us, a mother to whom we can tell everything, a mother who wants what is best for us.