Theme: She is full of grace
By: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Homily for Wednesday December 8 2021
On a day like this, we cannot but sing a new song to the Lord, in line with the invitation of the psalmist, for He has worked wonders, and He continues to work inexplanable wonders in our midst; the wonder of creation, the wonder of our redemption, the wonder of the sustenance of the created order, the wonder of His coming to us in our form, the wonder of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the wonder of His power at work in the life of Mary that she is full of grace, the wonder of the Immaculate Conception. May we be beneficiaries of these innumerable wonders of God in our midst; Amen.
Today the whole Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, one of the mysteries of our faith. The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception teaches that for the noblest of missions to which she was fittingly prepared by God to execute, Mary, the Mother of God, was preserved from the first moment of her conception from every stain of sin. Since in her there was no sin, she is immaculate, hence she is full of grace. She is full of grace because she is free from every stain of sin and she is free from every stain of sin because God preserved her from the very first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother. In Mary, we recognise the insufficiency and limitations of human effort to make us whole. It is God Who cleanses us and makes us whole and this He does by the merits of Jesus Christ; the merits that were at work in Mary in their fullest measures. Hence, the Feast of today is a celebration of the fruit of these merits of Christ.
In the First Reading (Gen 3:9-15, 20) of today’s Feast, the First Woman gave the first man the fruit to eat which led to the disintegration of the relationship they had with God in the garden of Eden. In the Gospel Reading (Luke 1:26-38) the New Eve, in her stainlessness, received the good news of the incarnation in her womb of the Eternal Logos, the New Adam, who will lead us to the salvation prepared for us by God from time immemorial and who will cancel the guilt of the sin of disobedience of our first parents by His absolute obedience; the sin that has remained our greatest obstacle on our path to God our Salvation. God’s choice of Mary and her subsequent role in the History of Salvation was never an ad hoc choice or decision, it formed part of God’s plan to bring us, men and women, back to our ultimate origin. It is a role for which she was fittingly prepared by God and the celebration of today is all about the climax of that preparation; for “before the world was made, He chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in His presence” (Eph 1:3-6,11-12). It is to the glory of God and for the joy of us all that God so honoured one of us, His sons and daughters, to such great heights of being “full of grace” that the Holy Mother Church declared through the venerable words of Pope Pius IX that “accordingly, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, for the honor of the Holy and undivided Trinity, for the glory and adornment of the Virgin Mother of God, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, and for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful” (cf. Ineffabilis Deus).
That Mary was conceived immaculate “was almost universally believed over the centuries but was only formally defined as a doctrine of the Church by Pope Pius IX in 1854. Because it is so old, it is one of the Marian doctrines that Islam shares with the Catholic Church, though of course the theological details are very different.” To celebrate and honour Mary, the first among the saints (Maria Maggiore), is to praise and worship God for the immensity of His graces at work in mere mortals. This not only returns all the glory to God but also opens us up to become beneficiaries of similar graces that worked wonders in our brothers and sisters. It was God Who first honoured her and granted her the singular honour of being “highly favoured – full of grace”, hence of being immaculate, without stain or mark, and there is no honour we can give to her greater than what she already received from God; “the Almighty works marvels for me, holy is His name.”
Holy Mary, by the merits of your Immaculate Conception and of your powerful intercession, pray for us your sinful children now and at the very hour of our death; Amen. Happy Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception;
Fr Cyril Nnamdi CCE