Get Weekly Reflections Here for the Greatest Advent Ever
Here are your daily reflections for this second week of Advent.
“He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.” (Isaiah 11:4-6)
Today’s first reading is filled with contrasting images. The reading begins with describing the qualities of the Messiah (which we know as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit), and concludes with the wonderful images of natural peace—e.g. the leopard lying down with the kid. Right in the middle of it there’s an interruption of sorts: the Anointed One will strike the ruthless, slay the wicked, and gird himself with justice and faithfulness. At first glance, the violent language looks out of place.
Yet peace that comes from Christ can only abide in us when sin is slain. Jesus comes this Advent to wage war on sin and death! His armor is humility and complete union with the will of God. His weapon is boundless charity that drowns sin. When we take up those same weapons of Christ and allow Him to destroy sin in our lives, only then can we expect to see the wolf be the guest of the lamb.
Many parishes have penance services in Advent during this time. Go to confession, and let our King win the battle for your heart!
“For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.” (Isaiah 35:6-7)
Anyone who has lived in a hot area of the world can appreciate this image: burning sand giving way to a pool of water; streams flowing through the desert. A parched, arid landscape transforming from dust into blooming flowers is a huge transformation (Isaiah 35:1-2).
Water is a great allegory on many spiritual, scriptural, and sacramental levels. Seeing this spiritually, the river of life/grace can revive a dry soul. And not only revive, but make it flourish! Jesus promised living water to quench our spiritual thirst (cf. John 4:1-42). In addition to grace pouring into an individual soul, this image can also symbolize God’s grace flowing out onto the world.
Scripture is full of allusions to water—and not just in the New Testament. Ezekiel beheld a vision of the temple, and saw water flowing out from it. This river of life refreshed stagnant waters, contained all kinds of fish, and nourished the trees that grew on the banks (cf. Ezekiel 47:8-12). It’s a beautiful image to contemplate, for it shows visibly the often invisible effects of grace.
Lastly, there is no greater allusion to water than to the sacrament of baptism. The waters of baptism recreate us and stamp an indelible mark onto our soul. During baptism, we are reborn in water and anointed in the Spirit (cf. John 3:5). Confirmation seals what began in baptism.
Today, appreciate the hope that we’re called to have as Christians. Take time to give thanks for the gift of grace today!
Tuesday, 12/6 – St. Nicholas
“If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” (Matthew 18:12-13)
Just in case Sunday’s appeal to go to confession didn’t work, hopefully this passage will seal it. Jesus’ story gives us a glimpse into the nature of divine love, and how different it is from human love. If we were in the story as the shepherd, would we risk losing any more of the ninety-nine by searching for the stray sheep? And would we rejoice, or scold the sheep for his foolishness? Adding onto it, what if that wandering sheep had gotten itself lost more than once? God’s love is that of the shepherd in the story: willing to undergo great cost to save the lost sheep. The shepherd in the story would have scaled ravines, braved thorn bushes, and fought off predators to save the lost sheep. The parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) illustrates this contrast between divine and human love even more clearly, setting the father’s reckless love against the frustration of the older brother.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Tim 2:13) Let us all take a huge sigh of relief that divine love exceeds human love in scope!
Wednesday, 12/7 – St. Ambrose
“Christ, then, feeds His Church with these sacraments, by means of which the substance of the soul is strengthened.” – St. Ambrose, On the Mysteries #55
The sacraments are Christ’s gifts to the Church; they show us a glimpse of a heavenly reality using things of this earth. Changes are effected and earthly things are transfigured into divine things. Each sacrament serves as a channel of divine grace, but “the Eucharist occupies a unique place as the ‘Sacrament of sacraments’: ‘all the other sacraments are ordered to it as to their end” (CCC #1211).
Christmas is a very Eucharistic feast. It begins with the name of Bethlehem: in Hebrew, Bet Lehem means “House of Bread.” The manger adds another layer of Eucharistic theology—the feeding trough for the animals. Jesus was laid in a manger, and St. Cyril of Alexandria makes the spiritual connection that “by now approaching the manger, even His own table, we find no longer fodder, but the bread from heaven, which is the body of life.” The Bread of Life discourse casts light on the meaning of the manger in Bethlehem. Every Mass is like a new Christmas, as it births Our Eucharistic Lord into the world.
Thursday, 12/8 – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
The story of the fall of Adam and Eve is a famous one, and it’s one of those stories in which our familiarity with the events can actually obscure the depth of the story. In the middle of this story is the prophecy Genesis 3:15 and its meaning isn’t immediately apparent. How exactly will the war happen between the woman and her offspring against the serpent? Not with physical weapons, as St. Paul tells us—“we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
Mary’s weapon in the war against the serpent was her obedience to the will of God. Her offspring went the full thirteen rounds with sin and death on Calvary, finishing off and crushing the head of the serpent. Many, many Church Fathers saw the Blessed Virgin Mary as the new Eve, undoing the knot of Eve’s disobedience with her own faithfulness. However, Mary’s role in the story of salvation wasn’t limited to 1st century Palestine. Jesus gave her to us from the cross (cf. John 19:26-27). She continues to fight for all of us, her children, with her intercession before the throne of God.
The spiritual weapon we have from Our Blessed Mother is the rosary, and it’s a very powerful prayer. Pray a rosary today, asking for Jesus to crush any evil in your heart. Your heavenly Mother will be right beside, with her mantle around you.
Friday, 12/9 – St. Juan Diego
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalm 1:1-3)
All of us should be able to sympathize with the Israelites of the Old Testament, whom God often reprimanded as obstinate and “stiff-necked.” Original sin is deeply entrenched within us. Plus, we all battle our weaknesses with varying degrees of effort and success. On one hand, we have the weakness of our fallen nature; on the other hand, we have scripture passages like these. God created us out of love for the special purpose of spending eternity with Him in heaven. He fashioned us, connecting every neuron and strand of DNA and He gives us what we need to direct ourselves toward Him.
Throw in our concupiscence and that simple direction gets warped. It could be that someone disagrees with a Church teaching, doesn’t see that a certain behavior is sinful, or any number of issues. Whatever the case, obstacles form between us and God. Try to eradicate those obstacles and ask for as much help from the saints as possible. If nothing else, pray for the desire to flourish in God’s love.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)
This week, we’ve focused a lot on the ways of God. To fully come to Him, we need to battle the sin in our lives in order to gain peace (Sunday) and put ourselves in position to flourish in God’s will (Monday, Friday). We flourish in His unbounded love for us (Tuesday). Jesus gave us two amazing gifts: the Eucharist (Wednesday) and His own Mother (Thursday). It’s the challenge of a lifetime to align our own heart, mind, and will with that of God; our ways are not His ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8). That’s not an understatement! Sometimes it takes until our last breath to let go of our ways and trust in the ways of the Lord.
Our culture preaches a materialist, relativist, and individualist approach to life. That may lead to earthly pleasures, but earthly pleasures aren’t of any use when we die (cf. Matt 6:20). Recall again the fruitfulness of God’s grace. Picture the river of life transforming the desert into a second Eden; trees and animals finding abundant nourishment. Imagine God walking through the Eden of your soul, just as He did in the cool of the evening (cf. Gen 3:8). That is what our souls are supposed to look like, and no soul is beyond hope. Take advantage of God’s grace in this special season!