Monthly Archives: December 2016

Readings for Saturday (morning) of the Fourth Week in Advent: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Psalms 89; Luke 1:67-79

" . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness . . . " Luke 1:79

Today is the last day of Advent before we celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity tonight and tomorrow.  We end the Advent season with Zechariah's prophecy after the birth of John the Baptist and the coming birth of Christ.  Last Christmas Eve, I wrote a reflection on Zechariah's beautiful words that I thought I would share here again.  I hope and pray that in some small way, my reflections over the past four weeks have brought you closer to our Lord and Savior.  May His light shine on you and your family this Christmas.  Merry Christmas Eve, and God love you.

Let His Light Shine Upon You 3 Comments


I'm often amazed how Sacred Scripture speaks to us in new and different ways each time we read it, even if it is a passage we are familiar with or have read countless times before.  I had this experience recently when reading St. Luke's account of the birth of John the Baptist. (Luke 1:57-80)  Recall that the angel Gabriel had visited John's father, Zechariah, to announce to him that his wife, Elizabeth--advanced in years and no longer able to have children--would bear a son "filled with the Holy Spirit" to "make ready a people prepared for the Lord."  (Luke 1:5-17)  But Zechariah did not believe the angel's words, and therefore was struck mute until John's birth. (Luke 1:18-20)

Eight days after Elizabeth gave birth to John, they took him to the temple to be circumcised.  (Luke 1:59)  After writing on a tablet that the baby would be named John, immediately Zechariah's "mouth was opened and his tongue loosened."  (Luke 1:64)  He then speaks what we now call the "canticle of Zechariah," prophesying about the coming Messiah and John's role in preparing His way.  The following passage repeatedly jumps off the page at me:

""[T]hrough the merciful compassion of our God . . . a dawning from on high will visit us, to shine light on those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet onto the path of peace." (Luke 1:78-79)

More beautiful or poignant words have never been spoken to foretell the ultimate event in all of human history--God becoming man and entering the world so as to die for our salvation.  Only a God with unfathomable "merciful compassion" would humble himself to the point of taking human flesh and "become[] obedient to death, even death on a cross."  (Philippians 2:8) But come He did on a cold December night almost 2015 years ago, splitting time into.  Though He came as a helpless babe born in a cave,  the dawning light he would shine on the world sitting in darkness could not be contained, allowing each of us the chance to become partaker's in God's divine nature.  "God became a man so that following a man--something you are able to do--you might reach God, which was formerly impossible to you."  (St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 134, 5)

As the song we often sing at Mass during Advent proclaims: "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emanuel shall come to thee O Israel."  And rejoice we should, for He comes to each one of us to "guide our feet on the path of peace." The path that leads to true joy on this earth, and the path that leads us to everlasting life with Him.  But we first must be willing to stand in His light and accept this great gift--bright and painful to our senses as it may at first be.   The Son provides no illumination to those who prefer to remain in the darkness.    Although standing in His light exposes our weakness, our sin, our humanity, it allows us to step out of the "shadow of death."  Indeed, through Jesus, "[d]eath is swallowed up in victory.  Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"  (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)

If you are a parent, you know the indescribable joy you experience in watching your children open their gifts on Christmas morning.  Consider then, for a moment, the joy God feels when one of his children opens, and accepts, the gift of His Son, and he or she allows His light to shine upon them.  So, as Advent draws to a close, and we anxiously await the birth of our Lord tomorrow night, I pray that you will step out and fully bask in Jesus's shining light, and in so doing, become "the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14)  I leave you with these words from Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

"God has done everything; he has done the impossible: he was made flesh. His all-powerful love has accomplished something which surpasses all human understanding: the Infinite has become a child, has entered the human family. And yet, this same God cannot enter my heart unless I open the door to him."

Readings for Friday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalms 25; Luke 1:57-66

"Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long."  Psalms 25:4-5

This portion of today's responsorial Psalm perfectly summarizes where I hope we all are on this last full day of Advent. We know the God of our salvation becomes man tomorrow night.  While waiting for His glorious coming, we have sought to better know His ways and His paths, for they are very different from ours.  We have sought His truth and for Him to teach us.  We wait for Him only one more long day.  Let us pray this prayer of the Psalmist together with joyous anticipation.  O come, O come Emmanuel.

