A Light in Advent: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Originally published at Ignitum Today.

A MIRACLE ON TEPEYAC

In December 1531, two men in a small village in Mexico each felt the presence of an overwhelming darkness. One, Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, was a Spanish missionary who had reached the point of despair in trying to evangelize the native people. He sought to preach the truth of Christ in the face of a native religion that promoted human sacrifice, but his fellow Spaniards had treated the natives so poorly, committing terrible abuses against them, that few Aztecs were willing to listen to the message of Christianity. Zumárraga feared an uprising would be imminent, that barring some kind of miracle, a bloody conflict would result and the people of this land would be lost. He prayed to Our Lady to intervene and braced himself for turmoil.

Meanwhile, an Aztec man in Bishop Zumárraga’s parish, named Juan Diego, faced his own personal difficulty. He and his wife had converted to Christianity together, facing the scorn of their peers; now, Juan Diego’s wife had passed away, and he lived with his uncle Juan Bernardino, also a Christian convert. Juan Diego embraced the Christian religion and faithfully attended Mass despite the tense relations between Spaniards and natives; he lived out his days in quiet sacrifice amid the brewing storm around him.

One day as Juan Diego was walking to Mass, he saw a brilliant light atop Tepeyac hill. He heard angelic music and a voice asking him to ascend. When he reached the top of the hill, he saw a beautiful woman, glowing with light, dressed in traditional Aztec garments. The details of her appearance carried great meaning in Aztec culture: she wore the color of Aztec royalty, her hair was arranged in the style reserved for virgins, and the ribbon around her waist indicated that she was with child. The sight of her filled Juan Diego with joy, and she spoke to him in his native tongue:

She told him she was the perfect and eternal Virgin Mary, Mother of the true God, and made known to him her desire that a shrine be built there where she could demonstrate her love, her compassion and her protection. “For I am your merciful Mother,” she said, “to you and to all mankind who love me and trust in me and invoke my help. Therefore, go to the dwelling of the bishop in Mexico City and say that the Virgin Mary sent you to make known to him her great desire.”

Juan Diego went to speak with the bishop, but Bishop Zumárraga was hesitant to trust Juan Diego and asked for proof. So Juan Diego, undeterred, returned to Tepeyac hill and met Our Lady once again, asking for a sign that he could show the bishop. She told him to come back the following day, that she would grant his petition the next morning. He was confident that she would deliver an answer to his prayers and told her he would return.

But Juan Diego returned home that night to find that his uncle, Juan Bernardino, was deathly ill. Instead of going out the next day to meet the Virgin, Juan Diego stayed home to tend to his dying uncle. When he finally left the house two days later, on December 12, it was not to meet the Virgin but to find a priest to perform the Anointing of the Sick. He took a different path to the church so as to avoid meeting Our Lady along the way:

As he approached Tepeyac hill, Juan Diego remembered his promised appointment with the Virgin. However, aware of his uncle’s condition, he did not want to delay his journey, and so he avoided his usual path in the hope of evading the Virgin. Yet as he rounded the hill he saw the Virgin descend from the top of the hill to greet him. Concerned, she inquired: “My youngest son, what’s going on? Where are you going? Where are you headed?”

Juan Diego, at once surprised, confused, fearful, and embarrassed, told the Virgin of his uncle’s illness and of his new errand, and expressed something of the hopelessness he was then experiencing, saying, “Because in reality for this [death] we were born, we who came to await the task of our death.”

…The Virgin listened to Juan Diego’s plea, and when he had finished she spoke to him:

“Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest son, that what frightened you, what afflicted you, is nothing; do not let it disturb your face, your heart; do not fear this sickness nor any other sickness, nor any sharp and hurtful thing. Am I not here, I who have the honor to be your Mother? Are you not in my shadow and under my protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need something more?”

Carl Anderson, Our Lady of Guadalupe: Mother of the Civilization of Love

The Virgin revealed to Juan Diego a garden filled with Castilian roses, growing amid an arid, dusty environment, and in the winter, no less. She instructed him to gather the flowers in his tilma (a traditional Aztec cloak) and show them to the bishop as the promised sign. He obeyed, and when he met Bishop Zumárraga and let the roses spill out of his tilma, the bishop fell to his knees in awe—not at the flowers, but at the image that had been revealed behind them. On Juan Diego’s tilma was an image of the Virgin as she had appeared to him, dressed in Aztec garments and filled with radiant beauty.

