Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

December 8, 2021
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

The Liturgy of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception takes us to the beginning of human history when original innocence was lost by our first parents through the sin of Adam induced by the temptation of the serpent and the collaboration of Eve.

The first reading recalls the opening of the eyes of Adam and Eve to their sin and the experience of shame that immediately follows. Their suspicion of God as a rival to their freedom has now given way to fear of God and hostility against Him and His just sovereignty over all of creation.

This sin of our first parents also begins the fight between good and evil, as expressed in the enmity between the serpent and the woman and her offspring yet to be born and recorded throughout the Old Testament. It is a fight for which her offspring are continuously outmatched and outwitted by the evil one no matter her offspring’s individual virtues: the courage of David gives way to his lust for Bathsheba, the servant-leadership of Moses falls to his disobedience of God’s command, and the wisdom of Solomon gives way to idolatry of the false gods of his gentile wives. The battle between good and evil rages on, with evil usually getting the better of the fight because of human weakness to sin. Yet, the ongoing battle is itself a revelation of God’s patient love and merciful desire to save human beings. As Saint John Paul II wrote, “This “enmity” means that God does not withdraw from sin, which the prince of darkness grafted into the heart of man and his history. Love, that is, grace, is stronger than sin. And it will always be more powerful. One measure of this power will be the cross of Christ: the redemptive sacrifice for human sin in its universal dimension.”

The Liturgy of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception takes us even further back than the beginning of human history, as we hear revealed in Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians that God “chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before Him.” The choice of God to create us necessarily involves our lives and existence as being holy and blameless of sin in His sight because sin cannot exist in the presence of God who is perfect love and goodness.

It is authentic to the Gospel to say that the power of grace was realized in the Blessed Virgin Mary before and in anticipation of the redemption of Her Son, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This redemption in her precedes the human inheritance of sin: Mary is immaculate in her very beginning; she is immaculate so that God can accomplish all things in her and through her according to His unconditional love for every human person manifest fully in the gift of His Son who died and rose for us that we might live. Because the merits of her Son are eternal and precede human history even as they are victorious within human history, the Mother of God is immaculate at her conception, as the child of Joachim and Anne; at the Annunciation by God delivered by the Archangel Gabriel; in her compassionate visitation of her kinswoman Elizabeth; during her journey to Bethlehem and at her Son’s birth; throughout her hidden and daily life with Saint Joseph and Jesus in Nazareth; in her tender affection and intercession with her Son for the newly married couple of Cana; at the foot of her Son’s Cross, holding His lifeless body in sorrow; in Ephesus at the home of the Beloved Disciple; and assumed into Heaven where she reigns with her Son and prays for us now and at the hour of our death. Through Baptism we become the offspring of Mary, full of grace, our only hope to be victorious in our fight for good against the evil one, the fight her Son has already won. Mary prays for us that we might rely on her Son’s gift of grace because we cannot live eternally without this gift and we are not prone to seek it without having first received it.

The Liturgy of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception makes us present to the beginning of human history; it carries us even further back before human history; and, in celebrating this Sacred Mystery in this Eucharist, it makes us present to our future destiny of which Saint Paul writes, “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.”

%d bloggers like this: