English Español Mary Immaculate
Catholic Church / Pacoima, CA


Conversion is a serious, profound and total change which encompasses the entire person. It is a change of mindset, an interior change, a change of interior attitudes which leads us to also transform our entire exterior life. Conversion entails the ongoing mastery on holding our thoughts captive.


“From shadows and symbols to the truth,” (ex umbris et imaginibus in veritatem): This was the personal motto of John Henry Newman (1801-1890). Since ancient times Christian writers have used this expression, and others like it, to place Jesus in relation to the prophets who went before him. In him there is a coming out into the light after the long night of darkness and half-light; he is “the loving-kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high” (Lk 1:78).

But the coming of this Light is a more precise event than dawn. The birth of Jesus, though we may not know its precise hour or date or even its year, is an historical event, and so it is precise in principle. Luke seems insistent on pinning it down, in the cumbersome way that people dated events in the ancient world: “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, etc.” This insistence on real history sets our faith in contrast with some other profound faiths. In the Rig-Veda, for example, you read:

Like a youthful maiden,
Dawn shines brightly forth,
Stirring to motion every living creature. Divine Fire was kindled for human use;
Dawn created light, driving away the dark.

John’s gospel says, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world” (1:9), but it is Luke’s gospel in particular that paints in the humble details of Christ’s birth. And it is Luke’s gospel that we are reading on the Sundays of Advent this year.

Light can be contemplated for itself, but its practical purpose is to illuminate a path. Ultimately it is “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Lk 1:79). As members of Christ’s body, the Church, we are living through a time of great crisis. The road ahead often looks dark and frightening. We don’t know what it will be like in another generation, or even in another decade. We need light, which gives us courage to move in dark times. Many seem discouraged. But that light is guaranteed. Christ promised to be always with us. “I will not leave you orphaned” (Jn 14:18). He did not promise that everything would be clear and easy. Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP often notes that the Church was born in crisis (the death of Jesus was a shocking crisis for the disciples); from the earliest times it has known one crisis after another; so in living with crisis, he says, “we are being faithful to tradition!”

We use the expression “losing one’s faith”. It would be good if we realised that losing one’s hope is just as serious a matter as losing one’s faith and losing one’s love.

Mass Readings

First Reading

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor: you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship. Up, Jerusalem! stand upon the heights; look to the east and see your children gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God. Led away on foot by their enemies they left you: but God will bring them back to you borne aloft in glory as on royal thrones. For God has commanded that every lofty mountain be made low, and that the age-old depths and gorges be filled to level ground, that Israel may advance secure in the glory of God. The forests and every fragrant kind of tree have overshadowed Israel at God’s command; for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.

Responsorial Psalm

R. (3) The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing. R/
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed. R/
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those who sow in tears shall reap rejoicing. R/
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves. R/
— Psalms 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

Second Reading

Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
— Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11


In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert. John went throughout the whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”
— Luke 3:1-6