YEAR C: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
TOPIC: MARY AND JOHN THE BAPTIST: Main Figures of Advent
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Lk 3:1-6
Message # 558: “My Plan”
1. Immaculate Conception – December 8
a) This is the second Sunday of Advent. Interestingly, two characters emerge who are the central figures of Advent: St. John the Baptist and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us remember that on Tuesday is December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
b) The Immaculate Conception is the Principal Patroness of the Philippines. If there is a fiesta for a parish, there is also the fiesta of a country. For the Philippines, it is December 8. That is why this day is a Holy Day of Obligation. It is not a holiday (which is a civic observance), but a holy day of obligation (similar to Sunday obligation). We have to remind ourselves of our obligation to come to Mass on this day. We need the Blessed Mother’s protection for our country.
c) The feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary celebrates the conception of Mary in her mother’s womb without the stain of original sin. The official document of this dogma is Pope Pius IX’s bull “Ineffabilis Deus” issued on December 8, 1854. It says that Mary’s preservation from original sin was a “singular grace and privilege” given her by God “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ as the Savior of the human race.”
This feast was known as early as the 7th century in Palestine as the “Conception of St. Anne of the Theotokos” (Greek for “Mother of God”) celebrated on December 9. In 1476, Pope Sixtus IV approved the feast with its own Mass and Office, and in 1708 Pope Clement XI extended it to the universal Church and made it a holy day of obligation. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) explicitly declared that its teaching on the universality of original sin did not include the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1858, four years after the official proclamation of this dogma, Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France, saying “I am the Immaculate Conception.”
d) The doctrine on the Immaculate Conception would be better appreciated if viewed in the context of the fall of Adam and Eve. Sin entered the world through the sin of our first parents, Adam and Eve. God created them pure and innocent, and placed them in the Garden of Eden. This is the Paradise of Creation. That garden was made by God for man. But man sinned against God by disobeying His command. As a result, the garden was defiled, and God had to drive them away from it. This is creation gone awry. So God had to do a re-creation of man (or redemption). In order to do this, He had to make a new garden, perfectly beautiful and pure. That garden is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the new Eve, from whom will come the new Adam, the perfect man, Jesus Christ. Mary is the Paradise of the Incarnation.
e) Bishop Fulton Sheen has beautiful words for this in his book, “The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God”, pp. 16-18: “The two great masterpieces of God are Creation of man and Re-creation or Redemption of man. Creation was made for unfallen men; His Mystical Body, for fallen men. Before making man, God made a garden of delights – as God alone knows how to make a garden beautiful. In that Paradise of Creation there were celebrated the first nuptials of man and woman. But man willed not to have blessings, except according to his lower nature. Not only did he lose his happiness; he even wounded his own mind and will.
“Then God planned the remaking or redeeming of man. But before doing so, He would make another Garden. This new one would be not of earth but of flesh; it would be a Garden over whose portals the name of sin would never be written – a Garden in which there would grow no weeds of rebellion to choke the growth of the flowers of grace – a Garden from which there would flow four rivers of redemption to the four corners of the earth – a Garden so pure that the Heavenly Father would not blush at sending His Own Son into it – and this ‘flesh-girt Paradise to be gardened by the Adam new’ was our Blessed Mother. As Eden was the Paradise of Creation, Mary is the Paradise of the Incarnation, and in her as a Garden were celebrated the first nuptials of God and man. The closer one gets to the fire, the greater the heat; the closer one is to God, the greater the purity. But since no one was ever closer to God than the woman whose human portals He threw open to walk this earth, then no one could have been more pure than she. “This special purity of hers we call the Immaculate Conception. It is not the Virgin Birth. The word “immaculate” is taken from two Latin words meaning “not stained”. “Conception” means that, at the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Mother in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, and in virtue of the anticipated merits of the Redemption of her Son, was preserved from the stains of Original Sin.”
f) If Mary has no sin, then she had no need of the Redemption of Jesus. In that case, the work of Redemption by Jesus would be in vain, for this would not anymore be universal. This is not correct. Again, Bishop Fulton Sheen has the answer for this: “The Immaculate Conception does not imply that Mary needed no Redemption. She needed it as much as you and I do. She was redeemed in advance, by way of prevention, in both body and soul, in the first instant of conception…Mary is the first effect of Redemption, in the sense that it was applied to her at the moment of her conception, and to us in another and diminished fashion only after our birth.”
