8 December 2015
One of the priests in our seminary celebrates 25th year of his priestly ordination today. Our community celebrated this milestone last night. You see, for some young people, 25 years sounds like a very long time! Hence, when someone reaches 25th year of existence, that person may appear so ancient.
But his speech last night hit me. He goes, and allow me to quote him loosely, “To reach 25 years as a priest is nothing. You’d just have to wait. You don’t even have to do anything. And before you know it, you’re already celebrating 25 years of your ordination.” I think, his point is about the faithfulness of God in keeping someone in the priestly ministry for such a long time.
I mentioned this as I think about the significance of the Solemn Feast we celebrate today. Our Blessed Mother’s Immaculate Conception is, in more ways than one, reaching also a milestone like this—for it is likened to a gift which we do not deserve, and depends on the kindness and generosity of the giver.
You see, the Blessed Mother may be illustrated as a young and beautiful woman in her various images; she may be portrayed virtuous and full of maternal love. But come to think of it, she is also just a human person like you and me. This ought to make us realize that Mama Mary’s gift of being kept untouched by the original sin in the first moments of her life in the womb of her mother St. Anne, is indeed, a “grace and privilege” granted to her by the Almighty.
This we heard in the Gospel today. The angel Gabriel is sent to Nazareth. It’s a town far away from the city. The angel calls out to the young Virgin Mary “Hail, full of grace.” Notice that the angel does not address Mama Mary by her name—he does not say “Hail, Mary, full of grace.” He simply says to her, “Hail, full of grace.”
For many of us who get used to repeating this, when we pray the rosary, we run the risk of losing its beautiful meaning. Mama Mary is greatly favored by God. Our catechism teaches us that her being “full of grace” is a gift from God to prepare her to be the stain-free mother of our Lord Jesus when He took on the human nature. To become the mother of our Savior, Mary was given such a gift which fits such a role (CCC 490).
The Gospel ends with her “Yes” when the angel told her that she will become a mother to Jesus who will become a King and will rule forever.
Mary’s “yes” is contrasted by Eve’s “no” which we heard in the first reading. Mary’s obedience to the will of the Father shines out beautifully amidst the backdrop of Eve’s disobedience. When Adam and Eve realized that they disobeyed God when they ate the fruit of the tree, they tried to escape the responsibility for their actions. Adam blames Eve. Eve on the other hand blames the serpent which tempted her.
In this story of our first parents, we also see a pattern of our very own disobedience, of our own sinfulness. How many times have we failed God? How many times have we disobeyed Him? We may have lost count in repeatedly falling to temptation, and worse, in passing on the blame to other people for our misdeeds.
In our second reading, St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, reminds us of the life of holiness to which God calls us. I know that as a loving Father, He too, has beautiful plans for us like what He has planned for Mama Mary.
May this Solemn Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mother remind us that we are born in order to give proof that our God is good; that He is love; that He is full of mercy.
I know of a boy named Dominic who wanted to be wanted to be good; he wanted to live a holy life. And at a very young, at the age of 7, on the night before he received his first communion, he wrote a number of promises. One of the resolutions he jotted down is that “Jesus and Mary will only be his best friends.”
He held on to this promise every single day of his life. Even before reaching the age of 15, he passes away. And as a reward to his obedience and faithfulness to God, he became a saint. And to date, he is considered one of the youngest saints in the history of the Catholic Church.
Holiness may be a gift, and it could only come from God. And God has only that desire for us, to be holy, to be pure and clean like our Immaculate Mother. In this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us turn to our Lord Jesus and His mother Mary so that we may desire all the more and learn to be holy.