Reflection for Saturday, December 7, 2002: Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemnity.

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Hauser, Dick, S.J.
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"At the sight of the crowds, Jesus' heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd." Always with pity and compassion does Jesus look upon human suffering.||And so also does God the Holy One of Israel, "O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, no more will you weep; he will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears he will answer you."|We have a God who cares for us, like a shepherd cares for sheep; a God who always responds to us when we come humbly in need.|But sadly many of us never experience this tender care. We do not allow ourselves to be open and cared for by our God. Our individualistic Western culture tells us we ought to be totally self-sufficient and not dependent on anyone -- not even on God! Our culture conditions us to think it's demeaning to be dependent on one another -- and on God!|And yet both Old and New Testaments present the Lord to us as redeemer, helper, savior, friend, shepherd.|I've come to believe we reach maturity as Christians only when in prayer we've come to the Lord in dire need and allowed the Lord to strengthen and guide us. Then as we "walk in our valleys of darkness" we personally experience our shepherd's presence. Then only can we fully savor the power of God to transform us even in suffering, just as it transformed Jesus.|Saint Ambrose (339-397) led the church of Milan, Italy, as bishop during a tumultuous time when growing numbers of Christians were adhering to the Arian heresy and when the emperor himself was demanding that Christian churches be ceded to the Arians. Like every saint I know, the catalyst for Ambrose's sanctity was his utter dependence on the Lord for guidance and strength as he "walked through his valley of darkness."
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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