THE CONVERSION OF A NATION

When Juan Diego returned home to greet his uncle and relay the story of Our Lady’s miraculous visit, he was surprised to find his uncle restored to full health and with a story of his own to tell—Mary had visited him, too, and healed him. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was placed on display, and all the native Aztecs in the community came to revere it. To them, it was not only a beautiful image; it contained intricately detailed symbolism that had great significance within their culture. They could read the elements of the image to understand what it was really telling them—that this was the Mother of God and their Mother, who loved them and wanted their protection; that she was coming as one of them, redeeming their culture and calling them toward a new dawn. The image blended elements of the New World and the Old, bridging between two peoples that had experienced bitter division. Our Lady appeared with the medium-toned skin of a mestiza, a mixture of Aztec and Spanish blood.

Within seven years, eight million natives were converted to Christianity, and the practice of human sacrifice came to an end. Eight million—and in a land that had previously been so resistant to Christianity, after experiencing great suffering at the hands of Spanish conquerors. Only Our Lady could mend such bitter wounds, and she came personally to comfort her people, to give them a new hope. She showed that she understood the beauty of their culture, and she showed that her Son was the fulfillment of their deepest longings—that because of the Cross, His sacrifice was the only human sacrifice necessary, one perfect sacrifice that was enough to cover all our sins.

Mary bends to meet us right where we are. She pulls our good intentions out from the mess we’ve created—our longings for goodness, truth, and beauty, for justice and righteousness—and leads us to their true fulfillment in her Son. She heals the distortions of our hearts and claims us as her children. She comes as one of us, telling us not to be afraid.

MOTHER OF THE NEW WORLD

Bishop Zumárraga had prayed for a miracle to come, but when it did, it was from a place he didn’t expect, and he didn’t recognize it at first. His prayer for the conversion of the people was answered in a powerful way, but it did not follow the pattern of how other nations had converted to Christianity. In Europe, what had always happened before was that the king would convert and his people would follow. But here in the New World, something even more radical took place: the conversion began at the ground level, with an ordinary man, a humble layperson. Because this conversion happened from the ground up, the faith of the Mexican people became a firm and unshakable foundation—even through persecutions to come, when the government would oppose Catholicism due to the strong influence it had on the people.

This crucifix was bent when a bomb exploded in front of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has endured through nearly five centuries and incredible circumstances. On November 14, 1921, a bomb was placed within flowers at the base of the image; when it detonated, the altar fell apart, the bronze crucifix atop it was bent and twisted, and windows of neighboring homes were shattered. But the image, at the center of the wreckage, remained perfectly intact. In the eighteenth century, during a cleaning of the frame, nitric acid was accidentally spilled onto the image. This should have destroyed it instantly—nitric acid is highly corrosive—but the only effect was a black spot that can now be seen in the upper right corner of the image. Just the conditions of the arid Mexican climate alone should have been enough to cause the tilma to fray and disintegrate over time. Scientific experiments were performed to see how replicas of the image would hold up in the same conditions, and they all disintegrated within ten years, while the original image is still vibrant as ever. The strength of Our Lady’s image is formidable, and both her image and her message have not faded through the centuries. Through every trial, she has not abandoned her children.

A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS

Juan Diego was likely filled with confusion and sadness as he set out on the morning of December 12. Days earlier, he had met the beautiful Virgin and felt such happiness, but now everything was turned upside down. He was losing the only family member he had left; he felt alone and abandoned. How could he talk to Mary again, in this moment? He couldn’t possibly summon the joyful obedience he’d shown her days before. So he took a different path, intending to avoid her—he wasn’t ready to see her yet.

Juan Diego expected that when he met Mary again, he would be prepared, ready to focus fully on her message without distraction or confusion. Dealing with his uncle’s sickness, he didn’t think he could face Our Lady on a day when he was so overwhelmed with a growing melancholy and other pressing duties. But he didn’t realize that Mary was coming to meet him in his weakest moment, in his greatest despair—to heal him and bring him the comfort that only a mother can give, to carry her Son to him and instill true hope.

