Thursday, 8 December 2016 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together a great feast day of the Church, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. On this occasion, first of all, we have to understand what is it that we are celebrating about, and that is the moment when Mary was conceived in the womb of St. Anne, her mother, not her birth, but the moment of her conception, and she was conceived without any taint of original sin, and hence the term Immaculate.

And this fact has a special significance for all of us Christians, because although all of us are sinners, having inherited the sins of our forefathers and ancestors, who disobeyed the Lord and therefore sinned and then had to endure death and end of their earthly life, the sole exception have been made for Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who due to her special role in our salvation has been set aside by God to be immaculate, pure and free from any taints of sin.

Why is this so? That is because, as she was about to bear the Lord and Master of the Universe Himself within her, He Who is perfectly good and without evil Himself, thus, it is not appropriate for Him to be carried through a vessel tainted by sin and wickedness. This is related to what we heard in the Old Testament about the Ark of the Covenant, which God instructed Moses to make, in order to contain the two slabs of stone on which the Ten Commandment was written, as a sign of God’s covenant with His people Israel.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant which God has established with His people anew through His Son, Jesus Christ, Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind. And just as God has hallowed the old Ark of the Covenant, thus He has also hallowed the new Ark, that is Mary. She bore the Lord and Saviour of the world for nine months, and through her, the Divine Word was incarnate and made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming Man.

But today, we are not just commemorating the fact that Mary has been conceived without sin and set apart by God to be the Ark and Bearer of His salvation into the world. Rather, we also celebrate the fact that Mary is the new Eve, just as Christ is the new Adam and the new Man through Whom the Lord righted all the wrongs and mistakes of the past, and redeemed us all mankind.

In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, we heard about the moment of mankind’s fall into sin, because Adam and Eve were tricked by the devil who disguised himself as a serpent, and persuaded them to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Both of them were also created by God perfect and good, without the taint of sin, but they fell into temptation, and therefore became marred and corrupted by sin.

Thus, that is why Mary’s role in our salvation became even more important, considering that she had surely been tempted in every way we mankind had been tempted and persuaded by the devil. As a human being, she was also vulnerable to the same weaknesses which we have and which are part of our very being. Yet, we can see clearly the contrast between Eve and her disobedience against God, and Mary and her obedience to the Lord’s will in the Gospel today.

St. Paul pointed this out in his first Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, where he compared Christ with Adam, and as the old and first Adam had sinned and disobeyed God, bringing sin into the whole race of mankind, to all of us, thus through the perfect obedience of Christ, all of mankind have been redeemed and forgiven their sins and iniquities. And thus, in the same manner, while through one woman, Eve, all have received sin through disobedience, thus through another woman, whom God had promised, Mary, all have received the salvation of God.

While Eve disobeyed the Lord and followed her curiosity and greed for knowledge and power, Mary showed her obedience to the Lord, by her profession of faith in God’s will and her complete surrender to it. She did have her doubts and uncertainties, as it was unheard ever before, that a woman should bear a Son without a husband, but certainly, after God reassured her through the Archangel Gabriel, she put her full trust and faith in God and His plan.

And Mary did not just keep her faith and devotion until she gave birth to Jesus, her Son. She had been devoted to the Lord since when she was born and when she was young, but she carried on her devotion throughout her life, throughout the life of Jesus, bringing her up with her husband, St. Joseph with commitment and with the true love of a mother for her son.

It was under the loving and tender care of Mary that Jesus grew up as a Man, and it was under her supervision that He grew strong in the sight of God and men alike, ready for the mission which had been entrusted to Him. They often say, that behind every successful man is a committed and good woman, their wives, but I would say that, even more importantly, behind every successful individual is a loving and dedicated mother.

Therefore, Mary and her steady commitment to the very important role she had been placed in, is an inspiration to each and every one of us Christians, in how we ourselves should live our lives, with faith and commitment to the Lord. She is the greatest among all the saints and all the children of God, being closest to the Lord Himself, for she is at His side as His mother.

Our world today, and many of us are troubled with the problem of the lack of faith, dedication and commitment to the ways of our Lord. We face many temptations, persuasions and even coercions to abandon the ways of our God and instead follow the seemingly better and more convenient ways of this world. And therefore, many of us followed the path of our ancestors, diverging and pulling away from the path which God has shown us, and instead, following our own paths.

This season of Advent, and particularly on this day of the special Solemnity celebrated in the memory of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we should spend time to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas, by reflecting on our own lives. Have we been faithful as Mary, the mother of our Lord and God had been faithful? Or have we instead chosen the path of Eve, that is to sin and to disobey the Lord for the pursuits of earthly and worldly glory and goodness?

Through Mary, God had brought into this world His new Covenant with each and every one of us, and through her also, He brought into this world a new hope through her own actions and devout ways, showing us all how we ought to be faithful in all the days of our lives. We should also be faithful as Mary has been faithful, and if we wonder why, that is because by the outpouring of His own Body and Blood, our Lord had dwelled inside each and every one of us who have received Him in the Eucharist.

Therefore, we too are like the Ark of the Covenant of God, and if we bear the Lord inside each one of us, as St. Paul had said, that we are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, then we should do our best and behave in all of our actions and deeds, so that we will not falter into sin and corruption, or else the Lord’s wrath will be upon us. We must keep ourselves free from sin and fornication as much as possible.

Let us all pray to the Lord, asking Him to help us and to give us courage to live our lives faithfully and with commitment, that we will not falter despite the challenges and difficulties we encounter in this life. May the Lord bless us all and keep us all in His grace, and may through the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary, all of us will draw ever closer to Him and receive from Him one day, the blessed fruits of our faith. Amen.

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