My very dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
I am prompted to begin to speak again on Advent, so that together, we all may prepare well for the Joy of Christmas, which alone is Christ.
As we enter upon the second week of Advent, together we are drawing closer to Bethlehem. Yet, we are still upon the rough road that the Holy Family traveled. It is important that we all realize that these events, while recorded in human history, are living, present moments for those who believe, those who seek only the Will of Almighty God, and those whose faith leads them to recognize the Infant Jesus, the Savior of the World.
The journey has become more difficult. Now that we are upon the road, we must recognize that the very meaning and nature of Christmas is about the dignity of man, of being an heir of the Kingdom of God through the Redemptive Suffering of Our Savior. Also, we must recognize that Christmas affirms the very Sanctity of Life. It is significant that during Advent we have two solemn holy days: The Immaculate Conception on December 8, and Our Lady of Guadalupe on December 12. Both point to Our Blessed Mother as the ultimate role model for all who profess to follow Christ.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego as the Virgin Mother of God, for in the on-going miracle of the miraculous picture of Our Lady upon the cloak of Juan Diego, it is very clear that she is pregnant with the Divine Child, the Only-Begotten Son of God. We need to recognize that today, just as in the 16th century when she appeared to Juan Diego, we are faced with the slaughter of the innocents. Our Lady's appearance at Guadalupe changed the culture of the time: the end of the slaughter of innocents to satiate the pagan gods of the Aztec nation.
Are we any less pagan today when we remain silent about the holocaust of the womb? Are we upholding the Sanctity of Life that alone comes from and belongs to God when we divest ourselves of the Church's teaching on life, artificial contraception and abortion? A small remnant of the faithful are upholding the Sanctity of Life, but are met with resistance not only by the secular world, but even some within the Church. Therefore, it would seem - no, let me change that to - there is no doubt from statistics and attitude that we are far more pagan today than the Aztecs or, for that matter, any other civilization. This time we now live - 2000 years since the birth of Our Savior - is also in concert with the meaning of Advent in so far as the four weeks of preparation symbolize the 4000 years from Adam and Eve to Christ. At the halfway point (2000 years) before Christ God sent a great flood over the entire earth and only Noah and his family were preserved. Because of that increment in time, we should be aware that every 2000 years God replenishes the earth through a recleansing of His choosing. We are at that 2 millennium mark in that timeline and, though I can in no way even venture to offer when Almighty God will recleanse the earth, I can tell you the way we have rejected God as a civilization calls out for it and gives much evidence that His justice is overdue.
For that, I firmly believe, much has been mitigated to this point through the prayers of the faithful souls who, like Abraham, have begged God to withhold His hand. Many times Our Lady conveyed to the interior of my heart how she pleads with the Father to withhold from meting out His Due Justice. Like a loving, sympathetic mother, Mary knows the chalice is overflowing with the blood of the innocents through the culture of death and yet, as the merciful mother she is, she still hopes and prays that more of her children will return to her Divine Son through a conversion of heart before the inevitable occurs as God has promised it would.
That is why Advent is a time to take to heart that the right to choose, as pro-choice people tout, finds its ultimate answer in the "fiat" of the Blessed Mother. Remember that she had a free will. She did not have Original Sin, yet she lived in a sin-filled world, whereas Eve did not. Eve chose to sin, Mary chose obedience to the very heart of God. Her "fiat" sang to the glory of Life, which is God, from all eternity, and we are to do no less. This should be our focus as we follow in the footsteps of the Holy Family towards Bethlehem, where Life Itself took human form to lift humanity to the Divine.
The road we traverse with the Holy Family is becoming more crowded. The people journeying to Bethlehem are in a hurry. No one really wants to take the time to get to know his or her fellow travelers. It is sufficient for them that, at night, there is a fire to warm them, and food to fill their empty stomachs. Perhaps there are some who, in charity, share their fire and food with the Holy Family. Yet, being preoccupied with the completion of their journey, and the time they must stay in Bethlehem to be counted in the census, they are unaware that they are in the presence of God Himself, the Word Incarnate. Perhaps they, too, are not convinced of the Sanctity of Life, being under the tyranny of the Roman Empire.
Despite their preoccupation, they are nonetheless invited to recognize Christ, to adore and worship Him, and to receive the many graces that flow from Him through His Holy Mother. Perhaps these graces are not realized at the moment, but later in their lives. We cannot know this, but we can and must know whether we are preparing our hearts at all times to receive the life-giving graces of God.
Is that the same with us today? The reality of the journey to Bethlehem and the Brith of Christ are present for us. These are not distant events that we look back upon fondly, as we would when reminiscing about the past. It is just the opposite. We are the pilgrims journeying to Bethlehem, and we are invited to be witnesses to the Birth of Christ, the Savior of the World, the Only-Begotten Son of God.
