Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Immaculate Conception is Divine Mercy

Today, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church begins her Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, which lasts until the Feast of Christ the King next year.

Mercy is always extraordinary because it runs so contrary to our fallen nature. Our Lord Jesus Christ taking on flesh in the womb of the young virgin was Divine Mercy, which is why we bow when professing the Creed as we utter the words "and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man."

It is quite extraordinary "that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin . . ." (Ineffabilis Deus). In this God showed great mercy not only to the young Miriam of Nazareth, but to every son of Adam and daughter of Eve.

Divine Mercy is the only remedy for what ails us. And what ails us is sin, which alienates us from God, from each other, from creation, and even sets us at odds with ourselves. But in order to receive mercy you must accept it. In order to accept it, you must acknowledge that you need it. Even the Blessed Virgin had to consent, give her Fiat, to what God wanted to do in and through her. Like the Blessed Virgin, you too must say "Yes."

Don't be content to substitute presumption for mercy. It is only by receiving mercy that you begin to change, begin to be converted. Our need for mercy is on-going, which is why there is a sacrament for it, the Sacrament of Penance, which is truly the Sacrament of Mercy, a fountain of grace without which one cannot live the new life received in Baptism. In the lead up to this Extraordinary Jubilee Pope Francis has invited us all to make recourse to the Sacrament of Mercy often.

Just as we can only love because we are loved, so we can only be merciful because we have been shown mercy: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matt 5:7). By refusing to accept mercy, which requires the humble acknowledgment that you need it, you render yourself incapable of extending it to others.

Immaculate Conception, by Mateo Cerezo, 1664

the image of the Virgin is found in the Church,
Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared
and a love that never knew sin,
for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception.
Trace in our actions the lines of her love,
in our hearts her readiness for faith.
Prepare once again a world for your Son
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever (Alternative Prayer for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception)

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