When I was little, I really wanted piano lessons. My parents said I could have them when they could find a piano and a teacher we could afford. They kept their promise, but it took a lot longer than I would have liked. First, we found a used piano in the classified ads (which was going cheap because someone had done a very bad job trying to refinish it), and then we found a teacher (still a high school student herself) who charged very little. And then, I got piano lessons!
In the first reading for today, there is an amazing, breathtaking promise by God. It comes about, not because King David asks for it, but simply because God decides to make it.
The reading starts with David proposing to build a house for God. He wants to build a beautiful temple for God to dwell in, instead of the tent that is still being used, even though the people have settled, and David is living in a palace in Jerusalem.
But God sends a message to David, saying, in effect, “You want to build me a house? I’m the one who took you from being a shepherd and made you king. I fought your enemies and made you famous.” And then he makes this promise: “I will establish a house for you.” And the breathtaking part: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Samuel 7:16).
So, did God keep this promise he made to David? It seemed for a while that he had not. Yes, David’s son Solomon did inherit the throne from his father, and there were kings descended from David for a period of time. But the dynasty of David went into decline for generations. It didn’t seem that there was anyone on his “throne.”
But in today’s Gospel we see that he did indeed keep it! The first hint is at the beginning, in the description of who the angel Gabriel is sent to. Before it mentions Mary’s name, she is described as: “a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph of the house of David” (Luke 1:26). And then, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that her son will be the Son of God, and “the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David” (Luke 1:32).
There are other references to Jesus as the Son of David, such as when the blind man calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47). And when the crowds shout, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” when Jesus enters Jerusalem before his Passion.
Yes, it took a while, but God sent his Son as the fulfillment of his promise to David thousands of years ago. On Christmas, we will celebrate that coming and thank God once again for Jesus, whose kingdom is forever.
We’re nearing the end of the Advent days of waiting. Soon it will be Christmas Eve. A busy night. Christmas trees and gifts and Christmas Eve dinners. Christmas family traditions, decorating, preparation for Christmas Day cooking. Christmas cookies, and wrapped Christmas gifts. Excited children trying to sleep so Santa can bring presents to good boys and girls….
Advent has been a busy December month of preparation for Christmas. On the road yesterday, I offered praise for the love that has warmed each choice, each gift, each effort, each sacrifice, each desire to bring happiness in the hearts of holiday shoppers and Christmas family planners.
All these years as we each turn the pages of the calendar Christmas after Christmas, our busyness makes us think that Christmas is something we bring about, something we produce, something we give each other, something we do for others or for God.
The ways of God, however, are always an unexpected reversal. We take our cue from this morning’s Gospel. Mary could have helped her cousin Elizabeth with the attitude that she was giving something, providing much needed assistance, bestowing kindness on her elderly cousin. She was giving the gift. Instead, as she proclaimed in her song of praise the Magnificat, Mary knew that it was the Lord, who was the Giver of all gifts, who had done great things in her. In awe at the unfolding mystery of God’s gift, Mary put herself at the service of all God had planned. A humble joy at being a part of something so magnificent: the birth of John the Baptist to her elderly cousin who had been barren, a birth announced by an angel to her husband Zechariah, a birth of a boy that would run before the Dawn and herald the coming of the Messiah…her Child.
This is Mary’s way of putting herself at God’s disposition. Even when it came time to give birth to her own Child who would sit on the Throne of David forever, she makes no attempt to orchestrate the perfect situation for his birth. She has no pretense of greatness for having said yes to the angel Gabriel and having given her body and soul as the home of God’s Son for nine months. She is waiting, watching, listening, serving, letting him lead. She lets Jesus give the gift.
Marian eyes. Have her eyes in these days as Advent melts into Christmas joy. Eyes that look to see what Jesus is accomplishing right in front of you. Eyes that transmit faith. Eyes that offer love and understanding. Eyes that can still experience wonder at the mystery of the birth of God in our midst, saving us.
Mary left behind her planned preparation for the birth of her baby, for the uncomfortable and probably dangerous trip to Bethlehem, trusting that God had a plan. She says to me, don’t hold too tightly onto your preparations and expectations. You will be called to your unexpected Bethlehem, and it is there that you will receive the gift of Jesus.
Rest from all the work you’ve done now. Christmas is here and it will be what it will be. Let Jesus in and see what he will do within you and through you.
My heart cries out with Mary: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
Advent Reflections from both Dynamic Catholic and Diocesan (the company that prints our bulletin and provides us with our APP) will be published on this site daily throughout the season. Please scroll down the page to view each day’s reflection.
One Thanksgiving when I was a child, our family prepared food at the local homeless shelter. I’ll never forget the smiles on the faces of the workers as well as the recipients. In spite of the hard work put into preparing the meal, the genuine act of love and care filled the room with joy. Those who gave and those who received were united in communion.
I reflect on that day quite frequently and Advent has been the perfect time for my optimistic outlook on the world to shine as brightly as that star in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. No matter how dark and negative the world may seem at times, no matter how many news stories we see about death, heartache, and pain, and no matter how many people hated Star Wars, there is something innate in the human person that makes us want to give and brings us joy when we do so.
This is not something unique only to the Christian or to the person who we would say has a high moral standard. It is a universal that comes from so deep within that one might even say it is not so much a characteristic of the person as much as it is the person itself. Man (male and female) is a gift. The Encyclical of the Catholic Church, Gaudium Et Spes, makes the claim that “man cannot fully find himself, except through a sincere gift of himself.”
This is a bold statement; that we cannot even begin to understand who we are unless we give of ourselves. Why is that? Well, the easy answer is that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This is a fact that has been watered down to meaning that we should have a positive self-image. That is part of it but really sit with this reality for a second. God creates man in His image to be with Him forever, man turns his back on God, God becomes his creation so that His creation can be reunited with Him forever. Talk about the ultimate gift.
And precisely because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is perfect gift, we truly find ourselves when we make a genuine gift. Gift transcends, every time, the physical world into the supernatural.
In one of our earlier Advent blogs, Paul Fahey reflected on “how God became man so that man might become God.” This doctrine of the Church is known as divinization, where we will share intimately in the divine nature of God when we reach heaven. St. John Paul II said,
“Divinization means participation in the inner life of God himself. In this state penetration and permeation of what is essentially human with what is essentially divine will then reach its peak, so that the life of the human spirit will reach a fullness that was absolutely inaccessible to it before.”