We think that we’re not ready to meet God, that we ought to wait until we really have our act together to reach out to Him, so that we can properly greet Him—but it is precisely in those moments that we need Him most. He is the only one who can draw us out of the pit of suffering and sin. Juan Diego went out of his way to avoid Mary, thinking he could not face the Mother of God when he barely understood what the point of living was, when we are all destined to die. He couldn’t bring himself to meet her, so she came to meet him where he was.

We want God to come on our own terms, but instead He comes on His terms: in the womb of a woman, in the midst of a world that is broken and suffering. He is the light amid the darkness, leading us toward a new day in the Kingdom of God if we stay with Him through the dawn. He met Juan Diego on Tepeyac, hidden in the womb of His Mother. Even though Juan Diego couldn’t see Him in the midst of his suffering, He was there. He is carried within each of us when we receive the Eucharist, and He grows quietly in our hearts as we await the birth of His presence into the world.

Life is Advent. Jesus does not arrive in the world by force; He knocks on the doors of our hearts and asks to be let in, asks for us to nurture a light that will eventually overcome the darkness. We spend our lives in wait for that moment, the coming of the day. Its real fulfillment will come after the dark night of death, as we are not made for this world. But we can see a glow if we tend to the flame within us. We see it shining from the hearts of others, too. Zumárraga prayed for a light in the darkness, but when it came, he didn’t see it at first because he was looking in the wrong direction. His prayers were answered, but not in a way he expected; God took him by surprise. Juan Diego, unable to see God in the world, felt a deep hopelessness—but God was present, hidden, and He reached out to meet him, to help him see the promise of the new dawn on its way.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, be our comfort in the midst of the dark night. Help us to welcome your Son into our lives, in whatever surprising way He comes to us. When we stray from the path, come out to meet us where we are; when we can’t see through the darkness, turn our faces to see the light dawning.

I Am Sorry

“Stop fighting! You are brother and sister, you are going to have to forgive each other!” I can quote many of the sayings my mother would say. But her remarks every time my brothers and I would fight are sayings that will remain with me. My brothers and I would fight all the time. I really do mean all of the time. Looking back at it, I feel guilty for allowing my poor mother to witness her children argue and yell at one another in the most hurtful ways. I know it caused her pain because after each one of our “sibling fights” she would be very quiet and be completely consumed with whatever house task was in front of her. Seeing her children not be loving to each other hurt her.

I know that many of you reading this can relate to having arguments and fights with your siblings. Whether they be little things that annoyed you or big problems that caused many drifts in the family. We have all, at one point or another, had a fight with a loved one. 

“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift”
-MT 5:23-24

In today’s Gospel, Jesus expands on the fifth commandment “you shall not kill”. It is obvious that it is wrong to kill another human being, but Jesus expands the commandment making it more personal and intimate—it is wrong to harbor bad sentiments towards another human being. Wow. This commandment is difficult. Perhaps we think that we might not be the best of people, but we are people that would not kill someone. But, are we people who think bad thoughts about others? Are we people that do get angry and hold grudges towards others? Are we people that are neglectful and uncaring towards those we do not like? Suddenly, the fifth commandment isn’t as simple or as easy to follow. 

Jesus explains it clearly. We cannot truly be in a loving relationship with God our Father if we are not in loving relationships with one another. Our relationship with God is dependent on our relationship with each other. As we continue throughout this lenten season—a time of sacrifice—give up the anger, give up the resentment, give up the pride. The small sacrifices that we make during lent—not eating chocolate, less time with video games, volunteering more at a shelter—remember, it isn’t a pure gift to God if we are not in right relationship with our brothers and sisters. Jesus radically changed the moral stage. You do not have to be a murderer to be in violation of the fifth commandment. God seeing his children fight amongst each other hurts him.

But it is fortunate for us that our God is a God of mercy! In the first reading the Lord says that none of our past crimes will be remembered against us if we live because of the virtue we practice. 

Carrying anger in our hearts towards others or neglecting them will only keep us away from God. Go and apologize. Forgive. Reconcile with one another. Be at Peace. Let your heart be a place of love. 

