Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Jubilee Year of Mercy)
2015 – Cycle ABC
Genesis 3:9-15,20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
We live in a time of unparalleled, exciting, and wonder-filled advances in the sciences, medicine, and technology. Human inquiry and knowledge that offers great potential and promise to make human life better and healthier. From alleviating sickness through creative surgical techniques to allowing us to see into the depths of galaxies tens of thousands of light years away; from communicating instantaneously around the globe to understanding weather patterns and reinterpreting the tectonic movements of our planet; from scientific techniques that allow us to uncover ancient texts so as to reflect on our ancestors and their insights to science fiction which allows us to dream of the future – we live in an unprecedented time in human history and of our planet.
We live in a time when it is much easier to believe in Original Sin.
Like an alluring and glistening spider’s web, we find ourselves embraced in its sticky arms bent on ensnaring us as prey. Offsetting the significant leaps of human knowledge in our time is the use of that same knowledge for violence, terrorism and war. Individuals find their lives to be without meaning. The rise of intolerance, racism, anti-Semitism, tribalism, and anti-Christianity feeding our feelings of insecurity rooted in the fear of the unknown and “other”. The most sacred ties between human beings, marriage and family, are looked upon as outdated. The planet, our only home, is threatened by the technologies that also offer promise.
It is much easier to believe in Original Sin. A condition marked by blame and accusation. “The woman whom you put here with me – she gave me fruit from the tree…” “The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it” [Genesis 3:12-13]. The serpent, like the spider, is steely in his silence. Into this human situation the Catholic community proclaims a conception – an immaculate, sinless conception. And like all conceptions, they offer the opportunity of new beginnings, often unexpected new beginnings that give rise to deep joy and hope of what will be, of what can be.
As we reflect on our present world situation which holds the duel possibilities of rebirth or death, why does it seem easier to believe in Original Sin rather than God-given hope? In hope, Anna and Joachim conceive their daughter Mary. In hope, Mary of Nazareth conceives Jesus. Jesus who will deliver us from the sin and death that seem to engulf us in this time.
The immaculate, sinless conception of Mary that serves to underlie this spider’s web of sin also teaches us about the universal embrace of redemption. The redemption that kept Mary sinless is still there to take away the sin and the failure and the aimlessness of every human being who is willing to accept it. For like Mary, we must make our own declaration: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” [Luke 1:38]. In other words we who freely participate in sin must freely undertake and participate with God in the rebirthing of our world. The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary serves as a reminder of the need for redemption in a world that has grown smug, self-sufficient and fearful. The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary also serves as a sign of the offer by Christ of redemption to a world on the brink of despair.
A number of phrases were taken from a homily for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception by the Most Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Archbishop of Cincinnati; given at Mt. St. Mary Seminary, 9 December 2002.