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Advent Reflections 2021

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Advent Reflection for November 28- First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

Invitation to Prayer: Let us lift up our souls to the Lord, Who will make known to us His ways, and teach us His paths.

Reflection: “Are we there yet?” This is a question we have probably heard, and probably asked, multiple times throughout our lives. It is a question that frequently comes up in a journey, whether by those hiking in the woods trying to find a campsite for the night, or the kids in the backseat wondering when they would finally arrive at Grandma’s house for a holiday gathering. And it is a question that we may be tempted to ask during the Advent season upon which we are embarking today.

We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, and we know that many people have now jumped right into their Christmas festivities, barely taking a breath in between. But, with this Advent season, we are being reminded that we’re not there yet. This season of Advent, this beginning of the Church’s new liturgical year, is an opportunity for us to take the time to enjoy the journey. To proceed a little more slowly and intentionally towards Christmas – to notice what God is doing in our lives, and in the world around us, to help us be better prepared to welcome Jesus anew.

So, we may not be “there” yet, but, even now, Jesus is here, with us, as we begin this journey through Advent.

Prayer: Jesus, through Your Holy Spirit, grant us the light and strength needed to journey through this Advent season, so as to always be prepared to encounter You.

Father Tim Ralston is pastor at St, Bernadette Parish in Amelia.

Advent Reflection for November 29 – Monday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5; PS 122:1-2, 3-4b, 4cd-5, 6-7, 8-9; Matthew 8: 5-11

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the eyes to see the heavenly destination that You have prepared for us.

Reflection: What are you walking toward? One of the beautiful things about our Catholic Faith is the way in which we experience time. One liturgical year has just closed, and another lies open before us on day two of Advent. The readings for today begin with the prophet Isaiah and the Psalmist both describing the desire to journey toward the dwelling place of God. It speaks to a worldview that has God firmly at the center – a time when the entire earth desires to “stream toward” this mountain of the Lord.

The difference between the secular and Catholic understandings of Advent can be profound. For the world, it is a time to seemingly celebrate Christmas in advance, run to the finish line of December 25th, and move on. For the Catholic person, we wait in joyful anticipation and inch closer and closer to this great celebration of Christ’s Nativity. Once we’re there, we take time to be enveloped by the mystery of God’s own Son coming to us in the fullness of time. Then we set off anew into the rest of our year: traveling through Judea, walking after the Cross, and eventually celebrating Jesus’ universal kingship again before the cycle repeats.

The Christian recognizes that this entire life is a pilgrimage to our heavenly home. We use the rhythm of the year to show us how to anticipate, prepare, and walk this journey. Let us take this Advent, like no other, to truly place ourselves in the mindset of the traveler. Let us walk the way to Bethlehem with our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph her spouse. As we travel, let us see that mountain of the Lord draw ever closer and feel rejoicing well up in our hearts to return to the House of the Lord. For one day “many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the Kingdom of heaven,” (Mt. 8:11) and we hope to be included in that number.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, may my days be numbered and oriented toward you. Help me during this Advent season to keep my sight joyfully fixed upon the mountain of the Lord and give me the grace to walk this pilgrimage journey of life that You have given to me.

Closing: Think today about how you can turn your week into a mini-Advent. What ways can you joyfully anticipate the Second Sunday of Advent here at the beginning of the first?

Bradley Barnes has served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish since 2014.

Advent Reflection  for November 30 – Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
Rom 10:9-18, Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 11, Mt 4:18-22

Invitation to prayer: Lord, we thank you for the gift of another day, and we pray that we can faithfully follow you and your way of love.

Reflection: Today is the Feast of St. Andrew, a very special day to me. As the husband of a Spaniard, we’ve adopted a number of Spanish traditions into our family, including the celebration of ‘santos’ – the celebration of your namesake’s feast day. So as an Andrew, this day is especially lovely for me for on this day I get to decide what we have for meals and am treated extra well (not that my wife and kids don’t always treat me well). ?

But being my santo also causes me to pause and consider if I’m living up to my name. Am I following blindly the guidance of Jesus? Is my heart fully attuned to the call of God to come, follow, and be a “fisher of men” (and women)? This seems like a pretty tall order, but that’s what we’re all called to do, isn’t it? With all of the grace, mercy, and love we receive from God, can we justify not doing everything we can to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth, deepening our faith, and helping others to do the same?

During this season of waiting and anticipation, I invite you to look and see if you share a name with a saint, and – if so – learn about their life and see what you can draw from their example and apply to your life. (And if there isn’t, maybe find out who is the patron saint of something you love or which saint celebrates their feast on your birthday.) Whatever you find, I trust you can find guidance, deepen your faith, and come a little closer to our Lord.

Prayer: We thank you, God, for all of the many ways that you come into our lives – whether speaking directly into hearts or through the words and actions of our sisters and brothers – and pray that we make space in our hearts for your love and allow that love to lead our lives.

Andrew Musgrave is the Director of the Social Action office, and his wife of nine years, Ana, is a case manager with the Council on Aging. They have two brilliant and wonderful daughters, Layla and Juliet, who bring them laughter, joy, and craziness.

Advent Reflection for December 1 – Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 25:6 – 10a, Psalm 23:23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6, Matthew 15:29-37

Invitation to Prayer: The first week of Advent is also the first week of a new liturgical year. Yet again, we have the opportunity to experience the mystery of salvation as the Nativity, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ play out before us in the Mass throughout another year. As we begin this season of Advent, let us seek to experience anew God’s saving work in our lives and give thanks for all the ways he nourishes us.

Reflection: In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies that God will gather all the peoples and nations for a great banquet. God had made a covenant with the Israelite people, but Isaiah saw that something greater was yet to come. He says that God “will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations.” Though God loves his chosen people, he is not content simply to save his people alone, but wishes to bring all people to himself.

This prophecy is fulfilled in Christ’s Incarnation, and we see it especially in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus goes up to the mountain and is followed by the multitudes of people seeking him for his ability to heal their ailments. These would have been people from all different backgrounds and social classes. A large number would have probably been Gentiles as well. For Jesus, it doesn’t matter whether his followers are faithful Jews or ostracized Gentiles— he wants all people to know and love the Father.

