Bishop Nickless

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Bishop Nickless’ homilies

May Advent joy grow in our hearts

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

May the joy of our Lord’s Advent grow in your heart! Our Savior is coming as the infant King. The great and the worldly cannot recognize his power, but shepherds and foreign travelers and even animals adore him. Born in a stable, he becomes poor for us, so that we might inherit the riches of his kingdom of heaven. The mystery of God made man for our sakes continues to inspire our faith and love, especially in this joyful season.

Mary, ever-virgin, our holy mother, knew what lay before her in the manger. She was humble enough to see clearly the great work God was working through her. Her faith in the Savior was strong. Her quiet joy at being so close to God gave her courage. We can imitate her humility and her faith and receive the same strength in our life.

On Dec. 8, we celebrate the solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This is the mystery of Mary being conceived without the stain of original sin in the womb of her mother, Anne. With this unique grace, God prepared Mary to accept without reservation the unique vocation of being the Mother of God made man.

Because she was sinless and pure, she could offer God a total “yes” when the Archangel Gabriel announced this plan to her. Unlike us, she was perfectly free to give everything back to God, holding nothing for herself.

Moreover, because her own human nature was untouched by sin, she could give the same perfect and sinless nature to Christ in her womb. In this way, Christ was “like us in all things but sin.” Our human nature is wounded by original sin. Christ’s human nature was unwounded, because Mary’s was preserved from the wound.

Therefore, he could heal us, which he still does through the sacraments of the church, beginning with holy baptism, and especially in the healing sacraments of confession and the holy Eucharist. By the grace of all the seven sacraments, we become whole again, and by being united to Christ, we make our way home to eternal life with him in heaven.

Because Mary was without sin, her love was without limit. She loved God perfectly, as fully as it is possible for a person to love. She loved Christ, her divine son, and therefore suffered with him in his passion, although she knew it was necessary because of sin.

She loves us, too, who are united with her son and therefore are also her spiritual children. She longs to see us persevere in bearing our crosses, too, so that we can join her and Christ in heaven. She intercedes for us, moved by her motherly love, and trusting absolutely in the mercy he pours out on us.

Nor does Mary only remain in heaven to help us from afar. Over and over again, she has returned to earth, appearing especially to the humble, the poor, to children, to give the same message of repentance, of turning to her son, of receiving his mercy.

On Dec. 12, we celebrate one such apparition, which we now call Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 1531, at the hill of Tepeyac (now part of Mexico City), Mary appeared to an Aztec peasant who had been baptized as Juan Diego a few years before. She sent him to the local bishop with a request for a new church to be built on the hill. The bishop did not believe Juan Diego and wanted proof.

A few days later, Mary gave Juan Diego a large bunch of roses miraculously blooming in winter. Wrapping the flowers in his tilma, or cloak, St. Juan Diego brought them to the bishop. When the tilma was opened to remove the flowers, the now-famous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was found miraculously imprinted there.

Not only the bishop, but many millions of indigenous people soon believed. This same tilma, with its inexplicable image unfaded by time, hangs even today in the basilica church that was then built in Mexico City.

The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the message of the Gospel. Christ, our infant king, came to us to save us from our sins, so that we might live forever with him in heaven. He died and rose at Easter and gave us the church and the sacraments, so that the means of salvation might reach the whole world.

He is found not in the palaces of the rich or in mastering the ways of the world, but in the homes and hearts of the poor, simple, and humble good men and women who love him, and who listen to his Gospel and his holy mother, Mary. We must become more humble, like Mary, like the baby in the manger, so that we may become pure of heart and strong in faith. If we do, then our heart, too, can be a stable where the infant king is adored, and he will rule us with his gentle, healing mercy.

Amid all the hectic preparations for what the world calls “Christmas,” please try to make more room for that blooming winter rose of faith, our interior peace and prayerful preparation to receive the coming of Christ.

May the joyful blessings of this Advent season bring you grace and peace! “To Jesus, through Mary!”

