Advent 2015: Extraordinary Time

First Sunday of Advent

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Second Sunday of Advent

12 December Our Lady of Guadalupe - Feast

3rd Sunday of Advent

4th Sunday of Advent - December 18th, 2011

The Great O Antiphons:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Sunday in Advent

Readings:
Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5,8-10,14
1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

 Heads Up>>>>Listen

Every Advent, the Liturgy of the Word gives our sense of time a reorientation. There’s a deliberate tension in the next four weeks’ readings - between promise and fulfillment, expectation and deliverance, between looking forward and looking back.

In today’s First Reading, the prophet Jeremiah focuses our gaze on the promise God made to David, some 1,000 years before Christ. God says through the prophet that He will fulfill this promise by raising up a “just shoot,” a righteous offspring of David, who will rule Israel in justice (see 2 Samuel 7:16; Jeremiah 33:17; Psalm 89:4-5; 27-38).

Today’s Psalm, too, sounds the theme of Israel’s ancient expectation: “Guide me in Your truth and teach Me. For You are God my Savior and for You I will wait all day.”

We look back on Israel’s desire and anticipation knowing that God has already made good on those promises by sending His only Son into the world. Jesus is the “just shoot,” the God and Savior for Whom Israel was waiting.

Knowing that He is a God who keeps His promises lends grave urgency to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel. Urging us to keep watch for His return in glory, He draws on Old Testament images of chaos and instability – turmoil in the heavens (see Isaiah 13:11,13; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:10); roaring seas (see Isaiah 5:30; 17:12); distress among the nations (see Isaiah 8:22/14:25) and terrified people (see Isaiah 13:6-11). He evokes the prophet Daniel’s image of the Son of Man coming on a cloud of glory to describe His return as a “theophany,” a manifestation of God (see Daniel 7:13-14).

Many will cower and be literally scared to death. But Jesus says we should greet the end-times with heads raised high, confident that God keeps His promises, that our “redemption is at hand,” that ‘the kingdom of God is near” (see Luke 21:31)

 

Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn © 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

© 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

 

 

 

 

 


http://www.salvationhistory.com/images/main/blank.gif
Second Sunday in Advent

Readings:

Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126:1-6
Philippians 1:4-6,8-11
Luke 3:1-6



Today’s Psalm paints a dream-like scene - a road filled with liberated captives heading home to Zion (Jerusalem), mouths filled with laughter, tongues rejoicing.
It’s a glorious picture from Israel’s past, a “new exodus,” the deliverance from exile in Babylon. It’s being recalled in a moment of obvious uncertainty and anxiety. But the psalmist isn’t waxing nostalgic.
Remembering “the Lord has done great things” in the past, he is making an act of faith and hope - that God will come to Israel in its present need, that He’ll do even greater things in the future.
This is what the Advent readings are all about: We recall God’s saving deeds - in the history of Israel and in the coming of Jesus. Our remembrance is meant to stir our faith, to fill us with confidence that, as today’s Epistle puts it, “the One who began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it” until He comes again in glory.
Each of us, the Liturgy teaches, is like Israel in her exile - led into captivity by our sinfulness, in need of restoration, conversion by the Word of the Holy One (see Baruch 5:5). The lessons of salvation history should teach us that, as God again and again delivered Israel, in His mercy He will free us from our attachments to sin, if we turn to Him in repentance.
That’s the message of John, introduced in today’s Gospel as the last of the great prophets (compare Jeremiah 1:1-4,11). But John is greater than the prophets (see Luke 7:27). He’s preparing the way, not only for a new redemption of Israel, but for the salvation of “all flesh” (see also Acts 28:28).
John quotes Isaiah (40:3) to tell us he’s come to build a road home for us, a way out of the wilderness of sin and alienation from God. It’s a road we’ll follow Jesus down, a journey we’ll make, as today’s First Reading puts it, “rejoicing that [we’re] remembered by God.”

 

 

Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn © 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

© 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 8th - Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception

Readings:

Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalm 98:1-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

Listen to the Readings>>>>

The Angel and Mary

In the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday in Advent, the angel Gabriel greets Mary in an unusual way: “Hail, favored one” (see Luke 1:28).
Kecharitomene, the Greek word translated as “favored one,” is very rare, used in only one other place in the New Testament. It comes from charis, the Greek word for “grace” and basically means “made full of grace” or “transformed by grace.”
This is how the word is used in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he describes how God “granted” His grace to all of us in Jesus (see Ephesians 1:6-7). This sheds light on what the angel means - Mary has been “transformed by God’s grace.”
Notice that the angel doesn’t mention Mary’s name. That’s odd, too. There’s no other angelic greeting like this in Scripture. It’s as if Mary’s name is “favored one” or “made full of grace.”
In Scripture, when God gives a person a new name, it reveals the person’s role in His saving plan. Think of Abraham - the father of all nations (see Genesis 17:5), or Peter, the Church’s “rock” (see Matthew 16:18). Mary is God’s favored one, transformed by God’s grace to be the sinless mother of His only-begotten Son.
That’s why the angel’s greeting is one of the biblical foundations for Mary’s Immaculate Conception, which we celebrate December 8. Listen closely to the Mass readings that day - you’ll hear the angel’s greeting, and Paul’s beautiful words about God’s transforming grace.

Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn © 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

© 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Sunday of Advent

Readings:

Zephaniah 3:14-18
Isaiah 12:2-6 
Philippians 4:4-7 
Luke 3:10-18

What Do We Do?