But Jesus does not stop there. Gazing lovingly at the many thousands of his hungry followers, he satisfies their hunger with only seven loaves of bread and three fishes. Like Isaiah predicted, the Lord has provided a great feast for the many peoples who have gathered in praise of him! This will be a sign of even greater things to come. The loaves which satisfy the thousands only temporarily nourish the body, but at the Last Supper, Jesus will provide himself to all people as living bread which nourish the soul and bring eternal life.

The Lord has truly provided a feast for all peoples and continues to do so. Let us give thanks to God for inviting us to this great feast: a feast which is made possible by Christ’s Incarnation which we are preparing for during this Advent season.

Prayer: God our Father, as we wait in anticipation for the Advent of our Lord, prepare our hearts for the coming of Jesus, and may we always give you thanks for the salvation you offer us through Christ’s Incarnation. Nourish us in mind and body that we may praise you more fully each day. We ask this through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.

Christopher Buschur is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, currently studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is also a former intern at The Catholic Telegraph. Christopher’s home parish is St. Mary, Urbana.

Advent Reflection December 2 – Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Isa 26:1-6; Ps 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a; Mt 7:21, 24-27

Reflection: When building a house, hundreds of nuts and bolts are used to affix the frame to the foundation. A house, even a strong house built on a strong foundation, would not be able to withstand winds, floods and rain (cf. Mt 7:25) were it not properly fastened to the foundation.

On any given day, we undertake hundreds of actions that are of a moral character. A person who often says, “Lord, Lord” (Mt 7:21), a quite religious person, we might say, can easily fall into the habit of going about his day without really being rooted in Christ. I have personally been aware, when reflecting upon my day come nightfall, that I often act and think without being explicitly oriented towards Christ in my actions throughout the day.

God gives us the gift of a new day as a challenge to consistently fill that day with concrete acts of piety. Our day is an opportunity for us to find the “pearl of great price” (Mt 13:46) at every moment. More precious than gold or silver is the gift of God Himself through His will for us each and every second. What a marvelous reality: I can truly be one with Christ in my daily actions. In order to grasp this treasure hidden in the field (Mt 13:44) of our daily lives we must be rooted in a vital relationship with God through regular daily prayer. It is not enough to pray much one day and not pray so much on another. The measure of our spiritual vitality is what we do on a daily basis.

“The Lord is an eternal rock” (Isa 16:4). To set our house solidly on this rock, we need to fasten our home, our very being, on the firm foundation that is Christ through daily prayer commitments. How do I pray, on a daily basis, without ever missing a day? Our daily habits of prayer are the nuts and bolts of the spiritual edifice of our soul. Through prayer, God Himself “sets up walls and ramparts to protect” (Isa 26:1) our home.

Advent is a time of new beginnings, a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ child that is the source of all good gifts (cf. Jam 1:17), a time to commit to a more fervent and habitual daily prayer life.

Prayer: O Lord, “it is you of whom my heart has said, ‘seek his face.’ O Lord, I seek your face” (Ps 27:8). What small gift of daily prayer can I give you starting today and every day henceforth?

Samuel Vásquez serves as the Managing Director of Hispanic Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. He attends St. Gertrude parish with his wife Adriana and his children.

Advent Reflection for Friday, Dec. 3, 2021 – Friday for First Week of Advent
Is. 29: 17-24 and Mt. 9:27-31

Invitation to Prayer: Today we celebrate the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. He is one of first Jesuits who left behind plans for his own worldly advancements to become a great missionary. He discovered his vocation to open people’s eyes to the great love of the Lord. Let this Advent reflection on his life move us to be missionaries wherever we are, sharing God’s love, compassion, hope and even joy!

Reflection: In today’s first scripture reading we see the powerful and hopeful promises of God given through the prophet Isaiah that “…out of the gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord.” In Matthew, we read that Jesus admires the faith of the blind men who are healed and who then run off sharing their joyful Good News with all.

Francis Xavier has been caught up in own thirst for personal material success. However, in 1529, St. Ignatius of Loyola asked him “What will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” After a long period of self-reflection, study, prayer and guidance, his “blindness” of selfishness fell away. Francis then discovered the new joy of knowing Jesus which freed him from inward gloom and darkness. His new zeal then took him to grueling, difficult, and long journeys to India, Indonesia, and Japan to share this good news. Even though his message was sometimes rejected, he stood with his loving Lord in spite of it all, sharing that light of joy he found with Him.

During this Advent season then we could consider how well we reflect that same joy of knowing the light of Jesus in our daily lives. Yes, there are many hardships and disappointments in our lives, as Francis Xavier had faced. But with prayer, reflection, and support of our family, friends, and parish, we to can allow that love and peace of the Lord to come through our eyes, hands, and words of encouragement to others.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you healed the blind and called Francis Xavier to be your messenger and missioner of hope, compassion, love, and LIGHT. During this Advent season please give us your strength to open our eyes to the needs of others to let your grace and joy shine through us wherever we are sent.

Dr. Mike Gable, his wife Kathy, and four sons served as Maryknoll lay missioners in Latin America. As the Director of the Mission Office for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Mike invites you to support our 1,200 struggling mission dioceses worldwide. Interested in mission work or parish twinning relationship? Contact: [email protected]

 

Advent Reflection for December 4, 2021: Saturday of the First Week of Advent
Is 30:19-21, 23-26; PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Mt 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, as we journey through this period of preparation we call Advent, may we find you in the waiting so that we can confidently say with today’s Psalm, “Blessed are all who wait for the Lord.”

