A correct understanding of the power of the Immaculate Conception can immensely aid Catholics in navigating our tumultuous times. This tremendous solemnity and holy day of obligation can particularly aid us in responding to the moral issues of our time that deal with sexual morality.
There is no secret about the culture’s dismay over the Catholic Church’s teachings on morality in general and sexual ethics in particular. For decades, many have heard the cry that the Church should stay out of people’s bedrooms. However, the beautiful days of remembrance that include the Immaculate Conception, Annunciation, and Christmas all deal (in some way, shape, or form) with virginity, purity, conception, and childbirth.
For clarity’s sake, the Immaculate Conception deals with the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, Anne. From the moment of her conception (the very instant of the formulation of the union of her body and soul inside of her mother) she existed without the stain of original sin. This fact and dogma of the Church is critical for our times even though so many would hold that it is insignificant or even medieval to think so.
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We can view the Immaculate Conception’s power and relevance in three areas: abortion, in vitro fertilization, and contraception.
In the last week of November, a federal appeals court halted a federal regulation that allowed for abortion providers to receive federal family funding. However, this was only halted in the state of Ohio. Although Roe v. Wade was overturned, there is much to still be won for the right to life of the unborn and the protection of the dignity of every single human being.
The scary part of the pro-choice movement today is that its proponents no longer hold to the erroneous claim that “we do not know when life begins.” Any rational person knows that a fertilized egg inside of a mother contains a unique set of DNA and that this living being is a human person. Today, the push for abortion on demand in many states comes from the stance that women should be able to kill their children.
The Immaculate Conception shows us that each and every single human life has the capacity to change the world. If the life of Mary inside of her mother was not protected and held as beautifully made, the Savior of the world would have never been born. Although we are not going to be born without the stain of original sin, today’s solemnity should remind us that every person has a vocation and task in life that no one else (who ever has or ever will exist) can accomplish. The Immaculate Conception shows us that each and every single human life has the capacity to change the world. Tweet This
Today, right now, there are children who are alive inside of their mothers who are being called to an infinitely unique task in life. Abortion is evil for so many reasons, but the Immaculate Conception reveals that it hinders the possible growth of sanctity among the human race because there are people being killed before they are given the chance to change the world.
Last week, a 70-year-old woman in Uganda gave birth to twins. She is one of the oldest women in history to give birth. How did she do so? In vitro fertilization (IVF). The now popular mechanism of modern technology uses eggs that are fertilized in a laboratory and then implanted into a mother’s uterus to help women who have difficulty conceiving.
The Church holds that this is immoral because the manner in which life comes about should never be separated from the physical union between man and woman in marriage. Now, the dignity of these children is infinite—equal to any human being alive today. However, the Immaculate Conception reveals that life is a gift to be received not manufactured. Human life is the result of the love of a husband and wife and the love of God. Both are needed because they are both necessary to bring about the context for that life to be nourished in the way that it deserves.
IVF also has to destroy countless human embryos (human beings) in the process of harvesting embryos for implantation and with the foreknowledge that many human embryos will not come to full gestation inside of the mother. Human beings are not the result of an assembly line production. The Immaculate Conception reveals that each life has a worth, plan, and dignity that should be held in communion with God’s love—not against it or in place of it. Doing so will bring about the personal holiness of all involved, even if it involves immense crosses in the process.
Finally, the Immaculate Conception has something to say for the overwhelming majority of American couples who use some form of contraception. Preventing life from forming means that future spouses of God are not being born. Heroes are not even given the chance for their lives to form because of the selfishness and pleasure-seeking mindset of couples.
Love requires everything of us. Therefore, the love between a husband and wife can hold nothing back. Contraception holds back a man’s capacity to be father and a woman’s capacity to be mother from the other. This is one of the most powerful capacities we have, so withholding it from our loved one denies love its nature. Contraception simply means that either the man or woman or both are saying to each other: “You cannot have all that I am. I just want to use you to feel good. No children allowed.”
God knows that all parents have to sacrifice much in order to raise their children, especially in today’s world. Receiving children lovingly from God means that we are always open to the gift that new life is because there is nothing more precious and important.
The Immaculate Conception reveals so much about our God and our human condition. Today, maybe it can help us be confirmed in the truth and force that can result from just one life being born today instead of killed, manufactured, or prevented.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
[Image: The Immaculate Conception by Bartolomé Estéban Murillo]