Statue of the Blessed Virgin MaryOn December 8th, we celebrate an important feast of the Catholic Church, so important that we call it a solemnity:  The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854 and refers to the fact that Mary was preserved from original sin from the moment of her conception. Immaculate means pure, without stain, and illustrates that Mary was without sin from the very moment she was conceived.

Although there is no Biblical support for this doctrine we remember and celebrate this reality each time we pray the Hail Mary, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Pope Francis said in his homily on December 8, 2015 “the feast of the Immaculate Conception expresses the grandeur of God’s love… the love of God which precedes, anticipates and saves.”

As the Collect for this feast day says, the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, “prepared a worthy dwelling for your Son.” As we journey through this season of Advent, and prepare to celebrate another great solemnity, the Nativity of the Lord on Christmas Day, how are we following the example of Mary and preparing for the birth of Jesus.

As Pope Francis again states, “The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of history.”  Excerpt from the homily of Pope Francis on December 8, 2015

How are we being transformed through Mary, the Mother of God? Praying the Rosary is a powerful tool, as is reciting the beautiful prayer, the Memorare.

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.”

Do we recognize how great God’s love was, and is, as Mary was preserved from original sin?  As we grow in increasing knowledge of God’s love, do we pay attention? How do we put this knowledge into action?

Leading up to Christmas, what can we do to share God’s love with others? Listening with a caring ear and heart, taking time in this busy season to reach out to someone who may be lonely or alone.

Could we bring Christmas cards and even homemade cookies to the elderly in nursing homes, or toys to a local group gathering Christmas gifts for those who may have none?

“Students at All Saints School in Bangor, Maine will throw a “baby shower” for the Blessed Virgin Mary at a special schoolwide Mass on Thursday, Dec. 8 at 9:30 a.m. at St. John Church. We offer mercy to many in need by donating helpful items to the Shepherd’s Godparent Home in Bangor.”

Founded in 1992, Shepherd’s Godparent is a free, residential shelter for young women who are pregnant and in crisis, including homeless women. School families have received a list of things the shelter could use, including socks for boys and girls, medicine, sippy cups, wipes, pull ups, baby grooming kits, thermometers, brooms and dustpans, and storage bowls and containers.

Students will bring the baby gifts to the Mass and as they enter the church, they will lay the gifts at the feet of the statue of Mary. The items will then be delivered to the home by students and parent volunteers later that day.”

Could we gather baby gifts from our parish, our school, and bring them to a shelter for homeless women, pregnant women, women in crisis?

“These donations do so much to help these women and children get established on their own. Joy is found by giving, helping, and loving one another. This is a great way to teach them that important lesson.”

The Responsorial Psalm for December 8th says, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Sadly, this may not seem like a reality for the people of Ukraine without heat, water or a home since their neighborhoods and homes have been destroyed.

Do those who struggle to buy enough food for their families, since they have lost their jobs, their hope, their self-esteem see the salvation of our God? Likely not, but we can be bearers of this good news, this salvation.

What can we do to honor Mary, to celebrate this important feast day? The Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” The canticle goes on to say, ‘He has filled the hungry with good things… he has remembered his promise of mercy,” the promise he made to our fathers.” He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.

As we celebrate this feast and remember God’s abundant mercy and love, let us go forward to “lift up the lowly,” and share God’s love with others.