We’ve all heard the expression, “He’s only human.” Many of us (probably most of us) have used it in casual conversation at some point in the past. It’s very often said when someone makes an innocent mistake — a mistake they weren’t expected to make. But even more frequently, the expression is used when someone commits a sin — sometimes a serious sin. A man is caught in adultery, for example, and some of his buddies will say, “Poor Bob. He just couldn’t say no. And that’s understandable, because he’s only human.” We use the adjective, “human,” in such situations, as if to imply that to be truly human means to commit sin.
But that’s not true! And the feast we celebrate this coming Monday — the Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother — makes that fact crystal clear. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception says that “the Blessed Virgin Mary, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, was preserved free from every stain of original sin.”
We sometimes think of Mary as “super-human,” but that’s because in many ways we live in a sub-human manner ourselves. Mary, because she was free from original sin and never committed any personal sins in her entire life, was really the only perfectly “human” person who ever walked the face of this earth (aside from Adam and Eve before the Fall).
In the opening prayer of the Immaculate Conception Liturgy we pray, “Help us [O Lord] by Mary’s prayers to live in your presence without sin.” That line could read, “Help us by Mary’s prayers to live a truly human life” — and it would mean the very same thing.