Heads Up>>>>Listen

 

The people in today’s Gospel are “filled with expectation.” They believe John the Baptist might be the Messiah they’ve been waiting for. Three times we hear their question: “What then should we do?”
The Messiah’s coming requires every man and woman to choose - to “repent” or not. That’s John’s message and it will be Jesus’ too (see Luke 3:3; 5:32; 24:47).
“Repentance” translates a Greek word, metanoia (literally, “change of mind”). In the Scriptures, repentance is presented as a two-fold “turning” - away from sin (see Ezekiel 3:19; 18:30) and toward God (see Sirach 17:20-21; Hosea 6:1). 
This “turning” is more than attitude adjustment. It means a radical life-change. It requires “good fruits as evidence of your repentance” (see Luke 3:8). That’s why John tells the crowds, soldiers and tax collectors they must prove their faith through works of charity, honesty and social justice.
In today’s Liturgy, each of us is being called to stand in that crowd and hear the “good news” of John’s call to repentance. We should examine our lives, ask from our hearts as they did: “What should we do?” Our repentance should spring, not from our fear of coming wrath (see Luke 3:7-9), but from a joyful sense of the nearness of our saving God.
This theme resounds through today’s readings: “Rejoice!...The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all,” we hear in today’s Epistle. In today’s Responsorial, we hear again the call to be joyful, unafraid at the Lord’s coming among us.
In today’s First Reading, we hear echoes of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary. The prophet’s words are very close to the angel’s greeting (compare Luke 1:28-31). Mary is the Daughter Zion - the favored one of God, told not to fear but to rejoice that the Lord is with her, “a mighty Savior.”
She is the cause of our joy. For in her draws near the Messiah, as John had promised: “One mightier than I is coming.”

 

 

Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn © 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

© 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Monday, 12 December 2011 Our Lady of Guadalupe - Feast

In the USA: Our Lady of Guadalupe - Feast 

Readings:

Numb. 24:2-7.15-17a.
 Ps 25(24):4bc-5ab.6-7bc.8-9
Mt 21:23-27. 

Collect: O God, Father of mercies, who placed your people under the singular protection of your Son's most holy Mother, grant that all who invoke the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, may seek with ever more lively faith the progress of peoples in the ways of justice and of peace. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

In 1910 Our Lady of Guadalupe was declared Patroness of Latin America, and in 1945 Pope Pius XII declared Her to be the Empress of all the Americas. She appeared to an Indian convert named Juan Diego on December 9, 1531. She left a marvelous portrait of herself on the mantle of Juan Diego. This miraculous image has proved to be ageless, and is kept in the shrine built in her honor, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Our Lady of Guadalupe

"Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything." Our Lady to Juan Diego

In the winter of 1531, a poor, 57-year-old Aztec Indian living five miles outside of Mexico City encountered a miraculous happening on his way to morning Mass. First he heard strange music coming from Tepeyac Hill, and then he heard a woman's voice calling his name. Juan Diego climbed the hill and encountered a young woman, appearing to be of his own people in physical appearance and dress. The woman identified herself as the Virgin Mary, and told Juan Diego to ask the bishop of Mexico City to build a church on the hill to assist in the conversion of the nation and be a source of consolation to the people. Juan Diego obeyed the request, but the bishop was skeptical regarding the message, even though he perceived that Juan was a humble, and well meaning Catholic. Juan reported the bishop's doubt to Our Lady at Tepeyac Hill, and she asked him to return to the bishop once again, bearing the same message.

The bishop once again heard the story, and told Juan Diego to ask Our Lady for a sign that it was indeed herself that wished for the church to be built. When he returned to the hill, Mary gave Juan Diego such a sign. Miraculously, roses appeared on the hill in the middle of winter, and Juan gathered them in his tilma, or cloak. Our Lady arranged the roses in his tilma with her own hands, and Juan returned to the bishop's presence.

When Juan released the tilma, allowing the flowers to fall to the floor, it was revealed that a miraculous image of Our Lady had imprinted itself on his tilma (see above). The bishop immediately fell to his knees, and came to believe in Juan Diego's message. A church was built on the spot of the apparition, as Mary had requested, and 8 million people converted to Catholicism in a short period of time upon hearing of or viewing the miraculous image of Our Lady.

The tilma of Juan Diego has been the subject of much modern research. The tilma, woven out of coarse cactus fiber, should have disintegrated after 20 years, but although over 500 years have passed the tilma is still in perfect condition. The pupils of Mary in the picture reflect the Indians and clergy present at the time of the first revelation of the image. No paint was used, and chemical analysis has not been able to identify the color imprint. Additionally, studies have revealed that the stars on Mary's mantle match exactly what a Mexican would have seen in the sky in December of 1531. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn © 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

© 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Advent is the season of the seed: Christ loved this symbol of the seed ... Advent 2015: Extraordinary Time


This is no ordinary Advent - especially in this year of Mercy!!!

God’s sending of Jesus is an act of mercy for the world, and so the season of Advent is a perfect time for reflection upon themes of mercy and hope. Pope Francis has called upon all Catholics to be a living sign of God’s love for the world. By embracing the call to mercy, we will know the full grace of the season.

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The Face of Mercy Advent Reflections

Introduction

The resource is entitled ‘The Face of Mercy’, for in the opening lines of the Papal document announcing the Year of Mercy we read: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy…Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him” (Misericordiae Vultus no. 1).

The Year of Mercy commences on the feast of the Immaculate Conception: December 8.

There is a natural connection between the season of Advent and the mercy of God. During Advent we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In him, we experience the mercy of God incarnate. That God so loves each of us that he is prepared to become one of us, and in so doing reveals the depth and breadth of his love and mercy, deserves our sustained reflection and prayer. This resource will offer the daily opportunity to do just that.

This is deliberately not your normal Advent resource. For a start, it has not been written primarily with groups in mind, and few instructions are provided for the setting up and facilitation of those groups. Whilst getting together with other people of faith to prepare for the feast of Christmas is a wonderful thing to do, in my experience those who are predisposed to gathering in this way know what they’re doing once they get there. As this is a daily resource, I suggest that group participants simply print off their favourite section from the relevant week and bring that along to discuss with the group. It needn’t be hard. Attending a group discussion like this with openness and prayer could be a very grace-filled experience.

This Advent resource has been written primarily with busy individuals in mind. For many of us, finding even a few minutes a day to pray and reflect can be difficult: but that’s enough, for the desire to pray comes from a heart searching for God. It is not about how good you are at prayer. It’s not about how holy you feel during or afterwards. It’s about the fact that you raise your heart and your mind to God, sending him the signal that you’re interested. He’ll sort out the rest.

