Readings or Wednesday of the Third Week in Advent: Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25; Psalm 85; Luke 7:18-23
"Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other." Isaiah 45:22
These words from the prophet Isaiah are no doubt a preview and precursor of the coming of Christ. A time when salvation will be opened to all men, everywhere and always. But they are also a reminder of God's first Commandment handed down to the Jews (and to us) through Moses on Mt. Sinai: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Deuteronomy 5:7)
From that day to the present, however, humanity has made gods out of virtually everything on earth and worshipped them instead of the one true God: money, power, sex, animals, other human beings . . . even ourselves. In fact, in no other age has man worshipped himself more than modern man does today. The technological advancements and luxuries of modernity, together with a complete loss of the sense of the supernatural, combine to make us think that we are our own gods, with the ability to sustain and save ourselves. But, as we know from experience, this is an allusion. For as much as these false gods promise earthly comfort and pleasure, they always fail to satisfy the deepest desire of our heart.
Thankfully, there is an antidote for this condition. And in ten short days, we celebrate His coming into our world through a lowly virgin named Mary. Him whom Isaiah and all the prophets spoke of and looked forward to. Him in whom we all "shall triumph and glory." (Isaiah 45:25) As we continue to wait and prepare during Advent, let us imitate the three wise men and "rejoice exceedingly with great joy" at His coming, so as to prepare ourselves to "fall down and worship Him" when He arrives on that day.
God love you.
Readings for Tuesday of the Third Week in Advent: Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13; Psalm 34; Matthew 21:28-32
"And he answered, 'I will not'; but afterward he repented and went." Matthew 21:29
"I will not!" How many times we say that to God throughout our lives. As C.S. Lewis wrote, ultimately, each person lives his or her life based on one of two mottos, either "Thy will be done," or "my will be done." Thankfully, as Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel reading, even when we say "my will be done," there is always the opportunity to change our minds, repent, and do the will of the Father. That is why Jesus taught is to pray "Thy will be done" in the Our Father prayer. It is a daily decision to pick up our cross and follow Him, and praying "Thy will be done" as often as possible helps give us the grace to say "yes" to Him. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles." (Psalms 24:6) Continue to cry out to the Lord for the grace to do His will. His plans for us are better than anything we could ever imagine.
God love you.
Readings for Monday of the Third Week in Advent (Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe): Zechariah 2:10-13; Judith 13:18-19; Luke 1:26-28
"For behold, I come and will dwell in the midst of you, says the Lord." Zechariah 2:10
As we enter the third week of Advent, the anticipation of Christ's coming becomes more and more concrete. In less than two short weeks now, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord. We will exclaim with the angels, "glory to God in the highest!" (Luke 2:12) What other response could we possibly have to such an unbelievable event? For there is no other occurence in human history to match God becoming man and entering our world. It split time in half, and nothing after that night in Bethlehem would ever be the same. For a God that takes human flesh and assumes our condition here on earth is a mighty God indeed. Even more, the Incarnation reveals a love beyond anything our human minds can grasp; a power beyond anything on this earth:
"[H]uman nature assume by God--as revealed in God's only begotten Son--is greater than all the powers of the material world, greater than the entire universe." Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
As we continue our journey toward Christmas, let us remember the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, "with God nothing will be impossible." (Luke 1:37) May we never doubt this reality.
God love you.
Readings for the Third Sunday in Advent: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; Psalms 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11
"And blessed is he who takes no offense at me." Matthew 11:6
Why would anyone take offense at a man who restores sight to the blind, cures lepers, makes the deaf hear, raises people from the dead, and preaches good news to the poor? Yet, in today's Gospel reading, Jesus makes this curious statement after reminding the disciples of John the Baptist everything he had been doing as evidence that he was the One "to come"--the Messiah and divine Son of God. It was Jesus's claim of divinity, of equality and oneness with God himself, that the Jewish authorities took offense at, and which ultimately led to His crucifixion. The Pharisees would have had no problem with Jesus but not for His claim of divinity.
Two thousand years later, nothing has changed. To the extent modern man even believes in miracles, he takes no offense unless you attribute them to Jesus as God. Because in our relativistic age, Jesus has been reduced to nothing more than a wise teacher. Call Him God, and you are placing Christianity above all other world "religions," and that simply is too offensive. But as St. Paul reminds us, our duty as Christians is to "preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:23) So, as St. James implores us in today's second reading, "do not grumble" when others take offense at you for proclaiming Christ this Advent. Your witness may lead to them experiencing the "joy and gladness" (Isaiah 35:10) that only Jesus can provide.