Reflection: In C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, there is a line that has stuck with me over the years, “Then came the worst part, the waiting.” Yet, today’s readings speak to us of the many blessings of those who wait for the Lord. In the reading from Isaiah, the prophet assures the people of Israel that the Lord is not blind or deaf to their waiting for the restoration of the kingdom. Furthermore, the prophet says, “he will bind up the wounds of his people” (Is. 30:26). In the Gospel, we see Jesus doing just this: “proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness” (Mt 9:35). The people of Israel did have to wait for the Messiah to come, but when he did, he came ready to heal and to lead them into the Kingdom of God. Is our waiting leading us to healing and a greater anticipation of God’s Kingdom? Furthermore, are we, like the Apostles in today’s Gospel, willing to go out and proclaim and build that Kingdom here and now? May we embrace the waiting as an opportunity to prepare our hearts and accept the everyday gifts he offers on our journey to heaven.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, make me an instrument of your Kingdom. In this time of waiting and anticipation, give me the courage to proclaim your faithfulness and your blessings to all who put their trust in you. Help me to accept the gifts you give and let go of my own expectations of how things ought to go, so that I can find true joy in your coming into the world and into my heart.

Matt Reinkemeyer is the Director of Development Operations for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Stewardship Office. His passion is for sharing vision and mission rooted in the Gospel with others and inviting them to be a part of it.

Advent Reflection for December 5 – Second Sunday of Advent
Bar 5:1-9; Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6.; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6

Introduction: Jerusalem, arise and stand upon the heights/ and  behold the joy which comes to to from God.

Reflection:
What am I doing to prepare a manger for Jesus in my heart? In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist – clearly to the Jews paying attention and willing to listen – proclaimed far and wide in very stark terms a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. I know that I’m a broken person who needs repentance and who seeks forgiveness; am I just going to “wait it out” for Christmas, or am I going to apply my unique and unrepeatable likeness of God to prepare the way of the Lord?

There is no shortage of opportunities for God to take my brokenness and make something beautiful every day. But I’m constantly tempted to embrace my pride and focus on the Nativity without embracing the journey towards it. For me, preparing the way is to love more deeply by seeking the hurting, lost, and forgotten. The hardest part is realizing that sometimes they’re my closest family and friends. I need to work on being a better husband, father, son, brother, uncle, cousin, friend, employer, and business client. Wouldn’t that be the best kind of Christmas present for them and for me?

“Prepare the way of the Lord” is my meditation for today. It’s my job to do my part in preparation for Christmas, inviting God’s grace to fill me up and pour out from my brokenness for the best Christmas present I can be for Him and for everyone else in my life.

Prayer: Lord, open my heart and mind to let you be my guide on my journey. I know there will be distractions in this busy month. Help me to put aside those distractions and focus on you, how better can I serve you. Each day let me start by saying: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”

Michael Vanderburgh is executive director of St. Vincent de Paul Society in Dayton.

Advent Reflection for December 6, 2021- Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Is. 35: 1-10, Ps 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14, Lk. 5: 17-26

Invitation to Prayer: As we begin this second week of Advent, let us call to mind the way the Lord Jesus is preparing our hearts to receive him when he comes again in the flesh, the way that he has prepared already prepared our hearts through the grace of the sacraments, and the way he will continue to prepare our hearts and refine us, that we may be with him forever on the last day. Let us respond to the Lord’s action by making space for him in our lives, in this moment, and allow Him to draw us toward him.

Reflection: In today’s first reading from Isaiah (and by the way, how can you not LOVE Isaiah?!), we get yet another message of hope. He sets forth a great vision for the time when all “will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.” He concludes his beautiful poem speaking of a highway “for those who have a journey to make.” At the end of that journey will be singing and everlasting joy! What a vision to hold onto as we continue to live through the darkest days of our calendar year, and we struggle to go about getting our last Christmas gifts. We have a God who makes a path for us. He wants us to walk along, unhindered, uninterrupted toward him.

In our Gospel reading today, a man who is lame is carried into Jesus’s presence, despite their way being blocked. Jesus looks at the man, and the men who carried him in, and he sees, not the physical effort that it must have taken to accomplish the task of getting the man into his presence, but the faith that inspired them to do it. They had no doubt that the Jesus could heal their friend, and yet, what they received was something even more than could ever be expected. Jesus forgives their sins (it isn’t clear that it is just the sins of the paralyzed man or all three men), and then makes his power clearly known by telling the paralyzed man to get up and walk. It seems, as soon as the man was healed, there was nothing that stood in his way from leaving the room to go and “glorify God.” Not only that, but the way in his soul was clear and the man’s path was certain.

In both readings we see that God desires to clear obstacles for us. He actually makes a way for us, ahead of us, and doesn’t desire for us to try to make our own path. He knows what is in our hearts, He hears our grumblings and our doubts, but He makes the Way known to us all.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for always trying to make a way in our lives. Thank you for offering us healing and the grace we need to stay on the journey of the holy life. We ask you, Lord, to send your Holy Spirit into our hearts that we may come to know the ways and times we have made obstacles to the grace you offer. We beg forgiveness for the times we have tried to make our own way instead of following You who are the Way. Throughout the rest of this Advent season, may we be ever attentive to your will and strive always to go from our homes glorifying your name. Amen.

Wayne Topp is the Director of Young Adult Evangelization and Campus Ministry. Wayne and Marianne are featured in The Catholic Telegraph’s monthly column, Making Catholic Memories.

Advent Reflection for December 7 – Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
Lk 5:17-26:PS 96:1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 139; Mt 18:12-14

Invitation to Prayer: Let us rest with the Lord and be open to His word, so we can learn from His lessons.

Reflection: In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus asks his disciples, “What is your opinion?”. He wants to know what their thoughts are about whether or not a man should leave ninety-nine of his sheep to find the one that went astray. We all have opinions on a variety of topics. We’re all willing to share our thoughts on issues that may or may not directly impact us. Advent gives us an opportunity to reflect on Jesus Christ and the meaning behind the lessons He taught.

Being a father has taught me the significance of unconditional love. Having six children, all possessing various opinions at times, has shown me that you can truly love your kids, regardless of their beliefs. Jesus showed us the importance of loving each other unconditionally. Just like the man who went to find his one sheep that got away, God loves each and everyone of us like His own.

It’s easier for us to love others when they share their opinions on less significant issues, like – What do you want for dinner? Or, who do you think is the best team? But how do we love when the subject is more personal or filled with passion, like – How should we handle immigration? Or, what is the best way to deal with those who are struggling with identity issues?