Structure

Each day’s offering follows a simple format: Scripture reading, reflection, a quote from Pope Francis relevant to the Year of Mercy and a final prayer.

The Scripture reading is taken from the Mass for the day. No attempt has been made to present the readings in their entirety. Rather, the focus has been on locating those parts of the readings that we can easily overlook. In our familiarity, it is very easy to skim over parts of God’s Word and to fail to recognise its depths and wonder.

The reflections ... by Shane Dwyer

The quotes from Pope Francis are taken from the Bull of Indiction for the Year of Mercy. Entitled Misericordiae Vultus (the Face of Mercy) it provides some consoling and challenging insights into the mercy of God, and into the life of mercy to which we are all called.

 

November 29: First Sunday of Advent: Luke 21:25 – 28

“There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Reflection

Before commenting on these lines from Luke’s gospel, we think back to the opening lines of the book of Genesis. There we see the Spirit of God bringing order to the chaos. It was only as the result of the sin and selfishness of human beings that that order begins to break down. Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, Cain kills Abel, and Noah prepares for the impending flood.

It might seem all so remote from us – mythical even – until we look around and see what is happening to our beautiful Earth: pollution prevents our seeing the stars in all their glory, a cyanide-fuelled firestorm engulfs Tianjin, the Great Barrier Reef is bleaching away, and hundreds and thousands of people are displaced around the globe.

Whether or not these are the end times that Luke describes is not for us to say: only the Father knows (see Mark 13:31). What we do know is that we all stand in need of the mercy of God…here and now. Just look around.

From Pope Francis

Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian faith. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him.[Misericordiae Vultus, no. 1]

Concluding Prayer

God of Mercy, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

 

November 30: Monday Week One of Advent: Feast of St Andrew the Apostle: Romans 10:12 – 15

The same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent?

Reflection

In my experience Catholics are not instinctively comfortable with the word ‘evangelisation’. It conjures up a picture of standing on street corners haranguing innocent passers-by with predictions of doom, or of walking up to someone’s door with a similarly attired friend in the hopes of making a convert.

And yet many of us do feel comfortable sharing something worthwhile that’s faith-related with someone else. I’ve been surprised over the years how many people tell me that they gifted a resource I’ve written, or a programme I’ve developed, to friends and family. A number of people signed up others onto our first online reflection resource (Into the Desert) as a way of encouraging them to reflect on some aspects of our Catholic faith and practice. You might not think of it as evangelisation, but it is. Have you got a moment to think of a few people who might appreciate you sharing this resource with them?

From Pope Francis

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace. Our salvation depends on it…Mercy: the bridge that connects God and (us), opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 2]

Concluding Prayer

December 1: Tuesday Week One of Advent: Luke 10:23 – 24

Then turning to the disciples, Jesus said to them privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that 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.”

Reflection

When it comes to our response to God, we all stand in need of having our eyesight healed. The moment we start to take our relationship with God seriously, and begin to reflect on how we are called to live in response to that relationship, our blindness becomes apparent. Do we even see what God is doing, much less how are we to go about responding to it?

In this we discover why all those stories about the healing of the blind, the deaf and the lame are relevant to us. We are the “man born blind”, fundamentally unable to see who God is and what God is doing without the intervention of God’s grace. We are the ones with the hearing and speech impediments: we can’t hear God’s words and we don’t know how to proclaim God’s truth. We are the lame. We can run away on paths of our own, but are we able to take one step along the path that God is calling us to?

If Jesus Christ is to be born in us, we must begin by acknowledging a problem: we cannot see, we cannot hear, we cannot speak, and we do not know how to walk the paths of God. We need God’s mercy.

From Pope Francis

At times we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives. For this reason I have proclaimed an ‘Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy’ as a special time for the Church, a time when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 3]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 2: Wednesday Week One of Advent: Isaiah 25:6 – 8

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,for the Lord has spoken.

Reflection

The greatest obstacle for people of faith is, as the great St Thomas Aquinas noted, the question ‘Why do good people suffer’? This question becomes the foundation for the accusation against the existence of a loving God that many an atheist has triumphantly employed. The accusation is premised on an assumption: that because God’s is the hand behind all creation, then God is the reason why suffering exists.

The truth is, we have no real idea why God allows suffering. We’ve speculated answers over the years: to teach us, to punish us, or to make us less reliant on ourselves and more reliant on him. The fact is, none of these responses ultimately satisfies.

There are only three things we know for certain about suffering: 1. That it won’t last forever for those who accept God’s mercy (see today’s reading) 2. That God wishes to use us to address suffering in the world (see Matthew 25) and 3. That God took his place in this world of suffering by becoming one of us in an overwhelming act of mercy and solidarity (see Christmas Day!).

From Pope Francis

Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 3]

Concluding Prayer

December 3: Thursday Week One of Advent: Feast of St Francis Xavier: 1Corinthians 9: 19, 22 – 23

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Reflection

One of the most challenging aspects of proclaiming our faith involves putting ourselves into the shoes of those to whom we are sent. Too easily we can fall into the trap of speaking in ways that make sense to us, and all the time failing to see that our words, our symbols, and our actions may make little sense to the men, women and children with whom we imagine we are in dialogue. Sometimes, as Catholics, we can be like the proverbial English speaker travelling in various parts of the world. Instead of learning the native language of the people with whom we are trying to communicate, we resort to SPEAKING LOUDER.

We have a problem. As Catholics we value our theology, our symbols, our rituals and our ways of doing things. That’s as it should be. However, we can forget that the richness of our tradition might be overwhelming and confusing for someone who has not been brought up with that. We offer them a rich banquet while in reality they are in need of milk. Addressing this fact, while remaining faithful to that which is true and important for us, is the central task of evangelisation in the contemporary world.

From Pope Francis

The Fathers of the 2nd Vatican Council strongly perceived, as a true breath of the Holy Spirit, a need to talk about God to men and women of their time in a more accessible way. The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way…The Church sensed a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world. [Misericordiae Vultus no. 4]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 4: Friday Week One of Advent: Matthew 9: 27 – 28

As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to him, “Yes, Lord.”

