Fourth Sunday in Advent 2019

“you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High”

In the Homily given at Holy Mass last Thursday, we recalled that the incarnation of the Son of God, which we celebrate at Christmas, first of all it communicates God’s passion for human history; God saves us in history, not preparing salvation  in a laboratory which means, that He walks the road with us and makes use of our life to construct history. The feelings of discouragement, to the intervals of excessive modesty or lamentable attitude of believers, we recall the closeness of a God who lowers Himself, trusts us, needs our collaboration and even our mistakes and, therefore, He involves us in the history of salvation as responsible protagonists and not as passive recipients.

This reality is beautifully symbolised for us by Mary’s life and faith. This fourth Sunday of Advent closes the path of preparation for the coming of the Lord, introducing us to the intrepid faith of His Mother, His smallness which nevertheless opens up to the speculation of God and allows for the dream of a liberated humanity that the Father intends to accomplish by sending His Son into our midst. Of Mary, of His listening, of His generous availability and His “fiat”, God made use to build a new history, to begin “the new heavens and the new lands”, writing the word of “salvation” upon the existence of men!

Leafing through the Liturgy of the Word, starting at the Second Book of Samuel, we could say that God, in His love, chose to build His house among us, to plant His tent, stooping down to accompany us. But first of all, He needs a “home” to become a hospitable temple for His coming and finds it in Mary Most Holy. To the prophet David, who intends to build a great temple to “house” the Ark of the Covenant, God calls to mind through the prophet that: “the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.”  This is the wonderful “exchange” of logic that works within God: it is not we, primarily, who have to do something for Him but it is He who leans down to our humanity to transform it. It is God who makes us a welcoming home, a refuge and a consolation, a shelter and a rest.

If this project of love takes place thanks to Mary’s yes, then she is home, she is the ark, she is a temple, she is a welcoming space for the Messiah who is born. She welcomes Him to present Him to the world and, thus, becomes the dawn of hope for humanity and contributor to the history that God wants to build. It is therefore important to grasp the reference to Christ within this Gospel passage and how the Mother is great precisely because she shifts the attention to the Son, makes us fix our gaze on Him, she refers us to Him. The Gospel of the Annunciation, therefore A few days before Christmas, He intends first of all to make it clear to Mary and to us, who really about to be born and who He is: “you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High”. The Son to be born is the Son of God, he is the heir of king David – to whom for this reason God had said “the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house” – it is God who will reign forever, fulfilling the promises of justice, of peace and salvation for all of humanity.

Finally, of the Annunciation to Mary we can also highlight the style of God: He comes to any place, in the ordinariness of the life, to an ordinary girl. God is always at the centre of our daily life, in the outermost fringes and the most unassuming, with small and silent gestures. It does not only touch us during the solemn liturgies or powerful professions but, with the Father’s love, it also touches upon every aspect of our daily lives, during our burdensome intermittent routines, in our daily sobriety. And to decisively pronounce a magnanimous “yes”, like that of Mary, thus permitting our transformation of life upon us and the world.

We are few days from Christmas, le us pledge to not allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise and by shimmering lights, let us learn from Mary. From her we learn faith, which offers us a collaboration with God’s story of our history, focusing not only on our limitations and our errors but, trusting instead, in His action which can do great things within us and that, in this manner, our history can help transform the world; we learn hospitality, which means ensuring that we become the house where God is born, to welcome Him in intimacy as well as in the countenances of our brothers, especially the poorest; we learn a love for daily life, which means searching for and finding the traces of God in every small thing, in small gestures, in remaining vigilant and paying attention to what happens within and around us. May Mary Most Holy enlighten us, guide us and fill our hearts with joy in expectation of the Lord who is coming.

Second Sunday in Advent: the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The feast of the Immaculate reminds humanity that there is only one thing that truly pollutes mankind: saying NO to God, which is sin. It is a very urgent and valuable message to be shared.

