Monday, December 08, 2003

The PETA Billboard And The Real Immaculate Conception!

The infamous billboard

(Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 2003: This homily was given on December 8, 2003 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I. Read Luke 1: 26-38.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Immaculate Conception 2003]

I’m sure most of you have heard about the PETA billboard that was recently put up off Route 195 in Providence. PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The billboard has a picture of the Blessed Mother on it, holding a dead chicken in her arms (instead of the Christ Child); and off to the side are written the words: Go Vegetarian—It’s an Immaculate Conception.

I was pleased to see that some non-Catholics and even some non-Christians were upset by this perverse portrayal of our Lady. The Rev. John Holt, a Protestant minister and the head of the R.I. Council of Churches, was quoted in the Providence Journal as saying, "I just find [it] appalling. [It’s] absolutely insulting to any Christian."

Of course, this is merely one more example of how the sacred is being profaned and dragged through the mud in contemporary American culture.

Remember the crucifix suspended in urine that was passed off as art several years ago?

Or how about the portrait of the Blessed Mother surrounded by elephant dung and pornographic images that was in the Brooklyn Museum of Art even more recently?

That’s sick, perverted stuff.

Of course, to the ACLU and others of that ilk, it’s just “free speech.” Slander Jesus or is Mother, and they say you’re protected by the Constitution. Say something nice about Jesus or his Mother, and you risk getting hauled into court. Welcome to 21st century America!

But here’s something that the PETA people (and the ACLU gang) need to understand: When you demean our Blessed Mother, you ultimately demean yourself (and every other member of the human race)!

Because when you attack the greatest member of any group, you implicitly attack all the other members of lesser status.

Today we gather as a Church to celebrate the Feast of the REAL Immaculate Conception, which reminds us of the simple fact that Mary was the greatest human person who ever lived. (Remember, Jesus was a divine person, so he’s in another category.)

The Immaculate Conception is all about Mary’s greatness as a person and as a disciple. Much to the chagrin of the people at PETA, this event has nothing to do with vegetarianism being a good idea.

The Immaculate Conception means that Mary, from the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, Ann, was preserved from original sin by a special grace from God, through the merits of her divine Son, Jesus Christ.

And at every moment of her life thereafter, she said Yes to the Lord and his will.

The Annunciation (which we heard recounted for us in today’s Gospel), was but one example of her faithfulness. What she did there, she did always and everywhere.

Now that’s hard for us to imagine and understand, since we all disobey God everyday—but it’s true nonetheless! And this is one reason why we call Mary, “our hope.” If she can say Yes to God and remain faithful to him in good times and in bad, then so can we! She was a human person, made of the same “stuff” that we are.

On that note, last week a little two year old boy from our parish died suddenly. It’s an event that every parent fears. I encouraged little Travis’ parents to look to Mary for comfort, for prayers, and for support in the future—because she understands! She’s a human person who understands. She knows what it is to suffer this type of devastation. She knows what it is to lose a child in a shocking way; she knows what it is to feel the void and emptiness deep within.

But in spite of her loss, Mary never sinned; in spite of the devastation, she always remained faithful to her God.

That’s not easy. (Just ask any parent who’s lost a child.) But if Mary can do it by the Lord’s grace, then so can we.

She’s our hope.

The people at PETA want to help build a better world, and that’s a noble desire. But they’re going about it in the wrong way. If you want to renew a culture, if you want to make the world a better place, you need to begin by extolling Mary, not by denigrating her!

She’s the fairest of our race; she’s the greatest disciple; she’s the woman who shows us what we can be if we allow God to work in our lives.

When we extol Mary, we automatically lift ourselves and all humanity up!

When we extol Mary, we also point our young people to the perfect heroine—the perfect role model. And, as we all know, our young people today desperately need good role models of faith and virtue.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, conceived without original sin, pray for us this day and every day, that we might be more like you. Amen.