To put it in a more concrete analogy, we can use the idea of immunization. Mary was “vaccinated” in her soul so that she was “immune from the deadly “virus” called sin. This had to be so in order for her to be the worthy tabernacle (Theotokos – “God bearer”) of the Son of God. The dogma calls this a “singular grace and privilege”, meaning this was only given to one individual, Mary. For the rest of humanity, we all are inflicted with the virus of sin. The cure and cleansing will come from the waters of Baptism. But our human nature, wounded by sin, is not anymore pure. It has already the propensity to sin. After Baptism, we still sin. That is why we have another sacrament for this, the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
2. The Marian Message
a) Advent is the time of preparation for the coming of Christ. It is just proper and meaningful to give due honor to Mary in this season of Advent because she is the most important person who prepared for the coming of Jesus: she conceived Him and carried Him for nine months in her womb, and finally brought Him into the world for us when she gave birth to Him on that beautiful Christmas night. As we await the Second Coming of Christ, Mary is again at the forefront, preparing humanity to receive the Eternal Judge and join Him in His glorious new heavens and new earth. That is why she has had numerous apparitions all over the world, exhorting and warning her children about this fast-approaching inevitable event.
b) The first coming of Jesus is over. It has already happened in history, and we commemorate this every year during Christmas. But the second coming is what we should prepare for. In this connection, the Blessed Mother enumerates the details of her plan for humanity in preparation for the second coming.
c) Her plan is to lead her army, “the cohort of the sons of God”, in the decisive battle against and final victory over the devil and his cohorts (letter d). She is our commander-in-chief in this spiritual warfare. With her, victory is certain, for she is the woman who “crushes the head of the serpent” (that is the meaning of the word “Guadalupe”).
Incidentally, December 09 is the Feast Day of St. Juan Diego, and on December 12 is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. When she appeared to Juan Diego on a hill in Tepeyac, Mexico, in December of 1531, she declared: “I am your most merciful Mother… I want to show my loving clemency and compassion to those who call upon me in their sorrows.” Our Lady of Guadalupe is the Patroness of America and the Protectress of the Unborn. In this time of the great spiritual warfare against the forces of darkness and evil in the world, let us call upon Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and ask her to crush the head of the serpent and vanquish him for eternity.
d) Her plan is to bring the whole of creation to its original beauty and purity so that it may again give honor and glory to the Heavenly Father (letter e).
e) Her plan is also to lead all her children to imitate Jesus more perfectly, so that they may fully enjoy God’s graces and the merits of Christ’s redemption (letter f). She will lead her children along “the way of faith and of hope, of love and of purity, of goodness and of holiness” (letter h). She will “prepare hearts and souls to receive the Holy Spirit, who will pour himself out in fullness to bring upon the world the Second Pentecost of fire and of love” (letter g).
3. The Sunday Gospel: St. John the Baptist
a) The other prominent figure of Advent is St. John the Baptist. That is why the Gospel for this second Sunday of Advent is about him. He is the last prophet of the Old Testament. More accurately and most importantly, he is the Precursor or Forerunner of the Messiah: he announced the immediate coming of the Messiah.
b) John the Baptist fulfilled his mission of preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah in three ways. First, he gave authentic witness by living a life of simplicity and asceticism. Second, he preached the theme of repentance and conversion. Third, he baptized the people with the Baptism of Repentance.
c) All the good qualities of John the Baptist were based on his most basic virtue, namely, humility: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.” And the virtue of humility is always intricately linked with the truth. Despite all the pressure for him to accept the role of the much- awaited Messiah, he did not claim what he is not. He is not the Messiah. “I am the voice crying out in the wilderness.” And he lived what he preached. Humility and truth were the two most powerful weapons John held on to until the end. In the end, as his supreme witness to the Messiah, he offered his life as a martyr. He was beheaded by King Herod on account of his firm principles and teachings of truth, holiness and supreme moral standards. Rightly then that he was praised by Jesus: “No man born of woman is greater that John the Baptist.”
d) The Season of Advent is a time for preparation for the coming of the Lord. And the example of St. John the Baptist reminds us of our own baptism. It is not like the Baptism of Repentance done by him, whereby those who are sorry for their sins go to him. As a sign of their repentance they are baptized by John in the Jordan River. There was no washing of sins that happens. On the other hand, the sacrament of Baptism which we have received was instituted by Christ and it effects the washing away of all sins (original and actual sins) “ex opere operato”, regardless of the disposition of the individual. The season of Advent is an opportune time for us to recall our baptismal promises: How faithful have we been to the promises at our baptism? That is why the message of St. John is always timely for us: “Repent! Turn away from sin! Keep watch!”
Recite the Act of Contrition
Sing the Marian Hymn “Mother of Christ”
GUIDE QUESTIONS FOR SHARING IN THE B.E.C.
1. Kailan nagsisimula ang buhay ng tao: sa fertilization (conception), o sa implantation ng fertilized ovum sa uterus?
2. Bakit tinututulan ng ating mga Obispo at ng Simbahang Katoliko ang RH Law?
3. Ano ang inyong naiiisip at nararamdaman kapag may narinig ka ng isang kaibigan, kamag- anak o kakilala na nagpa-abort ng sanggol?