Today, in addition to celebrating the Immaculate Conception, we also celebrate the 162nd anniversary of our founding. In fact, Fr. Jules Chevalier founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart on December 8, 1854, the exact day that Pope Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.
We celebrate what St. Luke tells us, that Mary “found favor with God” and was “full of grace.” She was always filled with God’s love.
Mary is very special to God, but so are we. God’s plan of salvation for us is the same plan in which Mary is conceived without sin. Mary is blameless in God’s sight. Each of us is called, like Mary, to be filled with love. St. Paul puts it this way to the Ephesians, “God chose us in him…to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love.” (1:4)
Everything we believe about Mary—her being without sin, her being assumed to heaven—we also hope for ourselves. Mary has these special privileges on the day of her conception and at the end of her natural life. We hope to have them on the last day, the day of our resurrection to new life. Mary has them first because she is our model of holiness and because she is the pattern according to which God deals with all of us.
And so, every time we celebrate Mary we are also celebrating Jesus and celebrating ourselves. In the Gospels Mary is always with Jesus. All her existence and activity have Jesus as their center. Mary, as the handmaid of the Lord, listens to Jesus, ponders his mystery and words in her heart, follows him in his ministry, and stands beside his cross. Her immaculate conception is a reflection and result of his holiness. Her glorious assumption is a reflection and result of his resurrection and ascension. It was God’s life that Mary made her own. We are also called to have Jesus as the center of our lives, to listen, ponder, follow and stand beside his cross.
Because of the intimate connection between Mary and her Son and all of us, Fr. Chevalier gave us a new Marian title: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. In the statue, Jesus points us to Mary and Mary points us to the heart of Jesus. Let us celebrate and rejoice because what God did for Mary through Jesus, God also wants to do for us.
Adapted from “In Him We Were Chosen,” by Fr. Mark McDonald, MSC, who is currently serving as the Superior General of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart