Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Immaculate Conception

Today is special for several reasons, not only because we are celebrating the wonderful event in salvation history of the Immaculate Conception, but because today begins the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Regarding today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception the Holy Father remarked that it is a fitting day to open the Holy Year because it “recalls God’s action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and Immaculate in love, choosing her to be the Mother of man’s Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy.”

Today’s feast is thus an eloquent witness to the fact that, as the Holy Father says, “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.” God is not deterred by sin; in fact, history shows that he uses it to bring about even better things. All of us, as Paul tells us, have been chosen by God in Christ, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. This reality has been realized in history for our sake in Mary, by her Son from his death on the Cross.

As an action of the Divine Mercy in history, Mary’s purity is in God as a mutual gift between the divine Persons: from the Father, who wishes who provide a perfect Mother for his Son, and from the Son who wishes to restore to the Father a creation perfectly redeemed, and from the Spirit who cooperates in the will of both. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is no afterthought for a world gone wrong, but the mutual gift of divine love perfectly achieved. 

The Pope tells us that “we need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy, which is a wellspring of joy, serenity and peace,” and a bridge connecting God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” But the Holy Year is an occasion “to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we can become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives.” The ultimate goal being more effective witness through growth in holiness.

Mercy of its very nature is unmerited gift. A gift to truly be a gift must be received and requires a response. And the fitting first response is simply gratitude. Mary the Immaculate Conception is our model. Her gratitude can be summed up in her self-definition as handmaid of the Lord. Thanksgiving for all she has received is expressed in unreserved obedient service, above all in her unbounded “yes” to the request of the angel to be God’s mother and to all that was to follow in her life from that “yes.”  

Immaculate Conception by Diego Velasquez, Excerpts from Father Timothy's homily at today's Eucharist.