Homily: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 50th Anniversary of Holy Spirit Monastery Kennington

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
50th Anniversary of Holy Spirit Monastery

Gen 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 & Lk 1:26-38
Our first Reading today from the Book of Genesis, reminds us that it was a woman who was instrumental in bringing pain and suffering, the result of sin, to the whole world. It will also be a woman who will be instrumental in bringing to the world its salvation and healing.

In the Second Reading, St Paul tells us that all of us have been called by God to share his love and blessings long before we even existed. This is even more true of Mary, who was singled out from eternity by God to be the Mother of his Son.

Mary, through the power of the grace of God, was protected from the distorting and disabling effects of sin which we all carry with us. And why? Because when God came to offer the gift of His mercy in His Son - to offer the gift of salvation - he needed someone who could, in perfect freedom, say "yes" to the gift that our first parents rejected.

This is the great mystery of the Immaculate Conception: that Mary had full and perfect freedom, undiminished, untainted and undistorted by any trace of sin, and therefore could speak on our behalf and in full freedom. In that freedom, and in the name of each one of us, Mary accepted the gift of Jesus, the gift of the Father's love and mercy; Jesus, who brings us our salvation. And Our Lady never distanced herself from that love: throughout her life her whole being is a “yes” to that love, it is the “yes” to God. This is what we celebrate today.

There are certain situations in our lives which we celebrate.

It is good to be with and speak with others about what and why we are celebrating – sometimes gifts are bought to help the celebration. But to help celebrate today, the 50 years of the nuns living in this house, let us buy instead a memory, of the heroic lives lived in this house, and today let us share those memories as a true reality of our ordinary experiences in everyday life here in this house, in the service of the Lord.

Furthermore, on this feast-day we have to thank Mary for the heroic decisions that we know are required to live such a holy life. The teaching of the Immaculate Conception, however, makes sure that we go beyond Mary and look with gratitude to God, the source of all grace. The initiative for holiness always comes from God’s Word, the Word to whom she always responded with perfect love. It was her perfect response that made it possible for God to love her with that special intimacy that enabled God’s Word to become incarnate.

We can apply each of the readings to our own lives. Maybe we could all recall causing some pain in other people’s lives. Let us rather be people who bring wholeness and healing. Let us be deeply aware that, long before we were born, every single one of us has been called by God to know, love and serve him. We have been the constant recipients of his blessings. How will we respond? Unlike Mary, we were born touched by a sinful world. But we also can become filled with grace if, like her, we say a resounding and unconditional ‘Yes’ to all that God wants from us.

On the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2013, Pope Francis highlighted Mary as ‘full of grace’. This is how God saw her from the first moment of his loving design. He saw her as beautiful, full of grace. Mary sustains our journey toward Christmas, and as our mother too, she teaches us how to live this Advent Season in expectation of the Lord. For this time of Advent is a time of waiting for the Lord, who will visit us all on the feast, but also, each one, in our own hearts. The Lord is coming! Let us wait for him!

And as we do this, let us look to her, our Mother, and allow her to look upon us, for she is our mother and she loves us so much. Let us allow ourselves to be watched over by her so that we may learn how to be more humble, and also more courageous in following the Word of God. Then at Christmas, let us welcome the tender embrace of her baby son Jesus, an embrace that gives us life, hope and peace.