Our faith teaches us to love our brothers and sisters. In the Lasallian tradition we say, “Live Jesus in our hearts…forever”. May we allow Jesus to live in our hearts during the Advent season so we can love all others, regardless of their opinions.

Prayer: Good and gracious God, help us to let Jesus live in our hearts more so we can love better and show more compassion to all, no matter their beliefs.

Aaron Marshall is the principal at La Salle High School.

Advent Reflection for December 8 – Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Gn 3:9-15, 20; Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, we ask for the grace always to be grateful for the gift of the Blessed Virgin Mary and to never lose the hope that we find in you.

Reflection: As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when we celebrate the great mystery and gift of Mary’s conception without Original Sin, we have many reasons to be grateful. This is the patronal feast day of the United States, and what a gift that we get to enjoy the intercession and protection of the one who “crushes the head of the serpent” (see Gn 3:15).

This is also a day of great hope. In the preface for today’s Mass, we hear that Mary is for us an “advocate of grace and a model of holiness.” Jesus says, “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), and this perfection is realized in Mary, who is our model. Mary says in her Magnificat, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). If the Lord has done such great things in Mary, and if Mary is our advocate of grace and model of holiness, then surely the Lord wants to do great things in us too.

This is important for us to remember because we can focus only on our sinfulness to see how far away we are from the perfection we strive for. We can wonder if we will ever find lasting healing. However, Jesus Christ and His mother have not given up on you or me. We can give thanks to God for the wonders that He has worked in our Mother and be confident that, through her intercession, he will work wonders in our lives as well. If we strive to remain faithful to the Lord, then he can and will “do great things” in us. Do not despair! Mary is your advocate, and the Lord loves you!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come before you humbly and grateful for your many good gifts. We ask that you fill our hearts with your Holy Spirit that we may always see the many blessings you have given to us. Today, we ask for the grace to be grateful for the good things you have done in our mother, Mary. We ask that you fill our hearts with hope and confidence that you wish to do great things in us too, and we ask for the strength to cooperate with your grace as you transform us into the sons and daughters that you have called us to be. We ask all this through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Father Chris Geiger is a professor at Mount Saint Mary Seminary

Advent Reflection for December 9 – Thursday of the Second Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 41:13-20; Matthew 11:11-15

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the strength and courage to “Fear Not” as we, too, accompany you on this journey to Bethlehem.

Reflection: As I continue my pilgrimage of faith throughout this Advent season, I try to contextualize what the journey to Bethlehem might have been like for the Holy Family. I can’t help but wonder what emotions they might have felt. Worry? Anxiety? Maybe even fear? Or perhaps their minds were at ease due to a sense of unwavering trust. Whatever their emotions on the journey to Bethlehem, one thing is certain; fear is a reality in the world we live in today.

“Fear not!” We hear this not once, but twice, in today’s first reading from Isaiah. This simple command, to be not afraid, is mentioned in Sacred Scripture 365 times. God is trying to tell us something! Advent provides us with the unique opportunity to step outside the normal day-to-day “routine.” By the grace of this season, we are given the tools to prepare our hearts to receive the infant Messiah. In preparing our hearts to do so, we must remember that there is no room for fear, no room for worry, no room for unnecessary anxiety. There is only room for peace. Padre Pio said it best, “pray, hope, and don’t worry.”

As we begin to approach the manger, trust in the Lord by surrendering all your fears and worries to Him. All we have to do is remember: “Fear Not! I will help you” (Isaiah 41:13).

Prayer: Jesus, show us the way; be our light in the darkness. Guide us on this earthly pilgrimage so that we too, might embrace you on that most holy, silent night. Amen.

Cody Egner is a DRE serving the parishioners of St. Cecilia, St. Anthony, and St. Margaret-St. John Parishes. He and his wife, Angela, founded St. Charles Catholic Pilgrimages where they guide parishes on pilgrimage to some of the most holy sites around the world.

Advent Reflection for December 10 – Friday of the Second Week of Advent
Is 48:17-19, Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6, Mt 11:16-19

Invitation to prayer: As we journey toward Bethlehem this Advent and the celebration of the birth of our King, let us turn our thoughts to the Holy Abode in which our LORD became Incarnate and remained until His Nativity.

Reflection: Just two years ago, Pope Francis decreed that the celebration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto be added to all the liturgical calendars of the world. On this date, December 10, we gaze with wonder, not into the workshop of Santa Claus, but into the Creator’s workshop, the Santa Casa of Loreto. Here in this simple home, where Mary herself was born, the humble handmaid of the Lord became the dwelling-place of the WORD made flesh, the purest image of the holy Church.

Tradition tells us that the Holy House of Loreto was not only the place of the Annunciation, but also where Mary was born and the Holy Family later lived. How could the Angels not desire to preserve such a place of veneration? For tradition holds, that the Holy Angels carried it from Nazareth to Loreto in 1294, after a brief stop in Croatia. Each century since has seen expressions of Papal approval and devotion from Saints.

One word that stands out in our readings today is ‘vindication’, the proof that someone is right. In Isaiah we read, that if we hearken, if we listen and obey the commandments of God, not only will our prosperity be like a river, but our vindication like the waves of the sea. In Matthew, Jesus says that wisdom is vindicated by her works, or in some translations, ‘wisdom is justified by her children.’

Today, many are indifferent. Profess that a virgin became pregnant and God became man and they simply shrug their shoulders. Play a magnificent tune and they don’t care to dance. Warn that the way of the wicked leads to destruction and no one mourns.

Others, as in the Gospel, twist the truth with critical theories. Come to them with unchanging truths about sexuality and marriage and they see a wicked resistance to change. Offer a defense of the unborn and it is twisted into an attack on women. Healthy fertility is treated like an illness. Openness to life is seen as irresponsibility and having many children as selfishness, but wisdom is vindicated by her works.
Mary was vindicated by her great work, her yes to God. She delighted in the law of the LORD and like a tree planted by streams of water, yielded much fruit, she bore the Light of Life.

Prayer: Lord, lead us in the way we should go and help us to bear the fruit of love in our own little houses as did the Madonna of Loreto.

Challenge: Pray the Litany of Loreto with your family.

