Our God is the God of all reality. Not just the spiritual, but the Creator and keeper of all. Sometimes when we look around at the collapse of culture and institutions, crime and violence, we can forget that God loves us even while he respects our freedom enough to allow evil to occur, and that we should expect this evil to multiply the more we reject God, His love, and His law in our lives and our society. What we see is the logical and natural consequence of turning our backs on God.
Yet with eyes of faith, we see that there is still neither time nor reason to despair. The Most Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit still pour out grace without limits, pouring out opportunities to grow in the trinity of theological virtues–faith, hope and love.
You’ve heard me speak in this space before of Pope Benedict’s great encyclical, Spe Salvi, the Hope that Saves. I can’t point us all back toward this great gift to the Church enough, especially during Advent, the Season of Hope.
The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14). (Spe Salvi n. 49)
And how fitting to those who defend the most vulnerable at the beginning of life to have the timeless image of hope expressed in the expectant Mother of God? This Monday we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose image on the miraculous tilma still draws millions every year to pilgrim acts of love and sacrifice, in devotion to the icon of Hope.
She is the icon of Hope, pregnant with the Son of God, full of grace.
There is a reason she is the patroness not only of the Americas, but of the pro-life movement. It is said that digital magnification images of her eyes actually show what would have been the reflection of Our Lady at the moment Juan Diego poured the miraculous roses out of the tilma—the bishop and his attendants shocked in adoration.
How else can we respond when we see God’s grace pour through His mother?
As this letter goes out I am recuperating from a long flight back from a successful but exhausting mission trip to India. In Kerala, Dr. Brian Clowes, Dr. Ligaya Acosta, and I joined other speakers at our La Vita National Pro-Life Conference and Training. We were blessed to speak with doctors, nurses, lawyers, students, religious men and women, priests, and bishops. The Catholics we met both in Kerala and later in Bangalore are passionately committed to serving life and family.
The Kerala event was the largest gathering of doctors for any pro-life and training conference I have participated in. Their testimonies revealed their commitment to life and family–many spoke of their large families, which are vanishingly rare in India, where the total fertility rate has dropped to just below replacement. Sterilization is the norm for women who have had two children, pushed by doctors who are given incentives to mutilate the reproductive health of men and women by the government.
Although India has seen a great deal of material progress in some areas, it still remains mostly poor, mired in political corruption and cultural injustices like the caste system that see many persons as being barely worthy of life. Children are now seen as an obstacle to progress, and the Culture of Death is now promoted in the form of contraception, sex miseducation in schools, and legalized abortion.
Even in these circumstances, we saw hope in the larger families and in a Christian community that is joyful and unafraid, though very much in the minority. One of the leaders we met was Sister Annunciata, a sister of the Good Shepherd who has partnered with HLI for many years. Her work has touched the lives of thousands. She is a passionate leader whose life’s desire is to love God and His children.
Many of the young girls I met during my time in Bangalore have been saved from hardship situations because of Sister Annunciata and her fellow sisters. God only knows how many lives have been saved and altered because of her love and interventions. Milagres Pereira, our leader in Goa, is one of many who was inspired by Sister to make the defense of life and family his life’s work. In such ways, the number of workers in God’s vineyard multiplies.
In Sister Annunciata, Milagres, the faithful medical professionals, clergy and religious we met, lights of Christ’s hope are being lit in India. Being with champions of the Gospel of Life so far from home lifts the heart even as the body is beaten up by travel, time change, and a rigorous schedule. Knowing the Source of our hope is what keeps our fellow missionaries going, even in trying situations.
How can we do less? We, who are given so much in the “developed” world, often seem anxious to destroy the gifts of affluence and prosperity that we have inherited, squandering them in search of false hopes.
No, we are called to be light and salt, to be Christ to one another. And He who is very much alive, calling us to follow Him from beyond time, gives us ever more chances to put Him first, to make Him room.
Thank you, Lord, for Advent! Please fill our hearts with true hope so that we may be lights to those without hope. Help us to prepare our hearts and homes to receive you, to be shocked into adoration at our realization that Your grace is overflowing.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of HLI and the pro-life movement around the world, pray for us!