By Leela Ramdeen
Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
On this second Sunday of Advent we will light the second candle on the Advent wreath—the Bethlehem candle (purple), which symbolises love and represents Christ’s manger.
Sunday, December 8 is also the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. See our Catechism of the Catholic Church, 490–491 state: “To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary ‘was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role’. The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as ‘full of grace’. In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace.
As Catholic News Agency states: “Even though Mary is unique in all humanity for being born without sin, she is held up by the Church as a model for all humanity in Her holiness and Her purity, in her willingness to accept the Plan of God for her…The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is a time to celebrate the great joy of God’s gift to humanity in Mary, and to recognize with greater clarity, the truth that each and every human being has been created by God to fulfill a particular mission that he and only he can fulfill….Every person is called to recognize and respond to God’s call to their own vocation in order to carry out God’s plan for their life and fulfill the mission prepared for them since before the beginning of time.”
As we prepare for the coming of our Lord and Saviour, let us ask His mother, Mary, who is a model of holiness, to intercede for us so that the Holy Spirit will guide us to live holy lives. None of us is perfect and we will spend our entire lives striving to be holy. But we must keep our eyes on the “prize”, as the saying goes. Our goal is salvation.
Baptism is only the beginning of our journey. The other sacraments are there to help us on the path to holiness. Read today’s Gospel, Matthew 3:1–12, The preaching of John the Baptist. His message as he preached in Judea was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”
As Pastor David Guzic says: “John’s message was a call to repentance. Some people think that repentance is mostly about feelings, especially feeling sorry for your sin. It is wonderful to feel sorry about your sin, but repent isn’t a ‘feelings’ word. It is an action word. John told his listeners to make a change of the mind, not merely to feel sorry for what they had done. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not a sorrow in the heart…We can’t come to the kingdom of heaven unless we leave our sin and the self-life.”
My mother used to tell us, her children, about the lives of saints. The road to holiness starts in the home, and schools have a duty to nurture values and virtues that will help our youth along this road.
On All Saints’ Day last year, Vatican News reported that Pope Francis urged Christians “to seek holiness not by accomplishing extraordinary things but by following the path of the Beatitudes without half measures in everyday life…the Pope urged for an examination of conscience, whether we are on the side of heaven or of earth, whether we live for the Lord or for ourselves, for eternal happiness or for some gratification now.”
During this season of Advent, this special time of grace, let us reflect on our lives, repent of our sins, as John the Baptist urges, and strive to live as faithful disciples of Christ. Advent is a time to demonstrate our option for the poor and vulnerable. Let us commit to works of charity since all that we have is gift from God.
Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, para 88
CCSJ Social Justice Education Committee