On the occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in the Basilica of St. Eugene, in Rome, Italy.
1. The archangel Gabriel, when sent to announce to the Blessed Virgin the mission God had destined her for, exclaimed as though in awe at her holiness: Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you! Today, the Church joins him in praising the Blessed Virgin’s perfection, her total absence of sin, the fullness of grace with which God adorned his Mother from her conception. We too exult, following Blessed Josemaría’s invitation: “Sing to Mary Immaculate, reminding her: —Hail Mary, daughter of God the Father! Hail Mary, Mother of God the Son! Hail Mary, Spouse of God the Holy Spirit! Greater than you—no one but God!”
In these years of immediate preparation for the Great Jubilee, we have sought with growing eagerness communion with each of the three divine Persons. This union will be even greater if we draw closer to our Lady, the mother of God the Son, specially beloved daughter of the Father and temple of the Holy Spirit. Pope John Paul II has reminded us that “this privileged relationship” of Mary with the Trinity, “confers upon her a dignity which greatly surpasses that of all other creatures.... Nevertheless, such exalted dignity does not prevent Mary from being united in solidarity with each one of us.”
St. John tells us: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... And from his fullness—from the fullness of Christ —have we all received, grace upon grace. When we respond generously to God’s wishes, sanctifying grace grows in our soul and configures us more and more with his Son. All of this was realized perfectly in Mary who, filled with grace from the first moment of her existence, always united herself with her whole being to God’s will. The contemplation of her extraordinary stature overwhelms us; but at the same time we are consoled to know that she who is so high, so close to the Blessed Trinity, is also our Mother! As St. Maximus wrote “she who is light, splendor and sweetness, totally without stain, as though coming from Heaven, has brought nourishment sweeter than honey for all the members of the Church.”
2. Mary’s motherhood towards the men and women of all times stems from the bonds uniting her to the Trinity, which converge in her mission as Mother of Christ. From the moment she carried our Lord in her womb, Mary was filled with the knowledge of the salvific mission entrusted to Jesus, in which she was called to play a decisive role. Mary supported his first steps on earth; she followed his growth as an infant, adolescent and young man; she sensed and made her own the yearnings for salvation that beat in the heart of her Son.
Jesus came to give his life, in obedience to the Father, for the redemption of sinners, and Mary, day after day, offered herself with Him in a holocaust to the Father. The miracles the crowds marveled at were the sign, worked in those suffering bodies, of the effusion of the Holy Spirit, the gift of divine love that heals souls.
Jesus’ compassion for the blind, the lepers, the sick, the paralytics, and his solicitude for the poor, became the source and nourishment of the maternal love that our Lady extends to us.
To every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Jesus asks man to freely accept salvation; he requires our correspondence. Our Lady exhorts us: Do whatever he tells you. The servants at the marriage feast of Cana responded readily to that invitation, voiced with such complete assurance. There shined forth in those words the personal experience of a life dedicated entirely to fulfilling God’s will. And they filled the jars to the brim. During the novena in preparation for today’s feast, we have renewed our resolution to give a Marian tone to our Christian existence. The first manifestation of this disposition should be our determination to always fulfill, with both joy and sacrifice, God’s holy will. Let yourself be won over by Mary; welcome the hope that our Lady has enkindled in your heart.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word. “Isn’t that marvelous? The Blessed Virgin, our teacher in all we do, shows us here that obedience to God is not servile, does not bypass our conscience. We should be inwardly moved to discover the ‘freedom of the children of God’ (cf. Rom 8:21).” This is the freedom of a person who is impelled by the force of love and, receiving grace for grace, feels growing within his soul the incomparable reality of the divine filiation Christ won for us on the Cross.
3. Next to the cross of Jesus stood his Mother, pierced by an immense sorrow, while at the same time calm, even joyful, because she already saw the fruits of her Son’s passion: the souls that he, when raised above the earth, was drawing towards himself. In the Cenacle, Mary remained united to the still fearful apostles. Her motherly presence imbued the first steps of the infant Church, and therefore should also inspire the conduct of those who are and who feel themselves to be the Church. It was she who kept the apostles united. It will always be Mary who unites Christians around the Pope and the shepherds in communion with Christ’s Vicar.
But always remember that if a Christian lets resentment creep into his heart, fostering grudges and memories that separate him from relatives and friends, that means that every remnant of our Lady’s presence has been removed from his heart. The Jubilee of the Year 2000, now imminent, should be for us and our families an occasion for an authentic reconciliation with our neighbor. We are approaching Christmas. On the night of December 24, the Holy Father will solemnly open the Jubilee Holy Year. Let us prepare ourselves with effective resolutions of conversion, seeking God’s forgiveness and forgiving anyone who has offended us. Let us prepare ourselves by rejecting sin, which breaks the bond of charity with God and others. Only then will we savor the joy of being Christians, sons and daughters of God and of Mary. “Charity,” the Pope teaches, “has its source in the Father; it is fully revealed in the Passover of the Son, crucified and resurrected; and it is infused in us by the Holy Spirit. Through charity, God makes us sharers in his own love. A person who truly loves with God’s love also loves his brother as God loves him. This is the root of Christianity’s great newness.”
Let us entrust to the Blessed Virgin, to her delicate, discreet, sure intercession, the steps that we still have to take to prepare ourselves for the Great Jubilee. The best way to honor our Lady is to struggle to imitate her. We have tried to sketch some features of the model that God sets forth for us in her. Let us ask her to help us to follow her example of correspondence to grace, of love for souls, of service to unity. In this way Jesus will once again be born in us and He will give us the peace that the world cannot give. Amen.