Blessed Pier Giorgio, at the age of twelve, wrote a endearing letter to his father expressing his remorse at letting his parents down, and knowing that they were upset at him. His gentle heart knew exactly how to repair his relationship with his parents, by saying sorry and meaning it. 

“I am confused and miserable and I don’t even know how to write to you; I saw how upset Mama was and I thought about you, so much that I don’t know how to ask for a word of forgiveness. I am also sorry…” – Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati


Image Credit: PAX CHRISTI ICON (Public Domain)

At Midnight, in Bethlehem, in Piercing Cold

It’s that time of year again! I’m recycling this post from a few years back to remind you all that the St. Andrew Christmas Novena starts today:

Today begins the St. Andrew Christmas Novena, also called the Christmas Anticipation Prayer. I first heard about this tradition a few years ago, and it’s a really beautiful prayer:

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! to hear my prayer and grant my desires, through the merits of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His Blessed Mother. Amen.

Traditionally, this prayer is recited fifteen times a day, beginning on November 30, the Feast of St. Andrew, and finishing on Christmas Eve. It is a meditative prayer, helping us to place ourselves in Bethlehem and focus on the coming of the Christ child as we prepare for Christmas. Praying with this novena has given me a richer awareness of God throughout the Advent and Christmas seasons. It helps me to connect my own present experiences and petitions with the miracle of the incarnation.

Last year, I created a lock screen for my phone with the novena prayer written on it, so that throughout the day, whenever I checked my phone, I would see the novena and be reminded to pray it. I’ll share it with you here, in case any of you need the same reminder!

Wishing you all a blessed Advent!

Only Say The Word

When Jesus entered Capernaum,
a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying,
“Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.”
He said to him, “I will come and cure him.”
The centurion said in reply,
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof;
only say the word and my servant will be healed.
For I too am a man subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him,
“Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.
I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,
and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.”
Mt 8:5-11

Hello friends,

It’s been a while. It’s officially the season of Advent!  Now is the season where we, as the body of Christ, prepare for the birth of Our Lord. Today’s gospel reading particularly resonates with me because it reminds me so well of how much I need the Lord in my life. 

Let’s break down today’s gospel reading a bit. The Centurion’s words should resonate with all when he says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” These are the very same words we say at Mass before we receive communion.  Yes, while it represents the Centurion’s admission that the Lord is in his house, this is the plea we recite at mass daily and the one one that represents our brokenness due to original sin. The brokenness we inherited from Adam and Eve. The one that the coming of Our Lord on Christmas day will solve. The one we are preparing for in this season of Advent.

As stated in the book of Genesis, where the fall originally takes place,  God tells Adam that, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread, until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Because of Adam and Eve’s fall, we are imperfect. We will always long for true holiness and happiness, and long for the God-shaped hole. As Saint Augustine says, “.. Our hearts are restless until they rest in [God].”  It is of no surprise to me that the theme for one of Frassati’s retreats many years ago was, “Rest for the Restless.” Evil exists in the world, and we are all broken. As Catholics, we inherently realize the need for repentance, but also the need to be as close to Jesus.  If we rest in the Lord, however, The Lord will provide, even in unexpected ways. It is of no surprise that over the centuries, Christ has been called by the “New Adam.” (Even by St. Paul himself.)

But let’s go back to the centurion. What is the centurion saying? In comparing himself to his own servant as “a man under authority,” the centurion is suggesting two things. One, he realizes that in Jesus’ presence he is really no more than a servant himself. Secondly, his words also suggest that he recognizes in Jesus far more than just an ordinary man; rather, he indicates an awareness that Jesus is one to whom true authority belongs. The Roman centurion—a man of power and authority—subjects himself to Christ and has faith in Him. Earthly rewards and accomplishments are little compared to our faith in the Lord and what He can provide. The centurion recognizes his own brokenness, saying that he is not worthy of the Lord. But how does Jesus respond? He does not say that the centurion is broken or that he is not worthy; rather, Jesus commends him, even to the point of saying. …“in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” 

However, even though we are imperfect, that is not to say there is no hope! Because even though we say these words in mass daily, what else happens in the reading? Upon hearing the Centurion’s words, the Lord says, “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. I say to you, many will come from the east and the west,and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven.” Not unlike many other moments in the gospel, an individual’s faith saves him (or the life of another) and Our Lord rewards them for their faith. It should also be that our faith in Our Lord strengthens us  in a turbulent time in which the pandemic still exists. 