Reflection

In reminding us of Jesus’ ancestral link with King David, Matthew causes us to recall what we have come to know of as ‘salvation history’. This is more than just an account of two lucky blind men. While that would be worth celebrating in its own right, it would not have a lot to do with you and me. Where it becomes relevant to us is in the realisation that God has been at work with men and women down through the ages from earliest times. The People of Israel, King David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, just to name a small number of examples, are all linked by the fact that they participate in and contribute towards the bringing about of God’s plan of salvation.

Jesus is the pivotal point in this plan. Prepared for by the prophets of the Old Testament, proclaimed by the Apostles and their successors in the New Testament and beyond, Jesus is the cornerstone around which the whole plan of salvation is arranged (see Ephesians 2:20).

To participate in God’s on-going plan of salvation, you need only one thing: to be willing to be embrace God’s healing mercy and then share that mercy with others.

From Pope Francis

St Thomas Aquinas wrote: “it is proper to God to exercise mercy, and he manifests his omnipotence particularly in this way.” …Throughout the history of humanity, God will always be the One who is present, close, provident, holy, and merciful. [Misericordiae Vultus no. 6]

Concluding Prayer

December 5: Saturday Week One of Advent: Matthew 9:36 – 37, 10:7 – 8

When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.Then he said to his disciples…As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”

Reflection

In a previous reflection, (see Tuesday, Week 1) we briefly contemplated the need to think about our faith from the perspective of those with whom we are speaking. We must put ourselves in the shoes of those to whom we have been sent. Today we are invited to put ourselves in God’s place: to try to see the world, and the people in it, from God’s perspective.

Needless to say, this is an impossible task to achieve. However, we can learn something by trying. Today’s reading gives an insight into how focused God is in his attempts to reach out to and gather his people. In one sense, this is all that is on God’s mind. We can find ourselves wondering about what God is doing and why. Perhaps we should stop and contemplate the thought that he is calling each of us and, through us, calling others to be with him for eternity. For that is why he made us. Everything else is secondary, and of use to the degree that it assists us to respond to God and to reach out to others. What would our world and our Church be like if we took that seriously?

From Pope Francis

The mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality through which he reveals his love as that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that this is a ‘visceral’ love. It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy. [Misericordiae Vultus no. 6]

Concluding Prayer

December 6: Second Sunday of Advent: Philippians 1:3 – 6

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.

Reflection

These are testing times for people of faith. The book of Revelation speaks of the ‘stars falling from the heavens’ (see Revelations 6:13). I’m not quite sure what that means – Newtonian physics seems to suggest that it is not particularly something we should be worrying about on a daily basis. But as I look around my parish church and at the number of empty seats, I do wonder if that is what is meant by this image: there were lights among us that have, for whatever reason, gone out or simply gone away.

Some give away their faith and practice for reasons of their own. Sometimes those reasons are good ones. Others give it away because others have, and it seems too hard to push against the cultural tide. Whatever the reason, the situation isn’t helped by our regular failure to support one another in our faith. When you read the words of St Paul to the church of Philippi in today’s reading, you get a sense of how close they all were. It wasn’t always easy. There were arguments and tensions, but there was also joy and real solidarity. People hung in there because they were loved and supported, and they knew they were travelling together towards the same destination: the day of Christ.

From Pope Francis

‘For his mercy endures forever.’ This is the refrain repeated after each verse in Psalm 136 as it narrates the history of God’s revelation…To repeat continually ‘for his mercy endures forever,’ as the psalm does, seems to break through the dimensions of space of time, inserting everything into the eternal mystery of love. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 7]

Concluding Prayer

December 7: Monday Week 2 of Advent: Isaiah 35:8 – 10

A highway shall be there,and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray.

No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Reflection

Tomorrow our Jubilee Year of Mercy commences. As we turn our spiritual attention towards that, we become aware that we are being invited on a journey. In fact, the word pilgrimage describes it better. A time of pilgrimage involves the putting aside of those things that weigh us down as we focus our hearts and minds on the spiritual task of walking in, with and towards God.

As a symbol of this pilgrimage you will be invited to make your way to the ‘Door of Mercy’ to be found at our Cathedral. From a contemporary perspective it seems such an unusual thing to do. Why go on pilgrimage? Why go through a Holy Door? Why seek forgiveness and healing? Think of it this way: you’re no angel. By this we mean that, as a human being, the physical is as important in your relationship with God as is the spiritual. In fact, the spiritual is only real for us if it has a physical dimension. This is symbolised in this Year of Mercy by the Holy Door. Taking the time and making the effort to get there, and allowing the symbolism of what we are doing to impact on us, allows God in. Now perhaps today’s reading from Isaiah might make more sense.

From Pope Francis

With our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, we experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity. The mission Jesus received from the Father was that of revealing the mystery of divine love in its fullness. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 8]

Concluding Prayer

December 8: Tuesday Week 2 of Advent: Feast of the Immaculate Conception: The Jubilee Year of Mercy begins

The angel came to Mary and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. (Luke 1:28 – 31)

Reflection

Could we ever fathom the wonder of this tentative exchange between God and a simple human being? To think that everything we have come to know and experience about Jesus Christ might never have been, had this young woman chosen to decline the invitation. The Holy Spirit is a respectful guest. If Mary had not agreed, it would not have happened.

Just think about this: the invitation to have Jesus Christ born in her is not for Mary alone. The whole point of your baptism was to immerse you in the fact that God wishes to take up residence in you. Of course, Mary’s experience of that is unique to her: she alone is the Mother of God. However, in her experience, we see what we are also invited to conceive: the life of the Holy Spirit in us.

That God in his mercy wishes to reach down into your very being, take up residence in you and so transform you into a son or daughter of God, is the wonder we contemplate and celebrate during this Year of Mercy; particularly so during this Advent season.

