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Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Under that title, Mary is honored as the patron of the United States of America.

The dogma that the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from the stain of original sin at the moment of her conception invites reflection on a central theme of Americanism: what it means to be free. 
One strain of thought identifies freedom with the absence of constraint or rather a "freedom from." The original pilgrims fled Europe to achieve freedom from the tyrannical government. The original pioneers west sought to achieve freedom from the supposedly suffocating norms of society. This popular rhetoric has a prominent place in American political and civic language.
 
But our faith is clear: this isn't the freedom that God desires for us. In the great liberation of God's people as told in Exodus, the people do indeed receive freedom from slavery and a tyrannical regime. But freedom from Pharaoh is only the beginning. The fullness of freedom is found in arriving in the Promised Land, the place where the people of Israel can fully encounter the living God.

In this great gift, freedom is achieved for an entire people--not just a few individuals--to love and serve the Lord.
 
How can we begin to experience the freedom to love that God offers to us? We, like Mary in today's Gospel, must respond with a "yes" to God's invitation to crash into our lives and to interrupt our plans.

In this holy season of Advent, we are invited in a new and profound way to reaffirm our "yes" to God and to allow once again the child born in Bethlehem to become the center of our lives.

In him, the fullness of freedom is found and can never be taken away.