+ from the Gospel according to Luke 1:26-38

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

The solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and the second Sunday of Advent this year are in days of rapid succession. At this time which prepares us for Christmas, the Church wants to introduce us to Mary, the Woman whom God has chosen throughout eternity to be the Mother of His Son, Jesus. To be honest, Advent is actually a Marian time: the time when Mary made room in her womb for the Redeemer of the world; the time when the Virgin brought within herself the expectations and hopes of all of humanity.

Advent signifies the first historical coming of Jesus, Mary has not only been waiting for Him with her people, but has prepared for Him and made it possible because she is the Mother of the Expected. If Advent then tells us of the second and last coming of Christ when He brings liberation and definitive salvation, Mary – who is already in glory – anticipates the future that the Church expects. Mary is now already what the Church will be, when her Lord will come.

The Immaculate Conception is a dogma of faith, an undisputed truth affirmed by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854, who wrote: “The most blessed Virgin Mary in the first instant of her conception, by singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in view of merit of Jesus Christ, saviour of the human race, has been kept immune from all stains of original sin”.

Four years later the Virgin appeared at the grotto of Lourdes to St. Bernadette announcing herself with the words: “I am the Immaculate Conception“.

The texts of the words of God of this solemnity lead precisely to this mystery of weakness and sanctity of humanity.

Genesis refers to a rebellion against God at the beginning of creation. For his part, the apostle Paul in his Letter to the ancient inhabitants of Ephesus recalls the great dignity to which God has elevated all of mankind, predestining them to be holy and immaculate in His loving presence.

The Gospel of Luke narrates in great detail the moment of the annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel called Mary full of grace and announced to her the birth of the Redeemer in her virgin womb, after giving her assent to God who chose her throughout eternity to be the Mother of His Son. Imagine her shock, her fears! What must have gone through her mind.  Yet her love and trust in God made her accept this gift and great responsibility. It is likely that Luke may have met Mary of Nazareth in person. Tradition tells us that Luke was first to paint the image of the Mother of God with her Son cradled in her arms.

Dear friends,

God has not yet finished to be filled with wonder by what he has achieved in Mary. God never tires of contemplating her, astonished and captivated in light of the work that has been so perfectly successful. Our joyful wonderment before Mary shares the very wonder of God. With her saying YES to God, Mary has traveled her path of faith to the feet of the cross. In imitation of the Mother our faith must also be translated into daily works, coherent choices and obedience of love to God. It is a strenuous YES to be verbalised to God, after the equally fatiguing NO that we must say to sin.

Mary is immaculate also because she has never said NO to God.

The feast of the Immaculate reminds humanity that there is only one thing that truly pollutes mankind: saying NO to God, which is sin. It is a very urgent and valuable message to be shared. Mankind have lost their perception of sin. Mary is our point of reference, the polar star of our purity and of our hope of living in this world more holily and in a manner responsive to God’s plans and to his divine will.

She is our model for a holy life. Woman all of God, Mary. She is the mother and sister of those who are on the way, seekers of meaning and truth, to find a final and definitive harbour to their thirst for the infinite. For this reason we must never tire of looking at her, of invoking her, of imitating her in her virtues and in her daily following of Christ and of his Gospel. She, the YES Woman, facilitates total and trustful adhesion to the Word which, alone, is able to change the history and the hearts of those who welcome it and let it flourish in all its beauty and goodness.

Mary leaves us an example to follow. If the work of salvation is a gift of God’s love, its realisation in us then requires our availability. As God asked Mary for her collaboration for the birth and human nurturing of Jesus, so it requires from us all a “yes” of faith, a yes through which He invites us to trust Him and that we entrust ourselves to Him.

His Holiness Pope Paul VI recalled:

“The purity of Mary is a purity conceived in the first moment, deeply inserted into the being and the history of this exceptional creature.We must bring our purity, our love to the virtue in the heart, where our thoughts are born, where we truly are ourselves, in the cenacle of our thoughts, there we must be God’s love, there, desiring to be good and pure, there to try to filter out the bad impressions that arise inside and outside of us and look for the flame of purpose there Christian is pure, and if we do not succeed in doing so, then the Mystery of purity and of victory that we have contemplated puts this invocation on our lips: Our Lady, give us strength, give us virtue, give us what we lack. Mary, who is not a distant and alien being, but is our Mother, marvellous and infallible Mother, to whom she invokes her she will give this strength and this purity”.