David Ulmer recently joined the CNE as Associate Director for Chastity and Natural Family Planning after working as a pediatric nurse for nearly 30 years. NFP and Humanae Vitae led David & Linda and their children into the Catholic Church in 2005. His parish family is St. Columbkille in Wilmington.

Advent Reflection for December 11 – Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19; Mt 17:9a, 10-13

Invitation to Prayer: In silent wonder before the mystery of the Incarnation, let us open our hearts to the Lord who desires to show us the way to life and salvation.

Reflection: Anyone who has hiked to the top of a mountain and gazed out upon the surrounding lands knows that such experiences of grandeur and awe are seldom matched from more everyday vantage points. The conversation on the way down from the summit, while punctuated with moments of silent wonder, is a privileged time to share with others the effects such an impressive scene has had.
We encounter Jesus and his disciples coming down from a mountain, and not only had they seen the vast expanse of the surrounding fields and plains, but upon that mountain they had also witnessed the glorious transfiguration of the Lord. They were in awe at what they had seen: the glory of God and the glory of his creation. Having witnessed all of that they are excited and ask the Lord about the coming of Elijah, who the Jewish people eagerly expected to return to usher in the era of the Messiah. Back and forth, as they wind there way down the trails hugging the slopes of Mount Tabor, Jesus explains to his disciples both the vision they had seen at the summit and the truth of what lies before them. The prophetic return of Elijah had already taken place. The era of the Messiah was upon them.

But all would not be as they had imagined. The Messiah was bound to endure suffering, just as Elijah and later John the Baptist had suffered before him, but precisely in his suffering he would be victorious. He would not suffer simply for suffering’s sake; rather, in choosing to love without counting the cost, his love would triumph over suffering itself. With such love, Jesus descends the mount of the Transfiguration to make his way to Jerusalem where he will ascend the mount of Calvary. The same grandeur will shine there in that darkness.

This is the constant of God’s triumphant love: it cannot be overcome. Just as a star shone in the darkness of night to mark the coming of the Messiah, guiding the peoples to witness the love of God made flesh, so does the light of God continue to illumine the darkness of our world with hopeful radiance.

Prayer: Lord God, we have reached the half-way point of this season of hopeful expectation. Help us to take in the grandeur of the mystery of your love for us; cleanse our hearts that we may more perfectly reflect the light of your divine love into a world shadowed in darkness. In so doing, may your love flow through us to all those in need of your divine grace, bringing the hope and peace which are yours alone to give. We ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Father Jason Williams is Vice Chancellor & Master of Ceremonies in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Advent Reflection for December 12- Third Sunday of Advent
Zep 3:14-18a; Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Phil 4:4-7; Phil 4:4-7

Invitation to Prayer: Be filled with expectation

Reflection: In the Gospel for this Third Sunday of Advent, many of the people of Israel who had gathered to hear the preaching of John the Baptist “were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ.” The people knew the difficulties and sufferings besetting their nation. They had heard about God’s love and promise of salvation. But they didn’t know where to look to find the Savior. John, of course, would point them the right direction: “One mightier than I is coming,” he said. In a similar way, the peoples of Mexico had experienced great suffering and tribulation following the conquest by the Spaniards. They did not know the true God, but they knew that they needed peace and healing. Our Lady appeared to one native man, Juan Diego, and revealed to him the love that her Son had for his whole people. We, also, have a list of pains and worries. We also look expectantly to God for fulfillment and grace. May Our Lady of Guadalupe bring us the certainty of God’s protection and help as we continue to prepare for Christmas. And as we draw closer to Christmas, may the Lord show us his healing power.

Prayer: Rejoice! As we draw near to the celebration of the birth of Saviour, let me rejoice in the joy, but in those moments of longing, moments of trial, moments of loss. Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Father Ambrose Dobrozsi is the Parochial Vicar in Dayton Region XII Parishes

 

Advent Reflection for December 13- Monday of the Third Week of Lent
Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a; PS 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9; Mt 21:23-27

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our ears to hear that message that You will come again.

Reflection: God uses the most unlikely of characters to herald the coming of His Son. The poor shepherds were made some of the first witnesses to His Nativity. Magi from the East, not of the nation of Israel, came from afar to do Him homage. In our first reading, we are given reason to look for Jesus’ arrival through the utterance of Balaam, son of Beor.

Though Balaam had been hired to curse the Israelites, he could do nothing less than bless them. Even though he was facing intense pressure from Balak, the one who had summoned him, he did not relent. At the end of this reading, in a selection from his final oracle, he proclaims that he has seen something far off in the future: “A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.”

We serve a Lord whose coming was so crucial and important to the world that he was pre-announced (as Archbishop Fulton Sheen terms it in Life of Christ). Multiple prophecies and voices let Israel and the world at large know that eventually there would be a Messiah King to save the people of God. God still speaks to us today, heralding the coming of His Son into our hearts, and His Second Coming at the end of time. Perhaps we need to be open to hearing this Good News from an unlikely source, or perhaps we need to be open to the Spirit using us as an unlikely voice to tell someone else.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the ways that You make yourself known to us. Give us ears that are open to hear Your message of salvation and life. Let us be willing messengers that proclaim Your coming to those around us. Amen.

Closing: Our Gospel reading finds the chief priests and elders questioning the authority of Jesus. Take time to do a simple search for the many Old Testament prophecies and Messianic qualifications that Jesus fulfilled today. As you sit and pray with one, ask God to unveil something new to you about Our Lord.

Bradley Barnes has served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Parish since 2014.

Advent Reflection – December 14 – Tuesday Third Week of Advent
Zep 3:1-2, 9-13, Ps 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19, 23, Mt 21:28-32

Invitation to prayer: Lord, we thank you for the gift of your mercy, and we pray that we keep our hearts always open to conversion.

Reflection: I don’t know about you, but I don’t always make the right choice. Sometimes, I do what I think is the right thing, but it turns out not to be. Other times, I have the best of intentions, but my desires get in the way of God’s desires, and I falter. And other times, I just plain get it wrong.

