Homily of Cardinal Jose Advincula of Manila on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
We rejoice today as we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Happy fiesta po sa ating lahat!
On this solemn feast day, we praise God who chose Mary, who is human like us, to be the mother of our Redeemer, blessing her with a wholeness of heart and totally possessing her person so that she may be fully disposed ab initio for bearing within her the Son of God himself. We honor Mary in order to emulate her total self-donation, her absolute surrender to God’s will, her perfect self-dedication to mission, her full participation in God’s loving plan.
Dear brothers and sisters, in the Gospel reading, we heard how the angel Gabriel greeted Mary with the appellation “full of grace.” The original Greek word for this is “kecharitomene,” a verbal participle in the perfect tense, which indicates for us that Mary has always been full of grace. This is the biblical foundation for our belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary. From the very beginning of her existence, from the moment she was conceived through the conjugal union of her parents Joachim and Anne, she has been preserved from any influence of sin and evil.
What does it mean for someone to be full of grace? First of all, we must realize that grace is not just about the blessings and gifts we receive from God. Grace is the very presence of God, the loving presence of the person of God himself. Ang grasya ay hindi lang ang mga pagpapapalang ibinibigay ng Diyos; ang grasya ay ang mismong presensya ng Diyos sa ating kalooban at sa ating kapaligiran.
How often it is that we tend cling more to the blessings of God rather than the God of blessings, we tend to turn more to created gifts rather than the Creator-Giver himself. Madalas, mas hinahangad natin ang mga binibigay ng Diyos, sa halip na mahalin ang Diyos na nagbibigay. People who prefer to accumulate only created graces are not really full of grace; they are actually just full of themselves. They fill their lives with fleeting matters, and so their lives become empty and meaningless.
Mary is full of grace, not because she has accumulated for herself all possessions, powers, and privileges. Mary is full of grace because only God occupies her heart, her mind, her body, her whole being. Tota pulchra est Maria; Mary is totally lovely because she is totally in love with God. Walang ibang mahal si Maria kundi ang Diyos, tanging ang Diyos, laging ang Diyos, kaya naman punung-puno siya ng grasya.
Secondly, by being filled with grace upon her conception, God has prepared Mary to become the worthy habitation of his Son. She has been filled with grace so she may bear within her the incarnate Son of God. The grace she received is not for its own sake; rather, it is directed towards mission. Si Maria ay nabiyayaan hindi lang para gumaling o gumanda siya; siya ay napupuno ng grasya para sa misyon ng pagiging Ina ng Diyos. She is gifted to give.
Mary, who is creature like us, was filled with grace so that grace might fill and suffuse all of creation. She became the instrument for the irruption of God’s absolute presence in the world. Sa pamamagitan ni Maria, napasinayaan sa sangnilikha ang paglaganap ng lubos na presensya ng Diyos. By accepting and exercising her mission as Mother of God, creation has responded to God’s love. In Mary, God has not only spoken his Word; creation has also listened to the Word and witness to Him. Salvation is not merely offered to humanity; humanity has begun to receive and proclaim it to every creature.
How often it is that when we receive God’s graces, we tend to keep it to ourselves. Madalas, kapag may natatanggap tayo, mas pinipili nating sarilinin at ipagdamot sa kapwa. Brothers and sisters, we are all gifted to give, and blessed to bless. All graces come with mission. The graces that fill our lives are meant to also fill the lives of others. Otherwise, they cease to be gifts. Like Mary, let us allow God to take over our lives so that the Kingdom of heaven may be fully revealed in this world, and his gracious will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Mga kapatid, ngayong dakilang kapistahan ni Maria, ipinaglihing malaya sa sala, hilingin natin sa Diyos na puspusin niya tayo ng kanyang banal at magiliw presensya, at tulungan tayo na maibahagi at maipadama.
O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you. Amen.