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.
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.