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สถิติเยี่ยมชม (เริ่ม 22-02-2012)

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2019-11-18 22:50

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Immaculate Conception
Genesis 3:9–15, 20; Ephesians 1:3–6, 11–12; Luke 1:26–38

Born free
Mary was untouched by sin from the very moment of her conception.

Many of us are familiar with the book The Song of Bernadette. This true story was made into a movie years
ago and is still shown in TV reruns.

The story concerns a 14-year-old girl named Bernadette Soubirous. In 1858 she reported having an apparition
of Mary the mother of Jesus. It took place at a hillside
just outside the village of Lourdes in France.

At first authorities scoffed at the report. Later, when she reported further apparitions, they threatened to punish her.

Then one day the apparition told Bernadette to dig into the ground. She obeyed, and a spring bubbled up.

Soon miracles began to occur at the spring. A blind man washed in the waters and regained his sight. A mother
washed her paralyzed baby in the waters and it became
well within 24 hours.

Years after Bernadette’s death, the same child, then an old man of 77, was an honored guest at her canonization in Rome.

Today over 1,200 remarkable cures are on file in the Medical Bureau at Lourdes. These cures have all been certified by an international team of 20 distinguished physicians and  surgeons of various religious backgrounds.
One of the most remarkable, recent cures took place in the late 1970s. It involved a former serviceman, 23-year-old Vittorio Michel of Italy. He had contracted bone cancer
and doctors had given up hope of his recovery. In desperation, his friends and family took him to Lourdes. He was in a waist-to-toe body cast. They washed Vittorio in the spring waters.
Within a week his pain vanished and the bone repaired itself.
Today Vittorio is in excellent health.

One of the things Mary said to Bernadette during an apparition was, I am the Immaculate Conception.

The 14-year-old girl wasn’t too sure what the words meant.
But every adult knew their meaning. Four years earlier, on December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX defined as Catholic doctrine
the traditional teaching of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

This teaching goes back to the early days of Christianity.
It says that Mary was untouched by sin from the moment
 of her conception, and remained that way the rest of her life.

The teaching of the Immaculate Conception accords
with the teaching of Scripture. For example, in today’s first reading God says to the snake: “I will make you and the woman hate each other; her offspring and yours will always
 be enemies.” Genesis 3:15

And in today’s gospel reading, the angel says to Mary:
Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly
 blessed you!

It is not surprising that God preserved Mary from sin. After all, she was to be the mother of his Son. What is more fitting than for the Son of God to be born of a sinless mother.
There’s a story that may help us appreciate better how Mary could have been born without sin while everyone else
is born a slave to sin.

At one point in history many Christians were captured in battle and sold as slaves to non-Christian countries. These enslaved Christians had children. Because they were slaves,
their children were also doomed to be slaves.

In time it became a practice among Christians to purchase
the freedom of children born of slave parents. And sometimes the purchase was arranged before the child was born or even conceived.

In other words, even though the child was conceived and born
of slave parents, it was free. Its freedom had been purchased in advance.

We may look upon Mary’s birth in a similar way. Even  though Mary was born of parents enslaved by sin, she was born free. God’s grace, so to speak, had purchased her freedom in advance even before her conception.

We American Catholics have always had a special devotion to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. It was to Mary, under this title, that we
dedicated our country in the early days of our nation’s history.

And so today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with special joy and special gratitude.
It is, in a special way, “our” feast.
Let us conclude with a special prayer to Mary. It is the prayer that was recited daily by the sailors on hoard the ship of Columbus during the voyage that resulted in the discovery
of our great country.

Each night at sunset the entire crew would gather on deck
for evening prayers.

These prayers always ended with the singing, in Latin, of the Salve Regina.

Many of us are familiar with the English translation of this prayer. Please pray it along with me in silence:

Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness,
our hope.

To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you we direct our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Be merciful to us, loving advocate, Virgin Mary, and after this our exile, show us your son, Jesus.

Series II
Immaculate Conception
Genesis 3:9–15, 20; Ephesians 1:3–6, 11–12; Luke 1:26–38

The Marine and the picture
Mary is our sinless mother who gives us hope that we will someday live together as brothers and sisters.
One day during World War II, a group of marines was on patrol on the island of Guam in the South Pacific. Suddenly
they came upon three Japanese soldiers fleeing on foot. A volley of gunfire followed, and the three Japanese were killed.

One of the marines, Cyril O’Brien, routinely checked the dead soldiers for grenades and possible intelligence material.

As O’Brien put his hand into the blood-soaked pocket of one of the soldiers, he felt a piece of thin cardboard. Pulling it out,
he was surprised to find that it was a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The pocket in which the Japanese kept it was over his heart.

