Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2014 — Catholic High School

Published: December 8, 2014

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily at Catholic High School for Boys in Little Rock on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014.

Bishop Taylor

When I was your age there was a show on TV called "Mission Impossible". Have any of you seen it in re-runs? Peter Graves played secret agent Jim Phelps, who received his instructions on an audio tape that would self-destruct after he heard it. He was given seemingly impossible assignments and risked his life for America in every episode, yet nothing was really impossible for Mr. Phelps, our hero.

Things often turned out differently than planned, but he always overcame any setbacks and saved the Western World, all within a single episode. And of course he did so twice as fast as Tom Cruise did in his later "Mission Impossible" movies.

Many of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus sound like a whole series of mission impossibles. Today's feast of the Immaculate Conception: Mary was preserved from sin — the effects of original sin and personal sin — right from the moment of her conception. For Joachim and Ann (Mary's parents) this was impossible. But nothing is impossible with God.

Open your heart to God who makes the impossible, possible for us. So, are you a man of prayer? If not, how are you going to know what God wants you to do with your life?

Then the annunciation: the angel Gabriel told Mary that though a virgin, she would conceive a son. And not just any son, but the Son of God Most High. The Messiah whose reign would be without end.How could this be? For a simple woman to become the mother of God, the mother of her creator, was logically impossible. But nothing is impossible with God.

Moreover, Mary's elderly aunt Elizabeth, thought to be sterile, was now in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary was astonished, so the angel went on to remind her that "nothing is impossible with God." At which point Mary responded: "I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." 

God had a plan for Mary, but still she had open her heart to what God was asking of her. She could do this because she was a woman of prayer, a woman who always wanted to do God’s will, and now that she knew what that was, she was willing to take the risk of saying “yes”.

God has a plan for your life as well. He has given you everything you need to fulfill his plan for you, including gifts of intellect and an excellent education here at Catholic High. But like Mary, you have to say “yes” for this to make a difference. You have to open your heart to whatever it is that God is asking of you. Near the end of every school year I come here for that inspiring day when young men from Catholic High sign their letters of intent to enter the seminary.

Six years ago it was for Stephen Elser and Joseph de Orbegozo; five years ago Keith Higgenbotham; four years ago for Jon Miskin; three years ago for Joseph Friend; two years ago for Brian Cundall and Stephen Kelly; and last year for Isidro Negete, Daniel Wendel and later in the summer for Chandler Donaldson.

Plus other Catholic High graduates who entered the seminary, though not right out of high school, including: Stephen Hart, Ben Riley, Alex Booth and Patrick Friend. Do you realize that at least 14 of our current 41 seminarians are recent Catholic High graduates. This is something of which you should be very proud! I sure am! They were able to do this because they were men of prayer. I visit with them regularly and I can report that they are doing great … and they want to know which of you will be joining them next year!

All of the folks I mentioned at the beginning of this homily were told that nothing will be impossible with God, but they aren't given the details of what will happen or how this will happen. In order to trust God's providence we have to nurture our relationship with his Son. That means a constant prayer life, and it means that we will have the grace to live each moment if we choose to do God's will.

The seniors here when they started as freshman maybe wondered at moments if they would make it. If you seniors really think about it and are honest it is by God's grace that you are now sitting in those bleachers. The problem we humans have is that we want to know every detail and take the way that makes us most secure. If Mary had needed to know every detail, she would have said no to God, since doing his will means we rely on him without knowing for sure all the details.

God is calling each one of you to something, but what he is calling you to is not what will make you feel most secure, get you to retirement faster, or what will bring the least problems. He's calling you to follow his Son. Open your heart to the Lord and he will show what he has in mind for you. He will show you how to live for something bigger than yourself. He will show you how to make a difference not only in your own life, but also in the lives of others.

And just as in previous years, God is calling some of you in each class to priesthood. All of you who are Catholic should at least consider it. You'll never know what you are really created to be unless you at least begin to talk with Jesus in prayer. All of you will make the most important decisions of your life in the next coming years. Don't pick just what's safe, because that means your decisions are based on fear!

Open your heart to God who makes the impossible, possible for us. So, are you a man of prayer? If not, how are you going to know what God wants you to do with your life? Are you afraid to open your heart to the possibility that God may be calling you to the priesthood? Isn’t courage one of the values we seek to live by here at Catholic High?

Mary was afraid too, but the angel told her, "Don't be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God." When Mary hesitated, the angel reminded her "nothing is impossible with God." Fourteen of your Catholic High brothers have already responded, like Mary: "I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say." That should be your response to the Lord’s call too — whatever that call may be! Don't be afraid to say yes to the Lord.