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 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 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.



"Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me."  (Matthew 16:24)

"[A]nd whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me."  (Matthew 10:38)


When I went to bed the night before, I really hoped it wouldn't be there the next morning.  But sure enough, there it was.

The morning started like most: a way too early alarm clock signaling the dawn of a new day.  (If it's not the alarm clock, it's the pitter patter of little feet followed by "Daddy I want some juice" that wakes me up.)  I fumble for my phone, turn the alarm off, sit up, and look to my left.  It's lying on the floor leaning up against the wall.  I think to myself, "How am I possibly going to carry this thing again today?"

You see, my cross is a massive, unwieldy, burdensome beast--fifteen feet high and eight feet across.  Physically, the only way to carry it is by putting the long beam across my shoulder, just below where the two beams intersect, and dragging the monstrosity behind me.  And so I get out of bed and commence the chore.

My shoulder and back are still a little sore from the day before, but I manage to carry the cross into my study.  Fortunately, the room has double doors, so I'm able negotiate the cross through.  As I drag it across the room in the darkness, it slips off my shoulder and lands on the floor with a loud thud.  Surprised that it didn't wake up the rest of the house, I decide to leave it where it lays.  As I stare at the cross on the floor, I look up and notice that the top of the vertical beam is pointing directly towards a crucifix hanging on the wall nearby.  In an instant, I'm reminded that the Eternal Son of God had to carry his cross too prior to being nailed to it.  I light some candles near the crucifix, get down on my knees, and spend some time in prayer with the Creator of the universe who became man and died for me.

Before I know it, the sun is starting to rise outside.  As much as I would like to stay here talking to my Savior, fatherly and work duties call.  I end my prayer, blow out the candles, and turn around to pick up my cross.  Miraculously, it's almost weightless.  What had been heavy and almost immovable when I woke up now seems light as a feather.  I turn back to the crucifix with a smile and hear Him say to me "my yoke is easy, and my burden light."  (Matthew 11:30)  I mutter to myself, "Why do I always forget that?"

With the suddenly light cross in tow, the rest of the morning routine at home goes smoothly.  I meet my two oldest children (6 and 4) in the kitchen and get them cereal.  I'm able to stand the cross up against the kitchen counter almost effortlessly.  My children never notice the cross, despite its massive size.  I have noticed though that on mornings I skip my prayer time with Him, they sense that daddy is carrying something heavy.  From there, I'm able to get myself and the kids ready to leave for school and out the door.  As if it were a small piece of driftwood, I toss the cross into the bed of my truck, load up the kids, and take them to school.  I'm at peace.  More importantly, I'm thankful that the cross is so light today.

After dropping the kids off, I pull into the parking lot of my office building.  As I lower the tailgate to retrieve the cross, a sense of uneasiness comes over me.  I go to pull it towards me and onto the ground, but the cross is heavier than it was when I left home.  This often happens.  I really don't like taking the cross out in pubic for everyone to see.  In fact, some days it seems easier just to leave the cross at home altogether, but I know that's not an option He gave me.  Besides the obvious physical challenges in getting the cross into my office (through narrow doors, tight corners and all that), its the way others look at it (and me) that's really unnerving.  Some people laugh out loud, mockingly asking "where are you going with that ridiculous thing?"  "Following Him," I reply.  Some of them become interested and ask more questions, some don't.  Other people look at it with brief curious fascination, then go about there own business as usual.  Still others avoid--at all costs--even looking at the cross, immediately diverting their eyes downward when it comes into sight, or sometimes, fleeing the room or building all together.