God love you.


Readings for Thursday of the Fourth Week in Advent: 1 Samuel 1:24-28; 1 Samuel 2:1, 4-8; Luke 46-56

" . . . he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts . . . " Luke 1:51

Today we hear the beautiful words of Mary's Magnificat, spoken when she visited Elizabeth after the Annunciation.  So much can--and has--been written over the centuries about Mary's prayerful proclamation.  For some reason, as a I read and reflected on the Magnificat this morning, her statement about God scattering the proud "in the imagination of their hearts" stood out to me more than it has in the past.

As Christians, most of us realize that pride is a capital sin; that it can cut us off from divine truth; and that it is the opposite of humility--the disposition of heart God call us all to have.  Mary's words certainly encapsulate all of these realities.  But pride can manifest itself in many ways, including despair.  For when we despair, we fail to trust in God and His promises, pridefully losing hope in our personal salvation from God.  (CCC ¶ 2091)  And sadly, for some, these feelings of despair can become more focused or exacerbated during this time of year; the struggles of everyday life reminding us that things aren't quite what they should be.

As Mary tells us, however, this prideful despair reigns only in the "imagination of our hearts," having no basis in reality.  Although our problems may be real, they should never cause us to despair and lose hope, for God fills "the hungry--[us]--with good things."  More importantly, "neither death, or life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."  (Romans 8:38-39)  So as Advent comes to a close, cling to this promise and never despair.  And with Mary, proclaim "my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!"

God love you.


Readings for Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Song of Solomon 2:8-14; Psalms 33; Luke 1:39-45

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage." Psalms 33:12

Out of all the peoples and nations on earth, God chose Israel through whom he would reveal Himself and begin the arc of salvation history.  Yet, as we read in the Old Testament, time and time again--and despite the wondrous things He had done for them--the Israelites turned their back on God and lost their way. Still, God remained faithful to his promises, always welcoming them back with mercy and compassion, blessing the nation He had chosen.

Our nation is in great need of blessing today.  Like the Israelites of old, this country has turned its back on God and lost its way in so many respects.  Sin, hatred and division seem to rule the day.  But it wasn't so different a little over two thousand years ago.  Despite everything Israel had done wrong over the centuries, God still brought forth his Son not only to redeem Israel, but the entire human race.  That hope and chance for redemption remains today for this nation and every single one of us.  As Advent winds down, pray that God will bless our nation, and that as a whole, we will return to Him, falling down on our knees to worship the King of Kings.

God love you.



Readings for Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Luke 1:26-38

"And the angel departed from her."  Luke 1:38

Today we once again hear the Annunciation as recounted in St. Luke's gospel.  It strikes me how abruptly the story ends.  Mary proclaims her fiat--be it done to me according to your word--and then, almost as soon as he appeared, the angel Gabriel is gone.  He doesn't tell her exactly what's going to happen next, or even when she will conceive.  He doesn't leave Mary with any instructions.  Having just been told the best news ever given to humanity, Mary is left to wonder, "What next?  Now what do I do?"

And so it is with us, when we say "yes" to God, when we agree to pick up our cross and follow Him, we wonder, "What next?  What exactly am I supposed do to now?"  Fortunately, as she always does, Mary provides us the answer.  For we know that no matter what else Mary did after Gabriel's visit, she remained patiently obedient to God.  More specifically, she remained obedient through prayer and the following of God's commandments.  So, as the birth of our Lord gets ever closer, let us imitate Mary's obedience through prayer, love of God, and love of neighbor.  Like He did for Mary, Jesus will take care of everything else.

God love you.


Readings for Monday of the Fourth Week in Advent: Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25; Psalm 71; Luke 1:5-25

"And when he came out, he could not speak to them, and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he made signs to them and remained mute."  Luke 1:22

In today's Gospel reading, St. Luke introduces us the Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, and recounts how the angel Gabriel came to him in the temple and pre-announced John's birth. But Zechariah did not believe the angel's words, and therefore was struck mute until John's birth. (Luke 1:18-20)  After he emerged from the temple, all Zechariah could do was make signs to the people to try to explain what he had just seen.

