Our Lady of Joy — Homily for The Immaculate Conception | Silvio José Báez, O.C.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Managua

Homily for the Solemnity

Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Most Reverend Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua 

 

Saint Agatha Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Miami
December 7, 2019


 

Dear brothers and sisters:

Tonight we celebrate the Eucharist on the Solemnity for the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which will be followed by the joyful and heartfelt Nicaraguan feast of the Gritería. We Nicaraguans have grown up singing to the Virgin, feeling our hearts pounding with emotion at the cry of “Who causes so much joy? The Conception of Mary!”, turning our gaze to the Mother of the Lord, awaiting Her loving protection, with the certainty shouted at the top of our lungs in churches and in homes in our country: “Mary of Nicaragua, Nicaragua of Mary”.

In tonight’s Gospel, we heard that God sent the angel Gabriel to a house in Nazareth, who upon entering, greeted a young virgin named Mary, saying, “Rejoice, full of grace. The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). The first word that the angel utters is: “Rejoice!” God has chosen Mary to welcome the joy of the Messiah’s salvation in the name of all humanity. She receives from God the proclamation, “Rejoice!” because of the Savior’s coming. God invites her to rejoice even when she is a young woman of scarce resources, belonging to an almost unknown town in Galilee, even when she is part of a people who are subjugated, oppressed and bereft of hope. In this humble young woman of Nazareth, God causes messianic joy to emerge and she, welcoming it, makes it her own to be experienced every day.

Recently the Bishops of Nicaragua stated in this year’s Advent message that “experiencing joy is a challenge for the people who live in Nicaraguan society because we live in a Nicaragua that is ravaged by deep divisions and ruptures, where the abundance of gloomy faces are an eloquent testimony to the deep despair, suffering and sadness that Nicaraguan men and women are going through today.

It’s true. Our Nicaraguan society is bleeding, her heart is wounded, and we have shed tears of sorrow and helplessness; in the people who live on the streets and in the homes of our country and in those of us who live abroad, gloomy faces and troubled hearts abound, expressing sadness, powerlessness, and uncertainty. We can’t deny it. Moreover, we mustn’t deny it, for the joy that the Messiah brings us is born and reborn again and again in the midst of pain and despair.

The Virgin Mary, the first recipient of Messianic joy, reveals to us the secret of this joy, which is possible to experience even in the midst of the night of helplessness and anguish. In today’s Gospel, the angel, after inviting Mary to rejoice, went on to say to her: “The Lord is with you” (Lk 1:28). It is a very short phrase, but it expresses in synthesis the foundation of our faith and hope. This is the secret of Christian joy: God is in our midst as a powerful Savior. Mary rejoices because she is the bearer of Emmanuel, of ‘God with us’, and this presence causes her to exult with joy. This certainty allows us, like Mary, to sing and exult with joy. She lived with this joy that no one could take away from her, neither poverty, nor the darkness of faith, nor the pain of her son’s crucifixion. The Most Pure Virgin Mary is “Our Lady of Joy”. “The Lord is with you”: this is the secret of the Virgin’s joy and of our joy, for as St. Paul says: “If God is for us, who can be against us”? (Rom 8:31). Let us rejoice, the Lord is with you, Nicaragua! The Lord is with us, dear Nicaraguan sisters and brothers!

Without joy we remain paralyzed, slaves of our sorrows, weakened by the problems of life and the challenges of the times, unable to dream and build a better world. Our Lady teaches us that true joy does not belong exclusively to the realm of affections and feelings, but is rooted in the experience of faith and trust in the Lord’s love. To be happy or sad is a matter of faith when all is said and done. In her prayer of the Magnificat, Mary once again reveals to us the secret of her joy: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior because he has looked with favor upon his lowly servant” (Lk 1:48).

From her littleness and poverty, she contemplates the greatness of God who has gazed upon her with love. Despite her problems, which were not insignificant, she lives with joy because she trusts completely in the Lord and feels loved and cared for by Him. God fulfills all her longings. She needs nothing other than God to live with joy, to be joyful. Our Lady teaches us something as simple as letting ourselves be looked upon by God, always trusting in him; feeling welcomed and enfolded in his tenderness, cared for with a love that is attentive and caring, as we are continually forgiven with mercy. This fundamental feeling that is at the root of faith, by infusing us with joy, gives us a new capacity to overcome with faith the most painful and difficult moments; it makes us able to act with mercy towards others, serving and caring for one another; and, it also gives us the strength and creativity to imagine and build a new society founded on freedom, social justice and respect for human dignity. When we are sad, none of this can be done.