God love you.
Readings for Saturday of the Second Week in Advent: Sirach 48:1-4; 9-11; Psalms 80; Matthew 17:9-13
"Tell no one the vision until the Son of man is raised from the dead." Matthew 17:9
Today's Gospel reading picks up immediately after the Transfiguration, with Jesus descending down the mountain with Peter, James and John. As he often did after miraculous events, Jesus implores them not to tell anyone about what they had just seen until he was "raised from the dead." But here again, as we see repeatedly throughout the gospels, the Apostles had no idea what he meant by that statement, or at the very least, misunderstood it. That they (other than John) would completely abandon Jesus during his Passion illustrates this fact all too well.
And so it should come as no surprise--though it always seems to--that we so often fail to understand or fully comprehend what Jesus is trying to tell us. Perhaps it comes in the form of an unanswered prayer, or some type of suffering in our life or that of a loved one that appears utterly meaningless, or a particular sin that we cannot seem to conquer. Yet we cling to Christ and His truth, for as St. Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:69) These words from Romano Guardini summarize our lack of understanding well:
One will be troubled now and then. Sometimes this reality [i.e. God's will] is vividly, powerfully present; sometimes it is veiled: it withdraws itself. Sometimes what this truth demands of us is quite obvious; other times it is not at all clear.
So next time you feel yourself confused over God's purpose and plan, unsure about what Jesus would have you do, remember Peter, James and John coming down the mountain. They had just been given a glimpse of Christ in his resurrected glory, and still they failed to understand what He was telling them. For as much as sin darkens our intellect to see certain things clearly, the light of Christ illuminates our path. It is a light that, I pray, will continue to get brighter for each of us as Advent progresses toward the birth of our Lord.
God love you.
Readings for Friday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 48:17-19; Psalms 1; Matthew 11:16-19
"Blessed is the man who's . . . delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." Psalms 1:1-2
I love the Psalms. As the Catechism explains, "prayed and fulfilled in Christ, the Psalms are an essential and permanent element of prayer of the Church. They are suitable for men of every condition and time." (CCC 2597) Today's responsorial Psalm tell us that the person who meditates on the "law of the Lord" "day and night" is blessed. For us as Christians, the "law of the Lord" is not simply the Ten Commandments handed down by God through Moses, though it certainly includes that. Instead, in the fullest sense, it is the Word made flesh--Jesus Christ--and everything he handed down to us through the Apostles in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.
So how do we fulfill Psalm 1's call to meditate on the Lord night and day? Through prayerful reading of Scripture. "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ," as St. Jerome famously wrote. In other words, we can never truly know Jesus if we do not know God's word in Scripture. When we read Scripture, we are not simply reading stories of past events. No. God's word is living and active, and He speaks directly to us in ways that have practical application to our lives.
Advent is the perfect time to pick up a Bible and start reading God's word. Even a short time of reading each day, followed by prayerful reflection, will help bring us closer to Christ as we prepare for his coming at Christmas. There is no better time to delight in His law.
God love you.
Readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Genesis 3:9-15, 20; Psalm 98; Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38
"Be it done unto me according to thy word." Luke 1:38
Without those words from Mary, God's plan to redeem mankind from the slavery of sin could not have commenced. Today the Church's celebrates Mary's Immaculate Conception--her preservation from the stain of original sin--and in so doing, also celebrates her free consent to bear the Son of God in her womb and to give birth to the Savior of the world. For Mary's fiat is the perfect model of obedience to God's will and reveals to us what true freedom really is.
If you've read this blog at all, you probably know my love for Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen (that's his picture at the top of the page). For this special day, I thought I would leave you with some quotes from his wonderful book on Mary called "The World's First Love." Any words of my own would pale in comparison to what he has written. I've taken several different quotes and put them all together below.
"The purest liberty is that which is given, not that which is taken. God's way with man is not dictatorship, but cooperation. If He would redeem humanity, it would be with human consent and not against it. God could destroy evil, but only at the cost of human freedom, and that would be too high a price to pay for the destruction of dictatorship on earth--to have a dictator in Heaven. Before remaking humanity, God willed to consult with humanity, so that there would be no destruction of human dignity; the particular person whom He consulted was a woman. As from the first Adam came the first Even, so now, in the rebirth of man's dignity, the new Adam will come from the new Eve. And in Mary's free consent we have the only human nature that we ever born in perfect liberty. When, therefore, Mary had heard how this was to take place, she uttered the words that are the greatest pledge of liberty and the greatest charter of freedom the world has ever heard: 'Be it done unto me according to thy word.' Teach us then [O Mary], that there is no freedom except in doing, out of love, what thou didst do in the Annunciation, namely, saying Yes to what Jesus asks."
