The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin.  Now, let us be clear that this celebration pertains to the conception of Mary herself, and not that of Jesus, whose conception we celebrate on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25th.  It’s easy to keep this straight if you do the math: nine months after this date is September 8th, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Nine months after the Annunciation is December 25th, or Christmas, the feast of the birth of our Savior.

Today’s feast is an important one.  Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is the Patroness of our parish, and, since 1856, also of the United States of America.  This feast celebrates our faith that God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.  This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition.  How appropriate it is, then, that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception in these Advent days when we prepare for Christmas, that glorious day when our salvation began to unfold.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture.  In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall.  The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.  Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness.  God found they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful; they had not been created for shame.  Sin had entered the world, and God asks the man to tell him who had given him the forbidden fruit.

This leads to a rather pathetic deterioration of morality, as the man blames not just the woman, but also God, for the situation: “The woman whom you put here with me: she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”  In other words, if God hadn’t put the woman there with him in the first place, he never would have received the fruit to eat.  The woman, too, blames someone else: the serpent.  As if neither of them had been created with a brain to think for themselves, they begin that blame game in which we all participate from time to time.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures.  God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way.  God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation.  Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation, or we would be in dire straits.  This cycle of salvation comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today.  Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection.  That is why Saint Paul writes, in his letter to the Ephesians: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.  In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder.  God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to them, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man.  He began this by preparing a fitting mother for his Son: the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin.  He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form.  With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us, and as the least among us: a newborn infant born to a poor family.  Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.  There’s a wonderful Marian prayer called the Alma Redemptoris Mater that the Church prays at the conclusion of Night Prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons that sums it all up so beautifully.  Pray it with me, if you know it:

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of heaven, star of the sea,

Assist your people
who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us, poor sinners.

Our celebration today has special meaning for us.  Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us.  Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb.  Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we know that we were made for heaven.  Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

[Now, many of you have been preparing for consecration to Jesus through Mary by participating in our 33 Days to Morning Gloryretreat, either individually or in a group.  In a moment, you will stand and we will pray that together. After that, I will then kneel before the statue of our Blessed Mother and pray a prayer consecrating our beloved parish and all its families to Jesus through Mary.  Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary is a longtime devotion of the Church in which we pray that our Blessed Mother would lead us to her Son. It recognizes that, because of her obvious closeness to Jesus, she is able to bring us to intimate relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ and his Divine Mercy.  It is fitting to do this on our patronal feast day, because it is a way for us to recommit ourselves to her service and implore her intercession.]

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin.  This had been a traditional belief since about the eighth century, and had been celebrated as a feast first in the East, and later in the West.  So let us be clear that this celebration pertains to the conception of Mary, and not that of Jesus, whose conception we celebrate on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25.  It’s easy to keep this straight if you remember the math: nine months after this date is September 8th, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Nine months after the Annunciation is December 25th, or Christmas, the feast of the birth of our Savior.

Today’s feast celebrates our faith that God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.  This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition.  How appropriate it is, then, that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception just before Christmas, when our salvation begins to unfold.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture.  In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall.  The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.  Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness.  God noticed that, and asked about it.  He found they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful; they had not been created for shame.  Sin had entered the world, and God asks the man to tell him who had given him the forbidden fruit.

This leads to a rather pathetic deterioration of morality, as the man blames not just the woman, but also God, for the situation: “The woman whom you put here with me: she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”  In other words, if God hadn’t put the woman there with him in the first place, he never would have received the fruit to eat.  The woman, too, blames someone else: the serpent.  As if neither of them had been created with a brain to think for themselves, they begin that blame game in which we all participate from time to time.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures.  God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way.  God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation.  Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation, or we would be in dire straits.  It all comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today.  Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection.  That is why St. Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.   In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder.  God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to them, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man.  He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin.  He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form.  With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us, and as the least among us: a newborn infant born to a poor family.  Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.  There’s a wonderful Marian prayer called the Alma Redemptoris Mater that the Church prays at the conclusion of Night Prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons that sums it all up so beautifully.  Pray it with me, if you know it:

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of heaven, star of the sea,

Assist your people
who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us, poor sinners.

Our celebration today has special meaning for us.  Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us.  Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb.  Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day.  Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 

#adventnd #blessedvirginmary #advent
Today’s readings

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This had been a traditional belief since about the eighth century, and had been celebrated as a feast first in the East, and later in the West.

This feast celebrates the belief that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight. This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition. How appropriate it is, then, that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception during Advent, when we recount the unfolding of salvation through the Incarnation of Christ.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture. In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall. The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat. Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness. God noticed that, and asked about it. He found they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures. God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way. God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation. Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation, or we would be in dire straits. It all comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today. Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection. That is why St. Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder. God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to him, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man. He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin. He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form. With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us. Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.

