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 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.


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 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.