Gospel Reflections

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Luke 1:26-38

Feast Day Reflection by Sister Marilyn Kerber

Published: December 08, 2015


“Grace is God’s favor; grace is participation in God’s life. … Thus grace is not a thing that comes from God but is an act of God that shows us something of who God is.  To ‘receive grace’ is to experience God acting… in our lives.”  This quote from Sacramental Theology by Kurt Stasiak, OSB is at the heart of the Feast of the Immaculate Conceptions which we celebrate today. The Church is reminding us that Mary had this grace, participation in God’s life, from the first moment of her conception. And it is also a reminder that we, through our Baptism also have grace.  We, too, can experience God acting in our lives as Mary did. The liturgical year is graced because, with each season and each feast, we are able to reflect on how God wishes to act in our lives.

The Church situates this feast in December, in Advent and close to the Birth of Jesus. This year, there is a wonderful added “layer” to this feast.  Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy and it begins today. There might well be a myriad of reasons why the Holy Father has chosen this feast to begin this special year. It is obvious in his writings that Mary holds a special place in his life, his prayer. I invite us this year to reflect on the connection between Mary and Mercy. The best definition/description of Mercy that I have found thus far is “Mercy is the form love takes when it encounters misery. It is first of all a form of love because it wants what is good for the one loved.” (Magnificat Year of Mercy Companion and the quote is from John Dominic Corbett, OP).  Today’s Gospel is the story of the Annunciation. Mary is told by the Angel Gabriel that she is full of grace and that she has found favor with God. She will conceive the Son of the Most High, the Son of God!  Mary’s “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.” was her response to the One she loved.  In saying yes to God, Mary would also respond in love when she encountered misery: Simeon’s “a sword shall pierce your heart,” the loss of Jesus in the Temple, the crucifixion of her Son. 

What does this feast day and the beginning of the Year of Mercy have to say about how God might wish to act in your life and mine? 

  • God invites us to act/make decisions out of grace, our sharing in God’s life, as Mary did in her life. What is God asking of me at this time in my life?
  • Each of us is invited to “birth” Christ into our world, help Christ come alive for the people in our lives. How do I do this?  How might I do this better than I already do?
  • In particular during this Year of Mercy how will I encounter misery with love? We do not need to do so alone; we can do so in the company of Mary.   

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