As we read the scriptures of the day, we find so, so many people who don’t get it right: the arrogant, the rebellious, the liars, and the two-faced. And you know what? I am positive that at some point in my life I could be counted in all of those groups. Times when I got full of myself and forgot that it was God’s gifts that got me where I was. Times that I thought I knew better than God. Times that I wasn’t truthful. Times that I put on a good show or said the right words to impress people but then didn’t follow through on my commitment. I’ve committed and confessed a lot of sins, and you know what? The one thing that has stayed consistent throughout all my tribulations is God. God is always patiently waiting for me to come around, gently (or sometimes not so gently) pushing me back to the path of life, love, and compassion.

There’s a saying I once read: grace is getting what you don’t deserve, and mercy isn’t getting what you deserve. God always offers us forgiveness and another chance to do what is right. As you both reflect back on this past year and wait for the coming of Christmas, I invite you to remember the times God has been graceful and merciful with you and consider how you might be more graceful and merciful with yourself and others.

Prayer: We thank you, God, for all of the infinite ways you love us, and we pray that we always turn our hearts back towards you, knowing that you are always there waiting with open arms and a loving embrace.

Andrew Musgrave is the Director of the Social Action office, and his wife of nine years, Ana, is a case manager with the Council on Aging. They have two brilliant and wonderful daughters, Layla and Juliet, who bring them laughter, joy, and craziness.

Advent Reflection for December 15 – Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; PS 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14; Lk 7:18b-23

Invitation to Prayer: In the light of God’s declaration in the first reading and the hope of which we sing in the responsorial psalm, let us turn to Jesus with that same question put forth by John the Baptist’s disciples: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

Reflection: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

This question, posed to Jesus by two of John the Baptist’s disciples in today’s Gospel, is one of the foundational questions in our life as Christians, and one that we must ourselves ask of Jesus Christ. It is an urgent question because it is one upon which our faith rests. Is he truly the Son of the God who announced this from the beginning and foretold it from of old? Is he truly the one who proclaims peace to his people?

And Jesus, in response to these two disciples, reminds them of what they have seen and heard: “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” In other moments, Jesus draws upon the history in Scripture to speak of his identity, but he speaks in this case to the lived reality of these two disciples. When we pose the same question to him, is his response not the same? We encounter Jesus Christ, the living Word of God, in Scripture, yes; and the approach of Christmas reminds us that he also continues to persistently seek an incarnate encounter with us, even in the questions and joys and sorrows of the present moment.

Today my parents celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary. Both of them were born in the Philippines, in the same city, but they each had to make their way across an entire ocean to meet in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s almost comical, how far they had to go before their paths would cross, but what a gift of providence that they did! I look at my parents, who have walked with faith in Jesus Christ and patiently toiled with hope for their family, now surrounded by children and having just welcomed their third grandchild, and I see a glorious witness of the marvelous love of God.

Even with only my twenty-five years of life thus far, I can look back and see how Jesus Christ has never abandoned me; how even from my most painful moments he has drawn out so much beauty; and how even through what seemed to be the most futile of pursuits he has been teaching me to offer my life in his to be taken, blessed, broken, and given for the life of the world. As my personal vocation continues to unfold, I can say with absolute certainty that even the little that I have seen has been so magnificently ordered that only God can claim to have authored it.

Jesus commands, “Go and tell what you have seen and heard.” And how could we be silent? For the whole Church is full of those who were once blind, and lame, and lepers; for I myself have been deaf, and dead, and poor; for Jesus Christ has come for your salvation and the vindication and the glory of all the descendants of Israel. May we see in gratitude what God has done in our lives and the lives of those around us, then let us go and tell what we have seen and heard, singing with Mary,

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Prayer Loving Father, Teach us, especially in this season of Advent, to receive anew your most beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into our hearts, so that he may dwell in us and work in us, in such a way that when those whom we encounter ask of him, “Are you the one who is to come?” our lives – as the blind who have regained our sight, the lame who walk, the lepers who have been cleansed, the deaf who now hear, the dead who have been raised, and the poor who have had the Good News proclaimed to us – may be an unassailable testament to the glory and truth of who he is: the Just One, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Paco Patag is the Director of the Queen City Coronators and is in his second year of the Missionary Innovator formation program at the Saint John Leadership Institute in Denver, CO.

Advent Reflection for December 16 – Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
Is 54:1-10, PS 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b; Lk 7:24-30

Invitation: Lord, we listen to Your voice and claim the truth you give to us today and everyday.

Reflection: Today the Lord speaks to us through his prophet Isaiah:

In an outburst of wrath, for a moment,
I hid my face from you;
But with enduring love I take pity on you,
says the LORD, your redeemer

The season of Advent serves as a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord; in this preparation it is easy to experience conviction. We may reflect on parts of our life where we fall short or turn our back to God. We may simply identify missed opportunities to choose to live the Christian life throughout the day. While conviction can look different for each individual, there may be a consistent tendancy towards performing a certain way. This performance mentality can create pressure that weighs on us and potentially even separates us from the Lord’s truth.

The truth is that the Lord has enduring love for us. He takes pity on us. He redeems us.

Are there times in the day we are forget this? Are there moments where we think we have to earn His love? Or that our past decisions deem us unworthy of it?

The Lord wants for us to be united with Him. There is no room for the lies that stir from within us. We welcome conviction bringing real change into our lives, all the while rejecting any performance mentality that may come along with it. Let us continue the journey to Bethlehem alongside Mary and Joseph in pursuit of more truth! Spoiler alert: It’s going to be found in a manger at the end.

Prayer: Lord, align our actions more closely to the high call You’ve given us. Grow in us the desire to become more like You. Help us long to choose you in every decision we make. Relieve us from the lies of needing to earn your love or mercy. Free us from any performance mentalities that may subside from our convictions. And remind us of where we can find truth today, the rest of advent, and every day in the future. Amen.

Ben Swanson is a senior at the University of Cincinnati, studying Computer Science. He’s involved with Catholic Bearcat and Saint Paul’s Outreach ministries on campus and will graduate in the spring.

