Sermon of Bishop Peter Bürcher 3rd Sunday of Advent 2009

Feast of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe Mary Mother of Europe

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today is December 12, 2009. It is the third Sunday of Advent and we are also remembering Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe and Mary, Mother of Europe. I would also like to invite you to a journey. It is a beautiful and a graceful journey: really a pilgrimage. We go from Reykjavík to Nazareth, Rome, Trent, Mexico, Guadalajara, Jerusalem and then by Freiburg back to Europe, from the West (Gibraltar) to the East (Berezniki) and then from South (Gnadenweiler) back to Reykjavík in the North. What a journey! It is free of charge... you only have to listen.

The deliverance from sin began in the “yes” of Mary of Nazareth. It is the Immaculate Conception of Mary which opened the way to salvation for all Christians. Pope Benedict XVI pointed this out in his message this week at the Angelus-prayer in Rome.

The feast is based on a long tradition in the Church. Already in the Middle ages and then at the Council of Trent, Mother of God was time and time again declared free of the sins into which every man is born. How else could she have taken part in the work of redemption? However this exemption from sin does not originate in Mary herself, but it is given to her in advance by God in Jesus, so that she could become Mother of God.

“In the simplicity of the house of Nazareth lives the ‘holy rest’ of Israel”, the Pope said, “from where God will arouse his people again, like a young tree, which spreads its branches over the whole world and offers all humanity the good fruit of salvation. In contrast to Adam and Eve Mary was obedient to the will of God, with the whole of her being she proclaims “yes” and gives herself totally to the divine plan. She is the new Eve, the true Mother of all living people, of all those who receive new life through the belief in Christ.

Today is December 12, 2009. On December 12, 1531, in Mexico, Juan Diego, who recently had converted to the Catholic faith and had shortly before been baptized, was on his way to Tlatelolco to fetch a priest for his sick uncle, who wished to go to confession. He took another path to get into town since he didn’t want to be detained by the “Lady”. But she met him anyway and Juan Diego told her what had happened to his uncle. She told him not to worry about his uncle, he was already getting better.

Reassured by those words Juan Diego fulfilled the wish of Virgin Mary and went to the top of the hill where he – in accordance with wish of the bishop – picked fresh roses. Virgin Mary rearranged the flowers with her own hands and put them into his gown. After that Juan went to see the bishop. Kneeling, he told him about the wish of Virgin Mary and opened up his gown in front of him so that the roses fell to the floor. Suddenly a picture of the everlasting Virgin Mother of God appeared on his gown. The bishop and all those present saw this beautiful and wonderful picture, which has existed to this day. Juan Diego was canonized in 2002.

“Like the disciples gathered around Mary after the ascension of our Lord to heaven” (Acts 1, 12-14), “so also the nations of Europe are invited to gather around Mary and under her protection to follow the road of the pilgrimage of faith to the promised destinatio”, recently the Archbishop of Freiburg and the president of the German Bishops’ Conference wrote to me. “This invitation is offered precisely today by “Mary, Mother of Europe” – from her shrines in Gibraltar, Gnadenweiler and Berezniki. Those shrines offer a home to the people that come to her, and give them courage and strength to follow in the footsteps of Christ. They build bridges from the West (Gibraltar) to the East (Berezniki) and soon – God willing – also from the South (Gnadenweiler) to the North (Iceland). And they make the sign of the cross over Europe – the sign of salvation and of new life, the sign of hope and unity beyond death. The shrines of the Mother of God – “Mary, Mother of Europe” – are more than places of meditation and prayer. They are a promise for Europe, the Western World, and point to the powers from which it has grown and lived. It is Mary who wants to unite the nations of Europe and will succeed in doing so. Her shrines are places of blessing and hope for our continent. May the peoples of Europe under the protection of the Mother of God grow ever more in faith, hope and charity and get ever closer under her protection.

Today is December 12, 2009. And we are again in Reykjavík. My beloved, our pilgrimage ends here and now with a grace-filled news. The Archabbot of St. Martin in Beuron, Theodor Hogg OSB, wrote to me on the feast of St. Martin: “Father Notker, a monk in our monastery, who since 1986 has been assigned to the pastoral care of our neighbouring parishes Bärenthal and Hausen im Tal, a few years ago built a chapel, which he called “Mary, Mother of Europe” on the terrain of Bärenthal-parish, in a part of the community called “Gnadenweiler”. This confrère was worried by the thought that our Christian faith in Europe was in grave danger. His goal was to counteract this through a network of prayer-sites. In this way he wants to help with the “new evangelization” in our part of the world. Father Notker has communicated with the bishop of Gibraltar and a Catholic priest of Russia in order to advance this matter. I wish him and his assistants a good journey and that their endeavour be fruitful. May the prayer site “Mary, Mother of Europe” be established in Iceland and become a place of blessing for the fruitful renewal and strengthening of the Christian faith and life in our countries”. Father Notker came to Reykjavík with the mayor of Beuron and a friendly Swabian delegation. I have received their request with joy and gratitude. “The fourfold prayer-community,” Father Notker wrote, “has existed since Saturday, the 21st of November 2009, with the “Fiat” of the bishop, which is a seed for the building of a sanctuary of “Mary, Mother of Europe” on Icelandic soil. In winter the wheat grows”.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, the time of prayer has arrived. The “New Evangelization” shall also start in Iceland. You are all heartily invited to take part through your deeds and prayers! Our Bishop’s Chapel in Reykjavik is from today, December 12, 2009, dedicated to “Mary, Mother of Europe”. Fiat!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will!” Amen