Our celebration today has special meaning for us. Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us. Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb. Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day. Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary 

School Mass
#adventnd #blessedvirginmary #advent
Today’s readings

I think we’re so blessed that we get to come to church and celebrate so many of Mary’s feasts. Today is a very special feast because Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States of America, and so she is very special to us.

I think today’s readings can be a little confusing. The Gospel makes it sound like this day is about the conception of Jesus, but it isn’t. We celebrate the conception of Jesus nine months before he was born, so that would be March 25th. We call that day the Annunciation, because that was the day the Angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she would have a baby, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute. Today we celebrate the conception of Mary, nine months before her birthday, so if you do the math on that one, her birthday is September 8th, just a few months ago. This day celebrates that Mary was free from sin from the very beginning, the only person other than Jesus to be born without sin.
The other confusing reading is the first one. Why do we go all the way to the beginning of creation when we’re talking about Mary today? Well, I think the reason is that Mary solved a problem that began all the way at the beginning. And that problem was sin. From the very beginning, we human beings have been tempted to sin. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, and people have been committing sin ever since. Again and again, God broke in to history, leading people back to him, giving them prophets to show them the way, and again and again, people turned away from God. And we continue that today. Again and again, we are tempted and we sin and we turn away from God. Eve represented our fall into sin.
But God didn’t want that to be the way things ended up for us. So he sent his Son to become one of us. God knew that in order for Jesus to be born among us, his mother was going to have to be pretty special. So before Mary was ever in her mother’s womb, God chose her to be his Son’s mother. He made her free from sin so that no stain of sin would ever touch his Son.
Because Mary was so special, she loved God very much. So when the angel came and told her she would have a baby by the power of the Holy Spirit, she said yes to God’s plan. I don’t know if she really understood what was going to happen, I don’t know if she really knew how this wonderful event would take place, and she probably didn’t fully understood what would happen to Jesus in his life, but she said yes anyway. We call that her fiat, her “yes” to God’s plan for her. She took a big leap of faith that day, and we have been blessed ever since.
This is all very good news. But there is even more good news: because Mary was so special to God, she shows us how special we are to God. As we celebrate God’s love for Mary today, we also celebrate his love for us. Mary got to hold her Savior – the One God promised us – in her own arms. When those of us who are old enough come to Communion today, we will be able to hold our Savior – the One God promised us – in the palm of our hand. Mary’s life was brightened when Jesus was born. Our lives will be brightened too, this coming Christmas, and every time we make room in our hearts for Jesus.
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin. This had been a traditional belief since about the eighth century, and had been celebrated as a feast first in the East, and later in the West.

Today we also begin the Holy Year of Mercy, instituted by Pope Francis. During this year, the Pope has called us to pay particular attention to the mercy of God, and to be very certain that we as the Church extend that mercy to every person. It’s very appropriate to begin the Year of Mercy with today’s feast, because in this feast, we see the unfolding of God’s great mercy. This feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates the belief that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight. This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture. In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall. The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat. Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness. God noticed that, and asked about it. He found they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures. God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way. In his great mercy, God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation. Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation and that his mercies are never spent, or we would be in dire straits. It all comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today. Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection. That is why St. Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.   In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder. God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to him, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man. He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin. He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form. With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us. Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.

Our celebration today has special meaning for us. Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us. Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb. Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day. Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too. That is the fullness of God’s mercy!

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

Our Lady of Lourdes

Bernadette Soubirous was a sickly young woman. But on February 11, 1858, her entire life changed when a beautiful lady, clothed in white, with a rosary over her arm and a yellow rose on each foot, appeared to her and said, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” In the years since, the site of those wonderful apparitions, Lourdes, has been a place of pilgrimage and healing, but even more of faith. Church authorities have recognized over 60 miraculous cures, although there have probably been many more. To people of faith this is not surprising. It is a continuation of Jesus’ healing miracles—now performed at the intercession of his mother. Some would say that the greater miracles are hidden ones. That is, many who visit Lourdes return home with renewed faith and a readiness to serve God in their needy brothers and sisters.

Many continue to be healed in body, mind and spirit today. Maybe it’s the remission of cancer, or deliverance from the flu. Perhaps the intercessor was Saint Blaise, who we recently remembered, or Saint Peregrine, or Our Lady of Lourdes who we celebrate today. However it is accomplished, healing is the ministry of our God. Sometimes an illness is not cured, perhaps it even grows worse or is terminal, and so maybe the healing that God intends in that situation isn’t the physical one we hope for, but instead some spiritual gift or growth in faith. God answers our prayers in all sorts of ways, though the prayers of many intercessors; a person of faith takes comfort in that.

