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Preparing internally, externally during Advent

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
 
May this new season of Advent increase your faith and joy in the coming of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ! He came into the world in His holy Incarnation, He comes daily into our hearts to make us holy, and He will come again “in glory, to judge the living and the dead” and to take His own people to Heaven. In each of these meanings of Advent, we prepare in these days to greet Him with renewed hope.

Our preparations must not merely be external, like decorations covering over what we don’t want others to see. We must prepare our hearts. We must make our hearts resemble the pure and humble Virgin, in whose womb Jesus first came into the world. We can do this with a renewal of our prayer, and of attending Holy Mass and the sacrament of Confession. In this Year of Faith, we can also contemplate the mysteries of Christ’s humanity by praying the holy Rosary more frequently.

We also prepare for Him with our charity. Who among our friends, our co-workers, our family, is in need of Christ right now? Who needs from us a promise of prayer for them, or a companion to listen to them? Is this not how Christ comes down to us, by sharing fully our weak humanity in the Incarnation? This sort of preparation of the heart does not only welcome Christ, it welcomes also the “little ones” whom Christ came to seek and find.

Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe

As followers of her Son, Jesus Christ, we are assisted especially by our Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary. On December 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is a holy day of obligation. This great feast shows us yet again the richness of God’s mercy and Providence, arranging all things for our salvation according to His perfect plan. Mary was conceived without sin, preserved from every stain of both original and personal sin, from the very first moment of her existence, by the saving merit of Christ’s perfect sacrifice. God prepared this unique gift for her alone, so that Christ could take from her His own human nature, perfect and undefiled by sin. The Virgin Mary thus also offers back to God a more perfect obedience: her resounding “Let it be done unto me,” at the Annunciation, and her whole life of faith as a witness to her Son. Our own faithful obedience, though imperfect because of our sins, still shares by faith in Mary’s perfect obedience. This gives us firm hope that the promises of Christ are for us, in spite of our sins.

On December 12, we also remember Mary’s appearance to Saint Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under this title, Mary is revered as the principle patroness of the Americas and of our own Diocese of Sioux City. On this day, we should contemplate Our Lady’s special attentiveness for us, her children in faith. She carries our prayers to her Son; let us beg her intercession and assistance. We also commend our families, our beloved dead, our priests, deacons, and religious, and all our needs and intentions to her powerful prayers.

Please continue to pray for me, so that I may lead you to Christ our Lord in faith and hope, just as I pray for all of you. May our Advent be filled with consolations and joy as we prepare anew to welcome and adore our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City


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