Our Lady of Joy is also the Mother of Joy. At the birth of her son, a great joy is announced to the shepherds: “he announced to them a great joy: to them is born this day in the city of David the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:11). Mary not only gives birth to her son Jesus, but she also gives birth to a new joy, which never ends and of which we can always partake, on the condition that we live in communion with her son Jesus, the Messiah who has brought us joy, by “doing what he tells us” (Jn 2:5), as the Virgin at Cana in Galilee advised to do. Let there be no doubt. To think and act according to Jesus’ standards; to incarnate the Gospel in our personal and social life; always seeking and accepting God’s will, even at the cost of sacrifices and often without understanding everything that is happening to us, that is the pathway of joy. Let’s not fall into the temptation to think that those who ignore or reject God, those who live locked up in their egotism and trample on the dignity of other human beings, are living a joyful life. No. That is not the pathway of joy.

The perfect joy to which we are called follows a different trail and Mary, Our Lady of joy, assures us that it is possible to follow this path when we accept our littleness with serenity and abandon ourselves with trust into God’s hands. It is precisely the mystery of Mary’s Immaculate Conception that gives us the certainty that this joy is possible, for the loving will of a God who has always desired to give us perfect joy has been revealed in Mary, molding each of us in the image of His Son. She, the All Beautiful One, is that beautiful and luminous first fruit of the redemption of Christ, who in the Immaculate Conception of his Mother, the one “full of grace” (Lk 1:28), has brought forth the seed of the joy of a new world in the midst of the history of sorrow and the sin of humanity.

 

Immaculate Conception - Giovanni Battista Tiepolo PRADO
The Immaculate Conception
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696-1770)
Oil on canvas, 1767-1769
Museo del Prado, Madrid
Gallery label (excerpt)
This majestic image was part of a cycle of seven altarpieces commissioned in 1767 for the new royal church of San Pascual Bailón at Aranjuez, founded by Charles III in the same year. The symbols in the altarpiece refer to the virtues and significance of the Virgin. Read more here. Copyright © Museo Nacional del Prado. Used by permission.

 

Come, you who, descending into Mary, caused the Word to take flesh: effect in us by grace what you accomplished in her by grace and nature.

Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi
from the Office of Readings for her feast day

 

Annunciation_Sosenko 1913

Annunciation
Modest Danilovich Sosenko (Ukrainian, 1875-1920)
Oil on canvas, 1913
Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum

Marie du jour: 20 May

She raised her head as a servant of the Lord welcoming his word

The gospel says, “raise your heads” (Luke 21:28).  The Lord wants us to look to the future with hope. There are certainly problems, there are situations that create fear; but as Christians, we who believe in Jesus Christ who is to come, we raise our heads.

Raising your head means being able to talk to God. Lifting your head is a gesture of humility in the gospel. It is the one who stands up to meet the Lord and listen to him, to be available to walk wherever he sends us, to be available to listen to his voice, to speak with him like the Virgin Mary did: she raised her head as a servant of the Lord welcoming his word.

Annunciation_Nicolas Poussin_1657 NatlGalleryLondon (2)
The Annunciation
Nicolas Poussin (French, 1594 – 1665)
Oil on canvas, 1657
The National Gallery, London

She raised her head — full of grace — to do the will of God in everything and always to be moved by the Spirit that had descended upon her most holy womb. Mary teaches us to raise our heads; that is not the lifting up of the haughty, the head-raising of the proud, who look at others from above, who are so sure of themselves that they think they don’t need others.

To raise your head in the gospel means raising your head to meet God and abandoning yourself into his hands; it means gazing at him with love and welcoming his love like the Virgin.

Bishop Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, First Sunday of Advent, 2015 (excerpt)


About the painting:

The archangel Gabriel announces to the Virgin that she will bear the Son of God. New Testament (Luke 1:26-38). Above her hovers a dove who represents the Holy Spirit, the medium through whom the Christ Child was conceived. Unusually, the Virgin’s cloak is painted yellow. This color probably had symbolic significance, possibly as a sign of hope and/or purity.

Learn more from The National Gallery

 

Quote of the day: 9 April

Monday, 9 April 1888

Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord

Thérèse enters the Carmel of Lisieux

From Marie Martin (Marie of the Sacred Heart) to her father, Saint Louis Martin 
9th April 1888

Incomparable Father,

What Céline tells us is worthy of you! Ah! What a remarkable father we have! He truly is unique… Also, I’m not surprised that God is taking all the children away from this incomparable father! He is too dear to his Heart for Him not to look upon him and his family with a very special love. How our dear mother must be smiling down upon you, she must be rejoicing to see her darling boat being so well directed by you towards Heaven.