From Pope Francis

I have chosen the date of 8 December because of its rich meaning in the recent history of the Church. In fact, I will open the Holy Door on the fiftieth anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council…We recall the words of Saint John XXIII when opening the Council, he indicated the path to follow: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity…the Catholic Church, as she holds high the torch of Catholic truth at this Ecumenical Council, wants to show herself a loving mother to all: patient, kind, moved by compassion and goodness towards her separated children”. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 4]

Concluding Prayer

December 9: Wednesday Week 2 of Advent: Isaiah 40:25 – 26

To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name; because he is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.

Reflection

At the end of his interviews with public figures, politicians and celebrities the Irish interviewer, Gabriel Byrne, typically asks: ‘when you come before God at the end of your life, what would you like to say to him?’ The question elicits a variety of responses. The fact that he asks everyone the same question means that they have had time to prepare, but the responses are interesting nonetheless.

Of course the problem with it is that it is premised on a false assumption. The assumption is this: that as we fall down ‘the rabbit hole’ that is death, and come into the presence of the Alpha and the Omega, the Source of all that is true, good and beautiful in the universe, the One beside whom the universe itself is as nothing, that we are going to be self-possessed enough to lead the conversation. In fact, if we imagine that that moment will be about us and our ideas and questions, we may be alarmed to discover the opposite: it will actually be about God and God’s ideas and questions.

Central to those questions will be: “Did you allow yourself to become the means by which my merciful love was revealed to those most in need?” What will your answer be?

From Pope Francis

‘God is love’ (1Jn 4:8,16), John affirms for the first and only time in all of Holy Scripture. This love has now been made visible and tangible in Jesus’ entire life. His person is nothing but love, a love given gratuitously. The relationships he forms with the people who approach him manifest something entirely unique and unrepeatable. The signs he works, especially in the face of sinners, the poor, the marginalised, the sick, and the suffering, are all meant to teach us mercy. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 8]

Concluding Prayer

December 10: Thursday Week 2 of Advent: Matthew 11:11 – 15

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John came; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. Let anyone with ears listen!

Reflection

If John the Baptist is so great, why is he the least? This is the conundrum that lies at the heart of this passage of Scripture. It has got something to do with the fact that he stands at the end of the old dispensation, whereas Jesus has come to initiate the new.

The old dispensation, presented to us in the Old Testament, was about the forging of a people. The God of mercy was at work, but at times obscured by the displacement and foment experienced as a nation formed. Wars, exiles, political intrigue, and natural disasters are all present in the pages of the Old Testament. Bringing a people together takes strength, discipline and law. Leaders arose, especially chosen by God and gifted with his Spirit, who were strong and able to forge this unruly band of nomads into God’s people. John the Baptist stands as the last and the greatest of these leaders.

But the old dispensation was but a preparation for the new. No more does God use only specially chosen leaders. Each of us is a son or a daughter of God. All of us are called to exercise the ministries of priest, prophet and king, each according to our vocation. We’ll think more about that later (see Friday, Week 2).

From Pope Francis

In the parables devoted to mercy, Jesus reveals the nature of God as that of a Father who never gives up until he has forgiven the wrong and overcome rejection with compassion and mercy. We know these parables well, three in particular: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the father with two sons (see Luke 15:1-32). In these parables, God is always presented as full of joy, especially when he pardons. In them we find the core of the Gospel of our faith, because mercy is presented as a force that overcomes everything, filling the heart with love and bringing consolation through pardon. [Miserico. Vultus, no. 9]

Concluding Prayer

December 11: Friday Week 2 of Advent: Matthew 11:16 – 19

“But to what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

Reflection

There is an air of frustration in today’s Scripture reading. To put a contemporary spin on it, the Lord is saying: “for Pete’s sake, are you lot never satisfied?” It is very easy to wander through our life of faith never quite getting the point of what it is God is asking of us. We play our games, getting by with paying attention to some things (typically those things that suit us and with which we agree) and ignoring others (typically those things that inconvenience us or which challenge our comfortable little world view). It might be salutary to realise that we are potentially causing frustration upstairs.

Catholics have no excuse when it comes to understanding who God is, what God is like and what God is asking of us. If we are in any way confused about these things, it is because we either haven’t been paying attention, or we are playing games. So, here it is one more time: you are to become the merciful presence of God in the world. You are to allow Jesus Christ to be reborn in you. You are to proclaim your faith with every fibre of your being. Start praying, stop sinning and look after the poor and anyone else who is in need. Seriously – how complicated is it really? And when you fail (and you will, regularly) throw yourself on the mercy of God.

From Pope Francis

The parable of the ruthless servant (Matthew 18:22 – 35) contains a profound teaching for all of us. Jesus affirms that mercy is not only an action of the Father, it becomes a criterion for ascertaining who his true children are. In short, we are called to show mercy because mercy has first been shown to us. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 9]

Concluding Prayer

December 12: Saturday Week 2 of Advent: Matthew 17:10 – 13 -Saturday-Our Lady of Guadalupe  

And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

Reflection

The disciples are trying to make sense of their sacred texts, and they are particularly seeking to understand the promises and prophecies to be found there. They cannot work it out for themselves.

Have you ever experienced someone bailing you up to tell you that this passage of Scripture or that means such and such? I find myself very wary of these people. There tends to be an unacknowledged agenda lurking behind their interpretations. When it comes to Scripture we do well to understand that no one person gets to decide what particular things mean. For that, we need the leadership and teachings of Jesus Christ.

For we notice in today’s reading that Jesus is the one who interprets the Scripture for them and gives them the definitive explanation. Without him they had no comprehension. In faith, we understand that this teaching office was shared by Jesus with Peter, and then with those who share Peter’s apostolic ministry. Let’s take seriously the words of Pope Francis that follow.

From Pope Francis

At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully…Above all, let us listen to the words of Jesus who made mercy as an ideal of life and a criterion for the credibility of our faith: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’ (Matthew 5:7): the beatitude to which we should particularly aspire in this Holy Year. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 9]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 13: Third Sunday of Advent: Luke 3: 15 – 16

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptise you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire”.

