Hail, full of grace! 

What kind of greeting was that? The angel Gabriel didn’t call Mary by name—at least not at first. Instead, he called her “full of grace,” kecharitomene in Greek. And this unusual title left Mary troubled.

By addressing Mary this way, the angel revealed how God saw her: as one who has been filled with his grace. Of course God had given special grace to certain people throughout history: Moses, Ruth, and Abraham, for example. But this was different. For here, the angel is describing Mary as someone who has received a supreme gift, a gift whose benefits began at her conception and stayed with her throughout her life.

The only other time we see this word in the Bible is in today’s second reading, when St. Paul talks about God’s “grace that he granted us in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). This gift of adoption as his children comes to us after Jesus’ death and resurrection, while God gave this grace to Mary at the moment of her conception. As Pope Francis explained, “If [Mary] is entirely inhabited by God, there is no room within her for sin. . . . She is . . . created immaculate so as to fully welcome, with her ‘yes,’ God who came into the world” (Angelus, December 8, 2017).

Mary was the first to experience the fruits that Jesus’ sacrifice would make available to each and every one of us. Yes, she who walked this road before us is our Blessed Mother, but she’s also like an older sister in faith because she shows us what a redeemed life looks like. Even though she was full of grace, she was not immune to the pain and suffering of life. Instead, she let God’s grace guide how she responded to her circumstances and trusted in him.

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, consider Mary, who received this free gift of grace from God. Think about how that grace prepared her to say yes to his invitation to be the mother of Jesus and how it affected everything she thought or did. And then thank the Lord that he has given you a share in that very same grace!

“Jesus, fill me with your grace so that sin will have no room in me.”

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38


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