I can relate to Zechariah.  Too often, I feel mute and unable to speak about God to others.  Sometimes I feel like nothing I could say will truly do Him justice or fully explain what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  But like Zechariah, it is those times when our "signs" or actions can speak louder than words.  For often, we can "proclaim [His] wondrous deeds" (Psalm 71:17) through how we treat others more effectively than through forms of evangelization.  Ultimately, charity wins more hearts to Christ than persuasive theological arguments.  So if you find yourself mute these final days of Advent, show others the love of Christ through your signs.

God love you.


Readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent: Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalms 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel (which means God with us)."  Matthew 1:24

With each passing day this coming week, the anticipation will grow as we get closer to that divine mystery of God with us.  Not a legend or a myth.  Not merely with us spiritually.  But Him assuming our nature and walking among us.  So we, "who are called to be saints" (Romans 1:7), who "seek the face of God" (Psalm 24:6), prepare ourselves anew to adore Him.

God love you.

Readings for Saturday of the Third Week in Advent: Genesis 49:2, 8-10; Psalm 72; Matthew 1:1-17

"Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ."  Matthew 1:16

I wonder what thoughts were going through St. Joseph's mind a week before the birth of Jesus? If he and Mary weren't already on their way to Bethlehem, they certainly had be close to departing.   By that time, the angel of the Lord had already appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that the child Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit; that he was to be named Jesus, and that he would "save people from their sins."  (Matthew 1:20-21)  But surely this had to leave Joseph with more questions than answers.  Nevertheless, Joseph, a "just man," trusted in what God had revealed to him and followed God's will.  In a few short days, he would be holding God himself in his arms.

Like is was for St. Joseph, sometimes--no matter how strong our faith may be--it seems like God doesn't answer all of our questions.  Why is there so much suffering in the world?  Why doesn't He reveal himself more fully.  Why do we still struggle with sin?  Although there may be good  (if not completely satisfying) answers to these questions, at some level we simply have to trust in God and what He has revealed to us.  For what He has revealed changed the world forever: that He became man and entered our world as a little child--a child born out of pure Love to die for the sins of the world.  Like St. Joseph, let us trust in this revelation and see the Christ child through his eyes.

St. Joseph, ora pro nobis.

God love you.


Readings for Friday of the Third Week in Advent: Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-8; Psalm 67; John 5:33-36

"Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed."  Isaiah 56:1

The closer it gets to Christmas, the more hectic our lives seem to be.  Shopping, parties, kids getting out of school, traveling, making plans for the Christmas day meal, etc.  It's constant go, go, go and do, do, do.  This would seem to conflict with the idea of patiently waiting during Advent--a time to slow down and prayerfully reflect and prepare ourselves for His coming.  Although we certainly should seek that inner disposition of peace during Advent, the words from Isaiah in today's first reading remind us that, in fact, Advent is also an active time of waiting.  A time to "do" something.  Not merely mindless activity or what the world tells us to do, but doing righteousness--those things that lead us into a deeper, more intimate union with God.  Opportunities for righteousness are all around us.  There are nine more "shopping days" until His "salvation comes . . . and [His] deliverance revealed."  Let's turn them into righteousness days.

God love you.

Readings for Thursday of the Third Week in Advent: Isaiah 53:1-10; Psalm 30; Luke 7:24-30

"For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my mercy shall not depart you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you."  Isaiah 54:10

One of the primary tactics of Satan is to convince us that we are unworthy of God's love and mercy; that our sins are simply to heinous to be forgiven.  But "he has nothing to do with the truth . . . he is a liar and the father of lies."  (John 8:44)  Indeed, today's first reading destroys this lie, reminding us that God's mercy is everlasting and never departs us.  To be sure, we can wound our relationship with God and separate ourselves from Him through sin, but He always remains at the door of our heart, waiting for the slightest invitation to return and shower us with His mercy.

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," Jesus said to those who had beaten Him, scourged Him, mocked Him, placed the crown of thorns on His head, and driven the nails into His hands and feet.  Not even His executioners were beyond His mercy.  And so He pleads to the Father on our behalf in the same way, for we all have been His executioners at one time or another.  "Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning."  (Psalms 30:5)  Let us wipe away our tears and prepare to experience the joy that comes from THE morning--when the "covenant of peace" began with a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

God love you.