First Sunday of Advent (Year A)
“So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” Matthew 24:44
Once again, we enter into the holy season of Advent. Advent, more than anything else, is a time of spiritual preparation by which we dispose ourselves more fully to receive the greatest Gift we could ever receive: Christ Jesus Himself!
The readings for this First Sunday of Advent remind us that the Savior of the World will one day return to earth. We are reminded that He will return in all His splendor and glory and that this coming will be “at an hour you do not expect…”
Though it’s true that our Lord could return to earth for the Last Judgment and the re-creation of Heaven and earth at any time, most people do not expect this to happen anytime soon. And though that may be the case, our Lord goes to great lengths to encourage us to always be prepared for this final coming, stating clearly that it truly could be at any time.
How prepared are you if that day were to be today? Ignore the rationalization that it most likely will not be today and simply consider your preparedness for that definitive moment in time. This preparedness is one of the central keys to our holy living. If we were able to live today and every day hereafter as if it were that day, the day of our Lord’s return, then there is little doubt that our holiness of life would greatly increase as we live with this ongoing anticipation and preparedness.
One of the effects of living day after day, year after year, in a state of perpetual preparedness is that we are not only ready if our Lord does indeed return today, but, just as importantly, we remain perpetually attentive to the countless ways that He does come to us each and every day. This form of perpetual preparedness forms within us a spiritual habit of hearing and responding to the voice of God and the countless graces He sends to us every day. This habitual preparedness is a virtue by which the coming of Christ transforms who we are, here and now, and enables Him to live more fully within us, accomplishing His mission of redeeming the world in and through us.
Reflect, today, upon the burning desire in the heart of Christ that we form this holy habit of always being attentive to Him and always remain in a state of constant reception of His holy presence in our lives. Let Him come to you, today, now, and do not wait. Put your eyes on Him today. Do not put off to tomorrow that which Jesus is asking of you today. Doing so will not only prepare you for His final and glorious coming at the end of the world, it will also prepare you for the daily and total transformation of your life.
My ever-present Lord, You constantly come to me at an unexpected hour to pour forth Your grace and mercy into my life. Help me to form within me a permanent habit of preparedness by which I continually open myself to You and to Your perfect will for my life. May this Advent be a true time in which my readiness to meet You increases a hundredfold. Jesus, I trust in You.
First Sunday of Advent (Year B)
“What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:37
Are you attentive to Christ? Though this is a profoundly important question, there are many who may not even fully understand what this means. Yes, on the surface it is clear: Being “attentive” is being aware of the presence of our Lord in your life and in the world around you. So are you attentive? Are you watchful? Are you looking, seeking, waiting, anticipating and preparing for Christ to come? Though Jesus came to Earth over 2,000 years ago in the form of a little child, He continues to come to us today. And if you are not daily aware of His profound presence, then you may already be somewhat asleep, spiritually speaking.
We “fall asleep” on a spiritual level every time we turn our interior eyes to the passing, unimportant and even sinful things of this world. When that happens, we can no longer see Christ Himself. Sadly, this is becoming increasingly easy to do. Violence, sickness, hatred, division, scandal and the like plague us day in and day out. The news media daily competes to present us with the most shocking and sensational news possible. Social media daily seeks to fill our short attention span with sound bites and images that satisfy for but a moment. As a result, the eyes of our soul, our interior vision of faith, is darkened, ignored, forgotten about and dismissed. And as a result, many in our world today no longer appear to be able to cut through the growing chaotic noise so as to perceive the gentle, clear and profound voice of the Savior of the World.
As we begin our Advent season, our Lord is speaking to you in the deepest depths of your soul. He is gently saying, “Wake up.” “Listen.” “Watch.” He will not shout, He will whisper so that you must give Him your full attention. Do you see Him? Hear Him? Listen to Him? Understand Him? Do you know His voice? Or do the many voices all around you take you away from the deep, profound and transforming truths He wishes to communicate to you?
Reflect, today, upon the fact that God is speaking within the depths of your soul each and every day. He is speaking to you now. And what He says is all that really matters in life. Advent is a time, more than any, to renew your commitment to listen, to be attentive and to respond. Do not remain asleep. Wake up and diligently be attentive to the profound voice of our Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus! Come! May this Advent be a time of deep renewal in my life, dear Lord. May it be a time in which I strive with all my heart to seek out Your gentle and profound voice. Give me the grace, dear Lord, to turn away from the many noises of the world that compete for my attention and to turn only to You and to all You wish to say. Come, Lord Jesus, come into my life more deeply during this Advent season. Jesus, I trust in You.
First Sunday of Advent (Year C)
“Be vigilant at all times and pray.” Luke 21:36a
Advent begins with a call to vigilance as reflected in the passage above. There are numerous Scripture passages that call us to this vigilance and anticipation of the Lord’s coming. Being vigilant means, also, that we are prepared. We are not caught off guard. Imagine if Christmas morning came and you woke up suddenly realizing that you forgot to prepare! Imagine if you had no gifts, no food purchased and no plans were made. Of course you wouldn’t allow that to happen, but we do sometimes allow it to happen spiritually speaking. We often are not prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ within our hearts.
