You are the highest honor of our race." (Judith 15:9)

Today we celebrate the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Saint Juan Diego in 1531 under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

With two major Marian feasts this week, the Church is sending us an important memo this Advent season: if you want to know the Jesus who comes at Christmas, know his mother.

Traditional piety puts it this way: to Jesus through Mary.

The audacity of the Christian faith is embodied in her very flesh. In the time before Jesus's birth, the expectation of the Messiah was very strong in Israel. The people expected a hero who would at last set the people free from every form of moral and political slavery.

Instead of sending a military hero from the heavens, God sent Jesus, a child to be born of a fourteen year old, unwed woman.

This act alone was scandalous: how could the son of God be born to an unwed, middle class girl from Nazareth?

The liberator of the Jewish people was to come from Jerusalem, not from some town far from the cultural and political centers of earthly power.

No one would ever have imagined that the Messiah could be born of a humble girl like Mary, the betrothed of a good and faithful man, Joseph. Nor would she herself have ever thought of it, and yet in her heart the expectation of the Savior was so great, her faith and hope were so firm, that he was able to find in her a worthy and holy mother.

In today's Gospel, Mary says "yes" to the God who surprises. How can we do the same today as we reach the halfway point to Christmas?