Advent Reflection for December 17 – Friday of the Third Week of Advent
Gn 49:2, 8-10, PS 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17; Mt 1:1-17

Invitation to prayer: O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Reflection: The Gospel reading for today is boring. At first glance, it is only a list of names, half of which seem impossible to pronounce, and the other half invoke shadows of memories from our childhood catechism classes. We surely recognize Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Maybe Boaz and Ruth, Tamar, Amos. And we skim over Shealtiel, Eliakim, and Matthan. Why does Matthew choose to begin his Gospel with the genealogy of Jesus? What does this list of names have to tell us about the work of Jesus in the world today and this Advent?

As an adoptive and foster dad to my sons, a genealogy tells the story of my children before they were mine. Their family trees reveal and speak to deep questions about their identity, what their purpose is in the world, and to reconcile their new family with their old family. The Advent and Christmas season in my house is an amalgamation of the old and the new, the traditions from all the families that make up my family. Their personal history has become my history too.

Jesus was born in a specific place, to a specific family, for a specific purpose. The genealogy of Jesus, traced through Joseph, reminds us that the story of salvation weaves throughout all of history, that all those who came before Jesus and all those who came after have a role to play. The incarnation of Jesus as a human baby, into human history, marks the beginning of the center-point of history. God gave Jesus to Joseph and Mary because He knew they would raise Him in the tradition of the Jewish people; born in the Holy Land promised to His people; and sent for the salvation of the world.

You, too, were born in a specific place, to a specific family, for a specific purpose. This Advent, spend time remembering those who came before you: your parents, grandparents, your relatives that live on in the stories you heard as a child. Spend time making new memories, ones that will be told to your grandchildren and to their grandchildren. Continue to weave the legacy of faith that has been given to you to give to the next generation – whether priest, parent, or friend.

Prayer: Father, give us your heavenly Wisdom and help us to enter in the mystery of the Incarnation this Advent season.

Shane Legg is the Assoicate Director for Youth Evanglization and assists with training and development for youth evangelists, mainly in the Dayton area. He also oversees the parish athletic programs for the Archdiocese. Shane and his wife Jenna have been married for 5 years, and have 13 and 10-year-old (foster) sons.

 

Advent Reflection for December 18 – Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
Jeremiah 23:5-8; St. Matthew 1:18-25

Invitation to Prayer: Let us fix our eyes toward heaven as we await the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ, that our lives may be pleasing to God.

Reflection: Life is a journey. Your life may look completely different than mine, but we are all on a journey. One thing that is common among every journey is that there is a destination. Striving for that destination gives purpose to everything that is experienced along the way, whether it be seen as good or bad. Have you thought about your life’s journey lately? Have you pondered what your destination will be?

In today’s Gospel, we read the words of the Archangel Gabriel concerning the birth of our Lord, “She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” I read this and immediately reflect on two things; 1- I am one of His people, 2- I need saving from my sins. This is why God became man, to save you and me from our sins! No wonder the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest” at our Lord’s birth. The gates of heaven would soon be opened, and mankind could be welcomed home to that destination they were created for. No matter how difficult the journey may be, remember this; God made you for heaven!

Each morning I offer Jesus my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings for that day. As a husband and father of 8 children, you can imagine I have plenty of all 4 to offer! No matter what our individual journeys look like, there will inevitably be a combination of these things. If we see heaven as our destination, then we will accept the saving grace that Jesus offers us through His Church and conform our lives to a way that is pleasing to Him, who came into the world to save us from our sins.

Let us honor God each day by offing our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings to our Savior Jesus Christ!

Prayer: O great God, King of heaven and earth; this Advent, help me to make a good and humble confession and prepare my soul to honor You during the Christmas season. Lead me through my journey that I may be pleasing to You in this life, and happy with You in the next. + Amen

Joshua Agnew is a husband, father of 8 children, and Deputy Superintendent of Catholic Identity for the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Advent Reflection for December 19 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
Mi 5:1-4a; Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19.; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45

Invitation to Prayer: As our celebration of Christmas is coming closer, we can especially reflect on the fact that, in the words of the second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, a “body has been prepared” for the loving God: the Incarnation is real.

Reflection: Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man, who chose this rather strange way to draw us back to Himself. We went off track in the beginning, and the God who is love was not content with that at all. Instead, He came to us as Jesus Christ, as one of us, in order to bring us back. In the words of John’s Gospel, He “became flesh and dwelt among us.” Literally, it says, He “pitched His tent among us.” We have been given these “tents,” these imperfect but wonderful bodies in order to live: to know Him, praise Him, serve Him, and love Him.

Prayer: “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps. 139:14)

Fr. Christopher Komoroski serves as the assistant chaplain of Catholic Bearcat, the Newman Center for the University of Cincinnati, and is the parochial vicar of St. Monica St. George, Annunciation, and Holy Name Parishes in Cincinnati.

 

Advent Reflections for December 20 – Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Is 7:10-14; PS 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6; Lk 1:26-38

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us put away the things of the world that get in the way of answering your call as confidently as Mary answered.

Reflection: Our family has been talking about angels quite a bit lately. We’ve hung more images of angels in our house and the kids ask great questions about good angels and bad angels, and not a day goes by where we don’t seem to have to thank a guardian angel for saving one of us from something!

But I also find it interesting that angels preface any meeting with a human with, “fear not.” We have one image of the annunciation which looks upon Gabriel from Mary’s point of view and his eyes are just burning with…knowledge, power, and a single-mindedness that shows their desire to do God’s will only. The artist captured an intensity that Scripture describes. The person of an angel is so far different than the person of a human, we would rightly fear a visit; yet we are the ones who get to receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Give your guardian angel a gift this week…take them to adoration, it’s all they want for Christmas!

And then we think of Mary’s response to such an intense visitor and we realize how wonderful Mary really is. I recently read a reflection on the fact that the whole of Israel, all of the covenants and kings, the prophets and battles, all of God’s corrections and guidance through thousands of years was for the single purpose of preparing one small girl to answer as she did. How can I be even slightly more inclined to put aside my fear and simply trust in what the Lord is asking me to do?

Prayer: Holy Mary, Mother of Jesus, pray to Him on my behalf that I always stay close to Him and desire to do His will. Help me to model your humility, doing a small part to bring peace to others this Christmas.

