The National Catholic Review

Last month, on a cold November night in Times Square, Police Officer Lawrence DePrimo, who had been assigned there as part of a counter terrorism unit, noticed an old man. He was clearly homeless and even more obviously barefoot. Officer DePrimo asked the man his shoe size. He then went into a nearby Skechers Shoe Store and bought the man a pair of all-weather boots. They would normally cost about $100, but the sales clerk, understanding their purpose, used his employee discount to bring the price down to $75.

Does this sort of thing happen often? Maybe it happens more than we think, though obviously not as often as it should. According to Jose Cano, the shoe salesman, “Most of us are New Yorkers and we just kind of pass by that kind of thing. Especially in this neighborhood.” Indeed, no one would know of this incident, but a tourist from Arizona snapped a picture of Officer DePrimo, giving the boots to the homeless man. The photo went viral.

All feasts of the Church are both joyful and prophetic. We never simply extol the life of Christ, or one of his saints, without bringing the gladsome news to bear upon our own lives. How does the teaching that Mary, by a singular, prevenient grace, was preserved from all sin, from the first moment of her conception, come to rest in our lives?

Perhaps by noting that, although the grace was singular, its prevenient nature was not. God’s grace is always anticipatory. It runs ever before us. Indeed, come the end, that Gospel truth may well be the one most highly confessed: that grace outraced the times of trial.

What God did in the life of Mary, and does in our lives, is not unlike what Officer DePrimo did for that homeless man. Lawrence DePrimo didn’t turn away. He saw a need and responded. Compassion shod the feet of another.

At the core of the Christian faith is a conviction that we are alienated from that deepest, most loving core of reality, which we name God. The Gospel is the proclamation that God hasn’t turned away. God saw our need and responded. Compassion compels the Incarnation of Christ.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is the great acclamation that grace ran ahead, purchased the shoes we would need to walk and set us on our way. Christ is God’s new beginning in the world. In Christ God clothes our humanity with divinity. But grace, like charity, must run deep. It has to permeate the foundations. Feet must be shod.

On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception the Church confesses that there is one person, completely created, no more than human, where grace was utterly triumphant. If Christ is God’s divinity clothing our humanity, then Mary is our humanity, responding absolutely to God. Mary is humanity’s shod feet; our happy new foundation in grace. That truth is meant to set the rest of us on our feet.

Genesis 3: 9-15, 20 Ephesians 1: 3-6, 11-12 Luke 1: 26-38