This is the destiny of every human person, to be intimately united with the divine nature of God. But this is not just some abstract idea or something to look forward to. We can begin, so to speak, to enter into this reality right now. Every act of gift imitates the Divine because the Divine is the origin of the gift.
During this time of Advent, we reflect on the most beautiful gift of all, the incarnation of the Word. St. John Paul II said, “Because of the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door.” These are some rich words with deep meaning. This essentially means that because God became man, we can make the invisible (God), visible (tangible), through the visible (the gift of ourselves).
This is indeed reason to rejoice. So this Christmas season, if you are frustrated with the cashier at the busy store you are shopping at, having to stomach an awkward family reunion, or sad that you may not be able to see family or friends, think of one way you can be a gift. Don’t finish reading this blog without a change. Let this be a moment of transcendence. You may just find that it brings you immense joy. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!
In recent years Advent has started to mean something more to me. In the past, Advent was just a time for lighting candles and singing “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel”. However, that changed one year when I was in spiritual direction and the Priest said to me, “John Paul my prayer for you is that you allow the incarnate Love into your heart this advent.”
Since that spiritual direction much has changed. I realized that advent is not so much about what I am preparing to do, but what Christ is preparing to do in me. God loves to prepare us in unexpected ways and this is exactly what the visitation shows. Fulton Sheen writes in his book The Worlds First love:
” If we ever sat down to write out what we would expect the Infinite God to do, certainly the last thing we would expect would be to see Him imprisoned in a carnal ciborium for nine months; and the next to last thing we would expect is that the ‘greatest man ever born of women’ while yet in his mother’s womb, would salute the yet imprisoned God-man. But this is precisely what took place in the Visitation.”
Throughout the entire bible God surprises humanity with the unexpected. God surprised Mary with a Child while remaining a virgin, and adds to this surprise by her cousin Elizabeth who is way past the child baring age and now bares a Child.
During the Advent season God is not asking us to expect the bare minimum. God wants us to open our hearts to receive more then we could ever dream. God wants to fill our hearts with so much that they flow over, and like Mary, we go out in haste to bring Jesus to others.
Before writing this blog, I asked my mother what she would write. She responded with, “well its nothing much, or very profound but I wrote something a long time ago.” This is what she wrote:
“The stable is empty awaiting the fulfillment of the Word incarnate.
Cold, dark, a place fit for sheltering the creatures of the field who labor.
No more, no less then they need is this stable.
Yet on that night chosen by God, that stable became a palace fit for a King.
Nothing looked different but His very presence changed the dark, cold stable.
Never to be the same nor would our hearts.
He was in the baby, some did not recognize Him. He is in the Eucharist and some do not recognize Him.
Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.
He knows us well and recognizes us at our poorest.”
In a Gospel that highlights the beauty of Motherhood, it is only fitting that my own Mother would add such a profound insight to the Birth of our Lord Jesus. What she wrote is the condition of our souls when we receive our Savior, the Infinite God. This advent season God sees how poor we are, and He loves us. He sees how broken we are, and He loves us, He sees what we fail to become by ourselves and He loves us. Allow God to break into the stable which is your heart. Allow God to do the unexpected in your heart this Advent.
Last week my oldest son turned five. I remember five years ago it hit me just how totally helpless babies are. I was terrified when we were being discharged from the hospital because somehow those crazy nurses trusted me to take care of this infant that couldn’t even lift his own head. Christmas had a special significance for me that year. The idea that God himself would become a human baby was ridiculous, the God that time itself worships as its Creator became something as totally powerless as an infant. What a truly incredible thing to believe.
Why would God do this? Why would he humiliate himself by becoming one of us?
The answer that our Catholic faith gives us is so extraordinary it’s scandalous. St. Thomas Aquinas summed it up this way, “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” Or, as St. Athanasius’ put it, “God became man so that we might become God.”
See, we are all broken in some way; we are all truly helpless in the face of the challenges in our life. For some of us this helplessness is always before us and for others it may only present itself when something threatens our life or the life of a loved one to betray our powerlessness, our limitations, our finitude. For some this brokenness may be public, on display for all to see, a physical disability or illness that frames one’s whole life. Or some of us have hidden struggles, addictions, sexual disorders, loneliness, burdens unseen by others that we feel left to carry alone. And some of this brokenness may be spiritual, a lack of trust in God’s goodness that paralyzes us in fear or a perfectionism that desperately seeks the approval of others in order to feel valued.
But God entered into this helplessness, he became one of us so that we may become like Him. Yes, Jesus came to heal us of our brokenness and save us from our sins, but that’s not the end of the story. St. Peter said that Jesus came so that we may become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt: 1:4). God didn’t come just to restore us, he came to make us divine! He didn’t just save us from our sins, he saved us for eternal life. He came to bridge the gap between God and man so that we could participate in the very life of the Holy Trinity.
God meets us where we are at, he comes to us in our brokenness, he enters into our helplessness to draw us to himself. We don’t believe in a God who’s wrath needed to be satiated by the blood of his Son, we believe in a God who so desperately loves us and wants us to share in his own divine life that he would descend to our level and pay the debt of sin that we could not pay ourselves.
We encounter this transformative love of God most powerfully during the liturgy. Next time you go to Mass, especially as you celebrate the Christmas liturgy, pay attention to the words the priest says at the altar as he mixes the water and wine, “May we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” Bring your brokenness, your sins, and your wounds to the altar and let the Lord take your helplessness upon himself and not just heal your wounded nature, but transform it into something divine.
A few things have kept coming to me during my prayer with today’s readings. “Do not be afraid; do not fear” and Joy; praise and glory, rejoice, Emmanuel.
In both readings an angel of the Lord appears announcing the birth of a son. In the Gospel of Luke 1:5-25 the angel says “Do not be afraid, Zechariah”, yet he is fearful, even as he is ministering incense in the temple with the congregation outside praying. Fear is his reaction, disbelief, lack of comprehension, and he questions the angel. Zechariah is then struck mute by Gabriel.
God, his messengers, and Jesus say throughout the bible, ‘Do not be afraid’, 365 times. One time for each day of the Gregorian calendar year. There is Grace in abundance from God, to not fear. I recently heard the acronym, FOMO: the fear of missing out or not being included in an enjoyable activity that others are experiencing. I clearly missed out on its first usage (which dates back to 2004 and is in the dictionary). Because of Zechariah’s fear of Gabriel, FOMO as he did not see the connection when Gabriel says ’your prayers have been heard’, he was muted and subjected to missing out. He was not able to talk to his wife during her unexpected pregnancy. He missed out in so many ways.
