Solemnity of Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary

A Homily - Cycle B - 2011-2012
by Fr. Luke Dundon

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First Reading Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Responsorial Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4
Second Reading Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Gospel Luke 1:26-38

Written by Luke to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you."  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?"  And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God."  Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word."  Then the angel departed from her.

Who here likes to paint?

Pictures say a thousand words.  Every stroke the painter makes is carefully placed, for he or she is trying to portray the image they have in their mind, the dream that resides up here, they want to portray on the canvas.  There is a recently-made painting by a religious sister, which depicts two women, Mary and Eve.  Mary is pregnant with child, with one hand on her womb and one hand on Eve’s shoulder.  Eve is looking sorrowfully toward Mary, with one forbidden fruit clutched against her chest, and another hand reaching out to Mary’s womb, in HOPE.  Below, you can see a snake.  Its tail is coiled and wrapped around the ankle of Eve, but its head has been crushed by Mary’s heel.  And with this painting, so much can be said . . .

Pictures say a thousand words.  Eve, fallen into Original Sin, is reaching out and sees the world’s HOPE and REDEMPTION, through Mary’s YES.  Mary’s Yes to the Angel, may it be done unto me according to Your Word, ushered in NEW CREATION.  A poem which accompanies this painting reads:

My mother, my daughter, life-giving Eve,
Do not be ashamed, do not grieve.
The former things have passed away,
Our God has brought us to a New Day.
See, I am with Child,
Through whom all will be reconciled.
O Eve! My sister, my friend,
We will rejoice together
Life without end.

When a little French girl named Bernadette Subaru went out one evening to visit the mysterious lady who had been visiting her in the grotto for a few days, she finally got the courage to ask the mysterious lady, “who are you?”  She asked three times.  The Lady looked at her finally, with a serious expression, and with much emotion said to Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

I am the Immaculate Conception.  The painter wants the image on canvas to match the image in the mind . . . This is how God created too - - - the trees reflect how God wanted trees to look, mountains reflect how God wanted mountains to look, but NOT so with us . . . with us, God has to work with two images – - -there is the image God has of what we are right now, and there is the image of what we were MEANT to be in God’s mind, that which we should be always trying to become more and more, each day of our lives.  With Mary, however, there is only one image, one Ideal, and she has always lived up to it.

When Mary told young Bernadette that she was the Immaculate Conception, this does not mean that she was describing the conception of Christ her Son.  She was describing what She HAD TO BE in order for Christ to BE her Son.  The Son chose the mother before the mother chose the Son.  We can’t do that!  God is perfect and complete, and anything which is not perfect or complete needs to be made so before it can be with God.  In order for God to save us AS He freely and lovingly chose to (by coming down to be one of us, as man), he needed, naturally, a mother!  And not just any mother . . . one who was free from imperfection, “incompleteness,” the stain of sin.  One who would completely and FREELY cooperate with God’s will for her.  Mary was created for a very special purpose in mind, and she freely cooperated with this purpose!!!

There is an important lesson in this for us.  The Lord loves His Mother with the Love that only a Divine Son can offer, but He also loves US in an incredibly personal way, so personal that He made His mother ours as well.  God the Father gave His daughter Mary the graces she needed to say “yes” to God’s plan for her, from the very moment of her conception, He gave them to her.  God also gives US the graces WE need to say “yes” to Him, even in the midst of our own imperfection.  What graces are they?  One of the most powerful are found in the Immaculate Conception herself, for she will help us on our life’s journey, so that we become the beautiful image that the Lord had in mind when He first created each of us.  Mary said “yes” to God at every moment in her life, and despite the rationalizing culture we have out there, the truth is that WE CAN DO THE SAME, WE TOO CAN SAY “YES” TO OUR LORD AND GOD IN EVERYTHING WE DO, WE ARE CALLED TO SUCH A PERFECT LOVE, AND WE CAN ACHIEVE THAT, WITH MARY’S HELP!!!  TRUE HUMAN IMITATES God’s love, and overflows, it reaches for that ideal which the Divine Artist first intended, and so we could say, that when we REACH for such perfect love, we are reaching for the hand of our holy Mother, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen has so eloquently said, “She is the one whom every man loves when he loves a woman, whether he knows it or not.  She is what every woman wants to be when she looks at herself.  She is the way every woman wants to command respect and love because of the beauty of her goodness of body and soul.”  Mary truly shows us, men and women, what it means to be made in the Image and Likeness of the Divine Artist, and so we turn to her as our national patroness today, as we pray to her for ourselves, for our families, for our country: 

Hail Mary, full of Grace.  The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.  Amen.

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