My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the Peace of the Lord be with you.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Remember that the Advent season is a season of penance, a time for us to repent and turn more to preparing ourselves spiritually for the Birth of the child Jesus. It will be easy for us to get lost in the worldly preparations for Christmas as we run from store to store to get the bargains as we shop for the right present for that special person. We will be going to different Christmas parties, and will probably eat and drink more than we should. We will spend hours decorating our trees and our home so we can get into the “Christmas spirit.” But somewhere along the line, we must take the time to remember what this season is really all about – the birthday of Jesus, the Messiah.
We will hear many news stories about people who want to take Christ out of Christmas. While we disagree with what we hear, we can tie into this way of thinking by how we ourselves prepare. Advent is a time to remind us that we must make every effort to keep Jesus at the center of everything that we do. This season is, after all, about Him. Have you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) recently? We tell our children that they better be good or Santa won’t bring them anything. Do we tell ourselves that we better be good or we may lose everything? There is no getting around it, Advent is a time to remind us that we are daily preparing ourselves for the second coming of Jesus – the day we die. When we can say to ourselves that we are ready to meet Jesus when He comes, we are then living our lives the way that He wants us to live them – according to His Word.
Jesus does not expect us to walk through life alone. He has through our Baptism made us a part of the Body of Christ and has given us His own Mother to be our Mother as well. She is there to help us.
This past Friday, December 8th, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which by the way was a holy day of obligation. This feast is important to us since the United States has been placed under the patroness of Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception. This is the day we celebrate the fact that Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin. Mary was preserved from sin from the moment of her conception.
On Tuesday of this week, December 12th, at 6:00 a.m. and at 8:00 a.m., we will celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which is an Aztec Indian title meaning the Immaculate Conception.
On December 9, 1531, Mary appeared to a humble young Indian named Juan Diego as he was on his way to get a priest who would go to anoint his dying uncle Juan Bernardino. During that first apparition, Our Lady commissioned Juan Diego to go to the palace of the Bishop in order to tell him of her wish that he build for her a temple at Tepeyac, the place of the apparition.
When Mary appeared to Juan Diego she did not keep him in suspense nor did she allow him to be overcome by fright or terror. Her message was not one of disaster or of penance or of threat or of impending destruction to come upon a disobedient generation. This is different from what we hear Mary saying when she appeared in other parts of the world such as Fatima or Lourdes. Her message of Tepeyac was a message of a loving and protecting mother. She simply said:
“Know, my well beloved son that I am the Ever-Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God Who is the author of Life, the Creator of all things and the Lord of heaven and earth, Who is everywhere. It is my wish that a temple be built here to me on this site. Here, as the loving Mother of you and your fellow men, I will show forth my loving kindness and compassion for your people and for those who love me and seek me, and call upon me in their labors and afflictions. Here I will hear their cries and their petitions; I will comfort and ease their suffering.”
Before imprinting her image on the tilma of Juan Diego, Mary appeared to his uncle, Juan Bernardino, and cured him of his illness. It was during that apparition that she identified herself as Our Lady of Guadalupe, a title that simply means according to experts, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” It should be noted that the United States has been put under the protection of Mary with the name Immaculate Conception, and that all of the Americas have been placed under the protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Let me also note that the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the only image of Mary that Mary Herself has given to us. It was given to us 482 years ago on a cloth made from cactus that should have deteriorated within a fifty-year period. It is just as beautiful today as it was when Blessed Juan Diego unveiled the image to the Bishop of Mexico City.
Our Lady of Guadalupe offers us the same message that she gave Juan Diego in 1531 – come to me so that I can love you with a mother’s love and take care of your needs. As we prepare to celebrate these two feasts in honor of Mary, let us renew our love for the Mother of God and humbly place ourselves under her protection. As she cared for Jesus, the Son of God, so she will care for us. I cannot help but to note that I have personally received her love in many ways, but especially in giving me the ability to walk once again!
Viva la Virgin de Guadalupe! Viva la Madre de Dios! Viva Nuestra Madre!
I love you.