Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 8, 2015 – Year C
Readings: Gn 3:9-15, 20 / Psalm 98 / Eph 1:3-6, 11-12 / Lk 1:26-38
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
During my first few months as pastor here and at our sister parish, Resurrection, I had the privilege to know an extraordinary young man named Alex Earnandes. He and his family were members of Resurrection Parish. He was highly regarded by both young and older members of the community and well known and loved by the congregation of Resurrection. He had been an altar server at Resurrection for many years before I became pastor. He was a member of the men’s group and helped in many other ministries as well.
He was adored by his only sister and his parents and grandparents. They were extremely proud of him, especially when he was accepted at West Point.
But about five years ago – before he reported to West Point – Alex was shot and killed by a boy he considered his friend. And needless to say, the entire community at Smith Mountain Lake was shocked. A tremendous number of the community came to Resurrection to attend his funeral, so many that the parking lot couldn’t fit them all. My reserved space was even taken!
Since then the parish and community have done many things to honor Alex. A scholarship was set up in his name. Resurrection Parish established the “Alex Earnandes Messenger of Faith” award to recognize, each year, a youth of the Smith Mountain Lake community who best exhibits a Christ-like behavior. In the school, there is a bench with his name and picture on it.
Even now, individuals approach Alex’s parents to offer help and support, knowing how difficult it is to lose an only son. Not too long ago, wanting to express his appreciation for all the offers of support they have received, Alex’s father addressed the congregation at Resurrection church. He told them: “I couldn’t thank God enough for all your support, but if you’d really like to make me and my family happy, please also reach out to the parents of the boy who killed my son.” My brothers and sisters, this is a classic example of mercy.
Today as we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are also celebrating the first day of the Year of Mercy as proclaimed by Pope Francis. There is a posting on our Facebook page that quotes the Holy Father about this year. It states: “God’s face is the face of the Merciful Father who is always patient. He never tires of forgiving us if we are to return to Him with a contrite heart; for great indeed is God’s mercy.”
My dear brothers and sister in Christ, may the Blessed Virgin Mary, our patroness, continue to intercede for us so that we may not only remember the unconditional love and mercy God has for us, but also remember that God is asking us to be His instruments of merciful love and forgiveness. For as Jesus said in the 6th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, “Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”