The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: December 9, 2019

12-08-2019Weekly ReflectionFather Prince Raja

Since December 8, 2019, is the Second Sunday of Advent, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is transferred to Monday, December 9, 2019. The obligation to attend Mass, however, does NOT transfer. The Optional Memorial of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, December 9, is omitted this year. (From the USCCB)

On the 8th of December the Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In teaching that Mary was immaculately conceived, the Catholic Church teaches us that from the very moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was free from all stain of original sin. This simply means that from the very beginning, Mary was in a state of grace, sharing in God's own life, and hence she was free from the sinful inclinations which have beset human nature after the fall.

The Feast of Mary's Conception has been affectionately celebrated even before the 7th century in the East. The feast spread to the West, at least by the 9th century. In the eleventh century it received its present name, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Pope Sixtus IV in the fifteenth century while promoting the festival explicitly described it as the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1476, to be celebrated on the 8th of December. The feast tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved by God immaculate from the moment of her conception for the sake of his Son. Mary is the second Eve who created in such a state equal to the state of holiness that the first Eve enjoyed prior to her displeasing the Lord God in the Garden of Eden. What we are celebrating today is that Mary, from the very first moment of her existence, was free from any taint of original sin, that tendency to evil with which all human persons are born into this world.

In today's gospel, There is another fire of which John speaks when he describes the Messiah. He says, "He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire." The fire of which John speaks here is the fire of God's love. It is not a fire that burns to destroy but a fire that burns to create. It is a fire that enables us to be agents of God's goodness. And it is this creative fire of divine love that is the Good News of today's gospel, because it reminds us that the fruit we need to produce, the good works we need to do should not be motivated by obligation or the fear of judgment. Those good works should flow from the fire of God's love burning within us. When we realize how much God loves us and has made us God's own sons and daughters, when we understand how we have the Holy Spirit within us confirming the promise of eternal life, there is no presumption that we have done enough. There is only the desire that we allow that love to flow out in service to others. We produce the fruit. God gives the fire. So let us, today, open our hearts to the fire of God's love that burns within us so that it might ignite us to produce good fruits, to serve with joy. It is God's fire that will allow us to serve, not once, not occasionally, but everyday of our lives.