 

Entrée aqua-entree-1
St. Thérèse crosses the threshold of the cloister, a later watercolor | Photo: Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux | Visit the Archives site to see the annotated sketch for this watercolor and all of the artworks associated with the life of St. Thérèse, her “Life in Pictures

 

O best of fathers, how accountable we would be if we didn’t become saints, and if we didn’t follow in the footsteps of your generosity… Ah! How Jesus will have to repay you a hundredfold for the lily barely in bloom, the lily, filled with freshness, that you are offering him today. Oh, your crown in heaven! Darling Father, how radiant and beautiful it will be. Ah! Pray that your diamond may not be too pale beside so many beauties.

I can’t continue any longer, my heart is too full of affection for you and is all yours.

Our Mother couldn’t help crying as she read Céline’s account. Ah! What a remarkable father you are!!

M. of the S. H.

O best of fathers, how accountable we would be if we didn’t become saints

N.B. — St. Thérèse entered the Carmel of Lisieux on the Feast of the Annunciation, which was deferred to Monday, April 9 in the year 1888 because March 25 was Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord. “Our Mother” refers to the prioress, Mother Marie de Gonzague. You can read a brief biographical sketch of Mother Marie here; as Sr. Geneviève (Céline) remarked at the end of her life to another younger member of the community, “But we loved her! But you would have loved her! Only…” she continued with an appropriate facial expression “she was feared as a storm is feared when you have no umbrella … “

Read an outstanding essay concerning Thérèse’s entry to the Carmel of Lisieux on April 9, written by St. Thérèse expert Maureen O’Riordan and illustrated with 19th-century photos, published on her blog Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway.

 

The letter from Marie of the Sacred Heart to her father, Saint Louis Martin, all correspondence by family and friends, and other texts and sources concerning St. Thérèse are found on the official website of the Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

St. Therese of Lisieux and the feast of the Annunciation | “Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway” Blog

Annunciation_SOLARIO Andrea 1506_Louvre
The Annunciation, Andrea Solario (1506), Musée du Louvre, Paris

St. Therese especially loved the mystery of the Annunciation and celebrated it every year. At the first inquiry into Therese’s sanctity in 1910, her sister Celine testified:

She had a particular devotion for the mystery of the Incarnation, which she would observe devotedly every 25th March. She loved to contemplate…

Read more via March 25, 2019: St. Therese of Lisieux and the feast of the Annunciation – “Saint Therese of Lisieux: A Gateway” Blog – Saint Therese of Lisieux

Quote of the day: 25 March

Why I Love You, O Mary!

When an angel from Heaven bids you be the Mother
Of the God who is to reign for all eternity,
I see you prefer, O Mary, what a mystery!
The ineffable treasure of virginity.
O Immaculate Virgin, I understand how your soul
Is dearer to the Lord than his heavenly dwelling.
I understand how your soul, Humble and Sweet Valley,
Can contain Jesus, the Ocean of Love!…

Oh! I love you, Mary, saying you are the servant
Of the God whom you charm by your humility.
This hidden virtue makes you all-powerful.
It attracts the Holy Trinity into your heart.
Then the Spirit of Love covering you with his shadow,
The Son equal to the Father became incarnate in you,
There will be a great many of his sinner brothers,
Since he will be called: Jesus, your first-born!…

O beloved Mother, despite my littleness,
Like you I possess The All-Powerful within me.
But I don’t tremble in seeing my weakness:
The treasures of a mother belong to her child,
And I am your child, O my dearest Mother.
Aren’t your virtues and your love mine too?
So when the white Host comes into my heart,
Jesus, your Sweet Lamb, thinks he is resting in you!…

Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

Why I Love You, O Mary!
Stanzas 3, 4, and 5

 

Pourquoi je t'aime O Marie
Date: May, 1897 | Written for: St. Thérèse herself, at the encouragement of Marie of the Sacred Heart. “I’ve always dreamed of writing a song to the Blessed Virgin to express everything that I think about her,” Thérèse confided to Céline. (Testimonies for the Diocesan Process of Beatification and Canonization, PO 667) | Photo: Archives of the Carmel of Lisieux

See the complete text of the poem in English here and photos of St. Therese’s rough drafts, complete with corrections, here

Quote of the day: 24 March

I arrived here safely on the vigil of our Lady. Señora Doña Luisa was overjoyed. We spent a lot of time talking about you, which is a pleasure for me, for since she loves you so much she doesn’t tire of this.

Saint Teresa of Avila

Letter 19 to María de Mendoza, Valladolid (excerpt)
Toledo, End of March 1569

Doña Luis de la Cerda 

“Yo llegué aquí buena la víspera de nuestra Señora. Hase holgado en extremo la señora doña Luisa.”