Fear is one of the bigger stumbling blocks between me and the Lord. Fear of giving up control (asking for help on a project or in a specific area of my life), not doing or saying the ‘right’ thing. I have to remind myself constantly, that fear keeps me from the embrace and love of God. One of my favorite advent hymns is ‘O Come, O Come, Emmanuel’. Emmanuel means ‘God is with us’. During the darkness in our lives, we need to be reminded that He is, at all times, with us. Listen to the hymn by Casting Crowns or by The Piano Guys. Pray with the lyrics.
Zechariah is unable to speak again until he is asked to name the babe. He names the child ‘John’ which is against tradition (Lk:1-63-67) and extols the greatness of God (Lk 1:68-79). In fact, the Canticle of Zechariah is said daily by all who pray the morning office of the Liturgy of the Hours.
As a Secular Franciscan I am called to live my life according to the The Rule of St. Francis. It states in article 4: ‘The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of St. Francis of Assisi who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.’
Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.
Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to gospel.
I find myself living out the gospel and the responsorial psalm of today (Ps 71:8) ‘My mouth shall be filled with your praise, shall sing your glory every day.’ Just like Zechariah, I am to let others know that the Lord is with us, in each and every moment of the day. I can proclaim the greatness of the Lord because He has visited us through the Holy Spirit, through the Word, in the Eucharist, in the image of God, and through our neighbors and creation. I need to be a living example of God’s love to the world around me; in all corners and situations. Emmanuel, God is with us!
Michael Card has a beautiful rendition of Emmanuel
Shalom (the peace of God’s kingdom be with you) and Amen!
This Gospel is the Annunciation to Joseph. We are dealing with the greatest mystery to ever happen on earth: the Incarnation of the Lord, that God became a man. Before this mystery, we have to put aside our human way of thinking and ponder the mystery of God. The most common interpretation of this passage is that Joseph thought that Mary was at fault in some way. Knowing her goodness, he didn’t know what to make of it and tried to protect her. But there is another interpretation, less commonly held, but well grounded in the text. This ancient tradition is found in the writings of some Fathers and Doctors of the Church* and brings out the greatness and holiness of Saint Joseph.
Joseph was a “just” (dikaios) man. While that might suggest someone who observed the Law, it’s more than that. It means that a person is just before God, like the great saints of the Old Testament, who loved God and followed his will. This attitude of being just before God is expressed in a holy fear before the Lord, a reverence before the mystery. When Moses saw the burning bush and heard God say, “the place on which you are standing is holy ground . . . “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:5-6). So too the prophet Isaiah, when he saw the Lord, cried out, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips…yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is 6:5) Then the Lord cleansed him and sent him on his prophetic mission.
Joseph received a mission in his Annunciation. Although the way this Gospel is translated seems to imply something negative, it can be translated as to mean that Joseph felt himself unworthy to reveal the mystery worked in Mary, so he decided to secretly separate himself from her. Perhaps Mary told him what happened. Or maybe the Holy Spirit enlightened him so that he knew that God was at work in Mary.
Saint Thomas Aquinas held this opinion: “Joseph was minded to put away the Blessed Virgin not because he suspected her of fornication, but because in reverence for her sanctity, he feared to cohabit with her” (Summa Th., Supplement, q. 62, article 3, reply 4). Saint Bernard also testifies: “Joseph’s reason was the same as Peter’s when he said, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,’ and that of the centurion when he exclaimed, ‘I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.’ Joseph looked on himself as a sinner and as unworthy to entertain one in whom he beheld a superhuman dignity. He beheld with awe in the Virgin-Mother a certain sign of the Divine Presence” (Homily, Super missus est, II, 14).
The angel tells Joseph “do not be afraid,” just as Gabriel said to Mary, and just as the Lord told so many holy people in Israel. The angel tells Joseph that even though he is before this tremendous mystery of God and rightly fears his own unworthiness, he should not be afraid to enter into the mystery. This interpretation puts Joseph squarely in the line of the great saints in the history of Israel. Just as God called Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and all the others, despite their human frailties, God called Joseph to play an important part in the mystery of the Incarnation. With reverence for the mystery of God, Joseph said yes. He “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
Each of us also has a mission from God, a role to play in the great mystery of Jesus Christ and his Church. We may feel ourselves unworthy–why would God call me? But like Joseph, we too can respond with a heartfelt yes. Whatever our vocation, God calls us and can work through us to spread the Gospel and witness to Jesus. That is the mystery of Advent and Christmas.
Saint Joseph, pray for us, that like you we too may respond with joy to the Lord’s call.
I seem to remember my teachers in grade school using this line periodically: “We’re going to do something different today!” they would say. Whatever we did usually didn’t seem all that different, really, but I thought of this when reading today’s Gospel for the Third Sunday of Advent.
John the Baptist is responding to those who ask him, “Who are you?” After definitively establishing that he is not the Christ, they follow up with other likely possibilities, and he responds by saying that he is neither Elijah nor the Prophet. When they persist in asking for some kind of identification, he says he is something different—he is a “voice.” John the Baptist quotes Isaiah the prophet (from last Sunday’s reading), saying, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23).
It’s a little puzzling that John the Baptist does not want to be identified as Elijah or the prophet, since, in another place, Jesus affirms that he is both of those things. (See Matthew 17: 11–13, and 11:19.) But I think John is trying to do here with his questioners what my teachers were trying to do with my class. It’s an attempt to spark expectation, interest, and openness. The idea that we are about to encounter something new and different can wake us up enough to pay attention. John brushes away what they expect and think they know about, to offer something different, something they aren’t prepared for. “No, I’m not what you think, what you are assuming I will be, what you already have a sufficient understanding of. I am someone unexpected and I will do unexpected things. So, listen! Pay attention!” This is how he woke up the people to prepare the way for Jesus.
This is what he is saying to us, too—we who may assume we know how the rest of our Advent is going to unfold. There are things we usually do, lots of work to get done, people things, etc. to deal with. But God waits to shake up our routine and inject something new and different into our lives. He actually tries to do this constantly, but when we have no expectation that anything will be different, how can he change things? And if we are not open to his grace, how can he work in us and through us in the world around us?
