“Hail, full of Grace, the Lord is with you,” that greeting that Gabriel gave to Mary is part of our Catholic DNA. We say it over and over when we recite the Hail Mary, “Hail Mary, full of Grace.” Perhaps we have heard this greeting so much, we have repeated it so often, that we have missed the deep mystery it contains. Mankind had cut itself off from God. Mankind was in sin. A few good people allowed themselves to be open to God, and were called for a particular mission. But they knew that they were sinners, and did not deserve to be in the presence of God. They had to be purified for the mission. The prophet Isaiah had a burning ember touch his lips to purify him from sin. Ezekiel had to eat the scroll of God’s will for him to possess God within himself. After Jesus came, we still needed to be freed from the grasp of sin bu fully accepting His Life through baptism.
Mary, though, did not have to be purified. The angel Gabriel addresses her as “Full of Grace.” She was not cut off from God. She did not need to be baptized by Jesus. The Victory of the Cross was anticipated for Mary. That is what the prayer over the gifts calls prevenient Grace. Mary was that person whom Genesis said would come. She would be the mother whose child would fight the devil. We celebrate God’s choice of Mary today as the one who was always “full of grace.” We call this state of being full of grace from the first moment of her existence the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Mary was conceived without sin so she could be the mother of the holy of holies, the mother of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the mother of the Son of God. God had a plan to do God’s will.
St. Paul tells the Ephesians and us that we were also chosen to be holy and blameless before God. We were not immaculately conceived, but we are still part of God’s plan. He has adopted us as his sons and daughters. We are called to bring His Presence to the world.
Mary agreed to God’s plan when she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.” We also have the capacity to agree to God’s plan. This is a prayer that we need to make daily, “Lord, may your will be done, not my will, but may your will be done.”
Yes, we are not immaculately conceived, but due to Jesus’s death we can be like Mary instead of like Eve. We can put God first in our lives. Eve was called the mother of all the living, but she failed her offspring by turning towards death. From the cross Jesus gave Mary to us as our mother. Mary’s continual choice of God, her decision to embrace the Life that matters, His Life, made her the true mother of the living, the true Eve.
Mary under the title of Immaculate Conception is the patroness of our country. We pray for the United States today. We pray that through the intercession of the Immaculate One we might return reverence for God to the center of our government, our families and all our lives. May we Americans like Mary, our Immaculately Conceived Patroness, be holy.