Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception - Mary through the redemption of Christ and a special outpouring of the Spirit at the moment she was concieved is the first human person to have perfect freedom. We thank God for the most beautiful realization of our humanity. She, like all the wonderful gifts given to us by Him, is completely unmerited, a wonderful sign to us of his unfathomable love. By sheer grace, she was completely free to thrive in the face of God, to be fully alive. And because she lived life to the full, she shows us what it means to be fully ourselves, to really live, to be truly free.
The Virgin shows us that the freedom we have in the grace of God allows us to tread a pathway beyond anything our limited imagination could possibly anticipate or our feeble intellects calculate or even of which our intuition might provide some remote suggestion. Such freedom goes beyond feeling and instinct. For it is the essence of humanity to go beyond its self and all its natural capicities in giving itself in love - in love to God and in love for one another.
Mary, the Mother of God, needed this freedom in order to fully respond to God and we can even say this beautiful freedom drew the Lord to her. There is a hidden greatness in the authenticity of the truly human - the Lord actually delights in the innocent vulnerability, endless trust and undaunted determination manifest in this particular work of his Hand. This is why through the words of Gabriel He declared her "full of grace." And, what He sees in her, He sees also in us when we turn to Him in living faith, faith guided by love -- he makes us free and in this freedom, authentically our true self.
The freedom given her at her conception was just the beginning. It is like the freedom we have when we first believe. Such freedom still needs to mature - it is only the beginning. How did she grow in this freedom? How did it come into maturity in her? If we consider this question carefully, we will understand what St. Augustine meant when he said she concieved Christ first in her heart before she concieved Him in her womb. We must use our freedom like she did - opening our hearts to the power of the Holy Spirit - ready to obey Him in everything and in this loving obedience and trust, ponder all these things in our heart. Prayer - silence before the mystery of God who makes us free - this is where Mary, concieved without sin, always leads.