On December 8, Chaminade College Preparatory celebrated Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at both campuses. School Chaplain, Fr. Ted Ley, S.M. ’58 gave the homily, and amidst the chaos of finals and Christmas preparations, we thought it was worth sharing again. We hope you will take a moment to read it, and let Fr. Ted’s words bring you happiness and help you share kindness.
Homily for Thursday, December 8, 2016
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Patronal Feast of the Catholic Church in the United States of America
It’s 8pm. Nothing interesting on TV – and you don’t want to watch that obscure channel that continually shows, Plan Nine from Outer Space. You are about to kick back and take in some “holistic hiphop” from your iPod, iPad, iWatch, or YouTube. It is, “eight bells and all is well,” but boringly.’ “When what to your wondering eyes should appear,” but someone rings the doorbell.
Who could that be? No one is coming to hang out here tonight. You squint through an unstylish Venetian blind, and you see the person at the door rather well-dressed; looking safe enough, like a college professor who votes for the Green Party. You check with your parents. They nod, so you go to the door, slowly open it.
The person has a “Listerine” voice, and he – well you believe it’s a he though his hair is long – because his voice is low. And he says, “Good evening, very beautiful person inside and out, the kind of person everyone admires.” Now you think it must be a salesman. But you nicely say, “Come in.”
And then, the person introduces himself and says, “I am a messenger from God.” You’re completely ferbliffed. He continues, “I am here to tell you the Lord has a special plan for you.”
There’s something about this that looks OK, though unusual to say the least. You say, “Really? What is this about?” And the person says he is not a tele-angel, nor a refugee from an opera. As he has caught your interest, the self-styled angel continues:
The Lord has a plan for you. Your God wants you to make a difference in this world. You say, “How can this be? I’m only a student. Just a Chaminade Eagle – that’s our nickname. Just because we have a foreign car doesn’t mean I have much international influence.”
Now here, Young Ladies and Gentlemen, is where you pick up the story. Many of you are very interested in film. Some of you really could write an opera. A number you are great athletes; still others, sharp debaters, talented actors, articulate speakers, skilled writers, clever designers of rambunctious robots; future medical mavens, Eagle Scouts along the way; fire fighters, law enforcement officers, spiritual counselors, psychologists, Cordon Bleu chefs, trainers of exotic wild animals, “altitudinous” acrobats, marathon runners, and even, future parents of children – the most amazing thing of all. So the rest of the story is yours.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary, she had every reason to be puzzled, because he said at the outset, I am coming to give you a special message from your Creator, your God, and I’m sent to you because you are a uniquely holy, good, humble, yet strong, person. The Lord has a special calling for you in your life.
The Angel then tells Mary she is to bear the Savior of the World – Emmanuel, God with Us. And, the whole meaning and dignity of human life will be changed because of it — our life, yours and mine, will take on a grandeur that God always planned for us but it must involve human cooperation. Mary said, simply, I have set out to serve God in the way I am called. If this is the call, let it be done unto me. I accept.
We don’t have the kind of integrity Mary was born with, that caused the Angel to greet her that way. But each of us has in this life – not only in the future, but now, a distinct, personal call from God. A call based on our innate gifts, qualities we were literally conceived with, traits being conditioned by what we are doing with the gifts we have.
You have great talents. But also, humility. I believe you do. For, we know we are a few people with limited influence, in a huge world. That there is so much that needs to be better. We can make little difference on our own. Similar was Mary’s circumstance. A very young lady in a small, village in a hardly-known part of the world.
But as a Marianist Community of Faith we can begin to do what, at our level, are great things. Things that catch on. Things others will want to do too. For example, it is one thing to be OK with people, much more to be interested in their whole welfare, their eternity and everything good for them in this life It is one thing to believe we can do something. Another to do it. And it may not seem very spiritual thing, but beneficial practical actions do untold good.
It can be an invention. Once, many years ago, the mother of two high school boys of St. Mary’s Institute in Dayton, Ohio, knocked on the Brothers’ door and asked to see Brother Maximin. Brother received her in the parlor, and she complained that he is leading her sons astray by encouraging them to continue tinkering in the back workshop in instead of studying for jobs – in banking, medicine, law, some meaningful career. Brother Maximin Zehler was a great teacher. He replied to the lady, very gently, that her sons were doing well in their studies, not to worry; but that really, if they succeed in their invention, they will make an astounding difference on how money is counted, collected and saved, at stores and shops the whole world over. And we know that they did succeed in inventing – the cash register.
You may not invent something that will change how the world does things. Like discovering the heating properties of microwaves; or bringing the world much closer, the way my Chaminade High School debate partner George Vandenhoff has done in his lifelong research, to finding a cure for diabetes.
But you have immediate abilities and opportunities now, to change the world right around you – by kindness, trying to understand, encouraging, simply enjoying one another’s company. And this Christmas time, its two-week vacation, at home or traveling about, reflect on how you can brighten everyone’s day around you. That’s ministry. Leadership, world change at its closest, most important level.
You won’t be announcing yourself as an emissary from God – but you will be. And if you find yourself described by someone as highly favored, accept it because it is true. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Say, “be it done to me what you want me to do. Show me how, and I will do it.” Because that is how valuable you are to God. And we are to one another.
This is what we can learn from commemorating Mary’s own conception into life: God had a plan for her; she continues in eternity, to carry it out. You, too, can, through all your life into eternity, carry out God’s plan for you. You won’t understand all of it at once, but as life goes on you will realize more and more why you were born.
There are many things we could say about the Mother of Jesus – fascinating things; but just this, for this morning: Mary’s beauty and goodness were very complete at her conception, so that in time, Christ could be conceived within her, and she would be what the Early Church came to call, Theotokos – the God-bearer.
Imitate Mary. Be a God-bringer to others. Learn more about how essentially good and true and beautiful you were at the moment of your conception, how you can take gifts God has given you, do wonderful things, fulfilled doing good and making the world better
and people happier.
Why not resolve to do everything better this moment on? You have an ocean of goodness inside yourself, implanted by God, that in your youth you are just beginning to discover. Find your inner truth. And be ready, not for a surprise messenger, but for the signs God is already giving you. Be alert for the signs. Unlike Mary, you are not there yet. But you are also called to become – Full of Grace.