Reflection

In an earlier reflection (see Tuesday, Week 2) we noted that we are all called to exercise the vocation of priest, prophet and king. The language is a bit gender exclusive, but you get the point. As a priest you stand in God’s presence and pray for the world and for yourself. Your prayer is heard. As a prophet you are to proclaim God’s word to the world through everything you are, do and say. As a king you have an innate dignity in God’s eyes, and you have the authority to offer leadership in the Church and in the world.

This is, incidentally, how the new dispensation differs from the old. Before Pentecost, the experience was that the roles of priest, prophet and king were allocated to a chosen few. After Pentecost it all changes. You have received baptism in water and in the Holy Spirit. By virtue of this you are an anointed one. You have been reborn in Christ and so participate in his priestly, prophetic and royal nature.

From Pope Francis

As we can see in Sacred Scripture, mercy is a key word that indicates God’s actions towards us. He does not limit himself merely to affirming his love, but makes it visible and tangible. Love, after all, can never be just an abstraction. By its very nature, it indicates something concrete: intentions, attitudes, and behaviours that are shown in daily living. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 9]

Concluding Prayer

December 14: Monday Week 3 of Advent: Numbers 24: 2 – 4

Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. Then the spirit of God came upon him, and he uttered his oracle, saying: “The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of the man whose eye is clear, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty”.

Reflection

There is an Old Testament image that has unexpectedly become a favourite of mine. It is the image of the man (like Balaam in today’s reading) standing on the battlements looking out into the night, focussed in his heart and in his mind: attentive. He is the sentinel, a man as complex as any of us who has acquired the skill of bringing that complexity to stillness as he stands watching, waiting, ready to respond to what he sees coming in the night…ready to challenge, ready to raise the alarm, or ready to admit the friend into the castle. He is at one with himself, totally given over to his task, aware that a lot rides on his ability to carry out his task well. I believe that we are all called to be like him.

The image of the Sentinel is ‘complete’. That is to say, it is about both being and doing. The ‘being’ involves simplicity of heart, a sense of knowing who each of us is as well as a union of will with the one we serve. A person can only grow into this slowly, as we gradually learn to see past ourselves and to put on the mantle of the one we serve. This transformation having been to some degree completed, the person is able to begin to ‘do’ the work of the Sentinel. It involves paying attention to what’s real and not allowing ourselves to become distracted by things that only appear to be of significance.

Christ is being born: quietly, unnoticed – inviting us to proclaim his presence. Pay attention.

From Pope Francis

The mercy of God is his loving concern for each one of us. He feels responsible: that is, he desires our wellbeing and he wants to see us happy, full of joy, and peaceful. This is the path which the merciful love of Christians must also travel. As the Father loves, so do his children. Just as he is merciful, so we are called to be merciful to each other. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 9]

Concluding Prayer

December 15: Tuesday Week 3 of Advent: Zephaniah 3:1 – 2, 9

Ah, soiled, defiled, oppressing city! It has listened to no voice; it has accepted no correction. It has not trusted in the Lord; it has not drawn near to its God. At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.

Reflection

There is a problem inherent in our Year of Mercy, a potential misunderstanding that needs to be addressed and sorted out. It may already have dawned on you as you have made your way through this program to this point. It is this: it can appear as if the Church is saying the she is in the world to provide God’s mercy to others, but that she has no need of it herself. Take a look at the words from Pope Francis below. You could be forgiven for thinking that is what is being said.

This is where context and background become very important. As a Church, we are very aware that we are in need of God’s mercy. Without it, it is hard to know how we could have survived this long. It is only God’s mercy and grace that have kept the ship afloat. What’s more, Pope Francis regularly speaks of his own need for God’s mercy. In fact, his papal motto is “miserando atque eligendo” (lowly but chosen). Yes, it is the role of the Church to proclaim God’s mercy to the world. But she can only do this as one who knows what it means to receive that mercy. The Church is holy, but the Church is also sinful. Any outfit that lets you and me in the door is not going to be perfect. The words of Zephaniah in today’s reading challenge us still.

From Pope Francis

Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers: nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 10]

Concluding Prayer

December 16: Wednesday Week 3 of Advent: Luke 7:19 – 23

John the Baptist sent some men to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” When the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’” Jesus had just then cured many people of diseases, plagues, and evil spirits, and had given sight to many who were blind. And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me.”

Reflection

This is a poignant passage of Scripture. John the Baptist is in prison, unsure of what awaits him, but undoubtedly aware that things are not going to end well. He’s asking the questions that many of us ask at various points in our lives: what has it all been for? Has it been a waste of time? Is the future in good hands?

To understand John’s need to ask questions of Jesus, we have to understand something about the type of Messiah that John and others were anticipating. The expectation was for a political leader who would rescue Israel from oppression. And so John wonders: can this really be the one? Jesus’ answer speaks of realities that go well beyond the political. He hasn’t come to rescue Israel from the Romans. He isn’t the triumphant warrior king come to raise an army. He’s the man born of a poor woman of Nazareth, born in a stable, placed in a manger, destined to do battle with, and destroy, the only two true enemies we have: sin and death.

From Pope Francis

Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step. But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 10]

Concluding Prayer

December 17: Thursday Week 3 of Advent: Matthew 1:1,17

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Reflection

There are three references to King David in this extract from the opening chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. How did somebody so fragile become so central? I remember attending Mass years ago where the presider was an elderly priest. Having listened to the account of David’s encounter with Bathsheba the priest exclaimed ‘Why on earth does that dreadful man feature so centrally in our faith?’ It’s a good question. King David, who had been offered so much, specially chosen by God to lead his people, raised up from being a shepherd boy to being King, and yet at the same time so weak and so morally compromised.

His importance does not lie in his personal worthiness. His importance lies in the promises made to him and, through him, to us by God. He is the recipient of the promise that one of his descendants would ascend the throne and bring about God’s eternal kingdom. He is also remembered for the fact that, when confronted by his sin, he threw himself on the mercy of God. Part of what makes him great is that he allowed himself to experience God’s mercy. He shows us the way back to being the sons and daughters of God.

