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by the Very Rev. Fr. Jan Rokosz, MIC
As we head into Lent, it is good for us to look at Mary in her many virtues, but none more important as Mary, immaculately conceived.
We as Marians of the Immaculate Conception have a special relationship to this aspect of Mary, of course, and not only for the name. This unique privilege of Mary, to be born sinless, is hers alone to claim but ours universally to share. Unlike Mary, we have been born in sin, but Our Lady's Immaculate Conception illustrates the absolute primacy and tremendous power of God's grace, which is greater than sin and any dark force.
That is why the Blessed Mother's perfect purity is ours to share, since God is pleased to also shower His grace upon us. This is a Lenten meditation we should make our own.
Mary is a witness to the presence of the living God. She never draws attention to herself. Rather, she directs her life toward God and His works. Unlike Mary, we came into this world marked by the stain of original sin and later became burdened with our own personal sins. We can, however, emulate Mary and experience the grace of God.
Though free from sin, Our Lady knows sorrow. She learned from Simeon at the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple that a sword would pierce her heart. In fact, there were seven swords, depicted in the devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows (see sidebar).
For this reason, Mary is the perfect mother. She understands our troubles and consoles us.
In the mystery of her Immaculate Conception, Mary was the first to experience the completely gratuitous grace of God. Similarly, we experience God's grace through His merciful love for us as sinners.
In Baptism, God cleansed our sins and adopted us as His children. To each of us, He bestows the gift of our calling — in my case, the gift of a religious vocation. Moreover, God shows us His mercy through the constant outpouring of the grace of forgiveness.
The mystery of the Immaculate Conception is our beacon of hope. All of us experience difficulties in life. They can be problems at work or at home, financial struggles, and health challenges. In today's culture, we often find ourselves in environments hostile to the Gospel.
At times, this may provoke frustration or even hopelessness and give us a feeling that our lives are fruitless. Aside from these outward problems, we may be affected by our personal weaknesses, leading to trials because of a sense of guilt and fear.
In these and similar situations, the mystery of the Immaculate Conception becomes a means of our continuous renewal in faith and hope. It demonstrates that the reign of evil is not total and that the last word goes not to sin but to Christ.
The sign of hope that Mary represents can help us overcome temptations to apathy and doubt. It is a sign that continuously calls us to come to Christ and receive His love anew, the love that transforms our whole life.
The Very Rev. Fr. Jan Rokosz, MIC, is Superior General of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. He is based in Rome, Italy.