O’Brien kept that picture. Later he put it in his prayerbook
to remind him always to pray for the soldier to whom it belonged.

That story is moving for two reasons.

First, it tells us something deeply personal about the Japanese soldier. The one picture he chose to take into battle with him
was not a picture of God the Father, or of Jesus, or of the Holy Spirit. It was a picture of Mary.

And the pocket in which he chose to keep the picture was the one over his heart.

The second reason that story is moving is that it tells us something deeply personal about the marine who found
the picture.

He didn’t throw it away. He kept it. He put it in his prayerbook and prayed daily for the Japanese soldier
who used to keep it over his heart.

The reason the marine did this is that the picture helped him see that the Japanese was not his enemy but his brother.
They both had the same spiritual mother:Mary.

This brings us to the feast of Mary, which we celebrate today.

On this feast we do more than celebrate that Mary was untouched by sin from the moment of her conception
and remained that way the rest of her life.

We also celebrate the fact that she is the spiritual mother
of the entire human race. As such, she gives us hope that someday we will begin to see each other as the American marine saw the Japanese soldier not as enemies but as brothers and sisters.

We American Catholics have always been devoted to Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception.  We dedicated ourselves to her, under this title, in the early days
of our nation’s history. And so today we celebrate the feast
of the Immaculate Conception with special joy and gratitude.
It is, in a very special way, “our” feast.

Let us close with a prayer to Mary. It is the same prayer
that Christopher Columbus and his crew prayed daily on their voyage to the new world.   

Each night they gathered on deck for evening prayers. These prayers always ended with the singing of the Salve Regina.

Many of us are familiar with the English translation of that hymn. Please pray its prayerful words along with me in silence:

Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness,
our hope.

To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you we direct our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.

Be merciful to us, loving advocate, Virgin Mary, and after this our exile, show us your son, Jesus.

Series III
Immaculate Conception
Genesis 3:9–15, 20; Ephesians 1:3–6, 11–12; Luke 1:26–38

Service
Fidelity to our unique mission from God.

Iam the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “May it be done to me as you have said.” And the angel left her. Luke 1:38

Sir Alister Hardy was a world-famous marine biologist.
He was also blessed with a deep faith in God.
 
That faith was nourished in his youth by his love and reverence for nature. He writes:

I especially liked walking along the banks of various streams watching . . . summer develop. . . . I wandered along . . . at times
almost with a feeling of ecstasy.

One night young Hardy was alone at home. He began thinking about his life.

Suddenly, he saw himself beginning to become selfish and self-centered. He was shocked!

Then he turned his thoughts from himself and his cocoon-like world to the many suffering people in the world.

He began feeling a compassion for them.
 
Next, he did something  that surprised even himself.

He knelt down and asked God to help him change his life
so that it reflected the new vision of himself and of the world.

The next morning when he awoke, he had a sudden illumination. He writes:

I saw clearly that love and service of mankind are the will of God. . . . We are to serve God by serving his purpose.

The prayer that he made on his knees the night before had been answered. He became a person deeply committed  to
the will and the service of God.

This story of Alister Hardy and his conversion captures
the spirit of the feast of the Immaculate Conception which
we celebrate today.

It echoes the words of Mary to the angel, I am the Lord’s servant; may it be done to me according to your word.

It also echoes the words of the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done.

It also echoes the words of Paul in today’s second reading:
God did this according to his eternal purpose.

And this brings us to ourselves, gathered here.

Like Alister Hardy, we, too, realize that love and the service to all is what God asks of us.

We are to serve God by serving his will and his purpose.
And, like the Virgin Mary, we have been given a calling
unique and different from anyone else.

Right now, that calling might not be completely clear to us or even partially clear to us.

It certainly was not clear to Mary when the angel gave her a message that she could not understand in the slightest.
But it was God’s will and God’s purpose; and God had prepared her for it, keeping her untouched by sin  from
the moment of her conception. And she remained that way
the rest of her life.
Mary trusted in God and became the mother of the Savior of the world.

And this brings us back to each one of us in this Church.
We know that God has some special work for each of us to do.

We also know that if we seek to do God’s will and purpose,
we will accomplish it, just as Mary did.

Let us close by recalling and praying these words of Cardinal John Henry Newman. They sum up what we celebrate on this great feast of Our Lady. Cardinal
Newman writes:
 
God has committed some work to me  which he has not committed to another.

I have my mission I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. . . .

[Therefore] If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him.

If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him. . . .

[God] does nothing in vain. . . .

O my God, I put myself without reserve into your hands.
Slightly adapted