So, as the rest of Advent goes on, let’s be attentive to how God is looking at us, waiting to see a spark of interest and openness, waiting to see our reaction when we hear him say, “Let’s do something different today!”
It all began quite spontaneously, unintentionally. One of those things that settle on you like a gentle night or a soft dew. Peace. Possibility.
We sit there a long while, holding hands, our fingers curled together protectively, vulnerably. Understanding communicated through simple gestures. I look at her and ask Jesus: “Jesus, will you show me how you are in this my sister, my sister waiting for you to come.”
In the evening I discover her waiting quietly, as the nurse prepares her supper. She is alone. I slip into a chair beside her and reach quietly for her hand. She says something I can’t understand, but I know she is speaking to me.
“Jesus, how are you within my sister, my sister who is waiting for you to come?”
I close my eyes and wait for Jesus to guide me to whatever he wishes me to see. I sense a brilliance, a happiness. The joy of God who is putting the finishing touches on a brilliant gem that gives him immense pleasure.
When I’m in a hurry, too busy to sit for 30 minutes to hold Sister’s hand while she eats, I can’t see HIS face. When I’m too efficient to notice someone who can’t follow my train of thought, too important to do the little services or hear the whispered secrets, I miss HIS eyes.
In these days we are very near Christmas. We are looking forward to seeing Jesus in nativity sets and Christmas movies and in Christmas liturgies, and all this is good. But let us not miss HIM where he is now, still in the Bethlehem of our lives, in the poverty of our need, for after all that is what Jesus took on himself when he came to earth.
Jesus has come, and he has stayed. He is here and his face is wherever there is human sorrow and joy. See him, and Christmas is every day.
My heart cries out with the words of today’s liturgy: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
O shepherd of Israel, hearken, From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth. Rouse your power.
Give us new life, and we will call upon your name. (Ps 80: 2-3, 19)
After several years of destructive behavior because of his addiction to drugs, a man changed his life. He went to 12-step meetings. He came back to the Church. He made amends to those he had hurt and reconciled with his estranged wife. When she’d left him she’d complained bitterly of his addiction: how it used up their money, hurt their children, and caused her to lose more than one job. But now, with her husband clean and sober, she found other things to complain about: he was out a lot at fellowship meetings, he was rigid about his attendance at Mass every Sunday, he constantly bought the wrong items at the store. One is left wondering if there were anything that could please her about her husband.
We all have expectations that we want other people to live up to, don’t we? From small details like putting the cap back on the toothpaste to major decisions like choosing how to raise a family, we have a strong sense of what the world “should” be like and how people “should” act. And when they don’t live up to our requirements—as inevitably happens—we complain.
Jesus knew about that tendency, and he talks about it in today’s Gospel reading. John the Baptist didn’t eat or drink, so people said he was possessed. Then Jesus came and he did eat, and he did drink, and so then they said he was a glutton and a drunkard. Wait—what? Is there anything that would have pleased the people? Any behavior they would have found acceptable?
As I said, some people are never happy.
Advent is one of the “quiet times” of the Church’s liturgical cycle. It is a time of reflection. As we prepare for the drama that unfolds every year, the coming of the Christ Child, the beginning of a new life and a new way of life, we’re asked to be mindful about what we’re doing and thinking and being.
It’s a challenge, since the commercial side of the holiday is bombarding us daily with jingle bells and cheerful Santas and the pressure to buy more, spend more, party more; it takes an effort to block all that out and be mindful of putting Jesus first. And still that’s what the Church asks of us—and more.
Because Advent is, along with Lent, a penitential season. Just as the sacrament of the Mass is preceded by the sacrament of confession, so too is the season of the Lord’s birth preceded by a season of reconciliation. Many people take this as a sign to give something up, usually something like chocolate or a favorite TV show. But today’s Gospel reading calls us to something a little deeper.
What if, this Advent, we gave up judging others?
That’s a tough one, isn’t it? From the way people dress to the way they talk or raise their kids; from their table manners to what they do on a Saturday night, we are really, really good at making judgments. People who disagree with us politically are evil. People who don’t recycle are lazy and uncaring. People on public assistance should just get a job.
There was a backstory to the man who struggled with addiction. There’s a backstory to everyone’s life-decisions, and we generally don’t know those stories, don’t know the path they took to arrive at this moment when we meet them and decide they’re doing it wrong. Over and over again the words of scripture urge us to not judge others, but we blithely ignore them and carry on. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves. Maybe it’s just fun to feel superior to someone else. But none of it is anything that we’re called, as Catholics, to be or to do.
So here’s a challenge for today—and for every day this Advent. Let’s give it up to God, this unholy satisfaction of judging other people. Let’s try to nip those thoughts in the bud. Let’s not be part of the generation that called John the Baptist possessed and called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard. Let’s decide to do better, to be better, than that.
Jesus is coming. This year, let’s be more intentional about our preparation. Let’s do something that will bring a smile to the Christ Child’s face.
San Juan de la Cruz, a Spanish Carmelite priest and monk of the 16th century, so perfectly incarnated that element in Christianity we call mystical that, on this day, we celebrate him not only as a Saint but also as a Doctor of the Church.
The eloquence and beauty of his writings, especially his poetry, are considered to be the ideal by which all else is measured within the Spanish language. It is even rumored that Pope Saint John Paul II learned Spanish with the primary goal of attaining the ability to read Saint John’s works.
A man whose very life is summed up by his most famous work, La Noche Oscura del Alma or The Dark Night of the Soul, he aptly entered into his glorious heavenly reward during this season in which the whole world prepares and waits to enter from the darkness of Christ-less-ness into the light of Christmas, Emanuel, God is with us.
It is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.” The Father has created us for union with himself. His will longs for us to enter into the divine life he offers, a life of perfect love. Yet, we find ourselves in a world totally darkened by sin and its effects, effects that all of us have fully experienced in our lives and in the lives of those we love. What do we make of this darkness? What is our response to be?
We are called to follow after the way of the Father’s own Son, Jesus Christ: willingly walking in the Father’s will, even unto the depths of the most profound darkness, without fear, without anxiety, and with hearts full of faith, hope, and love. This is a task impossible for human beings, yes, but not for God. He will help us! His grace is sufficient, his power made perfect in weakness. He is the one who leads us, through the mysteries of his life he has come to be with us even now, and he has promised to bring us to himself for all eternity if we hold fast to our confession: JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.
“Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.” – words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego on Mount Tepeyac in 1531.
These words came at a time when Juan was greatly distressed about his sick uncle. Rather than return to Tepeyac as instructed by Our Lady the day before, Juan took matters into his own hands and began in haste to find a priest to care for his uncle. On the road, Our Lady appeared and asked Juan what was wrong. He explained, saying he would return after he found a priest to care for his uncle. How loving and reassuring are Mary’s words then… and now.
Our Lord Jesus from the Cross entrusted Mary to us as our Mother, yet how often we still take matters into our own hands rather than turn to her for help. We rush around for solutions to our problems when we need to turn first to Mary, the woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” If only we would pause and listen, we would hear the Holy Spirit speaking through Mary saying again, “Do whatever he tells you,”
During this Advent season, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s message reminds us to come away to a quiet place to reflect and adore Jesus the “fruit of her womb.” Jesus wants to give us the peace that surpasses all understanding. A perfect place to receive this gift is in Eucharistic Adoration.
Find an Adoration Chapel where Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. Can we commit to and hour or two each week for the remainder of Advent? We can prepare our hearts to receive the Christ child as we prepare our homes to receive loved ones. There’s no better gift to give those we care about than the gift of prayer.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, continue to intercede for us and lead us more closely into the heart of you Son and Our Savior Jesus Christ. May we model your humility and trust and share the hope that we have with all those around us.
So often our times of waiting seem to be filled with desolation, pain, or uncertainty. In a liturgical season of the Church called Advent, we are called to a time of preparation. It is a time to prepare our hearts specifically for the coming of God’s Incarnate Love. You are called to prepare room in your life for this Incarnate Love, a Man named Jesus. This is a time to love Him above all else, and recognize that He is truly coming back again to judge the living and the dead.
I love the Church’s liturgical seasons for many reasons. One reason in particular is that liturgical seasons remind me that time goes on. Personally, I have been through a wide variety of seasons. Seasons of hurt and loss, seasons of joy and bliss, seasons that felt as if they lasted a moment, and seasons that felt like lifetimes. Each season served many purposes and has formed me into the woman I am today. Even though Advent is a beautiful season filled with holiday cheer and twinkling lights, it can also be a difficult season.
Last Advent, I was in my worst season of my life thus far. It was a season of major hurt, heartbreak, and what felt like ruins. It was a season I believed would never end. Reflecting on last year’s advent made me realize why it was so painful. I realized that in all my times of waiting, I was actually just worrying. No matter what I was waiting for; whether for Christmas, God’s healing, for my vocation, or waiting to graduate college… Whatever type of waiting I did was done in anxiety.
God calls us not just to wait aimlessly, but to wait in hope and trust. Waiting in hope has no room for anxiety. Waiting in trust has no room for fear. These two virtues are rooted in God’s faithfulness. A scripture verse that encouraged me to wait in hope states, “For why would I fear the future when I am pursued only by Goodness and Truth Itself?” (Psalm 23:6). Christ is pursuing you. At this very moment He desires to be with you, to love you, and for you to know and love Him intimately. He Himself is complete Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. We are called to give Him control of our seasons and our lives. God is in control. If we truly let ourselves receive this truth, our waiting will be without worry. Believing in God’s faithfulness will change our hearts from hearts that are filled with fear, worry, and doubt to hearts that are sturdy, tender, and steadfast.
This Advent, you are called to prepare your heart and to make room for Him. This Advent, you are called to wait upon the Lord. But this Advent you are not called to have an anxious and worrying heart. Rest in the knowledge that He knows- He knows where you are at, what you desire, and how hard this waiting can truly be.
A year has gone by and my dark season has passed. I stand in glorious light this Advent as I recognize all the grace Jesus has bestowed upon me. I am not a perfect person now, but I do stand here, miles away from all of the pain and hurt of last year. I have traveled mountains with Christ beside me. He has brought me to a new season of hope, a new season of trust. He has worked through my friends and family, people who care for me and support me. He has blessed me with a new job of teaching the faith to children each day, with a genuinely holy and humble man beside me. This new season has been a testament to the faithfulness of God’s patience, goodness, and love. My spiritual director, who has seen me at my worst and loved me the same, said to me, “God always wants to give us more than our little brains and hearts could ever dream up.” Nothing has been more true. God has taken my worrying and waiting and been faithful to His promise of bringing good out of the bad. He has been faithful in making the most ugly, sinful, and destroyed situations into beauty.
I challenge you this Advent, to do the opposite of what I did last year. I challenge you to wait in hope and in trust. Emmanuel means “God with us”. I challenge you to truly believe that the Incarnate God is with you. He is not far from you. He did not leave you to face whatever season of life you are in on your own. He will not leave you here forever. No matter what season you are currently in today at this exact moment, I challenge you to make an act of faith. To simply pray:
“Jesus, You are my hope.”
“Jesus, I trust in You.”
“Jesus, You are faithful to Your promises.”
Wait in confidence. Wait in hope. Wait in trust. He is faithful through and through.
Possibly some of the most stirring words of the Hebrew Bible are found in today’s first reading. A voice has cried out—in the wilderness—to prepare the way of the Lord, to make smooth his path, to see the glory of the Lord revealed.
A voice has cried out in the wilderness.
Isaiah is very specific about what this wilderness looks like, and it’s not pretty: it is, in his words, a “wasteland.” There are deep valleys and craggy mountains, rugged land and rough country. And it is into this wilderness that the voice is announcing what is to come, that the Lord is on his way.
It’s a little unexpected, isn’t it? Perhaps it might have been more efficient for God to choose one of the middle east’s great cosmopolitan centers from which to make the announcement. But just as Bethlehem—the end result of this passage’s prophecy—is a surprising place for a Messiah to be born, so too is the wilderness a startling venue for sending a message. It’s not exactly where a modern marketer would launch a campaign.
A voice has cried out in the wilderness.
It is a singular truth and singular irony that prophets’ voices are rarely listened to by their contemporaries. In that sense, it’s not so far a leap to look elsewhere for a corollary to the wilderness of Judah that Isaiah describes—to look, in fact, inside ourselves. The voice that cries to make ready the way of the Lord isn’t just talking about preparing a people for the coming of Christ; it’s about preparing a person. Me. You.
