In 1858, in a small village outside of Lourdes, France, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to an uneducated peasant girl, Bernadette. Our Lady told her that she wanted a chapel built at the site in her honor. Bernadette ran over to the rectory where her parish priest lived and told him about what she had seen and what Our Lady had said to her. Though he was skeptical, he was moved by her innocence and sincerity. However, when the priest asked her who appeared to her, Bernadette said she did not know. She could only describe her as a beautiful woman from heaven. So the priest told her to ask the woman what her name was. The next time Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, she asked her to tell her who she was. Mary said to her, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Bernadette rushed back to her priest again and told him the name Our Lady had told her. The priest later admitted that, when she told him that the Immaculate Conception had appeared to her, he almost fainted. With time, the a chapel was built at the site, and for the past 152 years, millions of pilgrims have gone there for healing and to follow Our Lady’s request that we pray for sinners.
We have gathered here today to celebrate and profess our belief in Mary, the Immaculate Conception. From the moment of her conception, the Father preserved her from the stain of original sin so that she would be a worthy mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. God chose her before she was born to carry His Son within her. He gave her the graces she needed to be free from sin throughout her life so that when the time came for her to receive the Son of God into her womb, she could say, “Be it done unto me according to your word.”
Because of her faith, Mary is a model for all believers. Each of us has been cleansed of sin through baptism and are called to live a good and holy life. In our second reading from the letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul tells us that God chose us “to be holy and without blemish before him.” Like Mary, we are to reject sin at every moment and to draw our strength from the fountain of God’s love to live a holy life.
Also, like Mary, each of us has been given a role in God’s work of salvation. It might not be clear to us as of yet, but God will reveal it to us in one way or another. It may be as simple as bearing our daily burdens with love. It may be offering up our sickness for the souls in Purgatory. But, like Mary, there is no one else who can do what God has called each of us to do. And so we are called each day to entrust ourselves to God in faith believing that whatever He has called us to, He will give us the strength necessary to undertake it for His glory.
God preserved Mary from sin so that she could be the mother of Jesus and our mother. Though she never sinned, she has compassion for us in our weakness. When we feel tempted or feel that we have no more strength to carry on, we can fly to her and she will intercede for us with her Son. What God has achieved in her gives us confidence that one day we too will be free from sin and enjoy the vision of glory that awaits us in heaven. That confidence gives us the faith to carry on in his life until God makes it a reality in the life to come.