'Thus Mary says to us that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be able to reach our final destination, to be immaculate, fully and definitively free of evil' -- Pope Benedict XVI
ROME, Italy (Catholic Online) - On the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, December 8, 2010, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI gave an address at The Column of The Immaculate in Piazza Di Spagna. In his address, he spoke of the flowers surrounding the historical monument as a "sign of the love and devotion of the Roman people for the Mother of Jesus." Yet the "most beautiful gift," continued the Pope, "and most pleasing to her, that we offer is our prayer, the one we bear in our hearts and which we entrust to her intercession."
Pope Benedict further noted that "what we receive from Mary" is much more important than "what we offer her." We receive from Mary a "message destined to each one of us, . . . to the entire world." The Pope announced that he comes to listen to this message, not only for himself, but for all. "And what," asks our Holy Father, "does Mary say to us?"
"She speaks to us with the Word of God, which became flesh in her womb. Her 'message' is none other than Jesus, who is her whole life. It is thanks to Him and because of Him that she is Immaculate. And as the Son of God became man for us, so she too, the Mother, was preserved from sin for us, for all, in anticipation of God's salvation for every man."
It is especially fitting during this season of Advent, a time in which we are to open our hearts to the incomparable and salvific love of the Christ Child, that we meditate on these precious words from our Holy Father, for they direct us to the truth about God's love for humankind, and to the manifold gifts our heavenly Father unceasingly showers upon us: and what a beautiful gift is found in our Mother Immaculate! The sweet virgin Mother of God was preserved from sin for us, not as a necessity, but as a gift to all her children in anticipation of that most sublime Gift ever imaginable: the Word Incarnate who comes to do the will of the Father, and who offers himself in total surrender, as a supreme gift of Love.
"Thus Mary says to us," continued Pope Benedict, "that we are all called to open ourselves to the action of the Holy Spirit to be able to reach our final destination, to be immaculate, fully and definitively free of evil. She says so with her sanctity itself, with a look full of hope and compassion, which evokes words such as these: 'Fear not, son, God loves you! He loves you personally; he thought of you before you came into the world and called you into existence to fill you with love and life; and because of this, he has come to meet you, he made himself like you, he became Jesus, God-Man, in everything similar to you, but without sin; he gave himself for you, to the point of dying on the cross, and thus has given you a new life, free, holy and immaculate'" (cf. Ephesians 1:3-5).
It is the Holy Spirit, the Advocate whose infinite love permeates the faithful as a divine wind, who beckons us to lay open our hearts before the cleansing and healing love of God that we may be made immaculate, "fully and definitively free of evil," as Pope Benedict observed. Thus if we open ourselves to God's grace, and actively respond to it, we will be made over the course of our life immaculate. Sanctified in Christ, we are called to such a state, one of holiness, a free existence in purity of heart and love of God in which we become, by God's grace, all that God intends for us. It is the gift of Mary the Immaculate Virgin who, preserved immune from all stain of original sin from the fist moment of her conception (see also CCC No. 491), provides us with a paradigm and model of the destiny to which the Christian disciple is called.
Pope Benedict said that Mary "looks at us with the very love of the Father and blesses us. . . . Even if everyone spoke evil of us, she, the Mother, would say the good, because her immaculate heart is attuned to God's mercy.
"And those that in the eyes of the world are the first, for God they are the last; those who are little, are great for God. He recognizes in each one the likeness with his Son Jesus, even if we are so different! But who more than she knows the power of Divine Grace? Who better than she knows that nothing is impossible for God, capable in fact of drawing good from evil?"
In closing, Pope Benedict XVI reminded the faithful to hope and trust in God: "the message we receive here, at the feet of Mary Immaculate, is a message of trust for every person of this city and of the whole world. A message of hope not made of words, but of her own history: she is one of us, who gave birth to the Son of God and has shared all her own existence with him! And today she says to us: this is also your destiny, yours, the destiny of all: to be saints as our Father, to be immaculate as our Brother Jesus Christ, to be loved children, all adopted to form a great family, without limits of nationality, color, language, because God is one, Father of every man.
"Thank you, O Mary Immaculate, for always being with us! Always watch over our city: comfort the sick, encourage young people, sustain families. Infuse the strength to reject evil, in every form, and to choose the good, even when it costs and entails going against the current. Give us the joy of feeling loved by God, blessed by Him, predestined to be his children. Immaculate Virgin, our sweetest Mother, pray for us!"
F. K. Bartels is a Catholic writer who knows his Catholic faith is one of the greatest gifts a man could ever have. Visit him at catholicpathways.com. He is a contributing writer for Catholic Online.
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Each year, millions of people across the United States rush to grocery stores and prepare to visit their families in celebration of Thanksgiving. Visiting loved ones and enjoying a specially prepared meal are both wonderful parts of celebrating, but don't forget to ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Pope Francis has made it clear, Jesus is weeping over a world at war. It has become obvious that this is a time of extreme danger for all people around the globe. No population is safe from terror. The threats aren't just from terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al ... continue reading
By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
The veneration of relics in the Catholic Church has been one of the most debated practices in the faith. While such veneration is actually common in the human experience -even Communists did it with the body of Lenin, the veneration of relics in the Church is the ... continue reading
By Tony Magliano
During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, decided to skip dinner at the downtown Marriott Waterfront hotel, and walked several blocks to an inner city parish to share a simple meal with about 30 peace ... continue reading
By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News
Heather King never cared much for doctors. Los Angeles, CA (CNA) - It's an attitude she partly inherited from her mother, "who classified ginger ale as a medicine, considered Novocain a snobbish extravagance" and somehow managed to avoid a visit to the doctor's office ... continue reading
By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
It is easy to fall prey to depression and sadness with everything that has been going on in the world these days. The trick to maintaining a positive attitude and living in the joy God has for us is as easy as following five simple steps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading
By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent. We Christians have gone out of our minds, arguing about Starbucks cups and greeters who (correctly) say "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas." In all the bustle of the season, we have forgotten that Advent ... continue reading
By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News
At the presentation of his new book, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that Western society is rapidly forgetting God, and expressed his desire to help people rediscover him through both prayer and witness. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "I would like to help people ... continue reading
By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News
Hidden since the Jubilee of 2000, the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica was revealed Tuesday as the brick wall covering it was removed in anticipation of the Holy Year of Mercy launching next month. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the ... continue reading
By Abigail James (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)
Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can completely cripple the body and soul. Since the terrifying Paris terrorist attacks last week the news has been full of death, terrorists, murder and fear. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Those not in power are left wondering ... continue reading