The promise of Advent is inherent in these words. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated.” The tremendous gift of Christ himself, something unimaginable in human terms, is coming. The wilderness that is our lives, our problems, our mistakes, our anxieties, is transformed by the promise given by the voice crying out in that wilderness, crying out through the darkness of our sin. Something is coming… and a new age is about to begin.
Advent is that between-time, when we have heard the promise of Good News, but it has not yet arrived. We know it shall; every rock, every crag is singing with the promise. But… not yet.
The voice asks us to prepare, and that’s precisely what Advent entails. Not just the preparation of cleaning and decorating our homes, purchasing gifts, making special meals, but the hidden inner preparation of our hearts and minds and souls. What are you doing to make ready the way of the Lord? How can you make straight his path in your life, in your work, your family, your heart?
Advent is a time of joy, but it’s also a time of penitence. That’s something we don’t always remember, and this passage from Isaiah reminds us of it. We can be comforted in knowing that the Lord is coming, but we also often take it for granted. It happens every year, after all!
I wonder what Advent and Christmas would be like if we took seriously Isaiah’s admonition to prepare the way of the Lord in our hearts. Can we add any prayer time to our busy lives? Can we make almsgiving—charity—the primary gift that we give this season? Can we fast as we do in Lent so that we can slow down and be at one with a season of penitence and preparation?
A voice has cried out in the wilderness. Are we listening?
Today is the memorial of Saint Juan Diego, who Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to at the Hill of Tepeyac, near present day Mexico City. We will celebrate this great feast of Our Lady of Guadelupe next Tuesday, but for now it would be helpful to recall what Saint Juan Diego said to Our Lady. In her first appearance to Juan Diego, she asked him to go to Bishop Zumarraga and request that a church be built on Tepeyac Hill. He delivered this message to the Bishop who was reasonably skeptical, and so simply dismissed Juan Diego. One can imagine the great disappointment that the humble and poor man experienced when he was denied. When he returned to the hill, and Mary appeared to him again, he made a plea to her:
I beg you, my Lady, Queen, my Beloved Maiden, to have one of the nobles who are held in esteem, one who is known, respected, honored, (have him) carry, take your dear breath, your dear word, so that he will be believed.
Juan Diego wanted so badly to do Mary’s will, but he felt like he was incapable of such an awesome task. Juan Diego thought he wasn’t enough. That he was too poor, too humble, too unimportant. But Mary reassures him:
I have no lack of servants, of messengers, to whom I can give the task of carrying my breath, my word, so that they carry out my will. But it is very necessary that you personally go and plead…
Mary tells him that he is enough. That even a poor and weak man like him can do the will of God. He obeys and after some persistence and additional assistance from Mary, he is finally able to convince Bishop Zumarraga of Our Lady’s appearance.
We hear echoes of this theme in today’s readings. The prophet Isaiah says, “The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst” (Is 30:20). Likewise, today’s Psalm says that “The Lord sustains the lowly” (Ps 147:7). The Lord will provide for us even if we believe ourselves insufficient or unqualified messengers of his love. Why is that? Why would the Lord entrust Saint Juan Diego with such an important message? Why does he entrust us with his message of salvation for our families and coworkers? It is because God longs for more for his people. It is because God loves us. In today’s Gospel, we hear that Jesus had pity on the crowds, “because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 10:36).
We live in a world that needs a shepherd. A world that needs a savior. Jesus calls us to be “laborers for his harvest” because “the harvest is abundant but the laborers are few” (Mt 10:37-28) This seems like a tall task, but we must recall that the Lord will provide for us. For evidence of God’s faithfulness, we need look no further than Saint Juan Diego, who was able to carry out God’s mission in a very special way. Thanks to Saint Juan Diego’s openness to Our Lady and God’s work, today Tepeyac Hill is the 3rd most visited sacred site in the world, with over 20 Million pilgrims each year. Saint Juan Diego shows us that even in our poverty and our weakness, we can be God’s messengers to the world.
Today is not only a feast day on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar, but a Solemnity – the top of the feast day hierarchy in the Roman Rite. Like Christmas and Easter, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is also a holy day of obligation where all Catholics center their joy (Lat. – festes) in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is also one of the very few solemnities (Lat. – solet, annus; “yearly celebration”) on the Universal Calendar with a fixed date (e.g., Dec. 8) each year.
Clearly this is a special day, but what is so special about this day that it is placed right smack in the middle of Advent and only two weeks before Christmas? What is the Church, our Mother and Teacher, calling to our attention as we wait with expectant hope for the birth of our Lord and Savior? Why should we care?
All Solemnities are Christological, meaning, they call special attention to Jesus Christ either directly or indirectly through Mary or the saints. The Marian days – Mother of God, Annunciation, Assumption, Immaculate Conception – are no exception. As with Mary herself, these Marian Solemnities take their dignity from, and direct us to, Christ himself.
Two peculiar things challenge us, however, with the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. The first is that is refers to the conception of Mary not Jesus. That point has not only stumped every CCD or RCIA student, but arguably every adult since 1854, the year of Pope Pius IX’s dogmatic proclamation in Ineffabilis Deus:
“The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.”
Admittedly, the title alone – Immaculate Conception – does seem to speak to the incredible event of God becoming man – the Incarnation – in the womb of a seemingly unremarkable, ordinary virgin woman. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, so the Immaculate Conception must celebrate the conception of Christ, right?
Here, you well-catechized readers shout “No!”. But, a more nuanced answer would be, “Not exactly…” – begging the question of our second challenge: How and why was Mary conceived without sin in the womb of her mother Anne?
As one of the precious few dogmatic beliefs of the Catholic Faith, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Immaculate Conception must be believed by every faithful Catholic. Therefore, our first principle is that this is no longer a matter of proving or convincing, but of our faith seeking understanding. Our posture is like Mary herself questioning the angel Gabriel (“How can this be since I do not know man?”), not Zechariah (“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”). So, how can this be, and why?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church answers this directly, quoting the Second Vatican Council in Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of the Church):
To become the mother of the Savior, Mary “was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role (munus).” CCC 490; LG 56
It is the work of God, and God alone. By particular grace of God, He made Mary full of grace at the moment of her creation. Keep in mind that the conception of every human person is the direct action of God, specifically the work of the Holy Spirit whom we proclaim every Sunday as “…the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Therefore, the particular, singular grace of Mary’s conception was not the participation of God in her creation, but
“The ‘splendor of an entirely unique holiness’ by which Mary is ‘enriched from the first moment of her conception’ comes wholly from Christ: she is ‘redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son.’ The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person ‘in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ and chose her ‘in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love.’” CCC 492
Mary was conceived without sin for her munus (Lat. – gift, role, task, mission, vocation, high office, high honor) as the Mother of God.