But there is a fourth category of people I encounter, both in my office building and anywhere else I take my cross: those carrying their own crosses.  Admittedly, its a much smaller group than the other three, but numerous enough to see them almost anywhere I go.  I'm always fascinated by the different sizes of the crosses they carry--some much smaller, some even larger--than mine.  Many of them have radiant smiles on their faces, reflecting an almost other-wordly joy at the privilege of carrying their cross.  Some are much more somber, and you can see the weight of their cross has them stumbling, sometimes even falling.  Without fail, however, when this happens, one or more of the other cross bearers will come to the aid of the struggling person.  "Here, let Him help you," I often hear them say, as they help the struggling person to his or her feet and share the burden of the cross--all while carrying their own as well.  More times than I can count, one of these selfless individuals has come to my aid when my cross had me at the breaking point.  A few have told me that their name was Simon.

I finally arrive at my office and set the cross against the wall facing my desk.  The rest of my workday proceeds in routine, uneventful fashion.  Some days, I get so distracted with work, stress and the anxieties of life that I never remember to look up at the cross,  despite its size and the fact that it is right in front of me.  Other days, even those when I'm really busy, I'm constantly reminded of its presence by taking brief pauses to lift my heart to heaven and thank Him for carrying His cross so that mine doesn't have to be so heavy.  On the former days when I don't do this and ignore the cross, it always seems even heavier when I go to leave the office for home.  This day, however, I stayed close to Him, so the cross isn't nearly as hard to carry as I depart.

I arrive home to beautiful children happy to see daddy.  Some play time, dinner, baths and bedtime follow in that order--all with my cross in tow that the little ones aren't aware of.  We kneel down at the edge of one of their beds for prayer time before they get tucked in.  We recite the prayers they have memorized, then each says what we are thankful for that day.  We end the prayers by telling Him that we love Him and make the sign of the cross.  As my son crawls into bed, I rub my shoulder.  "Did you hurt your shoulder today, daddy?" he asks.  "No son," I reply, "I just had to carry something today."  "What?" he asks curiously.  "A cross like the one Jesus had to carry," I answer him.  "Why?" he asks.  "Because Jesus asked me to," I tell him.  As I turn out the lights and kiss him, he asks, "Is it heavy?

"No buddy, it's not.  Not anymore."


"Jesus carries the Cross for you: you . . . carry it for Jesus."  (St. Josemaria Escriva)

How big is your cross?  How heavy is it?

Although it sounds paradoxical, in many respects, being a disciple of Jesus Christ might be easier if each of us did have to carry an actual, physical cross around with us everyday.  First, it would allow us always to be aware of the immense weight we carry from our own sin and the trials, tribulations, anguish, and anxiety of life.  More importantly, it would constantly remind us that our Blessed Lord carried his cross so that our's is not so burdensome.  Instead, all too often, we internalize our pain and suffering, bearing our crosses in misery while never asking for His help, or the help of those Simons he puts in our life to pick up our cross when we drop it.  This is not to say that carrying our cross should be or will be easy, for Jesus never promised us that.  Carrying our crosses means not only denying ourselves, but dying to ourselves.  The good news, however, is that He provides us the tools (prayer, fasting, almsgiving, frequent reception of the Sacraments, etc.) necessary to carry it with joy, despite the self-sacrifice it requires.  Jesus expects us to carry our crosses willingly.

Second, hauling an actual cross around would be a constant reminder of how much Jesus suffered carrying his cross.  I've already written about the immense suffering caused by the crowning with thorns.  Consider that by the time He was given His cross to carry on the way to Golgotha, He had been: (1)  beaten severely; (2) scourged to within an inch of His life, His mangled flesh hanging off His body; and (3) had a crown of thorns driven into His scalp, resulting in major trigeminal neuralgia, which caused indescribable pain from any minor movement.  As he dragged the cross behind him, every time it hit a rock or hole in the ground, the wounds on his back would have been reopened, and the crown of thorns would have caused sharp knives of pain throughout his body.  I've always thought that this clip from the Passion of the Christ is a great depiction of Jesus carrying his cross.

Finally, although in reality our crosses our invisible, people should still be able to see them.  Moreover, they should see us carrying them with joy and not despondent sorrow.  Otherwise, our faith looks unattractive, even miserable.  Jesus says to us "Why are you terrified?  Do you not have faith?"  Being His disciple and carrying our cross can be terrifying.  But like he did on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calms the winds and storms of our lives.  (Mark 4:40)  He then gives us supernatural grace to do things we never thought possible.