We should be fascinated by the beauty that radiates from the Immaculate Virgin. It reflects an image pervaded by the love of God that makes us capable of love, inhabited by the fullness of life that comes from Him and is an advance of eternal life.

Let us therefore continue to look to Mary as a sign of consolation and sure hope and learn from her this simple but profound lesson: “The more you renounce what is yours, the more God will offer you what is his.”

May the Lord grant us, through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin, our Mother, our exemplar and our guide, to go and meet Him in holiness and purity of heart and spirit.

PRAY WITH ME:-  O Father, who in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed ever Virgin Mary prepared a worthy abode for Your Son, and in anticipation of His death You have preserved her from every stain of sin, grant us also, through her intercession, to come to meet You in holiness and purity of spirit. Amen.

REFLECTIONS FOR OUR LORD’S ADVENT. (2018)

In what manner does it befit us to be prepared on the Advent of so great a Power; that so, joyous and glad of heart, we may be counted among the worthy and receive our Lord with honour and praise;

NOW that the most sacred and solemn day is approaching, when our Saviour in his Mercy wasScreenshot 2018-12-02 at 12.27.33 pleased to be born among men, consider diligently, beloved brothers and sisters, in what manner does it befit us to be prepared on the Advent of so great a Power; so that, joyous and glad of heart, we may be counted among the worthy and receive our Lord with honour and praise; and in His sight being able to rejoice with thankfulness, amidst the blessed companies of the Saints, rather than to be cast off by Him as punishment for our vileness, and to deserve, with the sinners, everlasting confusion. Therefore, I would ask and pray, that with the help of God we labour all we can, so that on that day we may be able with a conscience pure of offence, clean heart and chaste body,  draw near to the Altar of the Lord, and deserve to receive RequirementsHis Body and Blood, rather than His condemnation, for our soul’s wellbeing. For in the Body of Christ stands our life; even as Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53  Let him, then, change his life who desires to receive Life.  For except he change his life, he will receive a Life of condemnation; and will be corrupted by it rather than healed, killed rather than made alive.  As the Apostle has said: “For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” 1 Cor. 11:29.

And although it befits us at all times to be adorned and resplendent with good  works, most importantly on the day of our Lord’s Nativity, as He himself tells us in the Gospel, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16  I beg you to consider, my brothers and sisters, when any man in power or of noble birth desires to celebrate his own birthday, or that of a son or daughter, how meticulously and for how many days beforehand he looks to what is dirty in hisconscience house, and orders it to be cleaned anything he sees as dirty or disorderly in his house; order that which is trivial and messy to be thrown out, and what is useful and necessary to be displayed; the house, too, if it is gloomy, to be whitewashed or re-decorated; the floors are swept and mopped, the rooms embellished with various flowers and decorations; and whatever serves to gladden the mind and comfort the body is provided with all care for the festivities. And why is all this done, beloved brothers and sisters, if not to celebrate with joy the birthday of some perishable mortal?  If, then, such preparations are made on your own birthday, or that of a son or daughter or spouse, how many, and what kind of preparations should we make for the Birthday of Our Lord? If you prepare all these things for a mortal, what should you to prepare for the Eternal? Whatever, then, you would be unwilling to find, so far as you can help it, in your house, strive that God does not find in your soul.  

