Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2021

Published: December 8, 2021

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Catholic High School and Our Lady of the Holy Souls Church, both in Little Rock, on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.

Bishop Taylor

The greatest error of our time is to act as if this material world is all that is. This is understandable, because science, which limits itself to the examination of the material world, has brought us many blessings.

Indeed, we live in an age in which many people expect science to answer all of our questions and solve all our problems — which of course it can’t do because the most fundamental questions and the solutions to our deepest problems are spiritual in nature and have to do with the very meaning and purpose of human existence.

The material world that we can see and examine empirically is just a small subset of a much greater reality that we cannot see directly, but whose effects are undeniable. When we open our minds to the existence of spiritual realities, we soon discover that life has meaning and a purpose greater than ourselves — indeed, that God has a plan and each of us has a role in that plan.

No matter what, you are his son or daughter. But for that salvation to become yours, to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others, you do have to open your heart like Mary did.

I experienced that as a tug in my heart when I was in high school and the more that I opened my heart to the reality that God exists and that he loves me, the more I was able to sense what he wanted of me and that he would be there for me. Gradually that spiritual world began to open up before my very eyes.

Today we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a spiritual reality if there ever was one! Out of love God created the world before the beginning of time. He is the one who set everything in motion. Before that there was no material world.

He created Adam and Eve out of love, gave us free will — another spiritual reality — but we abused it starting with that original sin which set the stage for all subsequent sin. Cain murdered Abel, it got so bad that God wiped out practically everything in the flood, started over again with Noah, but we soon fell back into sin, once again betraying our spiritual nature.

Then after centuries of struggle with sin, God promised to send us a Savior who would finally set us free from the power of sin and death. A Savior who would die for us, rise from the dead and offer us a share in his victory!

This Savior was God himself, the same God who created us and sustained us in being even in our darkest days. God and sin have nothing in common, so when it came time for this Savior to be born into the world, it was appropriate that unique among all women, Mary would be preserved from the effects of original sin and all other sin, conceived immaculately — hence this feast of the Immaculate Conception — conceived immaculately in the womb of her mother Anne, set apart and equipped from before her birth for her role in God’s plan.

A role she accepted in the Gospel of the Annunciation — her vocation story — which you heard today: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary opened her heart to welcome God’s call in her life, even though she really didn’t know what she was getting into. Neither do we when we first begin to hear God’s call. It is a matter of trust. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into when I said “yes” to God’s call to the priesthood and later to become your bishop.

But since she was a spiritual woman, Mary didn’t have to know everything with scientific certainty. She was a woman of faith. For a faithful servant, the answer when God calls is always “Yes!”

What does this mean for us who have gathered to celebrate today's feast? Well one thing is that like Mary, each of you has a role to play in God’s ongoing work of salvation right here in Little Rock — even those of you who up to now have rejected everything that has to do with the spiritual life.

I know that sometimes happens in one’s teenage years. But everyone is included in God’s plan. No matter what, you are his son or daughter. But for that salvation to become yours, to make a difference in your life and in the lives of others, you do have to open your heart like Mary did.

She said in effect: "Yes Lord, whatever you want, I will do!" So now, how about you? You too can make a difference; you too can grow to be the kind of person that God calls you to be, but it will only happen once you open your heart to welcome his call in your life.