In 1992, Pope Saint John Paul II proclaimed today as the World Day of the Sick, “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding us to see in our sick brother and sister the face of Christ who, by suffering, dying and rising, achieved the salvation of humankind.” In our prayer today, we remember all of those who are sick, and we offer our own illnesses and frailties for the accomplishment of God’s will in our world.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

I think we’re so blessed that we get to come to church and celebrate so many of Mary’s feasts. Today is a very special feast because Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States of America, and so she is very special to us.

I think today’s readings can be a little confusing. The Gospel makes it sound like this day is about the conception of Jesus, but it isn’t. We celebrate the conception of Jesus nine months before he was born, so that would be March 25th. We call that day the Annunciation, because that was the day the Angel Gabriel came to announce to Mary that she would have a baby, but we’ll talk more about that in a minute. Today we celebrate the conception of Mary, nine months before her birthday, so if you do the math on that one, her birthday is September 8th, just a few months ago. This day celebrates that Mary was free from sin from the very beginning, the only person other than Jesus to be born without sin.

The other confusing reading is the first one. Why do we go all the way to the beginning of creation when we’re talking about Mary today? Well, I think the reason is that Mary solved a problem that began all the way at the beginning. And that problem was sin. From the very beginning, we human beings have been tempted to sin. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden, and people have been committing sin ever since. Again and again, God broke in to history, leading people back to him, giving them prophets to show them the way, and again and again, people turned away from God. And we continue that today. Again and again, we are tempted and we sin and we turn away from God. Eve represented our fall into sin.

But God didn’t want that to be the way things ended up for us. So he sent his Son to become one of us. God knew that in order for Jesus to be born among us, his mother was going to have to be pretty special. So before Mary was ever in her mother’s womb, God chose her to be his Son’s mother. He made her free from sin so that no stain of sin would ever touch his Son.

Because Mary was so special, she loved God very much. So when the angel came and told her she would have a baby by the power of the Holy Spirit, she said yes to God’s plan. I don’t know if she really understood what was going to happen, I don’t know if she really knew how this wonderful event would take place, and she probably didn’t fully understood what would happen to Jesus in his life, but she said yes anyway. We call that her fiat, her “yes” to God’s plan for her. She took a big leap of faith that day, and we have been blessed ever since.

This is all very good news. But there is even more good news: because Mary was so special to God, she shows us how special we are to God. As we celebrate God’s love for Mary today, we also celebrate his love for us. Mary got to hold her Savior – the One God promised us – in her own arms. When those of us who are old enough come to Communion today, we will be able to hold our Savior – the One God promised us – in the palm of our hand. Mary’s life was brightened when Jesus was born. Our lives will be brightened too, this coming Christmas, and every time we make room in our hearts for Jesus.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin.  This had been a traditional belief since about the eighth century, and had been celebrated as a feast first in the East, and later in the West.

This feast celebrates the belief that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.  This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition.  How appropriate it is, then, that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception during Advent, when we recount the unfolding of salvation through the Incarnation of Christ.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture.  In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall.  The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.  Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness.  God noticed that, and asked about it.  He found they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures.  God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way.  God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation.  Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation, or we would be in dire straits.  It all comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today.  Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection.  That is why St. Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.   In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder.  God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to them, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man.  He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin.  He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form.  With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us.  Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.  

Our celebration today has special meaning for us.  Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us.  Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb.  Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day.  Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s readings

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin.  This had been a traditional belief since about the eighth century, and had been celebrated as a feast first in the East, and later in the West.  So let us be clear that this celebration pertains to the conception of Mary, and not that of Jesus, whose conception we celebrate on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25.  It’s easy to keep this straight if you remember the math: nine months after this date is September 8th, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Nine months after the Annunciation is December 25th, or Christmas, the feast of the birth of our Savior.

Today’s feast celebrates our faith that God loves the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.  This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition.  How appropriate it is, then, that we celebrate the Immaculate Conception just before Christmas, when our salvation begins to unfold.

The readings chosen for this day paint the picture.  In the reading from Genesis, we have the story of the fall.  The man and the woman had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.  Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness.  God noticed that, and asked about it.  He found they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful; they had not been created for shame.  Sin had entered the world, and God asks the man to tell him who had given him the forbidden fruit.

This leads to a rather pathetic deterioration of morality, as the man blames not just the woman, but also God, for the situation: “The woman whom you put here with me: she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”  In other words, if God hadn’t put the woman there with him in the first place, he never would have received the fruit to eat.  The woman, too, blames someone else: the serpent.  As if neither of them had been created with a brain to think for themselves, they begin that blame game in which we all participate from time to time.

