Saints Peter & Paul Major Seminary
Bodija, Ibadan, Nigeria
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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Gathered around the Eucharistic table this morning we celebrate our Blessed Virgin Mary under the title of our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. We celebrate an age long doctrine of the church infallibly defined by Pope Pius IX in 1854 which teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary from the first instance of her conception was given the gift from God of being conceived without original sin. That is to say that, from her conception, she was divinely protected from the stain of sin and given the full grace to live a life without sin. The reality of this doctrine is made manifest in the Gospel reading of this morning when the angel greeted her to announce to her that she would be the mother of our Lord. This was an entirely unique greeting for the Blessed Mother, who was, in the words of Lumen Gentium 56 filled with an entirely unique holiness.

On a day like this, it is important that we pay attention to the teachings of this dogma and guard against an erroneous understanding of it. The Immaculate Conception does not mean that Mary did not need Jesus to die on the cross for her. Far from it; the Gospel reading of today describes her as being “full of grace” and in the words of the definition of the dogma, the church teaches that she was redeemed by a singular grace, by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ. This immediately brings to the mind the fact that the holiness which she received from the moment of her conception comes wholly from Christ; she is redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her son. She is blessed more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and chosen “in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. Thus we can say that Mary is preeminent among those redeemed. She like every one of us here is a creature, but however redeemed first before anyone else by the power of the most high in view of her role as the Mother of our savior, that she may possess a spotless flesh which she would in turn as mother give to Christ at the incarnation to offer to the Father on the cross for our sake. She is the most excellent fruit of redemption. She is the new Eve, created immaculate like the first, but through her obedience and total self-giving to the will of God, she became the source of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. These things surely have implications for us who gather here today to celebrate her immaculate conception.

Endowed with freewill like every other human being, the Blessed Virgin Mary could have said No to God but she did not. She stood steadfast amidst all the imperfections of human nature that come with sin. In this way, she was able to give herself over to the will of God, completely able to cooperate with the plan of salvation in our own lives, as well as in the work of the church, she was able to cooperate fully and completely from the moment of her conception. It is by that same grace which kept her from contracting personal sins as well, that we are invited today to gaze upon an image of our own destiny; namely that it is possible for us by co-operating with the grace of God which is ever present and available to us, we too can lead holy lives in a world where making an option for God seems to be eroded. We pray therefore through her maternal intercession that she who was conceived without original sin, would continue to intercede for us who recourse to her. Amen. 


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