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City

Dec. 7, 2017: May Advent joy grow in our hearts

November 16, 2017: Be filled with gratitude this Thanksgiving

November 2, 2017: God must save us through his plan

October 19, 2017: Catechism express true church teachings

October 5, 2017: Be not afraid: Light shall overcome the darkness

September 21, 2017: Prayer humbles one’s pride

September 7, 2017: Catechizing children: Pass on a vibrant and meaningful faith

August 10, 2017: Fatima message emphasizes God’s love

July 27, 2017: Strive to love more perfectly

July 13, 2017: Called to be disciples of Jesus and lead others to follow him

June 29, 2017: Centering faith on Christ, called to be bold for him

June 1, 2017: Planned Parenthood closings illustrate a victory of prayer

May 18, 2017: Holy Spirit lives within each of us

May 4, 2017: Praise, thanks to God for all his gifts

April 20, 2017: Joy of Easter at heart of Gospel

 April 6, 2017: Easter’s joy awaits us

March 23, 2017: Lent calls faithful to greater discipline, renewal of sacrifice

March 9, 2017: Confession important opportunity of Lent

March 9, 2017: Give generously to Catholic Relief Services Collection

March 9, 2017: Bishop commutes Lenten obligation for March 17 

February 23, 2017: Lent is a time to pause, turn to God

February 9, 2017: Valuing the covenant of marriage 

February 9, 2017: Bishop releases immigration statement

January 26: 2017: Catholic Schools: Instruments to spread Gospel, do Lord’s work

January 12, 2017: Forming best plan to journey forward

December 22, 2016: Catholic Charities offers support, guidance

December 22, 2016: Welcome Christ into your hearts with joy and love

December 8, 2016: Faith, hope and love: Celebrate Christmas for the right reasons 

November 17, 2016: Pledged to be true servants of Christ

October 20, 2016: Rely on God’s mercy to avoid devilish influences

October 6, 2016: Worldly culture committed to lies cannot bring about peace, justice

September 22, 2016: Pastoral planning committee reviews, evaluates feedback

August 25, 2016: Spending deliberate time in prayer enhances other areas of our lives

August 11, 2016: Prayers for youth, adults as they prepare to go back to school

July 28, 2016: Voters must be Catholic first

July 14, 2016: Ordination offers opportunity to evaluate diocesan needs

June 20, 2016: Seeking the face of Christ in suffering 

June 16, 2016: Keep the faith this summer

May 19, 2016: Be aware of God’s presence

May 5, 2016: Pastoral care for families: God’s plan for marriage, family taught by Jesus Christ

April 21, 2016: Papal document affirms marriage

April 7, 2016: Pray, discern God’s will during pastoral planning process

March 24, 2016: Find joy in exultation of Jesus

March 10, 2016: No longer time to coast, Lent brings time for conversion

February 11, 2016: Trusting in Lord’s mercy, seek a deeper conversion of heart

January 28, 2016: Being a good disciple is giving a consistent witness to Christ

January 14, 2016: Pray, work more willingly for end to scourge of abortion

December 17, 2015: Jubilee Year of Mercy:  Birth of Christ opens door of mercy

December 3, 2015: Diocese of Sioux City promulgates safe environment program

November 19, 2015: SPOTLIGHT: Movie reminds us to be vigilant

November 5, 2015: GOD’S MERCY: Moving sinners to conversion 

October 15, 2015: Family life: Faithful families know hope and joy

October 1, 2015: Pope’s visit a joyful one

September 17, 2015: Pray for safe travels, success of family meeting and for pope

September 3, 2015: Families contribute to student faith, school success

August 6, 2015: Caring for the most vulnerable

July 23, 2015: Build laws on good laws and truth

July 9, 2015: SUPREME COURT DECISION: Rejecting four marks of natural marriage 

June 25, 2015: POPE’S ENCYCLICAL: Boldly confronts us about creation, bishop says

June 11, 2015: Being a disciple of Christ

May 14, 2015: United with Christ in this life

April 30, 2015: Prayers sought as priest changed implemented

April 16, 2015: Mercy asks to seek opportunities for forgiveness and healing of sin

April 2, 2015: Seeking full, perfect union with Jesus

March 19, 2015: Turning back to the Lord during Lent 

March 5, 2015: Celebrating the charisms of professed vocations

March 5, 2015: Diocese to take up collection for Catholic Relief Services

Feb. 19, 2015: SEASON OF LENT:  Time of contrition, penance

Feb. 5, 2015: Bishop comments on Pope Francis’s remarks on children, family size

Jan. 22, 2015: Uphold human dignity, recommit to light and mission of Christ

Dec. 18, 2014: Blessings of the Season: God wills each of us gifts of grace and holiness

Dec. 4, 2014: Embrace spirit of gratitude, humility this Advent Season

Nov. 6, 2014: Bishop asks for prayers for vocations

Oct. 16, 2014: Don’t lower the bar to achieve holiness