Our footsteps are real. Are we following in the path of the Holy Family, or have we rushed ahead, trying to get all the Christmas preparations done in a timely manner, so we can admire the beauty of the decorations we are prompted by society to put up. Are we too eager to wrap our presents and place them under the Christmas tree, so that the children are filled with anticipation of what we might have bought for them? Are we depending on the admiration of only outward signs of Christmas, leaving our souls out in the cold, in the dark?
You see, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we must not leave our souls out of this season of preparation and anticipation. It is precisely in anticipation that we are preparing for Christmas on the supernatural plane, in the mystical realm. It is all too easy to find ourselves so preoccupied with shopping and planning, that we rush past the spiritual meaning of Advent, and thus leave our souls in the darkness of secular things devoid of Christ.
It would be better, my dear brothers and sisters, to have nothing of the glitter and glamour of the holiday decorations, so that our souls may be filled with the Life and Light of the World. I am not saying that we should have no outward decorations, no gifts wrapped and placed under the tree. What the Holy Spirit wants us all to understand is that the best gift we can prepare in this time of Advent is that of ourselves…our entire being; our hearts, our minds, our memories, our past, our present, and our hopes and petitions to Our Lord. Only after we have begun on the spiritual road will we recognize the Holy Family, and with joy follow them as they draw closer to Bethlehem. If we do this, then we are on the right path, and the outward secular things we do for Christmas will take on a new meaning, one filled with grace.
Advent is about obtaining actual and sanctifying grace, as Our Lord's gift to us. But to have these graces, we must first make a gift of ourselves to Him. This, my dear brothers and sisters, is not only essential, it is everything! Giving ourselves to Him is the very heart of our earthly pilgrimage. Nothing else matters, until we have given ourselves to Him Alone. In this giving, my dear brothers and sisters, we are walking the road to sanctity. We are well on our way to becoming saints, which is the very thing which God desires for each one of us.
We walk this road to sanctity, and make progress on the road, only by the measure in which we give ourselves totally to Him. We do this through prayer, through Holy Mass, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the reception of Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament when we are in the state of grace.
Ah, the state of grace! This is a very real thing, my dear brothers and sisters. To the measure of our own selflessness, we must, in this second week of Advent, strive to be detached from all the secular pressures that come with Christmas. We are not being asked to strip ourselves of the Christmas traditions that we have. On the contrary, we are being asked by Our Lord to bless these things, these materialistic things, by being detached from them in a holy manner. Detachment is the watchword for the second week of Advent. We must not hunger after approval from family members, children, etc., who may be clamoring for more and more and more gifts, decorations, etc. We must not let pride get in, saying to ourselves in the secret recesses of our soul, "Look at how many presents I have been able to provide this year. Look at the beautiful gift-wrap, with bows that are expensive. We are not to let pride get in when we decorate our home, then invite guests to enjoy that which we have done, expecting praise, and glorying in that praise. This is not what Our Lord wants. He wants us to do all for Him, with Him, and in Him, and only then does His blessing descend upon our outward preparation for secular things.
For some this will be very difficult, for there are many who have not realized how pride hides in our souls under many forms, under many names, and how often we have justified our pride! It is being poor in spirit that makes us selfless, of recognizing the true meaning of Christmas, and the desire of Our Lord to take up His abode in our souls, in the heart of our soul! Yet, together we must strive to be holy…and to follow the example of the Holy Family who journeyed to Bethlehem, and with them to thank God for the trials, the crosses, the pressure that society places upon us to live up to the materialistic preparation for Christmas.
My dear brothers and sisters, in this second week of Advent, we must recognize that the joy has not yet come. We are anticipating this joy; we are working to make ourselves a worthy gift to Our Lord. Our hearts must sing of Him, before we can properly sing Christmas carols. Our soul must be set free to fly to Him, rather than being bogged down by the exhausting preparations our society demands of us. Are we holding our soul prisoner to secular things, or have we understood that only in lifting up our soul, its very heart, will we fly into His embrace, where all that we do, all that we have bought, prepared, decorated, will be blessed by Him.
This second week of Advent let us strive together to set our souls free to fly to Him. Let us walk the path to Bethlehem knowing the joy that is ours when we set our souls free, and to allow God to lift us up into His Heart, where the true meaning of Christmas resides forever.
I am praying that I, too, may make worthy preparation for Christmas, and to be detached from all things for His sake. Joseph and Mary had no security in the world. They had Christ, and that was sufficient for them. Is He sufficient for us? Only through worthy preparation will we know where our heart is, for Sacred Scripture tells us that where our heart is, there is our treasure.
Oh, that we set our heart free to be one with Him! That is our prayer, and we are working together this Advent, so we do not feel alone in the struggle between the mystical state of our soul, and the worldly state society demands of us.
One prayer at a time, one will of the heart to Love Him is the way to journey to Bethlehem. May we do so in peace, my dear brothers and sisters, for the Joy that awaits is priceless!
Your very little sister in Christ,