The final countdown has begun! The final year is dedicated to God the Father in the trilogy of the Trinity leading up to Jubilee 2000. Pope John Paul II designated 1997 as the year dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Son of God and 1998 as the year of the Holy Spirit. We begin this final year of the second millennium - this pivotal, history-shattering year with the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Blessed Virgin could never have been the Mother of God if it had not been deigned by the Father, choosing to create her Immaculate without sin as the perfect tabernacle to house His Only-begotten Son. The Prayer after Communion for the Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God says it best: "Father, as we proclaim the Virgin Mary to be the Mother of Christ and the Mother of the Church, may our communion with her Son bring us to salvation." Mary figures prominently in the mission of the Trinity for she is the Daughter of the Father, Spouse of the Holy Spirit, and Mother of the Son. She is the "woman of Hope" and our hopes for this year encompass everything she has foretold in her messages since 1531 and especially in these waning decades of the twentieth century. All realize the countdown for the final year has begun and Our Lady has reiterated over and over and over that her Immaculate Heart will triumph soon - very soon.
She has been saying this since her early appearances at Medjugorje and now man's time-frame is coming in closer comprehension with God's time for we are at the doorstep of 2000 years in which God has shown that He has a history of recleansing the earth at every two-thousand year interval. Two thousand years after the fall of Adam and Eve He sent the great flood which covered the entire globe. He promised Noah back then that He would never punish mankind again in such a manner, but His Justice had called for such measures. If we compare the world then to the world's disregard for His laws today, we have to assume He will exact His Justice soon. After all, we can't imagine the Almighty apologizing to Sodom and Gomorah for destroying those cities when several thousands of years later there would be far more cities more deserving of punishment! What the Father did not have at his disposal back then, however, was His hand-chosen messenger and prophet - the Blessed Mother whom He has sent in droves to every continent in this century to warn His children of His Justice while freely dispensing His Mercy in a time where the window is narrowing to a sliver.
For years Our Lady has begged and pleaded for God's little ones to return to her Divine Son Jesus and the one, true Church He established while on earth. Even with over a billion Catholics today, there are still so few who truly believe, who truly respond. Like any devoted father, God the Father does not play favorites. He wants all His children to join Him in eternal bliss, but in order to enter into this glorious everlasting union we have to earn it. That is only fair and right. And the price isn't that steep if we just heed what He asks. He's laid it all out for us in Salvation101. It's the easiest course we can take and we can pass it with flying colors if only we follow the rules. But too often extra curriculars or electives seem more tantalizing and we opt to slough off on the essentials in favor of worldly goals. If we stray too far we can just as easily flunk out and that fate is worse than anything we can imagine. Talk about the school of hard-knocks!!! Would you believe everlasting hard-knocks and searing flames as well!?! But we have a crib-sheet that can keep us on the straight and narrow and prevent us from cramming at the end on our death bed. That crib-sheet is the Catholic faith with our personal tutor being the Blessed Virgin Mary ably assisted by her prize pupil on earth who is also her Divine Son's Vicar on earth - Pope John Paul II. He is also called the "Holy Father" and wisely so for he is the earthly Father we look to for guidance. His guidance comes from the Heavenly Father, dispersed through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and carried out through the teachings of the Son.
We are so blessed to be able to know the Father in this day and age. Pity the people of the Old Covenant who knew Him only as the "Lord" and "Jehovah." His Mercy was little known to them. Back then they perceived Him as a stern Judge, a tough Taskmaster. Think of the gifts He has bestowed on us as any devoted, caring father would. He has not only given us salvation through the Passion, Death and Resurrection of His Only-begotten Son, but also the gift of His Spirit; and He continues to endow these gifts each and every day with the gift of His Son truly present Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. What greater gift could we receive on this finite earth? And it is all due to the Love and Mercy of the Father.
How many faiths can call God "Daddy?" The Moslems shudder to think of such endearing terms, referring to their Allah as the ultimate, strict Judge. New Age sects and Eastern religions have never known the loving embrace of Abba, Someone Who seeks to tuck us safely in His sleeve and protect us from all harm. That is sad that so many refuse the gifts of the Father. Because of that, the Father will exact Justice, but we have nothing to fear if we are obedient to Him and, like good sons and daughters, heed all He imparts through His Son, His Spirit and His earthly holy daughter Mary.
The Father's greatest emissary is His very Own daughter whose obedient maternity we celebrate on Friday. It is a fitting way to begin this final year, a year that promises drastic but exciting changes - one we hope will signal the long-awaited Triumph of Mary's Immaculate Heart which will usher in the glorious Reign of the Sacred Heart, the Era of the Eucharistic Presence, the Age of the Divine Will, the Second Advent, the Time of the Holy Spirit, the New Pentecost. We can be assured that with a Father Who honors the Mother of His Divine Son, that we are in good hands if we too honor her and heed her advice which comes straight from the true source of all truth for all time - God the Father. He is the Alpha and the Omega, "the Father, the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen." In a word, He is the Absolute: Absolutely Abba!