Proclaiming Faith

December 8th, 2007 (see other dates)

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Solemnity, Holy Day of Obligation)

Discussion Questions for Reading 1

The first reading describes the conflict between good and evil. The serpent represents evil; the woman, Eve, ?the mother of all the living,? represents humankind, all the people of the world who are trying to be good and do good. The story goes on to describe the serpent?s lies and trickery, and the sin of Eve, then Adam, who believed the serpent and had to leave the Garden. It looks like the ?good side? lost! But this is where the new Eve comes in?when all seems lost! The Church has always prayed to Mary in times of special difficulties, remembering that she intercedes with her Son, Jesus Christ, for us. The prayer Sub Tuum Praesidium (Under Your Protection) is an ancient one. You may want to pray it now. Choose one of the following translations and learn it by heart:

?We fly to your protection, O holy mother of God. Do not forsake us in our necessities, but deliver us from every harm, O glorious and blessed Virgin Mary.?

Lucien Deiss, a contemporary liturgist, translates it this way: ?We place ourselves in your keeping, holy mother of God. Do not refuse the prayer of your children in their distress. But deliver us from all danger, ever Virgin, glorious and blessed.?

Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers (National Council of Catholic Bishops) offers this translation: ?We turn to you for protection, holy Mother of God. Listen to our prayers and help us in our needs. Save us in every danger, glorious and blessed Virgin.?

When can you pray this prayer? For whom would you pray it? Why?

Reading 1 Genesis 3:9-15, 20

Reading 1 Reflection

God?s people in Old Testament times were very familiar with the serpent as a symbol of evil. This cold-blooded creature, with its silent and slinky ways, is also a symbol of temptation, which can sneak up on us when we are not alert. The first reading tells again the familiar story of the serpent in the Garden of Eden that tempted Adam and Eve to sin.

This reading from Genesis reminds us that one day the world would be saved by the offspring of a woman. For Catholics, that woman was Mary, ?the new Eve,? who gave birth to Jesus, ?the new Adam.? We love and honor Mary because through her God gave us the gift of Jesus.

Discussion Questions for Reading 2

Take a moment to re-read this passage from Ephesians as if Mary were speaking it. Do you find that it "describes her to a T"? Why? What words do you find in this reading that seem to celebrate Mary especially today, on this great feast of her sinlessness and grace?

Now, re-read the reading together and let the "us" be all of you. Read it as if you were speaking it to other Christians like yourself. What words best celebrate your life in Christ?

Some translations say that we are "adopted sons." Today we would say, "adopted children." In Saint Paul's time, only sons and adopted sons had the right to inherit the father's wealth and status, not daughters. So writing "adopted children" or "adopted sons and daughters" would have made no sense to the readers of Saint Paul's time. This shows that we must know the cultural situation in which the Scriptures were written in order to help us understand them. However, Paul's main point is that in Christ, we (ALL Christians, both male and female) are "adopted children" to God the Father, in that we all share Christ's inheritance. We receive everything the Firstborn Son receives from the Father because we are children of God in Christ!

Reading 2 Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12

Reading 2 Reflection

Usually, when we are chosen to receive an honor, we have done something outstanding to earn that honor. But the greatest honor of all was given to us before we were even born! We did not have to lift a finger. God chose us in Jesus Christ to be God?s holy and beloved people.

Because Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, she, unlike us, was sinless from the moment of her conception in her mother?s womb. This is the truth we celebrate today: Mary?s Immaculate Conception. And so we pray: Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

Discussion Questions for Gospel

Some of us might think, "Well, this is fine for Mary, and I'm very happy for her, but how does that help me in my day-to-day struggles?" In considering Mary, we might remember something else Jesus told his followers: "More will be demanded of the person entrusted with more." (Luke 12:48) Mary was given very many privileges, yet with those privileges came great responsibilities. Can you think of some? Now think of some of your privileges. What responsibilities come with them?

The good news is: We do not bear our privileges and responsibilities alone. We have Mary and all the angels and saints to help us. Mary knew what it was like to step out into the unknown, to rejoice with friends and relatives, to worry about a child, to bear grief and sorrow, to trust in God. She now knows the joy of God's presence and can share that with us, too. Spend some time with Mary and ask her to help you share your privileges (your graces, gifts, and love) with others. Ask her to help you carry out your responsibilities.

In what other ways can you be like Mary? How can you listen to God's word? How can you say yes to God?

Gospel Luke 1:26-38

Gospel Reflection

Luke's Gospel describes a startling scene that changed the course of history. A young girl, who was filled with grace and devotion, received a message from God. She was to be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Mary?s strong faith enabled her to believe that "nothing will be impossible for God." Her reply to the angel, "Let it be done to me according to your word," set all of us on a path to salvation. In Mary all of humanity was blessed.

Proclaiming Faith Activities for Primary Grades

Mary Was Chosen

Explain to the children that God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Because God chose Mary, she was given a great gift. She was given the great gift of being free from all sin from the moment that she was given life. Mary is perfectly pure and perfectly holy. Mary is also a great gift of God to us, because she is our heavenly mother. It is so wonderful to have Mary to watch over us! To celebrate Mary, place a blue candle in the prayer corner or in another appropriate place. Gather the children around, explain that blue is Mary's special color because in many statues and pictures she is wearing a blue cloak. Then light the candle (if fire laws permit; otherwise you might want to attach a paper flame to the wick), and lead the children in the Hail Mary. (If necessary, have them repeat each line after you.)

Mary, Full of Grace

Explain to the children that, because Mary was chosen to be the mother of Jesus Christ, and because she is sinless, we say that she is "full of grace." The word grace is another way of saying, "God's life." God's grace is not just for Mary. God's grace, God's life, is for everyone who wants it. We first received God's grace at Baptism. On our baptismal day, we, too, are "full of grace." But we can still sin, so sometimes we are not as full of grace as we could be. But then when we are sorry, we ask God to forgive us.

On the reproducible master is a baptismal font. Ask the children to draw themselves with their families around the font as they probably looked on the day they were baptized. (Most will probably have been infants on that day.) Remind them to include their parents and godparents in the picture. In the cloud at the top, ask them to write their own names on the line.

Proclaiming Faith Activities

Have a Mary Christmas

The Bible does not tell us a great deal about Mary's life. In many ways, she remains a woman of mystery. But we do know that the mother of Jesus can guide us on the way of her Son. Complete the chart below. Then decide how you will be guided by Mary as you prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth.

A Mary Scene or Saying   What this Tells You about Mary  One Way You will be Guided by this Mary Scene or Saying

"I am the handmaid of

the Lord. May it be done

to me according to your

word." (Luke 1:38)

"He has thrown down the rulers

from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly."

(Luke 1:52)

"The hungry he has filled with

good things, the rich he has sent away empty."

(Luke 1:53)

"His mother said to the

servers, 'Do whatever he tells

you.'" (John 2:5)

Youth Can Change the World

Mary changed the world when she was still a young person by saying yes to God's plan. Decide how you and your friends can change the world by living each of the Kingdom values listed here. The first one has a suggestion for you.

Compassion for the sick and elderly ..... Adopt a retirement home resident to visit weekly.

Concern for the poor

Care for God's creation

Concern for peace in the world

For Bibles and other scripture resources, please see the Sadlier Religion Catalog.
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