From the Editor’s Desk (Friday, December 7, 2018, Gaudium Press) A commentary by Archbishop Francesco Follo on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and Second Sunday of Advent, follows.
1 The true Word of God comes into the world through Mary the Immaculate
The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary states that it was not just John the Baptist, who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah. The Virgin Mary, Immaculate since her conception, is the one who in the most high and generous way has straightened the path for the Lord.
She did it by “crashing the serpent’s head” forcefully and definitively. When we feel that God’s ways are too difficult to follow and they look unattractive compared to the ones presented by the world as good, beautiful and desirable, let’s not forget that Mary is ready to come to us in the same way she went to Elisabeth. She gives us comfort and happiness to help straighten the winding ways of our hearts. Let’s learn from Mary to smooth out these ways so that we can proceed in good, with good and for the good.
Our encounter with Christ is made possible because Mary brings Him to us in the same way as she took Him to her cousin Elisabeth. Let’s pray to the Madonna, who welcomed and guarded God’s Son under her heart so that we can welcome and guard in our heart Jesus, the everlasting love that became flesh.
The grace of Mary and our fragile yes “transform the earth into an altar and the entire doing of the human race becomes oblation of praise (Lauds’ Hymn)” and of joy. If the Madonna had not agreed even God would have been sad.
It is not an easy task to say our “yes” today as it was not easy then. Our assent is just the opposite of the so-called common sense. Two sins have been considered the most serious sins 2000 years ago in Nazareth and in the entire Jewish world. They are idolatry (=infidelity to God) and adultery (= infidelity to the husband). The Madonna in saying “yes’ to the angel “betrays” her husband and claims that hers is God’s son. Mary trustingly surrenders to God and God “surrenders” to her becoming flesh. The Virgin Mother accepted all from God became the Mother of Jesus and took the truth in her arms.
This abandonment complete but not sentimental of Mary to the true God has allowed a true Christmas respectful of the goodwill of God. Let’s be prepared to say on Christmas day “Jesus is born” with less sentimentalism and a bigger understanding of the meaning of our “yes”. Mary has said: “I have trust in You, my God. You will defend and guide me”. Let’s do the same so that it can happen to us what has happened to Mary “The Word became flesh and lives among us”.
2. The Word indicated by a man, John the Baptist, and welcomed by another man, Joseph the legal father of Christ.
The readings of the II Sunday of Advent time in the Roman Rite explain the meaning of Advent not as a simple waiting but as a joyful expectation for a long-awaited encounter that also involves a conversion.
In the Scriptures, waiting entails joy. The believer doesn’t restrict himself to a passive and bored attitude but rejoices in the waiting of a loved one. The believer who loves can’t wait to meet the loved one.
In the first reading, we learn about Jerusalem that sees her sons and daughters who had left in sorrow, return in joy. They are exultant “rejoicing that they are remembered by God for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory”. In the second reading, Saint Paul from prison writes to the Philippians “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you”. The psalmist in Psalm 125 “The Lord has done great things for us: we are filled with joy”, is so filled of God’s joy that he makes it the central word in all the four verses of the psalm. In today’s gospel John the Baptist walks in the desert with such” an impatience” that it becomes an interior fire that levels the roads to salvation. All the readings are prompt by the joy of the faithful. This sentiment is summarized in the real encounter with God whose mercy gives us life (Readings’ hymn).
Not only Mary the Immaculate and John the Baptist have leveled the roads for the coming of the Christ. Even Saint Joseph has made easier the divine mission of his wife Mary who gave birth to the second Adam, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The world has received a new origin from Jesus. He was fully welcomed and protected by this humble carpenter, a righteous man with a heroic love for God and for the Virgin Mary. Saint Joseph didn’t have doubts, understood that Mary had not been unfaithful, didn’t consider God as a rival and with full trust in Him confirmed his decision to become Mary’s husband. He formed the sacred family where the two spouses could breathe the love of God. God has fulfilled their lives. The Sacred Family is and must always be the model for every Christian family where Joseph’s heart was full of “A love that can include heaven and earth (F. Jammes).”
It is very important to remember that “No less than the woman who follows the path of marriage, the consecrated virgin is able to live and express spousal love: “in this kind of Love” she becomes, in the Church, a gift for God, for Christ, the Redeemer, for every brother and sister. Love the children of God. Your total and exclusive love for Christ does not deter you from loving all men and women, your brothers and sisters, because the horizons of your charity – precisely because you belong to the Lord- are Christ’s own horizons… Have a merciful heart and share in the sufferings of your brethren. Commit yourselves to the defense of life, to the advancement of women and to respect for their freedom and dignity. You know it: “You who are virgins for Christ” become “mothers in the spirit” (Ordo consecrationis virginum, n.16), by lovingly co-operating in the evangelization of man and in his advancement. (John Paul II “To participants in the International Conference “Ordo Virginum” on the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the rite “June 2, 1995) .
3. The divine Word of God now adult enters Jerusalem. ( IV Sunday of Advent time in the Ambrosian rite) It might be odd that during Advent we have a reading that brings us deeply into the Passion of Christ.
The reason is that it is important to remember that the Word of God enters the world not only with the humility of a child but grows up and must be welcomed with solemnity, joy, and seriousness when we grow up.
Source Zenit/ Archbishop Francesco Follo