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Advent prepares the faithful for the coming of Jesus

Dear sisters and brothers in the Lord,

May the Lord continue to bless you, your families and all those you love. As you know we begin the church season of Advent on Sunday, November 27, 2011. This day marks the first day of the Year of Grace 2012. The four Sundays of Advent are meant to help us prepare for both the first and second coming of Christ. We remember the first coming when Jesus, the only begotten son of God was born of the Virgin Mary some 2000 years ago. The Second coming of Christ comes at a time “we do not know.” This will be the end of the world and the judgment of Christ will be upon us. I hope and pray that you will use these days of Advent well. It is difficult to do in our society today, filled with the noise, lights, glitter and seductions of “secular holiday time.” These things are not all bad, but too often they become more important than our religious preparation for the celebration of Incarnation of Christ.

Advent is a time for reflection and hope. God our most loving Father, by His infinite mercy and perfect plan of salvation, sent His own Son into the world, to be born of the Virgin Mary, and to suffer and die for us, so that we might be freed from slavery to sin. This is a gift of which we are completely unworthy, and yet God gives freely to us.

During this season of Advent, the Church offers us such spiritual food. She calls us to renew our faith, hope, and love, looking for a deeper relationship with Christ our Savior. She calls us to examine our lives, and, like the shepherds and the Magi of Christmas, to leave behind whatever keeps us from greeting Him. As we let go of such worldly obstacles, we hasten to adore Him in His birth in Bethlehem, in His birth into our hearts now, and in His return in glory.

Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe

In this continuing pilgrimage with the whole Church, we are assisted especially by our Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary. On December 8, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is a holy day of obligation. This great feast gives us yet another proof and demonstration of God’s loving providence, arranging all things for our salvation according to His perfect plan of mercy. Mary was conceived without sin, preserved from the very first moment of her existence by the saving merit of Christ’s sacrifice. God gave her this unique gift, so that Christ could take from her His own human nature, perfect and undefiled by sin, and so that Mary could give a more perfect obedience to God at the Annunciation. Our own “yes” in faith to God’s will, though imperfect because of sin, shares by faith in Mary’s perfect obedience. Therefore we trust and hope that the promises of Christ are for us, sinners though we are.

On December 12, we also remember Mary’s appearance to Saint Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe. Under this title, Mary is revered as the principle patroness of the Americas and of our own Diocese of Sioux City. On this day, we recall Our Lady’s special care for us, and beg her intercession and assistance. We should commend also to her prayers our families, our beloved dead, our priests, deacons, and religious, and all our needs and intentions.

Please continue to pray for me, so that I may lead you to Christ our Lord in faith and justice, just as I pray for all of you. May our Advent be filled with consolations, hope, and joy as we prepare anew to welcome and adore our Lord Jesus Christ.

Your brother in Christ,

Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless
Bishop of Sioux City


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