My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Advent is a time of expectation, of waiting. There is no better model of expectation, of waiting, to us Christians than Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of Jesus Christ. During this time of Advent, as we come closer to Christmas, we recognize that Mary was in the last stage of her pregnancy.
Certainly, there is no more beautiful sight than a woman carrying a child in her womb, especially during the final days of pregnancy. I often wonder how a woman is able to bear the burden of pregnancy, and yet the words of Scripture remind us that a woman is in travail as she gives birth, however, experiences great joy as she sees a new life see the light of day.
This past week we celebrated two feasts of Our Lady; first, the Immaculate Conception which reminds us of Mary’s own birth and that she was conceived without original sin in view of the fact that she would be the one who would bring the Savior into the world. No sin ever touched Mary and she becomes the refuge of sinners as we look to her motherly intercession in our daily lives.
The other feast of Mary celebrated today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. An interesting fact regarding the image of Our Lady which was miraculously given to St. Juan Diego is that she is depicted as a pregnant woman. The sash she wears is a sign of pregnancy for the Aztec culture. The miraculous image of Mary gives us many signs and a deep understanding of the significance of Mary in the life of the Church.
This year, the celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe is somewhat muted because of COVID-19 concerns. Even in Mexico, where this day is a national holiday, there was only a televised Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrated at midnight. It will be a day to remember for Mexicans because even in times of revolution, the Basilica was always open.
On Saturday, December 12, I celebrated the Noon Mass at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph, and Bishop Octavio Cisneros preached. We had representatives from the many parishes in Brooklyn and Queens where a Mexican Apostolate is organized, thanks to the work of Fr. Jorge Ortiz, the first priest who died of COVID-19 in our diocese and in the country.
During the ten years he served the Mexican community, the celebration grew tremendously. On Saturday, Fr. Jorge was honored, and his parents and siblings were in Brooklyn for the moving tribute to their beloved son and brother. Now Father Baltazar, a Mexican-born priest, has taken over this ministry, and he did a magnificent job in planning this year’s smaller Mass and celebration due to COVID-19. At the end of Mass, one symbolic torch was lit; however, there was no pilgrimage throughout the streets in Brooklyn and Queens due to the pandemic.
Only 30 years ago, there were very few Mexicans in New York City. However, today their number has increased to probably more than 200,000 Mexican people here in our city. We see them pushing vendor carts through the streets. We do not see them when they are washing dishes and in other hidden, yet important, service jobs essential to our economy. We see Mexican mothers wheeling carriages with new babies born here in the United States. Some of our churches have so many babies attending Mass that they have instituted a carriage parking lot outside of church to avoid too many carriages in church.
Mary is a universal mother to all Christians, no matter under what title we honor her; she is, as Scripture tells us, “The honor of our race.” She is the one who infallibly can lead us to Jesus, her Son, to whom she gave birth and whose birth we will commemorate at this Christmas. The willingness of Mary to accomplish God’s will in her life, although she did not know exactly where it would lead her, is certainly an example of putting out into the deep.
For each and every one of us, accomplishing God’s will is always the same exercise. We are stretched beyond what we would like to do at times because it is not our will but God’s will that must be accomplished in our lives. This year, the pandemic and the death and despair it has unleashed, has made it difficult to understand God’s will for us. During this Advent season, pray with me that Mary will show us the way to understanding God’s plan for each of us and the real meaning of the birth of our Savior, her Son.