Today we read in Luke 1:26-38 how God interacted in a new way with humanity in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It was the beginning of a new relationship for us all.
The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.
Today celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It observes the beginning of a closer interaction between God and humans. In the Old Testament, God’s interaction with humanity was always associated with fiery bushes, or lightning bolts from on high, or great cataclysms. In this passage from Luke, an angel appears before the virgin Mary and announces to her that the Holy Spirit will visit her, overshadow her, and she will become pregnant and give birth to the Christ Child. What an amazing gift, not only to Mary, but to humanity.
God is capable of immense power. He demolished armies and kingdoms in the Old Testament. Yet He is also capable of great gentleness. He shows great care and consideration for the kind and serene Mary. And so a new relationship between God and humanity began, one that continued through the life and ministry of His son, Jesus, and continues to this day.
This is a God of love. He interacted with a human and gave birth to a son to change the world. Through the life of that son, He taught us that while we have laws to live by, the most important law is to love. And when we give Him a chance, He interacts with each of us spirit to spirit, in a continued act of love. When we accept that interaction – that love – and share it with others, only good will come of it.
When we love God and we love others, we are doing God’s will. We act on that will by showing compassion, mercy, and charity. And through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ, we have a path to the Kingdom of Heaven after our death on Earth. Then we will appear before God in His magnificent glory.
“You have found favor with God,” the angel Gabriel said to Mary. Perhaps that is also a message to us, too. God has found favor with humanity, choosing to establish a new and lasting relationship through his son, Jesus the Christ. “Do not be afraid,” said Gabriel. Embrace God’s love and favor, as Mary did. And remember, too, Gabriel’s words, “nothing will be impossible for God.” No sinner is unsavable; no sinner is beyond redemption. What is required is our repentance, that we change our heart and our ways. God shows us mercy and compassion and asks us to show mercy and compassion to others in equal measure. Love for love, measure for measure.
Mary was the first to be blessed by God’s favor. We should all seek to continue in her example, trusting in God’s love and sharing it forward.