Preaching today at his installation as the ninth Archbishop of Birmingham, England, Most Rev. Bernard Longley reflected on his new position and today's Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
“In preparing for this day I have been very conscious that I am entering into the life of a Christian family that has a long and rich history as well as its distinctive vocation to make Jesus Christ present, known and loved in this, the heart of England,” the prelate said in his installation Mass homily on Tuesday.
The Mass and installation were celebrated at the Metropolitan Cathedral and Basilica of St. Chad in Birmingham.
Speaking on the significance of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Longley said that it “makes us aware of the power of Christ at work within us, as individuals and as communities, even – and perhaps with most effect, most fruitfully – when we are least aware of it.”
Archbishop Longley continued,“the most important moment of grace in Mary's life occurred when she was as yet incapable of sensing or recognizing it, still less understanding its importance.”
On the appearance of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, the Archbishop noted that “St. Luke does not disguise the fact that our Lady, even though she was full of grace, was deeply disturbed by the angel's words. The natural, human reaction of bewilderment and astonishment at something so powerful caused her to face it and accept it.”
Mary, preached the archbishop, had “two moments of amazement.” The first was that she was chosen by God, and the second was that her life was to be “fruitful with the birth of Christ.”
“We too, each of us, have been chosen and are highly favored,” he remarked. “We shall never fully understand the reason for God's choosing until we come one day to see him face to face, yet we have been chosen, each in our own particular way and together as the church, to bear Christ to others.”
Previously an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Westminster from 2003 to 2009, Archbishop Longley was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Archbishop of Birmingham on Oct. 1 of this year. The prelate was born in Manchester, England in 1955 and was ordained a priest of Arundel and Brighton, England in 1981.