Dear Brothers & Sisters,
This week we celebrate the Feast of our Patroness, the Immaculate Conception, and the patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe. We often have heard those titles of Mary, but without much familiarity with them.
The Dogma (an irrevocable truth contained in Divine Revelation as the Catechism defines it) of the Immaculate Conception is sometimes confused with Jesus being born without sin. It actually refers to the Blessed Virgin Mother who was conceived (Conception) without sin/original Sin (Immaculate). It is fitting, says St. Thomas Aquinas, that the mother of Jesus was completely perfect, in order to receive Jesus in her womb. Like her, we ourselves are also called to be perfect in order to receive Jesus in our souls. It is only through the immense love that God has for each of us that we can be transformed, like Mary, in this holy tabernacle to carry Jesus within us. This radical transformation can be intimidating, as we need much help to be Holy as God is Holy, to be courageous to follow the Word of God, to receive the Lord within us, just like Mary. This past Monday, we heard the Gospel from the Roman Centurion that asks Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant (Mt. 8:5-11). As Jesus wants to come at his request, the Centurion replies that he is not worthy that Jesus should enter under his roof. That is what we say at every mass right before communion. But the beauty is that Jesus DOES WANT TO DWELL IN US, in our hearts, mind, and lives, even though we are not yet perfect! As God bestowed many graces to the Blessed Mother (full of Grace), He also wants to bless us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens and on earth (Ephesians 1:3). At the example of the blessed Mother let us not be afraid to become the handmaid of the Lord, and accept all the blessings from God.
Additionally, the Blessed Mother herself also intercedes for us, caring for us, like a mother. When Juan Diego was in a rush to ask a priest to visit his dying uncle, he avoided the place where Our Lady of Guadalupe first appeared to him, in order to complete his task. Nonetheless, she appeared to him for a second time. After listening his concern for his uncle, she said, “Listen my little child, let nothing frighten you or disturb you. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? … Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” Dear brothers and sisters, let us entrust all our preoccupations, concerns, and worries to her.
On this week when we also celebrate Gaudete Sunday, there are plenty of reasons for us to Rejoice! Not only for having a Celestial Mother so close to us, but contemplating so many great things that the Lord has already done in our lives. Let’s not be distracted with the busyness of December, but rather prepare our hearts to welcome Christ. The time of Advent is a time of spiritual preparation for the coming of Christ, not so much about getting the gifts and the house ready for Christmas. There is a prayer of St. Teresa of Avila that often comes to my mind which says, “Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, ALL THINGS ARE PASSING AWAY: God never changes. Patience obtains all things, Whoever has God lacks nothing; GOD ALONE SUFFICES.” We are invited to rejoice also because God has not given up on us. While all things will pass away, we know that He is eternal, and He alone is all that we need.
Let us focus in this time of Advent, with the help of our Blessed Mother, to prepare our hearts to let Jesus into our lives, just like Christmas.
Father Steven Clemence