The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady

Homily for December 8th - The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady

by Fr. Tommy Lane

(As people are confused about the meaning of the Immaculate Conception this is our celebration of Our Lady’s conception free from original sin and hence we celebrate her birth 9 months later on September 8th. We celebrate the conception of Jesus on March 25th in the Annunciation of his birth to Mary and we celebrate his birth 9 months later on December 25th.)

On June 22nd 1998 the Church of Corpus Christi in Moyross in Limerick was destroyed by fire causing an estimated £250,000 worth of damage. At first it was thought the fire started because of a candle that had fallen on the floor but the forensic examination showed that that the fire started in an extension cable for the organ. It overheated because it was left rolled up instead of being fully extended. The fire was so strong that even the marble melted. Yet a wooden statue of Our Lady survived, although the statue was blackened and scorched. The statue had a marble base which was destroyed. There was a plaster canopy over the statue which was also destroyed. The damage around the statue was so severe because it was located close to the point where the fire started. The Limerick Leader newspaper quoted the caretaker as saying “I can’t understand how the statue of Our Lady survived when everything else around it went to pieces.” The sacristan was quoted as saying, “God certainly works in mysterious ways.” They planned to re-install the statue of Our Lady in the church after it is renovated. (This was reported in The Curate’s Diary in July 1998.)

We are all born with original sin. Baptism as well as bringing us into the Catholic Church also washes away original sin. Today we honor Our Lady because she was conceived free from original sin. From the first moment of her existence Our Lady was not contaminated by original sin just as the statue of Our Lady in Limerick survived the fire when everything else around it was destroyed. We believe Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception was a special grace given to Our Lady in advance because of her Son Jesus dying and rising. Time means nothing to God and God who had planned that his Son would become flesh and dwell among us, also planned that an Immaculate Mother would give birth to Jesus.

Although it was only on Dec 8th 1854 that Pope Pius IX solemnly declared that Our Lady was conceived free from original sin and that this was then a dogma of faith to be believed by all the faithful, it had been the belief of the faithful for centuries before that. When Our Lady appeared in Lourdes four years later in 1858 she said to St. Bernadette, “I am the Immaculate Conception” confirming the Pope’s decision to declare the dogma of the Immaculate Conception four years earlier. Our Lady herself confirmed the Pope’s declaration that she was immaculate.

We look on the purity of Mary with admiration. She is the first believer in Jesus. She is the first Christian. We look on Mary as a model for us. Everyday we struggle against temptation and sin, or because of events in the past that have hurt us. We can and should pray to Mary to help us on our journey, to help us fight temptation and sin. In our first reading we heard about Eve leading Adam into sin. Mary is the New Eve because at the Annunciation and all through her life Mary restored the relationship broken by the first Eve. She is the New Eve because she is the mother of all those born into new life through the grace in Christ. For this reason another translation of Gen 3:15 in the first reading today reads as Mary crushing Satan’s head. In our moments of trial let us turn to Mary for help. She like us had to struggle with what it means to be a follower of Jesus. In the temple Simeon predicted that a sword of sorrow would pierce her soul (Luke 2:35). When Jesus was lost she had to learn that Jesus’ heavenly Father comes first (Luke 2:49). Mary too had to take up her cross after Jesus even though she was immaculate.

Today we celebrate in honor of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and not just because of this special grace given to her but also because we regard Mary in a special way a mother to all of us, a mother whom we love and a mother who loves us, a mother to whom we can tell everything, a mother who wants what is best for us.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,
Blessed are thou among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for December 8th- The Immaculate Conception of Our Lady

Immaculate Conception of Our Lady and the Miraculous Medal

Immaculate Conception and the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help

Mary Full of Grace since her Immaculate Conception: hints of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception in the Bible

Our Tainted Nature's Solitary Boast 2016

Related Homilies: Jesus came because Mary surrendered to God

Mary’s “Amen”

Saying “Yes” to Jesus’ invitation to allow Him into our Lives

First reading Where are you?