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.  The tempest of life had me down a bit, and my human weakness was at the forefront of my thoughts.  I opened Sacred Scripture and turned to St. Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.  As if Jesus had touched me on the shoulder to get my attention, I read this:

"Therefore,  I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Our weakness is our strength in Christ.  Carrying our crosses often results in hardships, persecutions, and restraints, but Jesus is there with us every step of the way, carrying His cross too.  His was much bigger and heavier than ours.  So, as Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen often said, "Go into the world and tell every person you meet that there is a man on the cross!"

God love you.






For most of my days as a Protestant Christian (and a lukewarm one at that), I really had no idea what the season of Advent was all about. At best, I understood it do be sort of a pre-Christmas build up.  Kind of like putting the nativity scene in your front yard right after Thanksgiving so everyone can gaze upon it throughout the month of December.  At worst, it was just another goofy thing that those Catholics did.  Even after my journey toward the Church began, I still associated Advent only as a preparation for Christ's entry into the world through the Incarnation.

Thankfully, I now better understand the purpose and meaning of Advent as a season of penitential preparation for both Jesus's birth into the world on Christmas and His glorious return at the end of the age when all people "will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."  (Luke 21:27)  It is this second part that really hit home with me during Mass this past Sunday (the first Sunday of Advent).  In the Gospel reading, Jesus, after discussing the signs that will precede His second coming, warns the disciples to be on their guard for that day:

"Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man."  (Luke 21:34-36)

As Jesus tells us, no one except the Father knows when "that day" will be.  (Matthew 24:36)  But we do know one thing for certain:  each of us will die one day and "stand before the Son of Man" to be judged.  As such, Jesus's warnings apply equally to all of us, even if we may no longer be walking the earth when He returns.  Needless to say, direct warnings from God demand our attention.  The aforementioned passage from St. Luke's Gospel contains a warning and an instruction: (1) do not become drowsy; and (2) be vigilant.  Let's look at each of these and what they mean for us.


Jesus first warns us not to let our hearts become drowsy such that the day of His coming catch us by surprise like a trap.  This theme of not becoming drowsy and staying awake is a recurrent one in the Gospels.  For example, after the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus tells the disciples to "stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour."  (Matthew 25:13)  Similarly, He said "'[b]e sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.  So too, you must be prepared . . . ."  (Matthew 24:43-44)

The idea of being awake for God can be seen in the Old Testament as well.  For example, Isaiah tells the people "[a]wake, awake, put on strength, arm of the Lord! Awake as in the days of old, in ages long ago!"  (Isaiah 51:9)  And again, "[a]wake, awake, Zion; Put on your strength, Zion."  (Isaiah 52:1)  Further, in the Psalms, David speaks of awakening in relation to his closeness with God: "[a]wake, my soul . . . I will wake the dawn."  (Psalm 57:9)  "When I awake, let me be filled with your presence."  (Psalm 17:15)

This idea of staying awake seems easy enough in theory, but much more difficult when applied to our everyday lives.  Indeed,  Jesus's own hand-picked apostles had trouble staying awake during some of the most important events of His earthly life.  First, when Jesus took Peter, John and James up the mountain to witness the Transfiguration, the three apostles "had been overcome by sleep," and not until "becoming fully awake" did they see "his glory" and Moses and Elijah standing with him.  (Luke 9:32).  Once again, it was Peter, John and James who couldn't stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane before our Lord's betrayal and arrest.  (Matthew 26:36-46)  Three times Jesus asked the apostles to stay awake and keep watch while he prayed, and three times he found them asleep.  "[Y]ou could not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked after finding them asleep the first time.  (Matthew 26:40)  He then said to them, "Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."  (Matthew 26:41)  Their flesh was weak indeed, for Peter, John and James fell asleep twice more before Judas and the crowd arrived.  (Matthew 26:42-47)

Like Peter, John and James, our flesh is weak as well.  But what causes us to become drowsy and unable to stay awake?  Jesus gives three specific examples: carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life.  (Luke 21:34)  Carousing and drunkenness are mortal sins that directly cut us off from God, which, among other sins, St. Peter and St. Paul explicitly warn us about.  (See e.g. Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3; 1 Corinthians 6:10)  Some of us struggle with these sins more than others, to be sure.  But the third example Jesus gives--the anxieties of daily life--has universal application to us all.

