Boost Your Advent Season With These Daily Reflections
Here are seven daily reflections to help you begin preparing yourself for Christ's birth in this first week of Advent.
“You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” (Rom 13:11-12)
In her great wisdom, the Church sets before us times of preparation for the two most important feasts of the year: Christmas and Easter. We should prepare for the coming of the Lord into our hearts every day, but our senses can get dulled. Great feasts catch our attention and are worthy of our celebration! Hence the season of Advent and the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. The hour is now, St. Paul tells the Romans—not tomorrow. Jesus comes to us today, not in a distant time when we think we’ll be ready for Him. For any of us that are asleep in our spiritual lives, be warned: the night is far gone and the coming of Jesus is at hand.
How exactly should we prepare for His coming? Turn down the volume on distractions. Music, TV, movies, work, seasonal obligations, etc. are all important in their own way and not intrinsically bad; however, sometimes the greatest temptation the devil offers us is busyness. The contents of our daily lives often creates such a din that we cannot tune in to the voice of God.
Build a refuge of calm and quiet in your heart, and deliberately carve out time in your day for prayer. Turn away from the anxiety of the world and toward the coming Messiah.
“I rejoiced because they said to me,
‘We will go up to the house of the LORD.’” (Psalm 122:1)
For certain feasts during the Jewish liturgical calendar, Jews went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As they reached the city, there were special Psalms of Ascent (120-134) that they’d sing as they journeyed up to the Temple. The Psalms of Ascent are hymns of joy that have a rich theology. Grateful to be journeying to the house of the Lord, these Psalms include in their prayer everything that comes with being part of God’s chosen people. They pray for deliverance (Ps 120), divine protection (Ps 121), mercy and forgiveness (Ps 123, 130), and recall the great deeds of the Lord in the history of Israel (Ps 124, 126, 132).
The new covenant that Jesus made with humanity extended the chosen status to the entire human race (cf. Luke 22:14-20; Heb 10:12-22; Rom 8:15-17). It is with great joy that St. John exclaims “see what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1). The next time you go to Mass, think of it as going home to your heavenly Father. Remember the rich history of the covenants God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; remember the new covenant that Christ forged with thorns, nails, and wood. Every baptized Christian is a child of God, as St. John reminded us, and sees these covenants from the inside. Our Father invites all His children to come home!
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24)
It’s difficult to assign specific dates to the patriarchs of the Old Testament, but biblical scholars and historians roughly concluded that King David reigned in about 1000 B.C., and Abraham lived about 800 years before that. So, for literally thousands of years, the people of Israel waited for the Messiah. Prophets foretold His coming, and ordinary people like us hoped and hoped for the Anointed One of God.
It’s easy for us to take Jesus for granted; over 2000 years have passed since the apostles proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah at the first Pentecost (see Acts 2:36). Don’t forget what Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading: so many ached for the Messiah for so long. Devout men and women wondered what God could have meant when the prophets said the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh—the prophecy of Joel (2:28-32), cited by St. Peter in Acts 2:17-21; and similarly, what the new covenant described in Jeremiah 31:33 would look like, where God promised to “put My law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts.”
We live in a privileged time of grace as children of God that our ancestors in the faith could only have dreamt about. Today, let your prayers of gratitude include the long history of God communing with His people.
Wednesday 11/30 – Feast of St. Andrew
“Be strong and of good courage, do not fear or be in dread of them: for it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Deut 31:6)
The name “Andrew” comes originally from the Greek word andreios, literally meaning “manly.” The word also has a connotation of courage and strength. It takes a great deal of courage to live an authentic Christian life! Men and women who follow Jesus inevitably come up against resistance from the world that does not know Jesus (cf. John 15:18-21) and from our fallen nature.
We read stories of heroic martyrs (recently, Bl. Jose Sanchez del Rio) and it’s tempting to think that courage in the faith only exists in those extreme situations. Yet it also takes courage to take little steps in the spiritual journey: committing to prayer, adding fasting or other mortifications into our routine, and undertaking a study of the Scriptures. For many, going to confession requires a boost of courage.
During this Advent, examine your entertainment habits. Root out whatever contradicts or ridicules our Catholic faith. For example, if a TV show is hilarious but displays secular moral values, does it add anything to your faith life? Leave those things behind that go against the Catholic faith, however difficult it might seem. Removing those things will make more room for God, and He will not forsake you.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21)
This verse from today’s gospel reading should be a little unsettling. It’s an easy temptation to slip into, to take our divine adoption and twist it into something God owes us. The grace of our baptism, when we became part of the Mystical Body of Christ, came free and undeserved. No child can earn the love of their parents; love by its very nature has to be freely bestowed. It is no different with us and God! If we approach God and the bounties of His grace with pride, we miss the whole point. We must also beware of committing sins intentionally, assuming God’s mercy after the fact (cf. Rom 2:4).
In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt 25:1-13), both the wise and the foolish were in the service of the king; they weren’t strangers or outsiders. Similarly, in the separation of the nations (Matt 25:31-46), both the “sheep and the goats” asked the King, “when did we see you?” That is, those at the King’s right hand and left hand knew him and recognized him. Both parables illustrate what Jesus says in today’s gospel reading: even though God desires that all be saved, there will be some that will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
To avoid being on the wrong end of things, we should approach Jesus as He approached us. The creator of the universe and the Lord of Lords came to save humanity not in grandeur but humbly as an infant. If we exalt ourselves, our efforts go to naught. However, if we humble ourselves, God will exalt us (James 4:12).
“‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord.’ Then He touched their eyes, saying, ‘According to your faith be it done to you.’” (Matt 9:28)
One of the frequent obstacles to grace in our lives is our own lack of faith. The Church provides us opportunities for grace and healing, specifically through the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. Many parishes schedule penance services in early December—if attending one of those isn’t possible, make sure to go to confession before Christmas. We have the words of Christ Himself that guarantee the forgiveness of our sins! He gave His own authority to bind and loose to the apostles, who passed it on to their successors down to the present day (cf. John 20:19-23).
And what does Jesus promise when we come to Him? “I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30)
No matter what sin holds us back from a life of faith, trust that Jesus not only can heal them, but wants to heal them. Like the two blind men in today’s gospel reading, call out to Jesus and have faith in His power to save.
Saturday, 12/3 – Memorial of St. Francis Xavier
“The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matt 10:7)
This first week of Advent has given a good introduction on how to prepare for Christmas: start by realizing that the time is now to commit to the Catholic faith (Sunday). Go to the house of the Lord as His children (Monday) to celebrate the coming of the long-awaited Messiah (Tuesday). Live your Catholic faith with courage (Wednesday), humility (Thursday), and trust in the Lord (Friday). That builds into a crescendo, with the proclamation from today’s gospel reading: the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Jesus came to humanity, the eternal God entering physically into time and space. He entrusted His kingdom to the Church, with the promise that He would return in power and glory (Matt 24:30). The kingdom is here and now among us in the form of the Church; Christ also seeks to be king of our hearts.
He stands at the door and knocks (cf. Rev 3:20). No matter where you are in your spiritual journey, commit yourself to Christ and to His Church. Until our final breath, it’s not too late to turn to Him!