Genesis 3; 9 – 15, 20; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ; Luke 1:26-38
December 8th is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Holy Father has selected this Feast to celebrate the beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Pope Francis announced the Holy Year in March, and issued the official proclamation or Papal Bull on April 11th. Why did Pope Francis chose the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to open this Holy Year of Mercy? Here is the explanation he gives in the Papal Bull:
“I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.”
“Chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary, from the outset, was prepared by the love of God to be the Ark of the Covenant between God and man. She treasured divine mercy in her heart in perfect harmony with her Son Jesus. Her hymn of praise, sung at the threshold of the home of Elizabeth, was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends from ‘generation to generation’ (Lk 1:50). We too are included in those prophetic words of the Virgin Mary. This will be a source of comfort and strength to us as we cross the threshold of the Holy Year to experience the fruits of divine mercy.”
On December 8th we observe the historical event of the closing of Vatican II, and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception on which we celebrate God’s love and mercy for us in preparing Mary to be the Mother of our Lord.
The Reading from Genesis sets the stage for our Redemption. God responds to Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the tree. By this act they turned away from God and gave into the enticement of the devil. God lays out for them the consequences for their actions. The relationship between God and Adam and Eve has been ruptured, and the beautiful harmony that existed between them and God, and God’s creation is thrown off balance. Each person born since Adam and Eve inherited their sin.
God did not want this rupture to continue and so our Salvation History begins immediately after the entrance of Original Sin.
In the Gospel we hear of God’s plan that He, himself, would come to save us in the Person of Jesus. God the Father chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son, and prepared her for this call by having her born without Original Sin. At the right time the Father sends the angel Gabriel to announce to Mary his plan, and respecting her free will, she is given the freedom to accept this or not. She accepted it and the Father sends the Holy Spirit to Mary through which she conceived Jesus. Through the death and Resurrection of Jesus we are set free from Original Sin on the day of our Baptism. The effects of this Original Sin are still in the world, but Jesus has taken on the punishment for our sins.
What Mercy God bestows on us, by loving us so completely and unconditionally! This is the mercy that Pope Francis desires us to rediscover, both through catechesis and by experience. As the Holy Year Doors are opened on December 8th at Saint Peter’s in Rome, and then throughout the world at Cathedrals and Pilgrim Churches, may they be doors that remind us to open the doors of our hearts to the great gift of mercy God is pouring out on us.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.