Today we are invited to reflect upon the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Basically this is an invitation to remember and imitate the sinlessness of Mary. Now the first thing to remember is that Mary is sinless as a result of an extraordinary gift of God’s grace. She had to choose to cooperate with this grace and it is this “Yes” of Mary to the gift of God’s grace that we seek to imitate. God offers us all sufficient grace to avoid sin in our lives. We do not sin out of any sense of necessity or lack of means to avoid sin. No, we simply fail to take up the grace on offer to us to avoid it in the first place!

This is why the Church presents Mary to us as a model of holiness and purity of heart. We can all aspire to imitate her life to this degree. We should all be seeking to grow in these two areas of our lives if we are truly serious about being disciples of Jesus. Without holiness; without purity of heart, imitation of Jesus is out of the question!

Mary never seeks to draw attention to herself. Mary wants only that we all come into relationship with her son, Jesus. This humility and self-forgetfulness is one of the first steps we must take in developing a pure heart. What should matter to us is the way in which God views and relates to us, not people in the world. What should matter to us is our progress on the path to the Kingdom of God, not our progress on the path to earthly fame and riches. The first will endure to eternal life but the latter will wither and fade after a few short decades at the most.

The school of love that the saints of the Church provide for us is an essential adjunct to the schools that we attend in our formative years. One of the greatest influences upon my life as a pre-teen was reading a book for a whole year with one saint each night and discussing the same with my dad. I doubt I would have discovered my priestly vocation without this influence and formation. We should seek to be forming the minds of our children and our own as adults in the writings and lives of the saints. These men and women should be the major inspirations and heroes of our lives! Mary, as the first Christian is one of the most important role models but there are hundreds more to choose from as well.

How often do I spend time with the lives and writings of the saints looking for inspiration in my spiritual life? Books on these topics will be an investment with eternal rewards and benefits!

Holy Spirit, help me to grow in my love for and desire to read about the saints. Impress in my mind and heart the importance to look to their lives as sources of inspiration for my own struggles to grow in discipleship and virtue. Help me to be able to draw lessons from their lives and works.