Advent season brings hope
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
May the beginning of this new year of grace in our Lord Jesus Christ fill you with expectant joy and devout faith in His mercy! As we prepare once again to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, may His grace stir us to a deeper gratitude and conversion of mind and heart.
Advent is a time for reflection and hope. God our most loving Father, by His infinite mercy and perfect plan of salvation, sent His own Son into the world, to be born of the Virgin Mary, and to suffer and die for us, so that we might be freed from slavery to sin. This is a gift of which we are completely unworthy, and yet God gives freely to us. In His love for each of us, His children, He longs for us to love Him also, and He provides in the Church every means for us to be lifted by grace to the vision of His own glory and splendor. How fitting, and how moving, that this vision comes to us as a new-born child! As we gaze upon Him already in this life, we see but darkly, yet clearly enough to desire eternity with Him.
This is why we cling so fiercely to our faith and hope, despite the world’s rejection. Without the coming of Christ into the world at Christmas, we cannot be free of sin, free to love God and neighbor with perfect selflessness. Without the mystery of the Incarnation, and of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection, and of His gift of the Church for all time to offer the means of salvation to the whole world, we cannot come to a love for God stronger than our love for passing created goods. Without such spiritual love, intimately rooted in faith and hope, we cannot even aspire to love our own children, much less to love our enemies or to seek solidarity with the poor. We know and believe that Christ, and Christ alone, makes this difference in our lives.
During this season of Advent, the Church daily offers us such reflections. She calls us to renew our faith, hope, and love, looking for a deeper relationship with Christ our Savior. She calls us to examine our lives, and, like the shepherds and the Magi of Christmas, to leave behind whatever keeps us from letting Him penetrate our lives. As we loosen our grip on such worldly obstacles, we hasten the more readily to adore Him in His birth in Bethlehem, in His birth into our hearts now, and in His return in glory.
EXAMPLE OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD
In this continuing pilgrimage with the whole Church, 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 gives us yet another proof and demonstration of God’s loving providence, arranging all things for our salvation according to His perfect plan of mercy. Mary was conceived without sin, preserved from the very first moment of her existence by the saving merit of Christ’s sacrifice. God gave her this unique gift, so that Christ could take from her His own human nature, perfect and undefiled by sin, and so that Mary could give a more perfect obedience to God at the Annunciation. Our own assent in faith to God’s will, though imperfect because of sin, is, in a sense, subsumed into Mary’s perfect obedience. Therefore we trust and hope that the promises of Christ are for us, sinners though we are.
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. This year, while the Church’s liturgy for December 12 is that of “Gaudete Sunday,” the Third Sunday of Advent, we nonetheless recall Our Lady’s special care for us, and beg her most generous intercession and assistance. We should commend also to her prayers our families, our beloved dead, our priests, deacons, and religious, and all our needs and intentions.
Please continue to pray for me, so that I may lead you to Christ our Lord in faith and justice, just as I pray for all of you. May our Advent be filled with consolations, hope, and joy as we prepare anew to welcome and adore our Lord Jesus Christ.
Your brother in Christ,
Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
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