Today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception is sometimes confusing to people. It refers to the fact that Mary was conceived without the "stain of Original Sin", meaning that she did not suffer from the personal effect of humanity's fall from the intimate relationship with God that was present in the beginning. This is really confirmed when the angel calls her "full of grace" at the Annunciation (announcement of her being chosen to become the mother of the Redeemer). For this reason, today's gospel is the story of the "conception" of Jesus, the moment when Mary said "yes" to what God was asking.
When we receive grace, we really are strengthening our relationship with God. As the one who was full of grace, Mary had the strongest relationship possible for any living person. Perhaps the only time the rest of us have experienced this is at the moment of our Baptism, since all our sins are washed away and we are filled with the Holy Spirit. From that moment on it is always a struggle - we sin, repent, are forgiven and try to do better. But, as imperfect human beings, we often give in again to temptation.
Mary becomes a role model for us, since, as one who was full of grace, she was prepared to say "yes" to the will of God. How can we make ourselves more likely to say yes? By tapping into that grace. For us Catholics, the best way of doing this is through the reception of the sacraments. I was taught as a child that the sacraments are "outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace" (Baltimore Catechism). The more I receive the sacraments, then, the more I can be filled with grace. And the more grace I have, the stronger my relationship with God and the more likely I am to do His will. There are certainly other was of increasing grace in my life, but I need to value and participate in those which are primarily concerned with giving grace. For this reason, I want to recommit myself to the frequent and worthy reception of the sacraments, so that I will be better prepared to say "yes" to God's will for me. Care to join me?