On December 8th the Church celebrates the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. The Catholic Church teaches us that from the moment of Mary’s conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from original sin. What this means is that Mary was in a state of grace from the beginning, sharing in God’s own life and free from inclinations of sin. In other words, God preserved Mary. We too are preserved by God, but maybe not quite like the Virgin Mary.
The Immaculate Conception allowed Mary’s yes at the Annunciation to be limitless, without any restriction in thought. This particular reading of the Gospel of Luke is one of my favorites. I can relate closely to Mary’s emotions, doubts, questions, and thoughts throughout the reading. As I recall being in my former religious community’s novitiate, this gospel reading became a part of my daily living. Daily, I prayed specifically with Mary, that she would teach me how to prayerfully ponder her fears, thoughts, questions and doubts, and how she was able to have the faith that she had when she was completely confused at certain times.
I’m sure Mary often said, “How can this be?” (verse 34). I often ask God how can this be? Why me? Once I take a step back and ponder Mary’s yes, then I can respond accordingly. I think too, in the readings of Mary, her words are so gentle and worded in such a way that keeps me in awe. I feel like I pray better when I ponder with Mary instead of taking my focus off of what’s really important.
She challenges me greatly! There are times when I, like Mary, am greatly troubled at my journey. I try to “ponder what sort of greeting this might be” when I come across hurdles (verse 29). Mary had every right to question God because she was told and not asked for this great task. Mary did not plan at age 15 to conceive a child and call him Jesus (verse 31). I’m sure she wanted to live a “normal” life.
When I prayerfully take apart my journey, whether it is a struggle or not, it is a greeting to something new in the walk with God. If I allow myself to share in Mary’s fear and allow God to take over, there is no room for fear. The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God” (verse 30).
As we allow time to seek favor with God, then we will be able to walk our journey with Mary’s YES. My prayer is that we, as young women, take time to ponder our journey and question God, but not testing God with our questions; asking God how can we best put on the armor of God and ponder the journey that has been gifted to each one of us. I hope this feast day of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is one of wonder and awe.