In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God’s grace. CCC 490
The dignity (worth, value) of this munus included the ineffable grace of being the first new creation in Christ. With Christ as the new Adam, Mary is the new Eve: the true mother of all the living. We are the living. She is our Mother (“Here is your mother”, John 19:27). “Death through Eve, life through Mary.” (LG 56). What had kept us bound is now unloosed! In the words of St. Irenaus:
“And so, the knot of Eve’s disobedience received its unloosing through the obedience of Mary; for what Eve, a virgin, bound by incredulity, that Mary, a virgin, unloosed by faith.”
So, what is so special about this day that is placed right smack in the middle of Advent and only two weeks before Christmas?
On this day, we celebrate the reality of our inheritance. With awe, wonder, and fascination we celebrate one who has already received what we hope for: eternal life, fullness of grace, and fullness of joy! Alleluia! What we long for has already been done for our Mother.
May the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception prepare and encourage our fiat: “Let it be done to me according to your Word!” Amen.
The miserable young man felt hopeless. Despite his talents and promising career, his life was a mess. He was drawn to God but resisted, because he didn’t want to give up his sin. He was addicted to lust. Sitting in a garden one day, pouring out his heart in prayer, he suddenly heard what seemed like the voice of a child chanting in Latin, “Tolle, lege!” “Take and read!” Picking up the closest book, a Bible, the young man read, “Let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:13-14). Shaken, that was all Augustine needed to read. Those words took hold of him completely and he went through with his conversion. He not only became a great saint, but also one of the most brilliant theologians and Doctors of the Church.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus has just finished the Sermon on the Mount. He tells us, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Mt 7:24). All of us have heard God’s word. It comes to us in many ways: through the Scriptures, preaching, inspirations in our heart, the encouragement of friends. But how well do we listen? Just because we’ve heard it doesn’t mean we will put it into practice. Advent is a time to grow in our spiritual life. It starts with listening to God’s Word, but our Advent will only bear fruit to the extent we put that Word into practice.
Advent is not some kind of self-improvement program, however, like a new diet or exercise regimen. Those have their value, but as Christians we have a great advantage. Jesus, our Teacher, lives in our hearts through grace. When we read his words in the Gospel, it’s not like reading some ancient sage’s advice on how to live. No, Jesus is teaching us how to become holy. He is alive! Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, who speaks to each of us as our Teacher. And he has also sent his Holy Spirit into our hearts. The Spirit gives us light to understand, and special grace to strengthen us to be holy. The Word we receive has the power to change us. It’s the Rock on which we can build our lives so that when the floods and storms come, we can survive it all.
The first week of Advent is almost over. If you haven’t done so yet, take a little time in prayer to listen to what Jesus is telling you. We usually have one thing in our lives that we should focus on, the one thing that’s most important for us right now. That one thing is whatever will most help us grow in our lives as disciples of Jesus. It could be something big, like Augustine had to face. Or it could be something that seems smaller, but is blocking us from growing in Christ. Focus on that one thing. Don’t try to do too many things, because in the end nothing will happen. Build your life on the Rock that is the Word of Jesus, our Teacher who lives in us and imprints his Word on our hearts.
Thanksgiving in the convent is pretty amazing. Sometimes the stereotype of religious sisters is that they are solemn, serious, and strict, but in my experience, religious sisters carry within them a deep joy that simply bubbles over when there is an occasion like Thanksgiving to celebrate.
The thing that Jesus does most often in the Gospel accounts is to share a meal with others. Jesus must have grown up really enjoying his daily meals with Mary and Joseph. I am sure Mary was a good cook, but with their simple lifestyle the meals couldn’t have been fancy. I think it was the shared communion around the meal that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph must have cherished. In keeping with the Jewish tradition (as in Psalm 23), Jesus also uses the image of a feast several times to describe the kingdom of God.
Given this background, Matthew’s description of a thrown-together, last-minute, potluck-kind-of-picnic in today’s Gospel reading (Mt. 15:29-37) has multiple layers of meaning for us, especially during Advent when we are in a time of preparation for the eternal banquet with God.
Out of compassion, Jesus performs a miracle by feeding thousands of people with just a few fish and a few loaves of bread.
Jesus worked this miracle with what people brought with them—a few loaves of bread and a few fish, and through the disciples, who passed the bread and fish out to the crowds.
The miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish is a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, which is the closest we can come to heaven here on earth.
The abundance of the bread, the satisfaction of all present, are a foreshadowing of the abundance of heaven.
A meal is a place where everyone shares the fulfillment of two common human needs: to be physically nourished and to belong to a family or community by sharing food and drink together. Jesus feeds everyone in that crowd, whether they believe him or not, whether they accept him or not. ALL are fed, ALL are satisfied.
In this account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, I also see an account of the kind of Advent I want to have:
1) I enter the Advent season needy, hungry, and wounded. Sin has deformed my life—both my own sin and that of others. Perhaps I have misused the power of speech with unkind words; perhaps I am stuck in a bad habit and, spiritually lame, cannot move forward; perhaps I have been betrayed by a loved one, and I struggle to forgive.
Whether we are wounded by others’ sins, our own, or both, none of us come whole to Jesus.
2) I take the risk of going out to a deserted place to meet Jesus, who welcomes me as I am. Jesus is moved with compassion for my neediness. In his great love, he invites me to stay with him. And he offers to heal me in the way that I most need healing at this time.
3) I seek to stay with Jesus—perhaps by praying with the Word of God, perhaps by going to Mass and Communion more often. In staying with him, I give our relationship an opportunity to grow deeper and stronger. And Jesus, never outdone in generosity, strengthens me with exactly what I need (even if I don’t know it), especially in his Word and in the Eucharist.
4) Truly and deeply nourished by my encounter with Jesus, I share that nourishment and joy with those around me. Together, we become a little more prepared for the eternal banquet of heaven.
We are already well into the first week of Advent. If we come to Jesus as we are, if we trust him and tell him what is weighing most on our hearts, if we ask him to heal and nourish us, our loving Shepherd will bless us this Advent in ways more abundant and gracious than we can imagine.
