The Second Week of Advent: St. John the Baptist, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Year of Mercy

The journey of Faith of the Second Week of Advent continues, and with it our own journey of life, faith and salvation. Like the custom of the “Advent” calendars that so many of us use in our homes, the “door” of the Second Week of Advent opens and John the Baptist comes into our lives with his word of this past Sunday with the pen of St. Luke: “ Prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his path.” Today, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception opens the door the solemnity of Mary as the Immaculate Conception. We reflect on her being chosen by God from all eternity to be the mother of His Son and so be preserved from original sin. We hear once again the words of St. Luke: “Hail full of Grace, the Lord is with you, do not be afraid , nothing is impossible for God and “be it done unto me according to Thy Word.” Those words can certainly find a place in our lives in these days. I was blessed to celebrate this great feast day today with the faculty, staff, students and parents of Santa Margarita High School. Mary also comes to us again later this week as “Our Lady of Guadalupe” and again we hear in her own words not to be afraid when she says to Juan Diego “Do not be afraid. Am I not here as your mother?”

As I celebrated with the community of Santa Margarita this morning, we also celebrated the “Year of Mercy” with the community, which I will officially open here in the Diocese this coming Sunday at Holy Family Cathedral and Mission San Capistrano.

The theme of Mercy has had for centuries in the life of the Church a central place beginning with the Lord Himself when he said “Blessed are the Merciful”. Many of us learned both the Corporal and Spiritual works of Mercy. This also was a central theme of Pope John Paul II in his encyclical “”Dives in Misericordia” that “I therefor wish these considerations to bring this mystery closer to everyone. At the same time I wish them to be a heartfelt appeal by the Church to mercy, which humanity and the modern world needs to much. And they need mercy even though often they do not realize it.” One of his sayings was “Forever I will sing of the mercies of God – Misericordias in aeternam cantabo.”!

In his homily at the funeral Mass for Pope John Paul II, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger preached that “the limit imposed upon evil is ultimately Divine Mercy”.

In the proclamation of this year of Mercy (following a long history of “Holy Years” in the life of the Church, Pope Francis refers to Pope John Paul II and says “In this Jubilee Year, may the Church echo the word of God that resounds strong and clear as a message and a sign of pardon, strength, aid and love. May she never tire of extending mercy, and be ever patient in offering compassion and comfort. May the Church become the voice of every man and woman, and repeat confidently without end: ‘Be mindful of your mercy , O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old (Ps. 25:6)”

The theme for the Year of Mercy is “Merciful like the Father.” As I mentioned earlier , I will be officially opening the Year of Mercy at Holy Family Cathedral in the morning this coming Sunday and at Mission San Juan Capistrano in the evening. There will be a theme for each month of the year. For example, Advent this year is “Bear patiently with those who do us ill”; January is “Comfort the Affllicted”; February is “Heal the sick.” A complete listing can be found on our Diocesan Web Site.

This year we join with Our Holy Father in opening the Holy Year Door of the Year of Mercy for the entire Body of Christ. Let us all be messengers of Mercy this coming year, as we extend that gift of the Mercy of God to others in many an manifold ways, and which we will receive as well in God’s Providential surprises and the Sacramental life of the Church as well.

More to follow. Thank you for your prayer and support in the life of our Local Church and beyond. Continued Blessed Advent days!

+Kevin W. Vann