Feasts and Solemnities

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The Eyes of Our Lord

Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, November 30

As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Matthew 4:18–19

Today, we honor one of the Apostles: Saint Andrew. Andrew and his brother Peter were fishermen who would soon take on a new form of fishing.  They would soon become “fishers of men,” as Jesus said. But prior to being sent on this mission by our Lord, they had to become His followers. And this happened as our Lord was first the fisher of these men.

Notice that in this Gospel, Jesus was simply walking by and “saw” these two brothers working hard at their occupation. First, Jesus “saw” them, and then He called them. This gaze of our Lord is worth pondering.

Imagine the profound truth that our Lord is continually gazing at you with divine love, looking for the moment that you turn your attention to Him. His gaze is perpetual and deep. His gaze is one that yearns for you to follow Him, to abandon all else so as to hear His gentle invitation not only to follow Him but to then go forth and invite others on the journey of faith.

As we begin this Advent season, we must allow the call of Andrew and Peter to also become our own calling. We must allow ourselves to notice Jesus as He looks at us, sees who we are, is aware of everything about us, and then speaks a word of invitation. He says to you, “Come after me…”  This is an invitation that must permeate every aspect of your life. To “come after” Jesus is to leave all else behind and to make the act of following our Lord the single purpose of your life.

Sadly, many people pay little attention to this calling in their lives. Few people hear Him speak and fewer respond, and even fewer respond with complete abandonment of their lives. The beginning of Advent is an opportunity to evaluate your responsiveness to the call of our Lord once again.

Reflect, today, upon Jesus speaking these words to you. First, ponder the question of whether you have said “Yes” to Him with all the powers of your soul. Second, reflect upon those whom our Lord wants you to invite on the journey. To whom is Jesus sending you to invite? Who, in your life, is open to His call? Who does Jesus want to draw to Himself through you? Imitate these Apostles as they said “Yes” to our Lord, even though they did not immediately understand all that this would entail. Say “Yes” today and be ready and willing to do whatever comes next on this glorious journey of faith.

My dear Lord, I do say “Yes” to You this day. I hear You calling me, and I choose to respond with the utmost generosity and abandonment to Your holy and perfect will. Give me the courage and wisdom I need to hold nothing back from You and Your divine calling in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.

Full of God’s Grace!

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”  Luke 1:26–28

What does it mean to be “full of grace?” This is a question at the heart of our solemn celebration today.

Today we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Savior of the World, under the unique title of “The Immaculate Conception.” This title acknowledges that grace filled her soul from the moment of her conception, thus preserving her from the stain of sin. Though this truth had been held for centuries among the Catholic faithful, it was solemnly declared as a dogma of our faith on December 8, 1854, by Pope Pius IX. In his dogmatic declaration he stated:

We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

By raising this doctrine of our faith to the level of a dogma, the holy father declared that this truth is to be held as certain by all the faithful. It is a truth that is found in the words of the angel Gabriel, “Hail, full of grace!” To be “full” of grace means just that. Full! 100%. Interestingly, the Holy Father did not say that Mary was born in a state of Original Innocence as were Adam and Eve before they fell into Original Sin. Instead, the Blessed Virgin Mary is declared to be preserved from sin by “a singular grace.” Though she had not yet conceived her Son, the grace that He would win for humanity by His Cross and Resurrection was declared to have transcended time so as to heal our Blessed Mother at the moment of her conception, preserving her of even the stain of Original Sin, by the gift of grace.

Why would God do this? Because no stain of sin could be mingled with the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. And if the Blessed Virgin Mary were to become a fitting instrument by which God unites with our human nature, then she needed to be preserved from all sin. Additionally, she remained in grace throughout her life, refusing to ever turn from God by her own free will.

