As we enter into the second week of Advent, it is only fitting that we are honoring the Immaculate Conception. If not for the Virgin Mary, if not for her fiat, her “yes,” all of our waiting and preparation would be for nothing. Mary, born without the stain of original sin and specially chosen by God to be the Theotokos, the “God-bearer,” took in the words of Gabriel and put her trust in God to say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

It may be hard to think that we can hold Mary up as an example to follow. Here she was, sinless and faithful, and seemed not to hesitate when Gabriel announced her impending pregnancy. Here we are, struggling and stumbling through life, hardly perfect and, sometimes, hardly faithful. But in Mary, we have the example of the faith to which God calls us. She was full of grace and the Lord was with her. Believe it or not, we can also receive God’s grace; our Lord wants to be with us, too.

This requires something of us, though. God will give us his gifts no matter where we are or what we do. But a true faith, the faith of Mary, is an active faith. It requires us to act, to do something. Once Mary said, “Yes,” she acted. She traveled to help her cousin, Elizabeth. She proclaimed her faith in The Magnificat. She mothered and nurtured and loved her Son, our Lord. And she suffered as only a mother suffers when she witnessed her Son’s pain, despair and death. She knew the anguish and sorrow only a mother can know. And through it all, she was filled with grace, the Lord was with her and she kept her faith in God.

In the midst of our Advent preparations and celebrations, may we all accept the gift of God’s grace, allow the Lord to be with us and be active in our faith so that we, too, may say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”