God love you.
Readings for Wednesday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 40:25-31; Psalm 103; Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28
I have a sick toddler tonight, so please forgive me for the brevity of these reflections. In today's Gospel reading, Jesus invites us to give him all of our problems. To lay every burden we have down before Him at the foot of the cross. For we all are broken and need Christ's healing. In his commentary on these verses in Matthew, here is how the great Scripture scholar, Cornelius a Lapide, summarized it:
"All who labour, none are excluded. For there is no one who does not labour under some disease, and need Christ’s medicine. Therefore Christ offers Himself to all, that they may receive from Him health and safety. Thus did He kindly correct and heal Magdalen, Matthew, Paul, and Peter. Thus even now, in the Eucharist, He inviteth all and saith, Come unto me, ye infirm, hungry, afflicted ones I will refresh you."
Let us go to him this Advent so that we may find rest.
God love you.
Readings for Tuesday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 40:1-22; Psalm 96; Matthew 18:12-16
"He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms." Isaiah 11:11
I love the paradoxes in Christianity, especially as seen through the lens and tradition of Catholicism. By paradoxes, I mean those divine realities, scriptural revelations, and/or statements of faith that would seem to be contradictory, yet on further inspection, reveal themselves to be true. It is one of those paradoxes that jumped out to me as I read today's Gospel reading from Matthew: the familiar parable Jesus told about the shepherd who left his ninety-nine sheep on the hills in order "to go in search of the one that went astray." (Matthew 18:12) The parable of the one lost sheep is yet another illustration of God's great love and mercy towards us. For as Jesus says, God "rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray." (18:13) At one time or another in our lives, each of us has probably been the lost sheep that went astray. But Jesus is our Great Shepherd who goes out in search for us and brings us back to the fold. One of my favorite images is that of Jesus carrying a lamb stretched over his shoulders. He will carry us like that every day if we only let him.
Not only is Jesus our Shepherd, however, He is also the "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!" (John 1:29) Therein lies the paradox. For while He gathers, leads and watches over his flock as shepherd, he also offers Himself as a perfect sacrifice, an unblemished Lamb, in atonement for our sins. And while he goes out to find the one lost sheep, he leaves to the rest of us His very self to feed upon--His body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearance of bread and wine--at "the marriage supper of the Lamb." (Revelation 19:9) We get but a foretaste of this divine reality on this side of the veil. But one day, the full splendor of this paradox will penetrate our innermost being as we participate in the heavenly liturgy in the world to come:
"For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." Revelation 7:17
Let us continue to prepare ourselves for that day this Advent.
God love you.
Readings for Monday of the Second Week in Advent: Isaiah 35:1-10; Psalm 85; Luke 5:17-26
"And when he saw their faith he said, 'Man, your sins are forgiven you.'" Luke 5:20
In today's Gospel reading, St. Luke tells the familiar account of the men who lowered their paralyzed friend through the roof of a house in order to get to Jesus, in hopes that Jesus would heal him. Many things can be said about this passage, and indeed much ink has been spilled over it throughout the ages by more learned Christians than me. But in any event, here are two observations:
- What friends this paralyzed man had, and what role models they are of true Christian friendship! For one who truly loves a friend--love meaning, as St. Thomas Aquinas would say, to will the good of the other person--will lead that friend to the feet of Jesus, no matter how inconvenient or difficult it may at first seem. Perhaps you have a friend this Advent who needs to be lowered through the roof in order to experience Christ's healing power.
- As St. Luke tells us, Jesus was impressed by the men's faith and their willingness to go to the trouble of lowering their friend through the roof. But notice that Jesus did not heal him immediately. Instead, he told the paralyzed man that his sins were forgiven. Here again, Jesus takes the opportunity to remind us of the horror of sin and the damage it causes to our souls. Because as broken and in need of healing as the paralyzed man's physical body was, it paled in comparison to the pitiful condition of his soul due to sin. In reality, each and every one of us is paralyzed due to sin--both original sin and those that we personally commit--although we sometimes don't realize it. And like the paralyzed man from the Gospel reading, we must be willing to go to any lengths to see Jesus, lay before him, and be healed, even if it means going through the roof. For every time we seek his mercy, he will say "your sins are forgiven you . . . rise and walk." (Luke 5:23)
God love you.