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Monday, December 7, 2009

Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

In the passage from his Letter to the Ephesians that we just heard, St. Paul makes a remarkable claim. He states that God “chose us in [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.” I know that this is an unbelievable claim when I look at my life, as I am most definitely not holy and very much blemished by sin, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Nevertheless, today we celebrate the ultimate example of one being chosen from all time “to be holy and without blemish”. The Blessed Virgin Mary, chosen from the beginning of time to be the Mother of God, was conceived without sin and never had to suffer with the effects of sin. Just as sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sin is conquered through the obedience of Mary, the new Eve, and her Son Jesus, the new Adam.

The sinlessness of Our Lady gives us hope that one day we too will no longer be burdened by the pain and suffering of humanity's sinful nature. In the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deus which formally defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius IX wrote that Mary, “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin.” Just as we are saved through the merits of Our Lord's death on the Cross, Mary's sinless nature was a special grace by God giving her the benefits of the salvation won by Jesus to prepare her to conceive and bear the Son of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

For ourselves, Mary's sinless nature shows us that we will also be cleansed of sin in Paradise, just as Adam and Eve enjoyed sinlessness before their disobedience brought sin into the world. One day we will no longer suffer from sin and its effects on our lives, but will enjoy the fullness of God's grace. The Archangel Gabriel called Mary “full of grace” and declared that “the Lord is with you”. It is our hope, and the hope of all Christians, that we too will be in the fullness of God's grace and be in the presence of God, just as Mary was during her time on Earth and still is today.

As we celebrate this feast of the Immaculate Conception, may the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Blessed Mother of Our Lord and our Mother, be upon us, and upon this nation which is dedicated to the patronage of the Immaculate Conception.

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