The first week of Advent also offers the focus of the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus will return again, in all splendor and glory, to judge the living and the dead. We profess that fact every Sunday in our Creed. So, even though Advent is a time for the preparation of the celebration of the first coming of Jesus in the flesh, it is also a time to acknowledge that His first coming is ultimately fulfilled in His final glorious coming.
As Advent begins, reflect upon how ready you are for Jesus’ coming. Are you preparing for it with the same fervor that you prepare for Christmas through shopping, cooking, decorating, etc.? Are you looking forward to that day when He will return? Are you preparing for the spiritual celebration of His birth? Are you awake and attentive to the numerous ways that God speaks to you on a daily basis?
If you find that you are not as prepared for His return in glory as you’d like to be, make this Advent a time when you get your heart ready. Commit to prayer, spiritual exercises, reflection and attentiveness to His gentle and glorious voice.
Lord, as Advent begins, help me to put my eyes on You. Help me to open my ears to Your voice. And help me to open my heart to Your glorious presence. May I be attentive to You in every way You desire to come to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Faith in the Most Holy Eucharist
Monday of the First Week of Advent
“Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” Mt. 8:8
This familiar line is taken from the faith of a Roman centurion. He asked Jesus to heal his servant, Jesus agrees to come cure him, and the centurion exclaims this profound faith in Jesus stating two things: 1) He’s not worthy of Jesus’ presence in his home and, 2) His confidence that Jesus can heal his servant simply by saying the word.
Jesus, of course, is quite impressed with this man’s faith and obliges him with the physical healing of his servant from a distance. But Jesus does much more than a healing. He also holds this man up as a model of faith for all.
This beautiful statement of faith from the centurion is used within the Mass to speak of two matters of faith in regard to the Eucharist: 1) We are not worthy to receive Holy Communion and, 2) We invite Jesus anyway to come and heal our souls.
Advent is a time when we especially ponder the great mystery of the Incarnation. It’s a time when we especially ponder the mystery of God coming and dwelling with us in physical form. Though this happened over two thousand years ago, it continues to take place at each and every Mass. And at each and every Mass we are called to express the same faith as this Roman centurion.
Reflect, today, upon your faith in the coming of Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist. Each Mass is a manifestation of the God-Man who came to live among us and live within us. If we but have the faith of this centurion, we, too, will be blessed by our God beyond measure.
Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to see my unworthiness each time I prepare for Holy Communion. And in that humble admission, may I also invite Your healing presence in my life. Jesus, I trust in You.
Humility Before the Mystery of Faith
Tuesday of the First Week of Advent
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” Luke 10:21b
So are you “wise and learned” or “childlike?” Which better describes your life? At first, that question may be hard to answer. If we didn’t know that Jesus elevated the quality of being childlike, we may be drawn to call ourselves wise and learned.
Of course there is nothing wrong with being wise or learned. The problem comes with what these qualities mean in the mind of Jesus. Jesus uses them to refer to those who think highly of themselves, are a bit pompous and are what you might call “know-it-alls.”
The sad truth is that a “know-it-all” does not actually know it all. They actually fool only themselves. The ideal is to be like a child in that a child is open to learn in a humble way, at least most of the time. This childlike quality of humility and openness disposes us to receive the true wisdom from above.
Jesus gives praise to the Father for hiding the mysteries of faith from the wise and learned while revealing them to the childlike. This is especially important to reflect on as we enter into Advent. Advent is a time when we need childlike faith and openness to understand and penetrate the beautiful mysteries of the Incarnation. Without this humble openness we will never fully understand the wonderful gift of God this Christmas.
Reflect, today, upon the openness within your heart. Are you ready and willing to soak in the great mysteries of God who came to make His dwelling place with us and within us? Are you willing to embrace that childlike faith necessary to penetrate the great mysteries of our faith? If so, it will be a wonderful Advent and Christmas.
Jesus Cares About the Details
Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way.” Matthew 15:32
The first thing this passage reveals could easily be missed. It reveals Jesus’ deep concern for the crowds of people. He not only cared for their souls, He also cared for their bodies in that He did not want them to go away hungry. This reveals Jesus’ total care for His followers.
We know the rest of the story. Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish and feeds the multitude. And though this is an incredible miracle on a physical level, it is just as miraculous on a personal and spiritual level.
Personally speaking, the miracle is that God, the Almighty, the Omnipotent One is deeply concerned about the small detail of feeding the crowd their next meal. This reveals that God is not only concerned for our eternal salvation, He is also concerned about our daily needs.
Note that the passage quotes Jesus as saying, “My heart is moved with pity for the crowd…” And “I do not want to send them away hungry…” This very personal and human concern of Jesus should offer us great comfort in knowing that His care is deep and exhaustive.
