Today, December 8th, is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in the Catholic Church. Today is the day when we give honor and praise to Mary, the Blessed Virgin, who was born without sin and lived a sinless life in preparation to become the mother of God. It is an important holiday for us Catholics, especially given that it comes during the Advent season.
Advent is all about preparation. We are preparing for the coming of Christ; we are preparing for our salvation; we are preparing for a new liturgical year when we can renew our conviction and faith as Catholics. Mary's Immaculate Conception reminds us that God has a greater plan. We may never see that plan unfold in its entirety, but He does indeed have a plan.
His plan for our salvation required that Mary be born sinless. This special priviledge was granted to her and has never been granted to another before or since. Mary lived a life devoted to God, following His will even when it brought her close to banishment and death. It could not have been easy for such a young, meek girl to willingly submit to this seemingly crazy plan (I mean, really, angels told her that she was to have a son without ever having laid with a man?! You'd be crazy to believe it!) knowing that the penalty for adultery was stoning and worse. But she knew in her heart that God knew what He was doing and He would be beside her throughout it all. And she did it. Despite the sideways looks and not so subtle rumors about her and her illegitmate child, she did as she was asked. She willingly took on that burden because God had willed it.
How many of us - Catholic, Christian, or Jew - would do the same if the situation presented itself? I would like to think that I would, but I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have strength to do so (aside from the whole "I-wasn't-born-without-sin" thing). I don't know if I would have the strength to face the disappointment (albeit short-term) on the faces of my loved ones and betrothed nor could I readily face the disdain and persecution that she was exposed to. I like to think that my faith is strong, but I'm not sure I would have the conviction in such circumstances. I mean, I have enough trouble listening to God's will in an everyday settings, so I'm pretty sure that I'd drop the ball if any real requests were ever made of me.
And that is why honoring Mary is so important. She did as she was instructed without questioning or hesitation. She believed in her God and had a strength of faith that allowed her to readily follow His command. I wonder if there is anyone in this world who has that much strength of conviction and faith about anything let alone God.