Sing to the Lord a New Song
Bishop Peter Muhich
Homily from the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
December 8, 2022
Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Every time we celebrate one of the holy days of obligation, and the church is holding up to us, it is a great mystery or truth of the faith so that we can have time to let it sink in again and form the way we live our lives. Certainly, that’s true of this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary which shows us our future. And the readings for the Liturgy of the Word on this day give us pretty much the whole sweep of salvation history — from God’s creation of man and woman, and how that plan, which was so beautiful, was corrupted in the fall. And how God, even in that moment of the fall, fashioned a way for us to be saved for our sins.
And we have this encounter with Mary and the angel Gabriel in the Gospel, when she says yes to bearing God’s son. But the context of this reading of course is her immaculate conception, sometimes confused with the virgin birth. This is about when she was conceived, without original sin, without any stain of sin, that she might be a worthy mother of the redeemer. That the damage done at the beginning through temptations of the evil one and the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, might be out done now and fixed, healed, and a new creation begun.
Mary’s place in salvation history, of course, is pivotal, unique. She was prepared beforehand, with the special grace of the redemption, to be the mother of Jesus. A special grace of redemption. In other words, Mary needed a savior, too. This is not a celebration of her, as somehow accomplishing her own salvation. No, her holiness and her immaculate conception is a gift, and it’s a gift that is the fruit of Jesus suffering in death and resurrection.
Reaching back to her, because God foresaw all things, in order to prepare her to be the mother of the savior, and opening up for us the way for us too to share in God’s divine lifeless again. Mary’s holiness is unsurpassed of course, but it is not something dissimilar to our call to holiness and the possibility for us too to become holy. When we celebrate this great gift that she received, we also remember that she cooperated with that grace throughout her whole life and remained sinless, becoming the greatest disciple of her son. What she was given by the gift of the immaculate conception, which grew in her life throughout her earthly pilgrimage of discipleship, is given to us in a similar way even though we start as sinners.
We too are to participate in the very life of God, and so there’s no room for envy here about Mary being given a better portion that we are given. There’s room, if you will, on the team for all of us. You and I might not be the star quarterback or wide receiver, maybe we’re a backup interior lineman, but there’s room for us on the team. There’s a place for us in the kingdom, and what we see in such a sublime way, and the special grace given to Mary in the immaculate conception, shows us our future too. We are to take up our place around the heavenly throne and share in that fullness of life in heaven.
We seek out the blessed mother all the time. At least I hope we do — for her encouragement, her intercession, for her example, and of course, in our Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, we cannot help but see her when we come to the church as she looks at us with her compassion, beckoning us to follow son. The blessed virgin Mary provides the feminine dimension of church, and one thing I read online today by a priest, “she is to permeate and does permeate the whole church,” and in his phraseology, “permeates and perfumes the whole church with the beauty of her the smell, the older, the splendor of her holiness.”
So tonight, as we celebrate Mass, of course, she’s here and she points us at the altar and her son. She says that she’s praying for us that we might say “yes” to God. Sinners and weak as we are, God’s mercy and her help we might become holy and take up our place around the heavenly throne in the great song of salvation, “Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.”