Pastoral Message – December 19, 2021
As you are reading this, it’s the 4th Sunday in Advent. Christmas is only 6 days away. But I’m writing this little ferverino (that’s a churchy Italian word for “pep talk”) on December 8th – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. So even though I am writing a few weeks before, there is a great connection between the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 4th Sunday of Advent this year. And that connection is Mary, our Blessed Mother! And grace!
Of course you know the theological significance of the Immaculate Conception. We contemplate the miraculous, prevenient grace imparted on Mary at her conception. Even the Angels – especially Gabriel the Archangel – recognized Mary as the recipient of God’s favor. Then by God’s favor, and Mary’s “fiat” – no, not a stylish but famously unreliable Italian car! Mary’s “fiat” is her statement of giving herself fully to God’s will – we arrive at the scene given to us by the Gospel today.
In today’s Gospel, Mary – who is pregnant with Jesus – is coming to visit and lend aid to her kinswoman Elizabeth. Elizabeth is also “with child,” and what a child! She is going to give birth to John the Baptist – the last of the great prophets of Israel. So Mary, full of grace, is bringing grace to Elizabeth’s home. Jesus, God’s own Son, grace personified entered Elizabeth’s home. Even the infant John the Baptist in utero leapt for joy when Mary showed up. How amazing is that! Wouldn’t you have loved to have been a fly on the wall or a mouse in the cupboard on this occasion!?!
What I think is amazing about this scene from Luke 1, it is so homey; full of relationships both human and Divine. And the passage of the old age of law, represented by Elizabeth and John, so seamlessly and naturally flows into the new and eternal age of grace by Mary and Jesus. Well just how simple and complex and wondrous and awesome is God’s plan that brings salvation to the world!
Now, If you’ve continued to read all the way to here, you might be wondering, “Father, where’s the “pep talk”? This “ferverino” is reading more like a theological treatise!
Well O.K., here’s the pep talk. In all of the above content, God’s grace is evident all over – grace being God’s favor freely given whether it’s merited or not. And if God’s grace is obviously present among Mary and these Saints, how much more grace will be imparted to us, who are as of yet only saints in the making.
So invite our grace-filled Blessed Mother into your home by prayer and devotion. Leap for joy when you recognize God’s grace at work. Make your relationship with Jesus personal. Follow Him. Learn from Him. And very soon be awed by Jesus, who is Grace Personified as we celebrate His birth.
Almost Merry Christmas Y’all!