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A place where Jesus is encountered, celebrated and shared

Archbishop Wenski's homily at 50th anniversary of Our Lady of the Lakes Church

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily the evening of Dec. 8, 2017 at Our Lady of the Lakes Church in Miami Lakes, on the occasion of its 50th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of its school.

While 50 years might not seem like a long time for a Church that is almost 2,000 years old, for our still young Archdiocese 50 years is a milestone worth celebrating! Happy Anniversary, Our Lady of the Lakes parishioners!

The word, parish, is derived from the ancient Greek pa-roi-ki-a; the Spanish, parroquia, is much closer to the original Greek than its English equivalent. It meant a sojourn in a foreign land, or a community of sojourners. And so when the Hebrew Scriptures were first translated into Greek, pa-roi-ki-a was used to describe the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.

These days we are preparing for Christmas – the birth of Jesus – who comes into a lost world to save it and bring it back to God. During Advent, we are encouraged to make straight the way of the Lord by doing penance, for it is only when we acknowledge our sinfulness and our need of God that Christmas can make sense. Otherwise we would forget that Jesus is the reason for the season.

With today’s feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception – we affirm our belief that by a unique privilege because she was to be the Mother of God become man, Mary was preserved from all trace of sin from the very first moment of her life. Just as we prepare for Christmas, God himself was preparing for Christmas Day in a very wonderful and awesome way.

The first reading tells us the story of Adam. When God created Adam, he made his preparations beforehand. He made a paradise ready for him to live in. Adam lost paradise because of his sin but God didn’t give up on us. He promised a redeemer, a new Adam, who would come a restore mankind to friendship with himself once again. Well just as he prepared a paradise for the first Adam to live in, when the time came for the new Adam to come into the world, God once again had to make some preparations. He fashioned a paradise for the second Adam to dwell in, and that paradise was the body and soul of our Blessed Mother, immune from the taint of sin which was the legacy of Adam’s curse. And if the first Eve was made from a rib taken from the side of the first Adam, the second Adam, Jesus, took flesh in the virginal womb of Mary, who is for us like a new Eve.

Adam and Eve thought that freedom and happiness could be found without God. But without God paradise becomes a desert – a cold and forbidding place. A world without God is essentially a hopeless world. It is a world with no future.

If a world without God seems like a barren wasteland caught in the throes of a seemingly never-ending winter, in Mary – she who is full of grace – we see God’s springtime breaking through the frozen ground of mankind’s indifference and hardness of heart.

The sinless virgin is like a bud that burst forth into life on a branch, the Israel of the Old Testament that appears to be dead. That bud will eventually produce a flower, the Child who will be born in Bethlehem.

The Immaculate Conception of Mary is God’s answer to our hopelessness because she will become in time the Mother of the true Hope of the World. She says yes to God – and in that yes, hope is reborn and the promise given by God to Adam and his children is finally fulfilled.

Her “yes” helps reverse the “no” of Adam and Eve – in this way, Mary shares in a special way in the work of Jesus who comes into the world so that we too like Mary might learn to say “yes” to God. For that is the way of true freedom, our true happiness.

As Catholic Christians, to say that we are parishioners of this or that parish is to identify us as members of a pilgrim people called forth by God towards a future of hope. To say that we are parishioners is to acknowledge that we sojourn in the way that his Son Jesus opens before us.

For 50 years, Our Lady of the Lakes Parish has been a place where Jesus Christ is encountered, celebrated and shared. This jubilee of the founding of this parish affords each parishioner the opportunity to remember the past with gratitude, to embrace the present with enthusiasm and to look to the future with confidence.

Of course, the history of this parish – like all of human history marked as it is by human sin as well as by God’s grace– has its lights and shadows. And so, jubilees and anniversaries are also occasion of seeking and giving forgiveness. I pray that your 50th anniversary celebration will make Our Lady of the Lakes Parish a model of a reconciled and reconciling community of faith, hope and love.

Today’s feast of the Immaculate Conception reminds us that long before we began our Christmas preparations, God began his – by choosing Mary from the first moment of her conception for a singular mission in the history of our salvation. To bring us Jesus was the only reason for anything Mary did. Jesus should be the reason for everything that we do as Christians: he is our Peace, our Joy, our Hope, our Savior, our Life.

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