Homily of the Superior General on the 8th December
“Under the protection of Mary Immaculate Queen of Africa”
As all the Missionaries of Africa, as well as theirs sisters, the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, were celebrating, throughout the world, the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, official feast of our two institutes, the two communities of Rome were celebrating around the two Superiors General and their council. Here is the homily given on the day by Father Stan Lubungo.
The 8th of December we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary in communion with the whole Church. It is also the Patron Feast of our Society and that of our Sisters, the Missionary Sisters of our Lady of Africa because our Founder had, in the early years of our history, placed our two institutes under the protection of Mary Immaculate Queen of Africa. On this occasion, our community of the Generalate is in communion of prayer with all our confreres wherever they are in the world entrusting them to the intercession of our Lady whom we invoke as our protector. As disciples of Jesus, we welcome the Virgin Mary as our mother to whom Jesus presented us as her children (See John 19:26). Like all our good mothers, the Virgin Mary faithfully provides us with the maternal care she had for her son Jesus. As we celebrate our Patron Feast, we also contemplate our brotherhood with Jesus with whom we are, as his disciples, sons of Mary.
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is one of those teachings of the Church that we have difficulties to establish clearly from the Scriptures. Today’s Gospel (Luke 1:26-38) invites more a reflection on the virginal conception of Jesus than it does on the Immaculate conception of his mother. However, it seems to me that the second reading (Ephesians), that doesn’t mention the Virgin Mary, provides us with a possible, significant and interesting ground to capture the meaning of today’s feast, not only for the Virgin Mary but for all of us but too. It would be useless for us to be celebrating the Virgin Mary for her own sake and today’s feast not having anything to do with us.
In the perspective offered by the Second Reading, Mary participates in the eternal will of God who “chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love”. It comes out more strongly in French: “Il nous a choisis, dans le Christ, avant la fondation du monde, pour que nous soyons saints, immaculés devant lui, dans l’amour !”. Far from being anything exclusively reserved to the Virgin Mary, the call to be holy and blameless, the Immaculate Conception seems, from before the foundations of the world, to be intended for all.
Our experience is different, though. Ours is the experience of the first reading (Genesis 3:9-15. 20). It is an experience marked by sin, by disobedience to God’s will that can be traced down to our ancestors Adam and Eve. Fortunately, today’s feast is here to remind us that God did not abandon us in the sin, so to speak, we inherited with Eve, the mother of all who live (and with Adam the father of all who live). With Mary, the new Eve as Irene of Lyon referred to her, there is a somewhat new creation. This is quite striking. Studies in Mariology demonstrate enough how in the Virgin Mary, God establishes a new beginning. Renowned Theologians of Mary agree that the Gospel according to Luke describes the beginnings of the life of Jesus almost totally in Old Testament terms, in order to show from within, that the Jesus event is the accomplishment of what Israel was hoping for. Indeed the words with which the Angel greets Mary are closely related to those used by the prophet Zephaniah addressing the redeemed Jerusalem of the eschatological times (Zephaniah 3: 14 – Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, shout O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart O daughter Jerusalem!) In the pericope of the Gospel proposed today, Luke equally takes up words of blessing which were used to greet famous women of Israel like Judith to whom Uzziah says: O Daughter, you are blessed by the Most high God above all other women; and blessed be the Lord God, who created heaven and earth (See Judges 5:24; Jdt 13:18).
The Virgin Mary is such portrayed as the Holy Rest of Israel, the real Zion to whom everyone looked up with hope amidst the miseries of their history. In the Gospel of Saint Luke begins the new Israel with Mary. She is the “daughter of Zion” in whom God establishes a new beginning. Mary comes across as the mother of all who are called to live in Jesus Christ.
The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary reveals the fulfilment of God’s project for humanity to be holy and blameless through Jesus Christ. Isn’t the Virgin Mary the perfect example of what each one of us is called to be? Unlike Eve, she is obedient to the will of God. Mary is not only for us to venerate, but a model of life. In modelling our lives on hers, we will fulfil our vocation as human beings, called to be holy by remaining attentive and obedient to the will of God and through our steadfastness in the faith.
Stanley Lubungo, M.Afr
Many confreres made their oath on the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Happy feastday to all. Among those, our Superior General, Stan Lubungo, ans Stephen Ofonikot, who celebrated 24 years of Missionary Oath.