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.
Mary is the purest creature of all. She is our Mother and she is also the most perfect disciple to imitate. We celebrate Her Immaculate Conception because She deserves our praise, because it shows the beauty of our salvation, and in order to recall her holy life as an example for our own attempt to form a pure and loving heart.
So if we look for an example to imitate in today’s Gospel, a very human behavior stands out. Mary “ was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered” what it entailed. To react to trouble with ponderation is a feature of a wise and mature person. The solutions to our problems often require action, counsel, determination or patience. But we can never truly get to the bottom of a problem unless we learn to reflect about it. If this is true for ordinary problems, it becomes even more imperative with the kind of inner trouble which gnaws on deeper spheres of our life. A troubled heart is a heart in need of pondering. We learn from Mary that Christian pondering is done in the presence of God and, thus, is a very high and personal form of prayer.
As we look for how the beauty of our salvation is reflected in today’s feast, we find the phrase “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Just put your own name into the middle of the angel’s affirmation and marvel at what it provokes in your hearts. Here resounds the one thing we truly desire in our life’s quest. Here shimmers the ultimate embrace of God’s love as His holy children. Mary was given this gift from the beginning, and it is promised to us too. That is the purest beauty: a heart completely alive; completely favorable to God; holy and immaculate. Each beat of such a heart sends out shockwaves of beauty into the world.
If these waves of beauty hit us, we cannot but praise Our Lord and His wonderful Mother. Her earthly life is an example for your own days and Her heavenly beauty is a promise for your vocation to become, with time, as wholesome and holy as she has been since her Conception. Both her human virtue and her eternal beauty are lights to guide your steps today as you are called to become a fulfilled and saintly person too. Yes, this is our faith: That Jesus' blood has washed us clean and His redemption has recreated us to be new men. Men like Him. True children of His Mother. “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.”