Cardinal Burke’s Pontifical Mass Sermon – Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Advent
Saturday, December 16, 2023.
Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe
La Crosse, Wisconsin
Is 7, 10-15
Lk 1, 26-38
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
“Come, Lord Jesus!” is our Advent prayer. Since the time of the sin of our First Parents, Adam and Eve, man has looked for and longed for the coming of the Anointed of the Lord Who would restore man’s communion with God. Man, created by God in His own image and likeness, longs to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him during his earthly pilgrimage and to be with Him in the eternal joy of Heaven, the goal of man’s passage from this life to the life which is to come. God, for His part, from the moment of the sin of Adam and Eve, promised to send the Redeemer, the son of a woman, who, even though Satan would pursue him to destroy him, would crush the head of Satan. Making our own the prayer of the Prophet Isaiah, we have prayed in the Introit of today’s Holy Mass: “Drop down dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the just: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour.”
Through the Prophet Isaiah, Our Lord renewed His promise of the Savior, the Son of the Virgin, Whose name would be Emmanuel, that is, God-with-us. We are blessed to know the long-awaited Messiah, the God-man, God the Son Incarnate, Who by His Coming has saved us from sin and everlasting death by His Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. He lives with us in the Church. He is God-with-us, teaching us the truth of Sacred Doctrine, manifesting the eternal beauty of the truth in the Sacred Liturgy, and imparting the grace for the goodness of a holy life, of a life lived according to the truth.
As we prepare to celebrate with inexpressible joy the Coming of the Lord at His Birth of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, we long to know Him more fully as He teaches us in the Church. We long to love Him more ardently as He comes to us in the Sacraments, and we long to serve Him more generously as He bids us to follow Him, denying ourselves and taking up, with Him, the cross of pure and selfless love. We long for His ever fuller coming into our lives. Saint Paul, reflecting on the approaching end of his earthly pilgrimage, assures us that the Lord has prepared “a crown of righteousness” for “all who have loved his appearing.”
Our longing for the Lord in our lives is most wonderfully fulfilled in the offering of the Holy Mass, for Christ descends to the altar of sacrifice to make sacramentally present His Sacrifice of Calvary, pouring forth into our hearts from His glorious-pierced Heart the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Eucharistic Sacrifice is the Bread of Heaven – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ – given to us for our spiritual healing and strength.
The Eucharistic Sacrifice is the form of our daily living, dying to sin and living in ever greater love of God and our neighbor. Because we have come to life in Christ through Baptism and are nourished with the Body of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, our daily life, no matter how ordinary it may seem, is indeed extraordinary. It is vigilant longing for the Lord’s coming by lending our hearts and hands to Him in all our thoughts and words and deeds. It is longing for His Final Coming by being prepared, at every moment, to welcome Him at His Coming, according to Our Lord’s own instruction: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks.” By our daily attention to sound doctrine, by our daily prayer and devotion, and our regular reception of the Sacraments, and by our vigilance in following sound discipline and morals, Our Lord blesses abundantly, with grace from Heaven, our daily life on earth.
Pope Saint John Paul II, commenting on the teaching on holiness of life in the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, reminded us that “this ideal of perfection must not be misunderstood as if it involved some kind of extraordinary existence, possible only for a few ‘uncommon heroes’ of holiness.” Pope John Paul II taught us the extraordinary nature of our ordinary life, because it is lived in Christ and, therefore, produces in us the incomparable beauty of holiness. He declared:
The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual. I thank the Lord that in these years he has enabled me to beatify and canonize a large number of Christians, and among them many lay people who attained holiness in the most ordinary circumstances of life. The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction.
Seeing in us the daily conversion of life by which we strive to meet the high standard of holiness, the “high standard of ordinary Christian living,” our brothers and sisters will discover the great mystery of their own ordinary life in which God daily showers upon them His ceaseless and immeasurable love, calling them to holiness of life in Christ, His only-begotten Son. Clearly, the “mending of the Christian fabric of society” can only come about by the remaking of “the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community,” beginning with the individual in his family, at home.
Regarding divine grace at work in our souls the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:
Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies us and sanctifies us. But grace also includes the gifts that the Spirit grants us to associate us with his work, to enable us to collaborate in the salvation of others and in the growth of the Body of Christ, the Church.
Just as the Blessed Virgin Mary signified her gift of self to her Divine Son in the work of the Redemption with her words to the Archangel Gabriel, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” so Our Lord has taught us to pray to God the Father:
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.”
Christ Who lives in us pours forth without cease and without measure the sevenfold gift of the Holy Spirit from His Most Sacred Heart into our hearts, so that we can fulfill His command to us in the Sermon on the Mount: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In the Collect of today’s Holy Mass, we have prayed: “O God, who didst will that Thy Word should take flesh, at the message of an angel, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grant to us Thy supplicants, that we who believe her to be truly the Mother of God may be helped by her intercession with Thee.” Rejoicing in the all-loving care of the Virgin Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us now lift up our hearts, one with her Immaculate Heart, to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus as He makes sacramentally present His Sacrifice on Calvary. May our hearts, resting securely in His Most Sacred Heart, never cease to pray: “Come Lord Jesus!”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE
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