Cerda, Luisa de la (d. 1596). Daughter of the second Duke of Medinaceli, Luisa de la Cerda in 1537 married Antonio Arias Pardo de Saavedra, nephew of Cardinal Pardo de Tavera and one of the wealthiest and most titled men in Castile. Of his seven children, four were still alive when he died in 1561. His death left his wife so afflicted that the family began to fear for her. Finally, after many other failed attempts to comfort her, the family asked the provincial of the Carmelites to allow Teresa to stay with her in her palace in Toledo. Teresa remained with her for about six months and was able to help free her from the bonds of her affliction, frequent the sacraments, and practice good works. While living in the palace, Teresa was able to observe that nobility and wealth did not free one from the slavery of many human passions. In 1567 Luisa offered to fund a foundation in Malagón if the nuns would pray for her deceased husband. The house that the nuns rented there was poor and inadequate for their needs. Finally, on her return from Seville, Teresa insisted that Luisa build them a new monastery, which she had promised to do. The new monastery, the only one of Teresa’s houses that was not an adaptation of some already existing house, was built according to Teresa’s own specifications and still exists as a Carmel today, as do all of Teresa’s foundations. When the foundation of nuns in Toledo was made, Luisa gave them hospitality in her home while they tried to find a house for themselves. They were very poor and met with serious difficulties, but it doesn’t seem that Luisa did anything to help them. Teresa wrote in her Foundations, “It will seem impossible that though we had stayed in the house of that lady who loved me so much, we had to enter the new foundation in so much poverty (Foundations 15.13). Nonetheless Teresa continued on good terms with Doña Luisa, sending her little gifts, but also feeling free to ask her for favors when she needed help for herself or someone else. Among these favors was the task Doña Luisa undertook to deliver the precious secret manuscript of Teresa’s Life to St. John of Avila.

Letter 19 excerpt and Biography of Doña Luisa de la Cerda
The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila
Translated by Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D. and Otilio Rodriguez, O.C.D.
ICS Publications Copyright © 2001, 1985 by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

Advent 8: Holy house

I was indeed happy to be on my way to Loreto. I am not at all surprised the Blessed Virgin chose this spot to transport her blessed house, for here peace, poverty, and joy reign supreme; everything is primitive and simple. The women have preserved their graceful Italian dress and have not, as in other cities, adopted the Paris fashions. Loreto really charmed me!

And what shall I say about the Holy House? Ah! how deep was my emotion when I found myself under the same roof as the Holy Family, contemplating the walls upon which Jesus cast His sacred glance, treading the ground bedewed with the sweat of St. Joseph, under this roof where Mary had carried Jesus in her arms, having carried Him in her virginal womb. I beheld the little room in which the angel had appeared to the Blessed Virgin. I placed my rosary in the little bowl of the Child Jesus. What ravishing memories!

 

174864035_54e42d68d2_o
Abandoned casina near Loreto, Italy | Federico

 

Me alegré de emprender el camino hacia Loreto. No me extraña que la Santísima Virgen haya elegido este lugar para transportar a él su bendita casa. Allí la paz, la alegría y la pobreza reinan como soberanas. Todo es sencillo y primitivo. Las mujeres han conservado su vistoso traje italiano y no han adoptado, como en otras ciudades, la moda de París. En una palabra, ¡Loreto me encantó!

¿Y qué puedo decir de la santa casa…? Me emocionó profundamente encontrarme bajo el mismo techo que la Sagrada Familia, contemplar las paredes en las que Jesús posó sus ojos divinos, pisar la tierra que José regó con su sudor y donde María llevó en brazos a Jesús después de haberlo llevado en su seno virginal… Visité la salita donde el ángel se apareció a la Santísima Virgen… Metí mi rosario en la pequeña escudilla del Niño Jesús… ¡Qué recuerdos tan maravillosos…!

 

The Story of a Soul: Manuscript C, folio number 59 verso
Translated by Fr. John Clarke, O.C.D.
Archives du Carmel de Lisieux
Copyright © by Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars, Inc.

The Marie du jour – May 31

The Visitation Journey

The second bead: scene of the lovely journey
of Lady Mary, on whom artists confer
a blue silk gown, a day pouring out Springtime,
and birds singing and flowers bowing to her.

Rather, I see a girl upon a donkey
and her too held by what was said to mind
how the sky was or if the grass was growing.
I doubt the flowers; I doubt the road was kind.

“Love hurried forth to serve.” I read, approving.
But also see, with thoughts blown past her youth,
a girl riding upon a jolting donkey
and riding further and further into the truth.

Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD

 

Visitation journey mosaic, Ein Karem
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah (Luke 1:39)
Central mosaic on the facade of the Church of the Visitation
Ein Karem, Israel
Photo: orlandophotoshooter / Flickr 

 

I doubt the flowers; I doubt the road was kind

 

Church of the Visitation facade full view
Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem
Photo credit: Fr. Gaurav Shroff / Flickr 

 

The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers (p. 67) ICS Publications, Washington DC © Washington Province of Discalced Carmelites, Inc.

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