As we celebrate this dogma of our faith today, turn your eyes and heart to our Blessed Mother by simply pondering those words spoken by the angel: “Hail, full of grace!” Ponder them, this day, reflecting upon them over and over in your heart. Imagine the beauty of the soul of Mary. Imagine the perfect grace-filled virtue she enjoyed in her humanity. Imagine her perfect faith, perfect hope and perfect charity. Reflect upon every word she spoke, being inspired and directed by God. She truly is The Immaculate Conception. Honor her as such this day and always.

My mother and my queen, I love you and honor you this day as The Immaculate Conception! I gaze upon your beauty and perfect virtue. I thank you for always saying “Yes” to the will of God in your life and for allowing God to use you with such power and grace. Pray for me, that as I come to know you more deeply as my own spiritual mother, I may also imitate your life of grace and virtue in all things. Mother Mary, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You!

Our Merciful Mother

Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.  Luke 1:30–31

Today we celebrate five successive apparitions of our Blessed Mother to Juan Diego, who was an Indian convert to the faith. Early in the morning of December 9, 1531, Juan was traveling to the town of Tlatelolco where he intended to attend a catechism class and the holy Mass. However, on his way, as he passed by the Tepeyac Hill, he was gifted by the vision of a bright light and heavenly music. As he gazed upward with wonder and awe, he heard a beautiful voice calling him. As he moved toward the voice, he saw the glorious Mother of God standing in youthful appearance in heavenly splendor. She said to him, “I am your merciful Mother…” She further revealed to him that she wanted a church built on that spot and that Juan was to go and tell this to the Bishop of Mexico City.

Juan did as our Lady asked, but the bishop was reluctant to believe. But once again, the Mother of God appeared to Juan and asked him to return to the bishop with her request. This time the bishop asked for a sign, and Juan reported this to the Mother of God. She said a sign would be provided, but Juan was prevented from receiving that sign, since he needed to attend to his sick uncle.

However, after two days, on December 12, 1531, Juan was once again traveling to the church in Tlatelolco to ask the priest to come and attend to his dying uncle. But this time Juan had taken a different route so as to avoid delay from his heavenly visitor. But this time our Blessed Mother came to him and said, “It is well, littlest and dearest of my sons, but now listen to me. Do not let anything afflict you and be not afraid of illness or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Are you not in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need? Do not fear, for your uncle is not going to die. Be assured…he is already well.”

As soon as Juan heard this from his heavenly visitor, he was overjoyed and asked for a sign to give to the bishop. The Mother of God directed him to the top of the hill where he would find many flowers that were in bloom completely out of season. Juan did as she said, and upon finding the flowers, he cut them and filled his outer cloak, his tilma, with them so he could bring them to the bishop as the sign requested.

Juan then made his way back to Bishop Fray Juan de Zumarraga, the Bishop of Mexico City, to present him with the flowers. To the surprise of all, as he opened his tilma to pour forth the flowers, there appeared on his tilma the image of the very woman who had appeared to him. The image was not painted; rather, every thread of this simple and coarse cloak had changed color to create the beautiful image. That same day, our Blessed Mother had also appeared to Juan’s uncle and miraculously cured him. 

Though these miraculous events have become embedded into the fabric of Mexican culture, the message is far more than cultural in significance. “I am your merciful mother,” she said! It is our Blessed Mother’s deepest desire that all of us come to know her as our mother. She wants to walk with us through the joys and sorrows of life as any loving mother would. She wants to teach us, lead us and reveal to us the merciful love of her divine Son.

Reflect, today, upon the miraculous actions of the Mother of God. But reflect, especially, upon her motherly love. Her love is a pure mercy, a gift of the deepest care and compassion. Her only desire is our holiness. Speak to her this day and invite her to come to you as your merciful mother.

My most merciful mother, I love you and invite you to pour forth upon me your love. I turn to you, this day, in my need, and I trust that you will bring me the abundant grace of your Son, Jesus. Mother Mary, O Virgin of Guadalupe, pray for us who turn to you in our need.  Saint Juan Diego, pray for us.  Jesus, I trust in You.

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