Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today together with the entire Universal Church we rejoice together to celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. On this day we focus on our belief that Mary, as the Mother of God, was granted that singular grace by God to be conceived without a single taint by sin, and therefore, remained also without sin through her birth and life.

That is why the Church has placed the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the eighth day of December, full nine months prior to the Solemnity of her Nativity on the eighth day of September. And these solemnities and feasts highlight to us the incredible life of Mary, the one whom God has chosen to be the Mother of the Lord and Saviour of the world.

And why is this special focus on Mary, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because all of mankind, save for Mary and her Son, Jesus, have been corrupted by sin from the moment of their conception, because of the taint of the original sin of our forefathers, beginning from the time of Adam and Eve, as mentioned in our first reading passage today. Satan tempted Eve and then Adam to disobey God, and through their disobedience sin entered into our midst.

And sin is a great corruption on our whole being, affecting our entire self, from the physical, to the mental and spiritual parts of ourselves. Therefore, if we are corrupted by sin, then, we cannot be with God and be in His presence, for God is all good and perfect, without corruption and without sin. We will be destroyed because of our sins, and unless we purify ourselves, we cannot be with God.

That is why, if we read through the Old Testament, in the Book of Leviticus and in other traditions of Israel, the people of God have to purify themselves first prior to coming to the presence of God. This was also why the Temple of Solomon and the succeeding Temple of Jerusalem has large basins designed for the containing of water for ritual purification for the people and the priests offering the sacrifices.

And in the original Temple of Solomon, and earlier on, the Tent of Meeting, was housed the Ark of the Covenant, within which were the two slabs of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written, the staff of Aaron and the sample of manna, the heavenly bread. All of these were the concrete signs of God’s presence in the midst of His people, as part of the Covenant that God has sealed with His people, thus naming the Ark as the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, crafted with the finest details from gold, as the most precious vessel for the Lord’s presence, and placed within the holiest part of the Lord’s Temple, the Holy of Holies, veiled and not easily visible to the people from the outside. All of these symbolisms and details served to show the people, how God is all powerful and mighty, and unless we are worthy to be in His presence, we will perish.

And if that Ark of the Covenant, filled with the memorial of God’s Covenant as written in the two slabs of the Ten Commandments and the proof of God’s power in the staff of Aaron and the manna, then how all the more wonderful is the New Ark of the Covenant, which is none other than Mary herself, chosen by God to be the Vessel through which He would send into this world, the fulfilment of His promise of salvation, the New Covenant that He would establish with all of us His people, once and for all.

The choice of a woman to be the bearer of the Saviour of the world has been revealed to the world itself, in fact, ever since the time when man first fell into sin, as mentioned in our first reading today. Although men were punished for their disobedience against God, and thus deserving death and damnation, but God still loved them and wanted them to be saved, for in the end, it was because of Satan’s evil machinations that men fell, and thus, He proclaimed before man and Satan, that while Satan would continue to strike at the sons and daughters of man, but through the Woman, who is to come, Satan’s dominion and reign over man’s fate will come to an end.

That woman is Mary, whom God chose from among all the sons and daughters, descendants of Adam and Eve, all sinners, to be the one who would bear the Messiah. And this is where our faith and belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary must be linked to what we have just discussed earlier about the corruption of sin, and about the Ark of the Covenant, how holy it was and how precious the materials that were used in its construction.

For God willed that Mary alone out of all those born of man and woman, would not have the taint of sin, which is the corruption of our body, mind, heart and soul. Mary alone would be granted the singular grace of this immaculate nature, coming from the word immaculate that means ‘pure’. Mary was specially designed by God to be pure and perfect in all things, as how He created them at the beginning before sin came into our midst.

Is such a thing possible? Of course, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is definitely possible, for nothing is impossible for God. God is almighty, omnipotent, all-powerful and all-knowing. Surely it is within His power to will a being without sin into creation, and thus, Mary was made, the perfect New Ark for the New Covenant, that is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Mary is that new vessel through which the One Who would establish and seal the eternal Covenant between us and God would be born.

And the nature of this New Ark, Mary, is indeed marvellous. For unlike the old Ark, crafted by the hands of men out of worldly materials of gold and other precious materials, the New Ark, that is Mary, was made by the hands of God Himself, crafted in His own image and perfection. And therefore, this creation of God far surpassed the creation of man, and indeed, fitting, for this New Covenant is nothing like the old Covenant.

For in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, God Himself came down in the flesh through Mary, His mother. Through Mary, God became incarnate into Man, assuming His human nature, which was then united but remained distinct from His divine nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Son of Mary. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the old Ark of the Covenant and the whole Temple of Jerusalem built by King Solomon at its consecration, the Holy Spirit came down on Mary and by the will of God, the Saviour, the Divine Word Incarnate was conceived in Mary’s womb.

Thus, after going through all these, surely we can see why God made Mary to be perfect and blameless, without a single taint of sin. Just as God is all good and perfect, and sin has no place before Him, then the Vessel that bears Him, for nine months in the womb, must also be blameless and perfect, free from any taints, including that of sin. That is why, God made Mary to be special, and affirmed by the Archangel Gabriel, who greeted her with the greeting, “Hail Mary, full of grace”.

Of course, this does not make Mary to be divine or a goddess, unlike what some would accuse the Church and us of doing. There has been plenty of misunderstandings and misrepresentations on the Marian Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, of the Perpetual Virginity and the Assumption, in which certain people had this misconception that we worship Mary like as if she is a goddess. This is not true, and which all of us as Christians must be very clear about.

Mary is still an ordinary human being like us, but at the same time also special, because of the role for which God has prepared her to be. But we also venerate her and love her so much, because after all, she is none other and nothing less than the Mother of Our God Himself, and if we profess to believe in Jesus Christ, love Him and wanting to devote ourselves to Him, how can we then not love His mother, Mary, whom He Himself loved very much?

Today, as all of us rejoice together in this great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, all of us are called to spend some time to reflect on our own lives, on our own actions in life, on whatever we have done to others, on every words and deeds we have given and shown. Are we able to call ourselves good disciples and followers of our God? Or are there many areas in which we can improve ourselves, in growing deeper in our relationship with God, and in turning away from our sins?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to imitate the examples of Mary, who is not just conceived and born, and lived without the taint of sin by the grace of God, but even more importantly, whose life is an inspiration to all of us. She suffered a lot in her life, and as a poor woman from Nazareth, surely she encountered many challenges throughout her life. Yet, she remained good in her faith in God, and remained committed to God, obeying His will and whatever He has planned for us through her.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as Mary had done? Are we able to say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call and allow Him to do His wonders through us, just as Mary responded to the Good News proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel with perfect humility and obedience, with her own words, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to His will”?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this season of Advent, let us spend more time in prayer and in trying to deepen our relationship with God. Let us ask the Lord to reveal in our hearts and minds, in the silence of our prayers, what His will is for each and every one of us. May the Lord continue to watch over us and draw us closer to Him, and may His blessed mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception, continue to intercede for us, now and always. Amen.

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