This Thanksgiving as the adults were finishing the last preparations for our Feast, my brother-n-law called out, “hey, where’s the cranberry sauce?” To which all of us sisters crinkled our faces and stated, “that tradition is long gone!” The conversation then turned to all of the food traditions that have come and gone over the years and who was responsible for their removal. The conversation ended in laughter and satisfaction as we looked over the spread of food we were about to Consume.
In our reading today, Isaiah 11:10 says, “On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the peoples—Him the nations will seek out; his dwelling shall be glorious.”
For many, family traditions provide a source of identity, a connection to our relatives and to our Catholic Christian values, and of course strengthen our familial bonds. The Advent Season is a good time to slow down and take time to renew old traditions or begin a new one.
The Jesse tree helps us connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth. It helps us to build joy and anticipation in this time of waiting. The Jesse tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot shall come out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.” Jesse was the father of King David. We adorn a Jesse tree with illustrated ornaments that represent the people, prophesies, and events leading up to the birth of Jesus. The ornaments of the Jesse tree tell the story of God in the Old Testament, connecting the Advent season with the faithfulness of God across four thousand years of history.
For several years our Children adorned our little red Jesse tree, with laminated ornaments they colored themselves. We gathered in the evening just before bed to read Scripture and remind ourselves of the lineage of our Lord. It was a beautiful tradition.
Our Children are getting older so we decided our Jesse Tree should grow with them. Check out our new family Jesse tree http://bit.ly/2AFf5BW. We created our tree again with help from our Children. The Scriptures and activities in each of the envelopes help us grow in our understanding and love for our Beautiful Catholic Faith and strengthen our family Bond! If you have a family tradition, maybe its time to spruce it up! If you have yet to create some Advent traditions, it’s not too late. Click here to get ideas for your family Jesse tree. https://www.myjessetree.com/
One year ago, today, as I watched snow fall down on my windshield, I was a perfect concoction of nervous and excited. I remember the brief instance of cold as I walked out of my car and then the wave of warmth as I entered that little coffee shop on Drake Road. Little did I know that this first date would be with my future wife.
Nathalie and I are now engaged and I love to look back on that day and the plans God had for us and how they have started to become part of our beautiful history. Anniversaries give us a chance to look back on how we started, the journey so far, and the anticipation for the many blessings to come.
It’s no different when we celebrate the anniversary of the coming of Christ, Christmas. I’m sure you have heard at some point in your life, possibly CCD class or confirmation, that Jesus came to earth to die for your sins, and that is true. But I think Jesus also came for another reason. I like to tell people that God became man not only to redeem us, but to remind us of who we are.
Think about it, God made human beings as his most incredible masterpiece. We can look around at creation and see the most immense beauty, and this beauty can’t help but draw us to the Creator. But of all the beauty of creation, the only creation that was made in the image and likeness of God is… That’s right, YOU!
Human beings are the crown of creation, the very heart of God molded into a masterpiece from the dust of the ground and formed with the breath of life. This is why Pope John Paul II said,
“The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible, the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial, and thus to be a sign of it” (Theology of the Body, 19:4).
A terrible injustice has been done because we no longer speak of or look at the human body in these terms. Often, we are tempted to use other human beings instead of seeing them as an image of God. It doesn’t take much more than a glance at the news to see that our world is fallen and broken and at times there doesn’t seem to be much hope. We would rather claim ourselves as a fallen humanity because it is easier to admit we are fallen than it is to rise above.
But hope was born into the world over 2,000 years ago not only to redeem us and our fallen world, but to remind us of who we are as sons and daughters of God. Through the incarnation, we have a model of love. So, next time you are tempted to despair at all the evil and brokenness in the world, remember that little baby who was born into the poverty of humanity. That little child who reached right into our brokenness and not only healed us to remind us of how we were created, but allowed us to go beyond our original state into the perfection of our final state in heaven, perfectly happy with God in a wedding feast that will never end.
As we prepare for this anniversary of Christmas, let’s remember to thank God for how He originally created us, do penance for the many sins we have committed that have made us fall, and finally rest in His mercy and love as we await the joyful hope of heaven, all thanks to that little child born in a manger. Happy Advent and from all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!
“The heritage of our hearts is deeper than the sinfulness inherited” (Theology of the Body, 46). PLEASE SCROLL DOWN TO SEE DAY 1 --December 3
When I was little, one of my older sisters lent me a tiny book of lines from Shakespeare’s sonnets. Dazzled by their brilliance, insight into human nature, and eloquence, I decided I would be a poet! My dream of writing poetry didn’t last long, but I remember well the favorite poem I wrote during my “poetry phase.” It was about my sister’s golden hair. I loved that poem—but now I realize that it was not so much about the poem itself. Rather, I loved how writing the poem enabled me to see the unique golden quality of the blond hair of another of my sisters. To this day, I have never seen anyone else with hair that exquisite golden color.
Like all the arts, poetry has an ever-more important role in our rapid-paced culture: to help us to stop long enough to really see something as it is. In the Gospel for this very first Sunday of Advent (Mk. 13:33-37), which sets the tone for the rest of Advent, Jesus repeats the injunction to “watch” at least three times: “Watch!” “Be watchful!” “Be vigilant.” He really doesn’t want us to be caught sleeping, or unaware, or off-guard. Who (or what) is Jesus telling us—even warning us—not to miss? The “master of the house” — the Lord— when he comes.
Advent is a season of expectation for one of the most startling, unexpected, and heart-rending events ever: the coming of the almighty Word of God into the world as a vulnerable Baby. Advent is a season for artists, poets, musicians, and theater to express humanity’s deepest longing: for the Universal Lover who descends from unapproachable heights to be with the Beloved. Yet, what is the logic of Advent? The Infant God-Child has grown up and the Second (Final) Coming of the Lord will happen at the end of time (most likely not within the next four weeks). How can we live these words of Jesus this Advent? What (or Whom) are we looking for? We look for the coming of the Word of God into our here and now. Advent, nature, and our Catholic Christian tradition each give us ways to look anew for the faithful presence of God in our lives, in our world, and most especially, in others and in ourselves.
The expectant tension of Advent—which is so short—helps us to stop and pay attention. By looking deeper, by noticing details, by seeking the “essence” of things, we can see and hear the Word of God coming to us today: the same Word of God who has put his mark on every creature and his image in every person. What Word is God speaking to us, to you and to me, this Advent? My favorite Advent poet, Christina Rossetti, offers us one possible answer.