From Pope Francis

We must admit that the practise of mercy is waning in wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile, as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is a time to return to the basics…[Misericordiae Vultus, no. 10]

Concluding Prayer

 

 

December 18: Friday Week 3 of Advent: Matthew 1:18 – 19

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.

Reflection

We tend to focus on what happened next: Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream, and the circumstances around Mary’s unexpected pregnancy are explained to him. The marriage proceeds as planned. We can fail to see the significance of what precedes that resolution.

Joseph is a man of integrity and very aware of the legal requirements that his faith places on him. How he feels doesn’t come into the equation. Mary has been compromised and Joseph believes he has no choice but to end the betrothal. He has been placed in a very difficult position. If what has occurred becomes public, there will be scandal and Mary’s very life will be jeopardised. As we see later in the gospels, stoning was not unheard of. But Joseph is a good man. He needs to follow the dictates of his faith, but he wants to protect her. He’s both a man of justice and a man of mercy.

The interplay between justice and mercy has always needed much thought and prayer for people of faith. We need to attend to both, and to resist the tendency to focus on one to the exclusion of the other. If our hearts are focused on God, like the heart of St Joseph, we’ll be shown how to navigate our way between those two realities.

From Pope Francis

It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 10]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 19: Saturday Week 3 of Advent: Luke 1:21 – 25

The people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.”

Reflection

Scripture is replete with symbolism and subtext, as evidenced in today’s extract. On the surface of it, this is the recounting of a particular series of events: curious, good to know, but not necessarily relevant to our daily experience. How does it apply to us?

We think first of the mute Zechariah. He is rendered unable to speak because he did not believe what he had been told by God. Our failure to take on board what God is saying to us (through Scripture, through the teachings of the Church, through our prayer) makes us as good as mute. We might be able to speak, but we have nothing to say that is worth listening to.

We think next of the relieved Elizabeth. How vulnerable women have been down through the centuries! Our faith tells us that men and women are equal, but distinct. This is not an easy message to sell in a culture that wants equality to mean interchangeability. How a Church that is dominated in its leadership by men can proclaim a message of gender equality remains an on-going challenge. To help our leaders, we need to speak. Mercy involves speaking on behalf of those with little or no voice: women, the unborn, the marginalised…the list goes on.

From Pope Francis

Quoting the Encyclical Dives in Misericordia of Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis reminds us: The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy. The word and the concept of ‘mercy’ seem to cause uneasiness in man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 11]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 20: Fourth Sunday of Advent: Micah 5:2

But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days.

Reflection

Our celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is just around the corner. The place of his birth features in today’s extract from the prophet Micah. It’s one of those circular occurrences: did Matthew later write of Bethlehem as the place of Jesus’ birth because Micah had predicted it, or did Micah predict it because he was inspired to know that’s where it would be? Scholars disagree over this question.

We think in a linear fashion. We see that this causes that, which affects the next thing. The seed becomes the plant. The egg becomes the chicken. The child becomes the adult. The prediction becomes the reality.

God is not bound by the linear. In fact, he seems to delight in subverting our prosaic expectations. God becomes human, the virgin becomes the mother, death gives way to life, and sinners are reborn as the sons and daughters of God. And a little town of no account is the centre of it all.

From Pope Francis

The mystery of Christ obliges me to proclaim mercy as God’s merciful love, revealed in that same mystery of Christ. It likewise obliges me to have recourse to that mercy and to beg for it at this difficult, critical phase of the history of the Church and of the world. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 11 quoting Dives in Misericordia no. 2]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 21: Monday Week 4 of Advent: Song of Songs 2:8 – 9

The voice of my beloved! Look, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.

Reflection

Occasionally I’ve heard it said that the Church is like a club. We’re told that, as with any club, if you want to belong you have to follow the rules and behave in the way that’s expected of you. If you don’t want to conform then you should go and join another club. You’re not wanted here.

There is so much wrong with that perspective that it’s hard to know where to start. It bears no resemblance to this extract from the Song of Songs. Here we read of God enthusiastically bounding over the hills searching for his beloved (that’s you, by the way). The energy and desire depicted in this sacred song is, when you think about it, a little overwhelming. It is an attempt to express the level of joy God experiences when he looks at you.

 

The wall, the window, and the lattice are symbols of the barriers between us and God. God shatters those barriers, firstly by becoming one of us and secondly by asking to take up residence in each of us. Yes, your life may need to change significantly as a result of embracing your vocation to be a son or daughter of God. But that happens because you’re responding to the presence of God in you. The Church is not a club and your belonging isn’t premised on you adhering to a prescribed set of rules. The Church exists to proclaim the good news that God is in love with you. Live in that love with every fibre of your being and the rules will take care of themselves.

From Pope Francis

The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. The Spouse of Christ must pattern her behaviour after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 12]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 22: Tuesday Week 4 of Advent: Luke 1:46 – 49

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Reflection

Someone once said to me: “I don’t like the thought that Jesus Christ wishes to have a personal relationship with me. For, if that is true, he might want to impact on my life. I’m not sure how I’d cope with that.” Good point.

Our natural hesitation at not wanting to lose ourselves in our relationship with God is understandable. We like to know that our lives won’t take a direction that we would rather not go. We’re brought up believing that this is ‘our life’ and we’re responsible for who we are and what we become (until things go wrong, and then everyone but us is responsible – but that’s for another time). If it’s my life, where does God fit into it? I can be happy to believe in him, as long as he keeps his distance and doesn’t interfere too much (unless things go wrong, and then he’d better act fast…).

This is one of the many reasons why Mary is so important. In her we see the perfect coming together of personal autonomy and a life transformed in Christ. She didn’t become any the less because God took up residence in her. Instead, she became precisely who she was while receiving the gift of being so much more than that.

God wants your life. He will give it back to you.

