8th December – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Today we celebrate Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception – that she was LMA 081conceived without Original Sin in the womb of her mother St Anne. It is appropriate that Pope Francis should begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy with this event.

The supreme act of Divine Mercy toward sinful and wayward humanity was the “day” or event of redemption, made possible by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. “God so loved the world that he gave [sacrificed] his only Son that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

The “dawn” of this “day” of salvation was the conception and arrival of Mary. Her “yes” to God’s plan announced through the Archangel Gabriel brought forth the world’s redeemer: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.” Luke 1:38.

God’s limitless mercy means that whatever our past, we can turn back to him in repentance and renew our friendship with him. Gospel accounts of this repentance and mercy in action are: the parable of the Prodigal Son; the calling of Zacchaeus; Jesus’ declaration to the adulterous woman: “Neither do I condemn you, go now and leave your life of sin”; the ‘Good Thief’ being told on Calvary “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

God’s limitless mercy however does not mean we can continue sinning, doing our own thing, without consequence. God respects our freedom to choose friendship with him and obey his word of Truth. Repentance is thus the way we accept his gift of mercy and reconciliation. The elements of sincere repentance are: (a) Sorrow for sin; (b) Good faith purpose of amendment; (c) Restitution – a good faith effort to put right whatever wrong we have committed. For this reason, Confession is often called the Sacrament of Mercy as well as the sacrament of Reconciliation.

As we have benefited from God’s mercy towards us, we too are called to practice this mercy in our dealings with others. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”