Monday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a holy day of obligation that celebrates Mary, Mother of Jesus, as being uniquely conceived without original sin.
Bishop Richard J. Malone celebrated Mass Monday morning in the Mary Chapel at St. Joseph Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. The following is a transcription of the bishop's homily:
"Throughout the liturgies of the advent season, we listen again and again to the prophets of Israel and John the Baptist as they prepare the world for the coming of the Word made flesh. Soon, we will celebrate with joyful hearts, the Nativity of our Lord, the birth of our Immanuel: God with us.
"Today though, we honor Mary, the Servant of the Word par excellence. We celebrate the Father's choice of this daughter of Israel, this young woman of Nazareth, to be the bearer of the Incarnate Word who would be Savior of the World. We celebrate Mary by many beautiful titles, each of which really shines as a facet of the jewel that Mary is in the history of salvation and our lives. She is the queen of prophets and apostles; the queen of peace. She is seat of wisdom, mystical rose, morning star. She is health of the sick, refuge of sinners, comforter of the afflicted. She is mother of the Redeemer and mother of the Church.
"On this day, Catholics around the world honor Mary under another title: Immaculate Conception. It's under that title that our nation honors the Mother of God, our patroness. We recall with awe the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception 160 years ago today by Pope Pius IX when he solemnly decreed the most Blessed Virgin Mary was from the first moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of almighty God, and in view of the merits of Christ Jesus, the Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.
"On this day then, we honor Mary's special position and privilege in God's plan. As we do that, we should be cautious of robbing her of her humanness. To elevate Mary to a demigoddess role is not only heretical, but it reduces the power and poignancy of Mary to us. Mary is our mother. Mary is also our sister, and Mary is the first disciple of her Son.
"Mary could have said no to God's invitation. She was free, but she chose to say yes to respond in obedience to what God asked of her, and that of course must be our choice too. May we pray for one another as we celebrate this great feast of Mary, pray that we will each be able to admit to the Adam and Eve that is in us, the rebellion, the selfishness, the arrogance, the desire to dominate, but more importantly, may we pray that we will be able to remember God's desire, God's action, to save us, and His graciousness in calling us to be friends and followers of Jesus, His Son.
"Finally, pray that we will never forget the consoling truth, that in the midst of our own ambiguities and struggles, we can rely on God's abundant love to make us faithful. Believe that you can say yes, again and again, as our mother, our sister and our model, Mary teaches us, invites us, and assists us to say yes. We too, like Mary, in our own time and our own way, are called to bear Christ in a world crying out for salvation."