Grace is available to all but Catholics must be willing to “cooperate with grace” as Mary did. “The story of the Immaculate Conception shows what grace can do in us and by allowing that grace to flood our hearts, we take away sin not only from ourselves, we take away sins from the world,” Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju said during Mass on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Wednesday, December 8 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Fr Sirju was the main celebrant in the absence of Archbishop Jason Gordon who was in self-isolation after coming in contact with someone suspected to be Covid-19 positive.
Focusing on Mary’s grace and what Catholics must strive for, he said the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is not a story of the sinlessness of Mary; it is a story of the love and goodness of grace. Grace, he continued was made available through Jesus’ suffering, death and Resurrection and Mary shared in His grace in a special way and it preserved her from every trace of sin. Fr Sirju referred to the second reading Ephesians 1:3–6, 11–12, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens”, adding that this was a storyline of grace. It was also seen in the gospel, Luke 1:26–38, the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Mary was not called by name; she was called by what was special to her.” The angel’s words translate to “hail the one who has been graced”.
Mary was graced at birth and continued to be graced. Fr Sirju said, Romans 5:5 stated the love of God has been poured into hearts by the grace of the Holy Spirit. “It is the same spirit flooding the heart of Mary with grace, except in our case we were not cleansed in advance of original sin,” he stated. John 3:1, is another example of God’s grace and what it can do. Grace preserved Mary from original sin and through “cooperating with grace” throughout her life she chose not to sin.
Fr Sirju said, “That is a great story we have to celebrate, that grace is available to us every day, the same grace that was available to Mary, and somehow we don’t feel it”. During the pandemic with different stresses, tensions and hostilities, grace seems to be in low supply but contrary to this, “grace is always available to us, not only at Pentecost does God give us His grace abundantly but every single day”. Advent is a season of hope. Mary is the example of one who cooperated with grace and God did something wonderful in her life. Fr Sirju pointed to the hope in the wonderful things which God can do when Catholics cooperate with the grace.
People must strive to be saints pleasing the Lord. The more sin is taken away, the closer they get to becoming ‘immacula.’ “We may not be like the Virgin, but I certainly think at certain points in their lives, even for brief moments, the saints themselves were sinless…because they lived in God…” Fr Sirju said. Representative students from primary schools attached to the Cathedral/Sacred Heart Parish were present – Bethlehem Boys’ and Girls’ RC, Sacred Heart Girls’ and Boys’ RC and Nelson Street Girls’ and Boys’ RC.
The first and second readings were done by a pupil of Bethlehem Girls’ RC and a pupil of Nelson Street Boys’ RC, respectively. In the entrance procession, two students carried artwork prepared by the Cathedral/Sacred Heart First Communion class.
The Ambassadors of Venezuela, Peru and Argentina attended.