First, as Mary was preserved from any stain of sin, she was entirely disposed to doing God’s will in her life. As the angel Gabriel put it in the Gospel for this Solemnity: Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you (Luke 1:28). Since Mary is full of grace, she could not be sinful. There was not any room for sin, grace having, so-to-speak, filled up the space. This places Mary in a unique position. With no areas of opposition to God in her person, Mary is privileged to intercede for us. We can ask God, through her, that God will cleanse us of our sins and thus allow us to enter into His presence.
Second, Mary, through free faith and obedience, said yes to God’s plan for our salvation: [Gabriel said] 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…Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:31-32, 38). Mary’s choice was inevitable, given her character, yet that does not mean it was not free. Mary’s consent was a perfectly free act, and yet a perfectly predictable one. Mary was doing what she wanted to do - God’s will. We can look to Mary as the supreme example of a mere human being cooperating fully with God, and what wonderful works of His can occur if we too cooperate with Him.
Third, Mary is a worthy dwelling for God’s Son, Jesus our Savior. In the first reading for the Solemnity, God promised that the offspring of a woman will defeat the Devil’s plans for our destruction: I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel (Genesis 3:15). The Church, looking back in Old testament with the light that Christ’s Death and Resurrection of Jesus our Savior brings, finds this to be the first indication of what was brought to completion in the passage from Luke’s Gospel, above. Mary is known to be the woman whose Son would crush the Devil’s head. If Mary suffered even for a moment from the inherited stain of sin, she would not have had the enmity with the Devil of which this passage from Genesis speaks.
For us then, the gift God gave to Mary redounds to our benefit as well. Mary, in being preserved from the first moment of her existence from any stain of sin, is a privileged cooperator with God in bringing about our salvation. We can - by asking Mary for her help, following her example, and embracing her Son, Jesus as Son of God and Savior - be cleansed of our sins and admitted to God’s presence. Celebrating Mary’s Immaculate Conception is a way for us to rejoice over God’s mercy and a gateway to entering His presence.
Holy Mary, pray for us!
David J. Conrad