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Karl-Heinz Reilmann wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Could you please provide me your thoughts on the Words of Jesus as recorded in
    Mark 10:17-23?

In verse 18 (particularly), Jesus asks the rich man:

"Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."

  • Do Jesus' words in verse 18 not run contrary to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception?

Certainly Mary would be considered to have been good. Jesus seems to leave no room for exclusions.

Please help me to understand this.

Thank you,


  { Do Jesus' Words run contrary to the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception? }

Paul replied:

Dear Karl-Heinz,

Before answering your question, I think you are referring to the Virgin Birth rather than the Immaculate Conception. The Immaculate Conception refers to Mary as being conceived in her mother Ann's womb without inheriting any stain from original sin, and the Virgin Birth refers to Jesus being miraculously born of the Virgin Mary.

Secondly, the Virgin Birth itself, which even the Muslims believe, does not necessarily prove Jesus' divinity (that He was God). This doctrine is proved in many other areas throughout Scripture and Tradition.

  • So why did Jesus say speak this line in Mark 10:18?

There are various ways to understand our Lord's words, but perhaps He was communicating the point that He was God (as well as man), by mentioning the irony that while this person called Him a word that is the essence of God, but does not yet realize that Jesus is divine, perhaps in an indirect way, Jesus was teaching this person that He was divine, if we interpret what He said as something like this:

"If at this point you see me as only a man (and not God) why call me good, which truly describes only God who is purely good and the source of all goodness?"


Karl-Heinz replied:

Thank you so much for responding to my question.

No, I am indeed referring to the Immaculate Conception. If Mary was conceived immaculate, then she, too, would be considered as “good”; yet Jesus states that only God is good. I am sure that the other purpose of His comment to the rich man is for exactly what you state in your third paragraph. He is declaring that He is God, and He wants the young man (and all who read) to know it. He did this in so many places in the Scriptures. The result of His comment in Mark to the rich man, however, is that if "…no one is good but God alone…" (emphasis mine), then Mary cannot be good.

  • How can that make sense when she never sinned?

I am just trying to understand.

In Christ,


Eric replied:

Hi, Karl-Heinz —

There are indeed different levels to speak of. For example, in the Roman liturgy, we pray to Jesus, "You alone are the Holy One", yet we obviously believe that other people are holy ones;
we call them saints, whether canonized Saints or the believer in God's grace. It's not a contradiction but a contradistinction; it means, compared to everyone else, you alone are absolutely holy.

Likewise, compared to Mary, Jesus alone among humans is good, because, as Paul noted, he is the source of goodness.


Paul replied:


Thank you for clarifying your question.

  • Why would Jesus say "no one is good except for God" if Mary is conceived immaculately?

It seems we are left with two possibilities here:

  1. The first is that Jesus is speaking of "good" in the primary sense, i.e. sunshine is to the sun as goodness is to God. Although creatures may be bit perfectly lit by the sun without any shadow, they are not enlightened on their own nor are they light itself. Hence, although Mary is perfectly graced by God's Goodness; she is not the source of her own goodness (as God is) nor is she Goodness itself (as God is).

  2. Another possibility is that Mary may have taken on some qualities of fallen human nature without being tainted by it. If the three preternatural gifts lost through original sin are
    1.) freedom from concupiscence, 2.) from suffering, and 3.) from death, it might be that she didn't inherit the stain of sin (concupiscence) but shared in some of our fallen condition (suffering and death); of which she of course became free of by virtue of her glorious Assumption.


Karl-Heinz replied:

Thank you.

Those are certainly two possibilities to potentially answer objections.

In Christ,


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