From Pope Francis

The Church’s first truth is the love of Christ. The Church makes herself a servant of this love and mediates it to all people: a love that forgives and expresses itself in the gift of one’s self…wherever there are Christians, everyone should find an oasis of mercy. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 12]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 23: Wednesday Week 4 of Advent: Malachi 3:1 – 3

See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.

Reflection

This selection from the prophet Malachi is one of the texts utilised by Handel in his famous oratorio ‘Messiah’. In the late 90’s I attended a performance of this famous work of the Baroque at the Vatican. Pope John Paul II was the guest of honour. I remember being struck by the mixture of strength and frailty evidenced by the Pope. He sat slumped in his chair, taking it all in. His eyes were bright as he turned to smile at the crowd: physically depleted but spiritually undimmed.

We have a choice when it comes to navigating our way through this world. Either we allow life in, with all its ups and downs, and allow it to refine and change us, or we attempt to shut it out in a futile attempt at self-preservation. God shows us the way as we celebrate the Christmas season. In his love and mercy he allowed himself to become vulnerable to us. This is the life that St John Paul II embraced: at times hard, at times purifying, but always full of joy and peace. Reaching out to others makes us vulnerable to them – but that’s where joy and peace lies.

From Pope Francis

We want to live this Jubilee Year in light of the Lord’s words: ‘Merciful like the Father’. The Evangelist reminds us of the teaching of Jesus who says, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful’ (Lk 6:36). It is a programme of life as demanding as it is rich with joy and peace. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 13]

Concluding Prayer

 

December 24: Thursday Week 4 of Advent: Christmas Eve: 2 Samuel 7:4 – 9

That night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: “Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?… I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went…

Reflection

In the final reflection of this Advent program, we prepare ourselves to experience again the birth of Jesus Christ. God’s instructions to the prophet Nathan are not without significance here. God has a plan and God is in charge. All we need to do is say ‘Yes’.

For there is only one thing God wants for you: that you be reborn in Christ in every aspect of your life. His desire is that you be with him for eternity. In order for this to happen, Christ’s life must take up residence in you. In an earlier reflection, (see Wednesday, Week 2) we spoke of the conversation we might have with God as we come before him face-to-face. We wondered how realistic it is to think that we’ll be the ones driving that conversation.

Perhaps our prayer and our focus should be on the words God might say to us rather than what we might say to him. The opening chapter of the gospel according to Mark records the Father saying ‘this is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him’. Can we allow the Christ-child to live in us so that we too might hear those merciful, joyful words: ‘you are my son…you are my daughter, my favour rests on you.

Happy Christmas!

From Pope Francis

In order to be capable of mercy, therefore, we must first of all dispose ourselves to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us. In this way, it will be possible to contemplate God’s mercy and adopt it as a lifestyle. [Misericordiae Vultus, no. 13]

Concluding Prayer

 

The reflections ... by Shane Dwyer

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forth Sunday of Advent

Readings:
Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
Hebrews 5:5-10
Luke 1:39-45 (see also “The ‘New Ark’”)

A Mother’s Greeting>>>>Listen

 

On this last Sunday before Christmas, the Church’s Liturgy reveals the true identity of our Redeemer:
He is, as today’s First Reading says, the “ruler…whose origin is from…ancient times.” He will come from Bethlehem, where David was born of Jesse the Ephrathite and anointed king (see Ruth 4:11-17; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 17:1; Matthew 2:6).

God promised that an heir of David would reign on his throne forever (see 2 Samuel 7:12-13; Psalm 89; Psalm 132:11-12).

Jesus is that heir, the One the prophets promised would restore the scattered tribes of Israel into a new kingdom (see Isaiah 9:5-6; Ezekiel 34:23-25,30; 37:35). He is “the shepherd of Israel,” sung of in today’s Psalm. From His throne in heaven, He has “come to save us.”

Today’s Epistle tells us that He is both the Son of David and the only “begotten” Son of God, come “in the flesh” (see also Psalm 2:7). He is also our “high priest,” from the mold of the mysterious Melchisedek, “priest of God Most High,” who blessed Abraham at the dawn of salvation history (see Psalm 110:4; Genesis 14:18-20).

All this is recognized by John when he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth, too, is filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. She recognizes that in Mary “the mother of my Lord” has come to her. We hear in her words another echo of the Psalm quoted in today’s Epistle (see Psalm 2:7). Elizabeth blesses Mary for her faith that God’s Word would be fulfilled in her.

Mary marks the fulfillment not only of the angel’s promise to her, but of all God’s promises down through history. Mary is the one they await in today’s First Reading - “she who is to give birth.” She will give birth this week, at Christmas. And the fruit of her womb should bring us joy - she is the mother of our Lord.

The New ‘Ark’

The Church in her liturgy and tradition has long praised Mary as “the Ark of the New Covenant.” We see biblical roots for this in the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent (Cycle C).

Compare Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth with the story of David returning the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and you’ll hear interesting echoes.

As Mary “set out” for the hill country of Judah, so did David (see Luke 1:19; 2 Samuel 6:2). David, upon seeing the Ark, cries out “How can the Ark of the Lord come to me?” Elizabeth says the same thing about “the mother of my Lord” (see Luke 1:43; 2 Samuel 6:9).

John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, as David danced before the Ark (see Luke 1:41; 2 Samuel 6:16). And as the Ark stayed three months in “the house of Obed-edom,” Mary stays three months in “the house of Zechariah” (see Luke 1:40,56; 2 Samuel 6:11).

The Greek word Luke uses to describe Elizabeth’s loud cry of joy (anaphoneo) isn’t used anywhere else in the New Testament. And it’s found in only five places in the Greek Old Testament - every time used to describe “exultation” before the Ark (see 1 Chronicles 15:28; 16:4-5; 2 Chronicles 5:13).

Coincidences? Hardly. The old Ark contained the tablets of the Law, the manna from the desert and the priestly staff of Aaron (see Hebrews 9:4). In Mary, the new Ark, we find the Word of God, the Bread of Life and the High Priest of the new people of God (see also Catechism, no. 2676).

 

Sunday Bible Reflections by Dr. Scott Hahn © 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

© 2010 St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology