By Most Rev. JOSÉ H. GOMEZ, Archbishop of Los Angeles

Advent is always a season of Mary.

On Dec. 8, we celebrate the holy day of her Immaculate Conception and then, four days later, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

As many of you know, the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Juan Diego actually began on Dec. 9, 1531. In those days, that was the day when the Spanish Church celebrated the Immaculate Conception.

In my mind, there is a deep connection between these two feast days.

In God’s plan of salvation, Mary was conceived without original sin to announce the world’s “new creation” in the coming of Jesus. Many centuries later, in the apparition at Tepeyac, God was sending Mary to announce the coming of Jesus to the “new world” of the Americas.

In each case, Mary is the “sign” our Father sends to bring us his Son.

In this Year of Faith, we are starting a new tradition at our Cathedral. We are going to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe with the traditional las mañanitas. This is an evening festival of songs and worship leading up to a midnight Mass that I will offer on the feast day of Dec. 12.

This big celebration in Advent is appropriate for us now because our new chapel to Our Lady contains the precious relic from St. Juan Diego’s original tilma that bears Our Lady’s miraculous image. It’s the only relic outside of Mexico City, where the tilma resides in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

There is more information on my Facebook page. But I hope many of you can make this celebration a part of your devotions in this holy season.
And in this “season of Mary,” during this Advent in the Year of Faith — I hope we will all turn to Mary in a new way.

St. Thomas Aquinas used to say that besides God our Father, Mary is the only other one who could rightly call Jesus, “Son.” Because she is the mother of Jesus, no one can help us more than Mary to grow in our awareness that we are children of God.

In fact, by his last words on the cross, Jesus told us, “Behold, your mother.”

He spoke those words to St. John. And “from that hour the disciple took her into his own home,” the Gospel tells us (John 19:27).

Each one of us has to do the same thing. We have to take Mary into our homes. Into our lives. We need to love her and learn from her as our mother. She was a perfect daughter of God, so we can learn from her how to act as God’s sons and daughters.

One thing we notice about her life is that it is filled with silence and hiddenness. All the events in her life that we read about — the Annunciation, the Visitation and the rest — they are all “off the radar.” They were silent. Hidden. Nobody was there to see them or record them.

This is a lesson for us. Almost all of us lead quiet lives. The good that we do will only be seen and known by the small circles of those closest to us — in our families and neighborhoods; in the places where we work.

Like Mary, we can live as children of God — filling our days with quiet acts of faithfulness. Carrying out our daily duties with love and care for others. Sharing our joy and love for Jesus in simple and natural ways.

This is how a child of God lives. And this is the most basic expression of the “new evangelization.” It means sharing Jesus Christ person-to-person, one heart speaking to another heart in love.

The goal of our life is to become more and more like Jesus. So just as Jesus did, we have to learn from our mother Mary what it means to be a child of God. That means we have to relate to her more and more as a mother.

One practical thing we can do: Try to spend time every day thinking about the Blessed Virgin Mary — maybe by looking at a picture of her. Talk to her as her child. Tell her everything that’s on your mind. Ask her to help you grow as a child of God.

Let’s keep one another in prayer this week. And let’s ask our Blessed Mother Mary to help us to be truly devoted to her — so that we can learn to love our Father as Jesus loved him, as true children of God.

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