It is of no surprise to some of you here that I had a very difficult year and a half. I had a lot going on. I needed my own time of healing. I was unemployed for more than a year and a half, and I battled my own trials and tribulations. And while it is in fact true that my life has had a blessed turn these past few months, I still submit myself to Christ’s authority. I won’t be ungrateful. And I never forget that without Christ, I would have never made it this far. When I made my final professions as a Lay Dominican back in August, the words said by the Centurion were of even stronger relevance to me. I too am “subject… to authority.” I am an instrument to bring people to the Lord. But we should always do it with joy! I am constantly reminded that when people are truly filled with the Lord, they are constantly joyful. Simply admitting you are unworthy of the Lord does not and should not make you a dour and dejected individual.  I’m going to be a godfather to a newborn soon (and thus also be responsible for the faith formation of this child for the rest of his life) and I too wonder if I will be able to have the faith that the Centurion had. Because being a godfather is a massive responsibility.

We should not equate unworthiness with being unloved in the eyes of God. Unworthiness is simply recognizing that we are not perfect, and that we sin. And that we need our Lord! With Him all things truly are possible! And it is in this that I should give a fair warning. Because even though we are unworthy, everything is grace. Jesus fulfills God’s promise that He would send a redeemer to save us. Jesus is the Redeemer who makes us worthy and allows us to be saved. The least we can do is recognize God’s saving power. Jesus is the one who delivers us from our sins, our unworthiness, and bestows grace upon us. This season of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of the Lord, let us remember that God became a man, “The New Adam,” to save us. The only question is, will we join Our Lord and continue to live a life of Holiness so that we too may feast on the banquet in Heaven one day? 

Renewed Words

“I consider that the sufferings of the present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God.” Romans 8:18

Isn’t this what the world today is crying out? The true miracle of God’s words is that they continue to rejuvenate those who read and proclaim them. Just as they energized the people who heard them 2,000 years ago, they inspire us as if they had been written at this very moment. The word of God is powerful and life changing. Right now, we need His voice and the presence of Jesus more than anything our world offers.

Jesus Christ is the Word of God and gives us wisdom, but He is also our Savior. We need His saving grace in order to see past the suffering of our current situation and remember that the glory of Heaven awaits us. Suffering in the world is nothing new, based on the words in Romans we realize that. While slavery and corruption confront us on this earth, if we stay true and trust solely in Jesus, we will receive glory and comfort in our renewed lives to come.

Jesus compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, one that is planted, nurtured and allowed to grow. We are being nurtured and we should grow. Living in this world at the present moment strengthens us. These are hard times, but like that mustard seed of the kingdom, if we are cared for, we will grow stronger and have an incredible future ahead of us, united with our Creator. This is the main reason He gave us life–so we could live in harmony with Him, our Lord and Savior.

Have We Lit Our Lamps

During His time on this earth, Jesus kindly bestowed several words of hope on us, but He also gave us warnings. These warnings were not intended just for the people alive at that time, but for us alive in the world today. The words in today’s Gospel seem to ring particularly true now. We are constantly consumed by fear, which has led many people to forget what we are preparing for in our lives.

“Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.” Luke 12:37

If the Master were to arrive tomorrow, who would be counted on as vigilant? Sin entered this world through one man, and now many are bound by it. Jesus offers grace, and one can choose to follow His word and be saved. However, this grace is becoming more difficult to obtain because it is easier to fall prey to the desire for all the “necessities” to survive in this world. Unfortunately, when we choose these worldly treasures, we forget to light our very basic lamps and refuse to take the road less traveled.

Our lives on this earth are not meant to be easy. As followers of Jesus, we are asked to live the way He did, which was without any modern conveniences that make life easy. We are called to “stay awake” while others sleep because when the Master comes, we will want to be ready.

The New Pharisees

Jesus always spoke out against the ways of the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His time, and consequently they wanted Him dead. When reading stories in the Gospel, it is easy to see the behavior of the Pharisees was wrong, yet they were blind to their evil actions. As history continued, the term “Pharisees” is no longer used, but the practices and beliefs upheld by the Pharisees remain. We are still sinners and are bound to fall into similar traps just as the Pharisees did.

