Pray With These Advent Reflections To Be Prepared For An Amazing Christmas
Here are your daily reflections for the third week of Advent.
“Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.” (Matthew 11:4-6)
The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete in Latin is the plural command form of the verb for “rejoice.” The Jews waited and waited for the Messiah, regularly reading prophecies like in the first reading today (Isaiah 35:1-6). In the gospel reading for today, Jesus all but explicitly identifies Himself as the Messiah, citing Isaiah’s prophecy. And so the Church tells us: rejoice! “Here is your God, He comes with vindication; with divine recompense He comes to save you” (Is 35:4). The Lord of the universe became man, to save the human race—rejoice! He comes to us in all the sacraments; Jesus, the Son of God, wishes to dwell in our hearts. Rejoice!
When He ascended into heaven, Jesus promised to remain with us always (Matt 28:20). He abides with His Mystical Body, the Church, via every tabernacle in the world. The Paschal Mystery is at once an historical and eternal event, transcending space and time. Jesus is really, truly present with us today in the Eucharist. Rejoice!
Monday 12/12 – Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
“Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?” (Our Lady’s words to St. Juan Diego, 1531 A.D.)
Our Lady’s heart overflows with love for us, her children. The tender affection she showed to St. Juan Diego is the same affection she feels for each of us. Take her words to St. Juan Diego one step further: imagine what it would feel like to be in Mary’s arms. Maybe you’re a little kid sitting on her lap; maybe you’re a full-grown adult. Let Mary’s loving embrace enfold you, and let her bring you closer to her Son.
Mary echoes the teaching of Jesus, reminding us not to be anxious or overly concerned about the things in this world (cf. Luke 12:22-31). This is especially applicable with Christmas coming closer: shopping lists, parties, family obligations, and more shopping lists! It’s hard in a secular culture, but we really do have to distinguish between wants and needs. Reserve some quiet time this week to turn down the holiday frenzy and reflect on what gifts God has given you. When life is boiled down, the list of needs is rather small.
Tuesday 12/13 – St. Lucy
“Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.” (Matthew 21:31-32)
Jesus spoke this to the Pharisees, who are admittedly an easy target in the gospels. They frequently challenged Jesus, sought to trap Him, and mocked Him as He died. We may consider ourselves above that, but when we have the thought, “thank goodness I’m not like that Pharisee,” we are using the words of a Pharisee in Luke 18:9-17. Pride and obstinacy may not be immediately apparent in our spiritual lives, but they’re often lurking in the depths of our heart. A good examination of conscience and spiritual director can help uproot the vice of pride.
On the other side of the coin, we can also think “thank goodness I’m not like that tax collector” and look down upon our fellow sinners. Jesus’ words rang true: He promised that tax collectors and prostitutes, in other words great sinners, would enter into the kingdom before the supposedly righteous. On Calvary, the good thief asked Jesus to remember him; Jesus promised, “this day you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43). Those “tax collectors” in our lives are no less children of God than we are. God desires their salvation just as much as anyone else.
Do not be like “those people” but strive to imitate Our Lord. Trust that he desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4), from the holiest saint to the most hardened sinner.
Wednesday 12/14/16 – St. John of the Cross
“I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD–for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.” (Psalm 85:8)
This passage from Psalm 85 continues the joyful theme of Sunday’s first reading. Rejoice that salvation is near, God’s glory dwells in our land, and that Jesus comes proclaiming peace! The very first thing Jesus said to the apostles on the first Easter Sunday was, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). The apostles were stunned to see Him; rather than explain anything else, Jesus repeated, “peace be with you.” (John 20:21) When Jesus visited them again when Thomas was present, His first words again were “peace be with you.” (John 20:26) The peace of Christ is beyond all understanding (Phil 4:7); its foundation is the perfect, self-emptying love of the Holy Trinity. Whereas sin sows division and pain, peace brings about a union with God that is beyond human efforts.
Sin and peace are diametrically opposed. If you haven’t been able to get to confession this Advent, be sure to visit the Divine Physician before the season ends. Turn away from sin and open the door to peace!
“My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)
Had God’s patience been anything but infinite, humanity would’ve exhausted it long ago. No matter the covenants made between God and His chosen people, humans failed time after time. The struggle with sin is not just collective but individual; the efforts of humanity echo the efforts in our own lives. However hard we try, we cannot defeat sin in our lives; none of us on earth are perfect. Temptations will be within easy reach as long as we breathe.
Had the story ended there, we’d be left with nothing but depressing thoughts. Yet our God did not abandon us and never will (cf. Heb 13:5). Not only did He stay beside us, but He sent His only Son to dwell among us (cf. John 3:16). God loves each of us with reckless abandon! He repeats the words He spoke to Isaiah to each one of us: “My love shall never leave you.” In prayer, imagine Jesus coming to you and speaking those words to you over and over. Let Him repeat them as many times as it takes for you to believe what He says.
You are loved.
“For in the mystery of the Word made flesh a new light of your glory has shone upon the eyes of our mind, so that, as we recognize in Him God made visible, we may be caught up through Him in love of things invisible.” –Preface I of the Nativity of the Lord
Light is a rich theme in Scriptures and in the spiritual life. The Psalms describe the Word of God as “a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). Christ the light of the world (cf. John 8:12) breathes His life into us at baptism (cf. John 20:22). He gives us that light so that His Mystical Body the Church might “bring to all humanity that light of Christ which is resplendent on the face of the Church, by proclaiming His Gospel to every creature.” That quote is from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from Vatican II. The council fathers deliberately chose the title “Lumen Gentium”, which is Latin for “light to the nations” (quoting Isaiah 49:6). Every baptized Christian shares in that mission to bring the light of Christ into a fallen world.
Think of a candle in a dark room. Light shines on wherever the candle is, regardless of the darkness. Even further, no matter how opaque the darkness may be, it cannot snuff out the light of the candle (John 1:5). Jesus gives us all the sacraments and His Church to help us keep our light of faith alive. Let us take advantage of His gifts and be the light of Christ to the world!
“In his days may righteousness flourish, and peace abound, till the moon be no more! May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth!” (Psalm 72:7-8)
This week, we began rejoicing (Sunday) and extended that into thanksgiving for all the gifts the Lord has given us—especially His Mother (Monday). By imitating Christ (Tuesday), we come to know the peace of Christ (Wednesday) and His amazing love for us (Thursday). Established with that foundation we can then become a light to the world (Friday).
Each of those things are terribly needed in the world today. So many are in need of healing! Everyone seeks peace and love through a variety of ways—but the human heart can only be happy with the peace and love of Christ. He comes soon! To those that are ready for Him, to those that aren’t; for those that believe in Him, and for those that reject Him.
Make the King of Kings and Lord of Lords the ruler of your heart as you prepare for His coming.