Preparation for Advent
Feast of Saint 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.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:18-20
What a wonderful feast we celebrate today as we begin our Advent season. Today we honor St. Andrew the Apostle who gives us a perfect example of how to begin our Advent celebration.
This passage above reveals a lot for us to ponder. Andrew, along with his brother Peter, was a fishermen. Both of these fisherman were hard at work when suddenly this stranger, Jesus, walks by them and calls to them. They immediately leave their livelihood and follow after Jesus.
Don’t miss what happened here. Specifically, there are two things that happened: 1) Jesus walked by these two fishermen and said, “Come after me.” 2) In response, these two men immediately “left their nets and followed Him.”
This story of the call of St. Andrew is quite appropriate for the beginning of Advent, because Advent must be a time when we hear Jesus call us anew. It must be a new beginning and a new conversion for us. As Advent begins we should hear Jesus call to us, “Come after Me!” We should hear Him invite us with an invitation to give ourselves completely to His divine plan and purpose. Listen to Him. Do you hear Him calling?
Our response, at the beginning of Advent, must be the same as St. Andrew. We must, without hesitation, leave everything to follow Him. What exactly does that mean? It means that anything and everything that keeps us from responding to Christ must be let go of. It means we must be ready and willing to do whatever Jesus asks of us. And we must be ready to do it the moment He asks.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that Advent is a time to start anew. It’s a time to let yourself be called to Christ. Listen to Him calling you and respond to Him with your whole heart.
Lord, I love You above all things. Help me to hear Your gentle yet firm voice calling me to follow You. Give me the courage I need to respond to Your gentle invitation with complete abandonment. May this Advent be a time of new beginnings and deeper resolve to follow You. Jesus, I trust in You.
The Gratuitous Gift of Our Blessed Mother
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Happy Solemnity! This is a day to celebrate! Today, we honor the glorious and miraculous Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, an act of God’s most profound mercy.
It is fitting that we see the Immaculate Conception as an act of profound mercy. Why is that so? What is it about this solemnity that is so closely linked to mercy?
Mercy is a gratuitous gift of God. By “gratuitous” we mean that it is not merited or earned. Mercy is not owed to us by God. If it were, it would not be mercy, it would be our right. But we have no right to mercy. It is freely given by God and it is given in abundance.
As for this glorious Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, it’s important to look at it as a gratuitous gift from two perspectives. First, the “Immaculate Conception” means that when God created the Blessed Virgin Mary, He created her without sin. This was done through what we call a prevenient grace. This grace given her is an act of God’s perfect and gratuitous mercy. She did not earn it or merit it; rather, God in His goodness chose to create her without original sin so as to have a suitable instrument by which the Son could come into the world. Mary, for her part, embraced this gift and chose to remain sinless throughout her life by a continual act of her free will.
Second, in creating our Blessed Mother immaculately, God did not keep her to Himself. He was not selfish with her. Instead, He chose to make this perfection of His creation our own mother. The Immaculate Mother Mary is now our spiritual mother in the order of God’s grace and mercy. This, also, is an act of perfect gratuitous mercy on the part of our loving God. We do not deserve such a spiritual mother and protectress, but we have her and she is always there interceding for us and bestowing many graces from God upon us as a perfect mother would.
Reflect, today, upon this twofold gratuitous gift of God’s mercy: 1) He created Mary Immaculate out of mercy, and 2) He gave her to us as our own mother and queen. Seek her motherly care today and throughout the year!
Dearest Mother my Queen, I gaze upon the beauty and holiness of you who, though a mere creature, are perfect in every way. You have been granted this singular and gratuitous grace from God with which you perfectly cooperated. May I always rely upon your motherly love and care and may I always allow you to bestow the grace of God upon me in accord with the Father’s plan. You, dearest mother, are a gratuitous gift of Mercy to us all! Mother Mary, I love you. Pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Our Lady of the Americas
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, December 12
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28
Today, in Mexico, the United States and across the Americas, we honor Our Lady of Guadalupe.
On December 9, 1531, Juan Diego, an Indian convert to the faith, was walking to a nearby village so that he could attend Mass. On his way, a woman appeared to him amidst the sound of celestial music. She announced to him:
I am your merciful Mother, to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. Therefore, go to the dwelling of the Bishop in Mexico City and say that the Virgin Mary sent you to make known to him her great desire.
Though Juan Diego did not accomplish this at first, he eventually followed the instruction of the Virgin of Guadalupe in subsequent apparitions and brought fresh roses from the mountain top to the bishop as a sign that the Virgin wanted a shrine built there. Roses did not usually grow that time of year so this was clearly a miraculous sign. Upon arriving at the bishop’s residence, Juan Diego opened his cloak (tilma) carrying the roses so as to pour them out onto the floor before the bishop. When he did so, the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared, miraculously, upon the threads of this cloak. The cloak is still visible to all who wish to see it at the shrine in Mexico City. And what is amazing, scientifically speaking, is that the image is not painted, rather, each and every thread has changed color so as to create this holy image. Furthermore, the cloak is made of a cactus plant that normally disintegrates within ten years. Today, the cloak is almost five hundred years old and it is as fresh and vibrant as ever.
Though the miraculous nature of the tilma of Juan Diego is fascinating to ponder, what is of far greater significance is the message of our Blessed Mother as she appeared to Juan. ”I am your merciful Mother…” she said. She is our Mother when we trust her and invoke her help.
The Feast of Our Lady, therefore, ought not simply be seen as a cultural, historical or miraculous phenomena. Rather, it must be seen as a glorious invitation from the Queen of Heaven to accept her as our mother.
Reflect, today, upon your own relationship with our Heavenly Mother. Do you trust in her intercession and help? Do you know that Jesus has entrusted you to her care? Have you consecrated your life to her protection? One of the best ways to honor our Blessed Mother is to pray the rosary. Pray it today, at least a decade. And as you do, ask her to gently guide you to her Son, Jesus.
Dearest Mother, Virgin of Guadalupe, I consecrate myself to your motherly care. I thank you for your perfect concern, help and mercy. Please intercede for me as I place my trust in you. Take me to Your Son Jesus that I may love Him with your beautiful heart. Mother Mary, pray for us. St. Juan Diego, pray for us. Jesus, I trust in You.
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