“Although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:21-23

The Pharisees were bound by the traditions and rituals of their religion. As humans, we can accept the lie that if we follow the laws, we are guaranteed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. The Pharisees exemplified the rules regarding eating only clean food and other practical teachings like that, but today we follow different rules. These rules are meant to keep us wholly devoted to our Lord; however, it is possible to put merely the practice of these before the true worship of God Himself.

How often do we lose sight of Christ when focusing on getting to confession once a month, or remembering the pattern of a rosary instead of actually paying attention to the words? The truth is that what Jesus desires is our love and devotion. The sacraments and prayers are gifts to help us, but they are not meant to replace Jesus Christ and His presence in our lives.

“The one who is righteous by faith will live.” Romans 1:17

Worried and Anxious

We live at a time where being a true Catholic is difficult. The Word of God calls us everyday to take stances and make declarations completely contrary to the status quo. COVID 19 and the political tension in the world can cause many to lose sight of what God asks of them. When people live in an environment filled with fear, the negative voices promoting this fear can easily drown out the voice of God.

How would the story of Martha and Mary be told today? Would Martha be concerned about Mary wearing a face mask when addressing Jesus? Would there be questions about whether Jesus was vaccinated or not? Who would be considered clean and unclean? All these questions would seem justifiable and Martha would likely have been as worried as those around her. We would have the same worries. These concerns create a great deal of separation between family and friends due to the attempt at protocols to keep everyone safe. Nevertheless, it is important to ask yourself, if Jesus were to knock on your door, would you respond as a Martha or a Mary?

I have always advocated for being a bit of both Martha and Mary. However, in the circumstances created by our world today, I feel it is crucial to try to imitate Mary. With all the current separation and social distance, Mary is an example of unity. Jesus is speaking to us and calling us to HIm, but we are distracted by the new ways of keeping people “safe” which often involve distance. Jesus does not want distance. We will be stronger if we are together, united under God. In these troubled times, it is important to be Marys because she has “chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” Luke 10:4

United in Faith

How often do we fall into the trap of believing we are not worthy to stand up and be counted as one of God’s followers? We are so eager to approach Jesus with our great accomplishments, so He will see us as great and worthy of His company. It is easy to forget that we are nothing without Christ. It is the reason Jesus constantly draws close to the sick.

“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” Matthew 9: 12-13

When you are sick, you literally have nothing, you are too weak to do anything. It is at these times that you are closest to Jesus because you have no choice but to depend on Him for everything.

We are united in faith as each one of us approaches our Lord in our own unique brokenness. We are all different because God made us that way, but we are united by the same faith: the faith that Jesus has called us each by name and longs for us all to give our lives to Him.

Our Lady of Sorrows

Mary’s fiat at the Annunciation was not just a yes to the be the mother of Jesus but also a yes to the Cross. Today we recall the suffering she willingly accepted, to watch her beloved Son be brutally tortured and killed. She chose to swallow this unimaginably bitter pill because she trusted in her Son’s mission, the salvation of the world and the victory of the Kingdom of God.

We, too, will have to suffer in this world. We don’t often expect to encounter suffering in our lives, which is pretty shortsighted, seeing as Jesus specifically told us that we would. We might look back and remember some bumps along the way, but as we look forward, we imagine smooth sailing, and we’re rattled when things don’t go as we anticipate. But just as Jesus and Mary had to accept the cup of suffering in order to fulfill God’s greater plan, so too will we have to pick up our crosses.

Some of the hardships and injustices we will experience will seem senseless and bleak, and we will struggle to understand how these things could possibly fit into God’s plan. But a God Who could transform the Cross from a sign of brutality and death to a sign of life and resurrection can take the ugliness in our lives and use it to work for good. He can bring meaning to the darkest, most desolate moments of our existence. And He does not leave us alone in them. He is there right beside us, along with His Mother. She gave her fiat as an act of hope, that the suffering that awaited her would not be the end. We, too, are called to give a fiat amidst all the sufferings of this life and trust that none of it will be wasted.


Image: Ella Boshoven, Mother of Sorrow / PD-US