Were some earthly king or leader of a family to invite you to  their birthday festivities, what type of outfit would you wear — how new or clean would they be; how soul adornedelegant — so that none of their oldness, or their wear and tear or plainness or dirt on them would offend your host?  You would ensure that you are presentable, fit in, make an impression.  With the same eagerness, you should therefore strive, with the help of Christ, to arrive at the solemn feast of the Eternal King with a clear conscience; to the birthday of your Lord and Saviour; your soul complete in all the garments of holiness, adorned with the jewels of simplicity, the flowers of abstinence, chaste in mind and body, noble in charity and in the white garments of donation.  For Christ the Lord, perceiving that you are accordingly prepared for the celebration of His birthday, will condescend Himself, in His own Person, to come to you, not only to visit your souls, but to rest there and dwell there forever.  As it is written: “I will live in them and move among them,” [2 Cor. 6:16] and again, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me.” [Rev. 3:20]. Just  imagine how happy a soul that seeks, with the help of God, to order their life in such a manner that they will be deserving of Christ’s visit and Him knocking at your door so that He may, as a guest, dwell within you!  Alternatively, how miserable would your conscience be, filled with a flood of tears and mourn, the evil works that have so mutilate you; that have placed you so far from Christ that instead of Him resting in your soul, you have allowed the devil to rule there instead!  A soul such as this, unless the soothing balm of penance comes to its aid, will be abandoned by the light and instead will be dominated and taken over by darkness, corruption and immorality.  This soul will be emptied of any remaining sweetness which will be replaced with bitterness and bile, it will become a quarry to death and deserted by life.  This person should not mistrust the Lord’s love for them, nor his favour or they will be taken over and consumed by a despair that “cultivates death”; instead go to confession, make an act of contrition, and while the wounds and the sins are still fresh and in your mind, apply the healing remedies that your penance required. There is only one great Physician and that issin followed by Almighty God, our Father in Heaven, who so very much wants to cure our wounds, so much so, that after His remedies, not a single scar would remain visible on you. Should we therefore not prepare most carefully and for many days in advance, before His Nativity and abstain from sin, wrongdoing, defilement, acts of selfishness, lewdness.  I have no doubt whatsoever that He would never deny His healing balm to us, if we seek it earnestly.  How do I know that?  Because he loves us as a Father loves his children.  He loves us unreservedly.

So as we prepare ourselves for the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity, or come to that, any solemnity within the Church calendar, stay away from drunkenness, don’t get angry as it can become a rage, drive out all the hatred from your heart and mind, it’s a poison to you which is slow and deadly.  For once, reach out, not just to your friends but also your enemies [before I ever made any vows I my minor orders, my spiritual director told me to sit down and write all the offences and wrongs I had committed towards others, with obedience, I earnestly tasked myself to remember everything.  When I completed the list, I went back sins shunnedto him and gave him the list, he asked me why had I brought it to him? He tells me to approached everyone that I could find on my list personally and apologised for the hurt or wrong I had caused them and to make things right.  Some remembered, some did not; some accepted my apologies others did not, some thought it funny and one became hostile and violent; yet it was done and it was liberating in a manner that I cannot really put into words.  Yes it was a shock to be asked to do it, yes it was a bit scary and on one occasion somewhat painful, but extremely unburdening for the mind and soul.] The reason for doing this is so that you can honestly and with a safe conscience say in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.”  I’m not certain how or why anyone would want to approach the Lord’s Altar when their heart is filled with, hate, envy, a grudge or sin in their heart towards a single person.  Remember the fearful exclamation of St. John the Evangelist: “Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 3:15

I leave it to your judgement, should a murderer, before he has made a penance, approach the Altar and receive the Eucharist.  St John reminds us “But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:11 he further writes: “ If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20  From this we determine that whoever nourishes hatred or anger in their heart and is not frightened or worried, should be seen not as slumbering but dead.

These things, then, my dearest brothers and sisters, must be considered each and every day; let those who are good strive, with the grace of God, to continue in their good works; since it is not he who has begun, but he who has continued, even to the very end, that will be saved. But let those who are conscious of being slow in alms-giving, quick to anger, and prone to excess, hasten, with the help of the Lord, to deliver themselves from their evil; so that they may have the grace to fulfil that which is good; that when the Day of Judgment comes, they may not be found among the unworthy, but be deserving to attain, with the just and merciful, to everlasting rewards, through our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigns for ever. Amen. 

I will pray for you all throughout this advent period in the hope that you will spare a prayer for me and the Hermits of Saint Bruno.  I extend my humble blessings upon you all in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Serra San BrunoDom Ugo-Maria