The concern Jesus has for the physical need of food for His followers also points to His spiritual concern for His followers’ souls. If He cares this much about the body, He cares all the more for the soul and deeply desires to nourish their souls with the food of eternal life.
Reflect, today, upon Jesus’ deep and all-consuming care for you. Know that there is no detail of your life that escapes His notice. Though that may be hard to believe at times, know that it is absolutely true! Surrender all to Him in trust and know that He is there to reach out to you in your every need.
Lord, thank You for Your unfailing and perfect concern for every detail of my life. Thank You for Your perfect attentiveness to my needs. May I always trust in Your perfect care for me and surrender to Your loving providence. Jesus, I trust in You.
Listen, Understand, Act
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” Matthew 7:24–25
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life is to listen. Are you a good listener? Do you know how to listen? Most likely this is a struggle for you since it is a struggle for most people.
Listening is more than hearing. Listening implies that one hears AND comprehends. Furthermore, in this Scripture passage, Jesus makes it clear that “listening” is not enough. Once we’ve listened (heard and understood), we must act. Acting on the Word of God involves a total embrace and surrender to His Word and will. It means you allow the Word of God to dictate your actions and to set your feet “solidly on rock.”
The imagery Jesus uses is quite descriptive. A house built on sand is very different than a house built on solid rock. One can only imagine the problems that await a house built on sand. Every storm that comes will cause great anxiety and worry. Fear will always be present as the sandy foundation slowly erodes away. But if the house is on solid rock, there is great confidence in the midst of a storm.
Reflect, today, upon the foundation of your life. Advent is a time when we examine whether or not the foundation of our life is Jesus. He entered our world and took on flesh so that He could be that rock foundation. And the path to that rock foundation is to listen, comprehend and act. Set your “house” on Him in this way and no storm will erode the foundation of your life.
I Want to See
Friday of the First Week of Advent
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread word of him through all that land. Matthew 9:29b–31
This statement from Jesus is directed to two blind men who come to Him, beg for mercy and healing, believe in faith that Jesus will heal, and then are healed. But what’s quite fascinating is that Jesus tells them not to speak about their healing to others. Why would He say this?
First of all, the request of Jesus would have been impossible to follow. Everyone who knew these blind men would have known they were blind. And then, out of the blue, they could see. How could such a thing be contained?
Jesus most certainly knew that they could not contain such a miracle but, nonetheless, spoke these words to these men. To understand why Jesus said this we must understand the motive He had for healing them.
Jesus’ healing of these men was done purely out of love for them. They cried out for mercy and Jesus wanted to offer mercy. He did not do it as a way of gaining public praise or notoriety. He did it out of love for these blind men.
He also did this miracle to teach that He can heal the blindness of our hearts. He wanted these men to come to faith in Him and “see” Him for who He was. Therefore, this miracle was something deeply personal and was done out of concern for these two men to strengthen their faith.
What’s interesting to note, however, is that these men could not contain the joy they had at receiving this gift from our Lord. They had to cry out in gratitude and share their story. We can be certain that Jesus was not offended at this but saw it as a necessary result of their faith.
How about you? Do you see God at work in your life and then seek to spread the joy of His work in your life? Do you regularly witness to His action and healing? Do you seek to allow others to see all that God has done for you?
Reflect, today, upon the joy in the hearts of these blind men at their healing. And ponder your own joy at God’s activity in your life. If your joy is not overflowing, perhaps it’s a good day to ask the Lord, with a deep faith, to help you see!
The Gift of God
Saturday of the First Week of Advent
“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 10:8b
What is it that we have received “without cost?” Well, we have received every good thing for free. It’s true! All that is good is a gift from God. And it’s a free gift from Him. There is nothing we can do to earn His blessings in our lives. Do you believe that?
The above Scripture quote is part of Jesus’ exhortation to His Twelve Apostles as He sends them out to preach, heal and cast out demons in His name. He reminds them that all they have received from Him is a free gift and that they must, in turn, give the Gospel free of charge to everyone.
Advent is a time when we should especially focus upon the coming celebration of the Gift of Christmas. Christmas is a time when we give and receive gifts, but it’s important to understand the difference between a “gift” and a “present.” A present is something that is expected. For example, your spouse or child expects a present on their birthday or on Christmas. But a gift is something that is much more. A gift is something that is freely given, unearned and undeserved. It’s given out of love with no strings attached. This is what the Incarnation is all about.
Advent must be a time when we ponder the truth that God came to Earth to give us Himself in an unmerited and free way. His life is a totally free Gift to us and is the greatest Gift we have ever received. In turn, Advent must be a time when we also reflect upon our calling to bring the Gift of Christ Jesus to others.
Reflect, today, upon the giving and receiving of Jesus in your life. Let your heart be filled with gratitude this Advent so that you, in turn, can give the Gift of Jesus to others.
Lord, thank You for the Gift of Your life. Thank You for coming to Earth to enter into my life. Thank You for the joy of knowing You and loving You. May I allow this joy to so transform my life that I may continually seek to give You to others. Jesus, I trust in You.
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