| Bishop Steven J. Raica

‘Mary, You Are Our Mother and Our Hope’

Bishop Raica Celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

On Dec. 8, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass marking the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My sisters and brothers, our customary gathering on Dec. 8 is our annual reminder of the grateful tribute to God for His care and concern for all. In His wise plan, He gives us our Lady as an essential figure in history as part of His plan to save us. Specially prepared for her unique vocation, she is called without stain of Original Sin from the first moment of her conception, thus we get the name “Immaculate Conception.” The effects of her Son’s eventual victory over sin and death touched her in a unique way according to God’s divine plan. How fitting it is that we gather today throughout our country and the world, during this season of Advent, a season of expectation and hope, to celebrate this event and honor her. The Immaculate Conception is the patroness of the United States and other countries as well. She watches over us. We entrust ourselves and our entire nation to her maternal protection because of her closeness to our Savior.

Because of her unique role in the history of salvation, she received a special grace, an “original grace” to counteract original sin before it took hold in her and to accomplish the visible means of salvation for the world, her incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. From the moment of her conception, in her own mother, whom we know as Anne, she was uniquely preserved from the stain of sin that infects all of us, with all its collateral effects including death. Eventually, though early in her life, through her free cooperation, she was uniquely prepared for her mission and vocation to respond “yes” without hesitation to God’s invitation, conveyed through the Archangel Gabriel, to become the mother of the Savior, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Thus, she would fulfill the prophecy of the great Old Testament prophet Isaiah. Her child would be called “Emmanuel,” God-with-us.

Tonight, we honor her tenacity and humble faith that took her on a journey like none other. We find ourselves once again inspired by her faith that was preparing to give the world its Savior. Because of her own preparation, she would be prepared through the early years of her own life and the exercise of her Jewish faith to welcome the news with joy that would result in life-changing and world-changing importance. She, too, longed to see the coming of the Messiah. Little did she surmise what a key role she would play in God’s plan. Yet, she trusted that God’s will would be accomplished by her cooperation.

Mary is a woman who was chosen from the beginning of her conception. Her eventual maternity would be of no advantage if “she had not experienced more joy by bearing Christ in her heart than in her flesh.” (St Augustine). Today, she becomes our model of holiness and joy.

Sometimes it is good to reflect upon our own baptism. Many of us received it before we were aware of reality around us. It is our moment of grace to become a child of God. To know about this special grace is to be extraordinarily grateful for the care and concern of God for our journey as well.

During this Advent season, we come today with our own waiting for the Lord to come. Recognizing our wounds, our sins, and our failures in life, we still long for the fulfillment of God’s promise of mercy in our day. The fact that the Word was made flesh through the cooperation of Mary, reminds us once again of the uniqueness of God’s method. He wanted us to be saved by one like us. To that end, He sent His son Jesus to save us. We could see Him, hear Him, and touch Him. He was a reality that we have to make a life-changing decision in our own life. Through His life, He would reveal God’s abiding love to us, but not before He would reveal it all to Mary who came to know God’s love from the inside out. Jesus was God’s love made visible.

He comes to us today because He came first to His own mother. So, our word today is one of gratitude. We give thanks to God for what has been done for Mary through God’s plan, in God’s way and in God’s time. He also comes to us through baptism and the sacraments, especially through the Eucharist par excellence. Thank you, Lord! Abide with us, Your children, for whom Mary is our spiritual mother reversing the effects of the disobedience of Eve. Mary, you are our mother and our hope.

Tonight, we, as her grateful spiritual children, give thanks and praise God for His providential goodness to us. He has done marvelous deeds. We are glad, indeed! May God bless you all!