THEME: KECHARITŌMENĒ: FULL OF GRACE (Luke 1:28)
Today we celebrate one of the four Marian Dogmas, namely, the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It was declared a dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. The doctrine states that, Mary is free from original sin right from when She was in the womb of Her mother.
However, the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as we have seen, is in the Sacred Tradition of the Church, although not explicit in the Bible but implicit. There are three main traces of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the Bible: (1). God declared: “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed…” (Gen. 3:15). Beloved in Christ, for total enmity to exist between Mary and Satan, She needed to be free from the satanic seed, the seed of sin that entered the world through Adam and Eve. (2). The Angelic salutation: “Hail, Full of Grace” in Greek, it is “Kecharitōmenē” (Lk. 1:28). The word “Kecharitōmenē” is made up of three parts: “Ke-charitō-menē.” “Ke” is a perfect tense or a previous event that is still happening. “Charito” means unmerited favour or gift or gratuitousness, and “Mene” means a female receiver. Therefore, it implies that Mary was full of grace all Her life not just from the moment the Angel greeted Her but from ab initio. (3) The Ark of the Covenant. In the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was made of wood to carry the two stone tablets containing the word of God; the Commandments God gave Moses (Ex. 25:16). This passage was fulfilled in Mary who carried Jesus, the Word of God in her womb for nine months. So, for that reason Mary is given the title, Ark of the Covenant. In the O.T., the Ark was considered holy to the extent that God killed a man named Uzzah because he touched the Ark when David was dancing before it (1Chron 13:7-10). In like manner, Mary, who is the new Ark of the Covenant, could not be touched by sin.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, our celebration today challenges us in four ways: (1) To be chaste both in body and in soul. It is true that our society is heavily loaded with moral decadence such as: ritual killings, kidnapping, embezzlement of funds, sexual immorality and other vices that corrupt the human body and soul and even men of God who ought to be custodians of moral values have been consumed by it in one way or the other. As priests and priests to be, chastity of life ought to be our way of life, thus a necessity. Celibacy without chastity is a contradiction. It is like a religion without sacrifice, and as such, we must not wait for experience to teach us lessons before we are to remain faithful to the celibate life. (2) Like Mary, the new Eve, we are invited to triumph over temptation to sin. We should not glory in sin. (3) Like Mary in her “Fiat” we are invited to be obedient to God in totality, and (4) We are invited to seek the maternal intercession of Mary. With the words of Pope Francis we say, “let Mary help (us) fall in love with Jesus.”
Finally, beloved in Christ, what interest God more is how we live our lives. That is to say, it may not be our fault that our parents gave birth to us in the state of sin, but it will definitely be our fault if we refuse to cooperate with the grace of God and later die in sin.
LET US PRAY: O Mary, Mother of our Lord, may we say yes to Your Son’s will; and stay faithful with one accord. Through you, God’s calling, we shall fulfill. Amen.
(A sermon given at the Catholic Major Seminary of All Saints, Uhiele-Ekpoma, Edo State, Nigeria on the 8th of December, 2018)
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