The fact that Mary is free from sin seemed to make her unrelatable, aloof, and distant—so different from our own experience of sinful humanity, and so the Immaculate Conception was a mystery I struggled to embrace. Obviously, the Lord worked a conversion within me to go from this attitude to having her name under this title! He gave me the grace to fall in love with her, with gentle irony, in the very mystery which I struggled with. I was struck with the utter freedom Mary had at the Annunciation, the same freedom that Adam and Eve had and had abused. In this freedom, she entrusted herself completely to God, making of herself a complete gift, culminating in the moment she uttered her Fiat. In this, she fulfilled God’s dream of humanity, a reality in which Mary became most human—tender, loving, self-giving.
I began to see that the Immaculate Conception, far from making her less human, was what made her most human. Sin makes us less human; it makes us cold and selfish in our relationships. But Mary, through God’s grace, is free from this—free to love us wholeheartedly! It is because of her Immaculate Conception that she can be a Mother par excellence—tender and compassionate— and that she can be the Refuge of Sinners. God reveals to us in her what His dream for humanity is: to image His own divine love. When we experience this, it is utterly beautiful. When we experience true human love, our hearts recognize this as an image of the true and infinite love of God. All this, because God loved us first.
Mary’s Immaculate Conception was a gift from God from the very first moment of her existence; she could not possibly have merited it on her own. We have a tendency in our wounded nature to think that we have to earn God’s love, but “God chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him. He predestined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ.” (Eph 1:4-5) God already loves us and desires us! May we imitate Our Lady’s receptivity to God’s grace and thus become the people, the saints, He desires us to be.
~ Sister M. Immaculata