Recognizing God’s graces this Advent

| December 1, 2011
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

As we enter another season of Advent, it is fitting that we begin this season of hope and anticipation with the observance of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Dec. 8.

A few years ago, I was celebrating this feast day in a school visit to St. Philip’s Catholic Grade School in Litchfield. At Mass that morning, I asked the assembled students, “What would have happened if Mary would have said, ‘No,’ to the Archangel Gabriel?” One little third-grader raised his hand and with a very sad face answered, “We wouldn’t be able to celebrate Christmas!”

And how right he was.

Mary’s freely given response to God’s will was a monumental first step on the road to redemption. The Scriptures constantly remind us that God has a plan for our salvation and that plan for each of us can be known through prayerful discernment as Mary’s was.

Born without sin

When a human being is conceived in his mother’s womb, it is not just a miracle of natural life. At that moment, God creates another immortal soul.

And this momentous occasion is so secret that no one can be precisely certain as to when it takes place. At a particular point in time, in the typically secret manner of all human conception, Mary was conceived like every other human being.  But unlike any other human being born of man and woman before or since, Mary was born without sin, by a special act of God.

As a result, she was redeemed in anticipation of her merits of the cross of her son, Jesus Christ. It was the first preliminary preparation for the eternal word of God to share in humanity so that the privilege of her Immaculate Conception, as she is unique in her vocation to be the mother of God and the new Eve of the mystery of salvation, is a model for every believer in the way God’s grace works in each of our lives.

God’s grace is a pure gift and given by God totally at his initiative. The result of this divine action in the depths of our being draws us to walk closer with God and gives us the strength and inclination to carry out whatever God wishes to accomplish in our lives. Until it begins to manifest itself by our virtuous behavior, this favor of God is something secret and unknown. And, as powerful as God’s grace is, it can never overwhelm our God-given free will.

Grace in our lives

While Mary’s favor from God was unique, it was not exclusive. Each of us receives the grace of salvation, each of us receives the grace of our vocation, each of us receives countless graces every day of our lives — graces we are free to accept or ignore.

During this grace-filled season of Advent, I urge you to recognize the powerful graces of God active in the silent depths of your being.

Let us ask the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us imitate her in responding more completely to God’s grace in our lives. And may Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, help and protect our beloved country during this time of great challenges.

May God bless you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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