Thus begins the pattern of sin and deliverance that cycles all through the scriptures.  God extends a way to salvation to his people, the people reject it and go their own way.  God forgives, and extends a new way to salvation.  Thank God he never gets tired of pursuing humankind and offering salvation, or we would be in dire straits.  It all comes to perfection in the event we celebrate today.  Salvation was always God’s plan for us and he won’t rest until that plan comes to perfection.  That is why St. Paul tells the Ephesians, and us, today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.   In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder.  God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to them, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man.  He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin.  He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form.  With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming vulnerable, taking our flesh as one like us, and as the least among us: a newborn infant born to a poor family.  Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.  There’s a wonderful Marian prayer called the Alma Redemptoris Mater that the Church prays at the conclusion of Night Prayer during the Advent and Christmas seasons that sums it all up so beautifully.  Pray it with me, if you know it:

Loving Mother of the Redeemer,
Gate of heaven, star of the sea,

Assist your people
who have fallen yet strive to rise again.
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before.
You who received Gabriel’s joyful greeting,
have pity on us, poor sinners.

Our celebration today has special meaning for us.  Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us.  Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb.  Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day.  Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today’s Readings

Blessed Pope Pius IX instituted the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8, 1854, when he proclaimed as truth the dogma that our Lady was conceived free from the stain of original sin.  This had been a traditional belief since about the eighth century, and had been celebrated as a feast first in the East, and later in the West.  So let us be clear that this celebration pertains to the conception of Mary, and not that of Jesus, whose conception we celebrate on the feast of the Annunciation on March 25.  The Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of theUnited States of America, and so this feast is always a Holy Day of Obligation, every single year.

This feast celebrates the dogmatic belief that God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to be our Savior, and gave to him a human mother who was chosen before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight.  This feast is a sign for us of the nearness of our salvation; that the plan God had for us before the world ever took shape was finally coming to fruition.

The first reading paints the picture for us.  The man had eaten of the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat.  Because of this, they were ashamed and covered over their nakedness.  God noticed that, and asked about it – obviously he knew what happened, but he wanted to hear them say it.  He knew they had discovered the forbidden tree because otherwise they would not have the idea that their natural state was shameful.  Sin had entered the world, and God asks who gave the man the forbidden fruit.

This leads to the first recorded instance of passing the buck, as the man blames not just the woman, but also God, for the situation: “The woman whom you put here with me; she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it.”  In other words, if God hadn’t put the woman there with him in the first place, he never would have received the fruit to eat.  The woman, too, blames someone else: the serpent.  As if neither of them had been created with a brain to think for themselves, they begin that blame game that traced its ugly path all through history and that we all participate in from time to time.

This is a pattern we will see all throughout Scripture: God gives a road to salvation, human beings turn away, and so on and so on and so on.  And we still do it today, don’t we?  We have the Scriptures to show us the way, but we don’t take time to read and reflect on them.  We have the Church to lead us in the right way, but we choose to do whatever we think is right, as if we are smarter than two millennia of saints.  We have the Sacraments to fill us with grace, but some hardly ever partake of them.  As the Psalmist says, “The LORD has made his salvation known: in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.” How will we respond to that grace?  God is always pouring out his generous gifts, and we so often reject them and in doing so, reject the Divine Giver.

This cyclic state of sin and rejection was never intended.  We are not defined as a people by our sins.  We cannot mess up and say, “hey, I’m only human,” because being perfectly human does not include sin.  The perfectly human One – Jesus Christ – came to show us the way out of the cycle of sin and rejection.  This grace was always intended.  AsSt. Paul says to the Ephesians today: “He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”

And so, in these Advent days, we await the unfolding of the plan for salvation that began at the very dawn of the world in all its wonder.  God always intended to provide an incredible way for his people to return to them, and that was by taking flesh and walking among us as a man.  He began this by preparing for his birth through the Immaculate Virgin Mary – never stained by sin, because the one who conquered sin and death had already delivered her from sin.  He was then ready to be born into our midst and to take on our form.  With Mary’s fiat in today’s Gospel, God enters our world in the most intimate way possible, by becoming one of us.  Mary’s lived faith – possible because of her Immaculate Conception – makes possible our own lives of faith and our journeys to God.

Our celebration today has special meaning for us.  Because Mary was conceived without sin, we can see that sin was never intended to rule us.  Because God selected Mary from the beginning, we can see that we were chosen before we were ever in our mother’s womb.  Because Mary received salvific grace from the moment of her conception, we can catch a glimpse of what is to come for all of us one day.  Mary’s deliverance from sin and death was made possible by the death and resurrection of her Son Jesus, who deeply desires that we all be delivered in that way too.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.  Amen.