Indeed, it is these anxieties in our daily lives that can cause us, often unknowingly, to become drowsy and lose sight of God.  It could be large anxieties like stress at work, difficulties in our marriage, the challenges of parenting, financial problems, health issues or the like.  Or perhaps its just the daily grind of responsibilities and challenges we face each day: chores around the house, finding time to exercise, running errands, shuttling the kids to school and extracurricular activities.   No matter how big or small, these daily anxieties can add up to create a drowsiness or apathy toward our relationship with God.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said "[w]e do not lose our souls simply by doing bad things, we lose our souls by omission . . . and we usually are not conscious of the neglect."  The daily anxieties are like a slow dripping faucet.  We don't pay much attention to them at first.  We say, "oh I'm just too busy today, I'll give God some time tomorrow."  But tomorrow turns into the next day, or the next day after that . . . or never, and we fall asleep.  Then one day, usually unexpectedly, God says "this night your life will be demanded of you," (Luke 12:20) and there we are standing before Jesus, caught by surprise like a trap.

But it doesn't have to be that way.  As long as there is air in our lungs, there is still hope.  There is still time to wake up.  As St. Augustine tells us:

"Lift up your heart so that it will not rot on earth.  You will not remain without treasure, but will possess without worries in heaven what you have to guard here in fear.  And so let us wake up!"  (Sermon 60, 7)


So how do we stay awake and keep from becoming drowsy?  Jesus tells us to "be vigilant at all times."  Being vigilant means carefully noticing problems or signs of danger.  Its the exact opposite of neglect.  How do we be vigilant?  PRAY!
Sadly though, prayer usually is the first casualty inflicted by the anxieties of our daily lives.  Too often, it's the first thing we are willing to give up, consciously or otherwise, when the anxieties of life start piling up.  In order not to become drowsy, however, prayer has to be the one thing we are completely unwilling to abandon.  We must "pray without ceasing" as St. Paul tells us.  (1 Thessalonians 5:17)  The following quotes from Archbishop Sheen hit the nail on the head (If you haven't figured it out yet from reading this blog, my love for Sheen is immense):
"No one makes a resolution not to be holy.  We just do not commune with God."
"No soul ever fell away from God without giving up prayer."
"The first step downward in the average soul is the giving up of the practice of prayer, the breaking of the circuit with divinity, and the proclamation of one's self-sufficiency."
My personal experience has shown all of these statements to be true.  Even one day of not making time for prayer seems to throw my soul out of whack.  I'm restless, more irritable, prone to anger and impatience, and more susceptible to the temptations of the world.  If one day of neglect turns into to two or three, the malady intensifies, and holiness becomes but a distant memory.  It is only by resuming prayer--reconnecting the circuit and communing with God--that I am able wake up.
In conclusion, this Advent, consider committing yourself to a daily prayer routine.  If you already have a daily routine, consider increasing the amount of time you are giving God in prayer each day.  Finally, consider committing yourself to a Holy Hour - at least an hour of prayer once a week in adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Again based on personal experience, I promise you it is impossible not to fall more deeply in love with Jesus when praying and/or reading Sacred Scripture in front of the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ.  Jesus is asking, can you "keep watch with me for one hour?"  Say yes.
Simply stated, daily prayer and adoration are sure fire ways to stay vigilant, not become drowsy, and prepare yourself to stand before the Son of Man.  "We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain . . . Behold now is a very acceptable time, now is the day of salvation."  (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)  Are you ready?