Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Homily on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
May it be done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 591 states: “Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, ‘full of grace’ through God, was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: ‘The most blessed Virgin Mary was, from the moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of humanity, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” We celebrate the singular grace and privilege that God granted to the Blessed Virgin Mary today. This celebration indicates to us a path in the footsteps of the Virgin of Nazareth as faithful disciples of Christ.
What did this singular grace or privilege made Mary immune from the moment of conception? The answer is “the stain of original sin.” The first reading chosen for the Solemnity of Immaculate Conception is a well-known story of the fall of our first parents. It is part of the answer to the question of how sin entered into the world. When sin entered our world, the human family confronted its consequences: sufferings and above all death. Sin entered the world through the disobedience of our first parents, as God reminded Adam: “You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat.” (Gn 3:11).
God in his love did not abandon the human family who disobeyed him right at its dawning, promising us Good News of salvation would come from the womb of the New Eve as he said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel” (Gn. 3:15). Christian tradition has seen in this passage, the protoevangelium/ first promise of a Redeemer for fallen humankind (see St. Irenaeus of Lyons against Heresies 5.21.1) and Mary, in Christian art, is sometimes depicted with her foot on the head of the serpent.
The fall began with the disobedience of our first parents and redemption began with the obedience to God from Mary: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). The eternal Word took flesh and dwelt in the womb of Mary after this “Yes/Fiat” to the Lord. The Yes of Mary is the beginning of new era for humanity.
Celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary today, we are called to walk in her footsteps being obedient to God’s Word. We should highlight that God communicated his will to Mary through an angel: “The angel, Gabriel, was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1: 26). With such a great announcement, being the mother of our Savior, we would imagine that God spoke directly to Mary, but the angel is the one that delivered the message. That is God’s way of accomplishing thing. This Solemnity then calls all of us to be attentive to God’s appointed angels in our lives.
First, God conveys his will to all of us in his Holy Word. So pray and study the Holy Scriptures well. These sacra pagina are angels conveying God’s plan for us. Then, God unfolds his will to us through the teachings of offices in the Body of Christ. At my ordination with the promise of obedience to our Bishop, he and his successors are the angels through whom God communicates his plan to me. To all of you, members of the faithful, we profess “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” The apostolicity of our faith has much to do with being in communion with the Successors of the Apostles. God manifests his will to all of us in the liturgical prayers of the Church. Finally, the prayerful advices of the people around us are wonderful way for us to discern our course of actions. These are all angels surrounding and inviting us to be part of God’s plan of redemption.
Of course, to say Yes to the Lord like Mary did requires placing our ego and our pride aside. It is a challenge! St. Paul, however, reminds us: “In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ” (Eph 1:11-12). God chose you to be part of His redemptive plan. Remember: God’s creation was disrupted by disobedience, and now in God’s redemption you and I are called to follow Mary’s example: “May it be done to me according to your word.”