Dcn. Nathan Beiersdorfer is the deacon at St. Cecilia Parish in Oakley, where he ministers primarily to engaged couples, families and as a spiritual director. He works as CFO and chaplain at Archbishop Moeller High School. He is married to Tricia who homeschools their three children as they try to live out their family mission: All for Jesus, through Mary, with one another.

Advent Reflections for December 21 -Tuesday of the  Fourth Week of Advent
Zep 3:14-18a; PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21; Lk 1:39-45

Invitation to Prayer: What a beautiful, heart-warming event we celebrate today, the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth! Such a wonderful missionary story of a young Jewish girl who is excited to leave the comforts of her home to travel and share this amazing Good News… that Jesus was coming to share his life with us! As we reflect on Mary’s “Yes” to God and approach the birthday of her Son, could we examine our willingness to leave our own comforts to serve others in need?

Reflection: In today first reading from Zephaniah, we read, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.” This Bible passage certainly could have come to the minds of both Mary and Elizabeth as they joyfully hugged each other that day in the town of Judah.

The late Maryknoll Missionary, Sr. Janice McLaughlin, pointed out that even with this joy in mind, Mary had to know that this unexpected event would certainly change and upset her whole world. Mary would be uprooted from all that she had known and the future she had imagined for herself. Yet, she trusted in God’s will and word.

Notice that after the angel told her about the pregnancy of Elizabeth, Mary allows herself to be uprooted again to rush and help her cousin, in spite of her own situation. When she arrives, she greets Elizabeth and proclaims the “Magnificat,” a hymn to God’s transforming and liberating love.

As Sr. Janice reminded us, our own “Yes” to God also demands that we relinquish our own comfort to help others wherever they may be…near or far…the lonely and forgotten, migrants, prisoners, those in homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals….

Prayer: Oh Mary, mother of Jesus, form in us hearts, minds, and souls like yours to be willing to say “Yes” frequently to God. Inspire us to share your Son’s Good News of compassion and liberation through our actions, words, and lives, even when it’s uncomfortable. And motivate us to serve not with drudgery and blandness, but with your Son’s transforming love and joy!

Dr. Mike Gable, his wife Kathy and family served as Maryknoll lay missioners in Latin America. As the Director of the Cincinnati Archdiocesan Mission Office, Mike invites your support for our 1,200 struggling mission dioceses worldwide. Interested in parish twinning relationships or mission work near or far? Contact: [email protected]

 

Advent Reflections for December 21 -Tuesday of the  Fourth Week of Advent
Zep 3:14-18a; PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21; Lk 1:39-45

Invitation to Prayer: What a beautiful, heart-warming event we celebrate today, the visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth! Such a wonderful missionary story of a young Jewish girl who is excited to leave the comforts of her home to travel and share this amazing Good News… that Jesus was coming to share his life with us! As we reflect on Mary’s “Yes” to God and approach the birthday of her Son, could we examine our willingness to leave our own comforts to serve others in need?

Reflection: In today first reading from Zephaniah, we read, “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; He will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love.” This Bible passage certainly could have come to the minds of both Mary and Elizabeth as they joyfully hugged each other that day in the town of Judah.

The late Maryknoll Missionary, Sr. Janice McLaughlin, pointed out that even with this joy in mind, Mary had to know that this unexpected event would certainly change and upset her whole world. Mary would be uprooted from all that she had known and the future she had imagined for herself. Yet, she trusted in God’s will and word.

Notice that after the angel told her about the pregnancy of Elizabeth, Mary allows herself to be uprooted again to rush and help her cousin, in spite of her own situation. When she arrives, she greets Elizabeth and proclaims the “Magnificat,” a hymn to God’s transforming and liberating love.

As Sr. Janice reminded us, our own “Yes” to God also demands that we relinquish our own comfort to help others wherever they may be…near or far…the lonely and forgotten, migrants, prisoners, those in homeless shelters, nursing homes, hospitals….

Prayer: Oh Mary, mother of Jesus, form in us hearts, minds, and souls like yours to be willing to say “Yes” frequently to God. Inspire us to share your Son’s Good News of compassion and liberation through our actions, words, and lives, even when it’s uncomfortable. And motivate us to serve not with drudgery and blandness, but with your Son’s transforming love and joy!

Dr. Mike Gable, his wife Kathy and family served as Maryknoll lay missioners in Latin America. As the Director of the Cincinnati Archdiocesan Mission Office, Mike invites your support for our 1,200 struggling mission dioceses worldwide. Interested in parish twinning relationships or mission work near or far? Contact: [email protected]

Advent Reflection for December 22 – Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
1 Sm 1:24-28, 1 Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd, Lk 1:46-56

Invitation to Prayer: Holy Mother, Great with Child, riding a donkey to Bethlehem, bear us. May we exult like John in Elizabeth’s womb in the Gift you bring to all the world.

Reflection: The first reading sets the stage for the responsorial psalm taken from chapter 2 of I Samuel. “My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.” Why does Hannah’s heart exult in the Lord? Was it because the LORD had granted her request with the gift of Samuel, the child for whom she had prayed, for whom she had longed with all the many sorrows of an empty, barren womb; each month, “year after year” (we read in vs. 7), shedding the scarlet tears of her ongoing infertility? Well, yes, of course her heart was full of gratitude, but it had to be more because she had just left her son with Eli.

In response, with her heart bursting with maternal love, she says, “Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD.” No greater offering can a mother make in gratitude and in faith than her own precious child. Every bit of her being had been poured out into this child for perhaps 5 to 7 years. From the moment of the first sense of her pregnancy, all her emotions, her attention, and actions had been for the raising of this precious gift, knowing that she had made a vow to God Almighty to give him back (vs 11).

Her great act of faithful obedience and love, for love is the obedience of faith, resulted in exultation. In perfect submission to the Spirit of God, she spoke the Word of God and we have her words, God’s Word, preserved to this day in the second chapter of the book of I Samuel. “Exultavit cor meum in Domino “, her heart thrills in God.

This echoing exultation, having been sung throughout the centuries culminates with another outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the second reading. Just after the jump of joy, the exsultavit of John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb, we have Mary’s exultavit. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” This is the Magnificat of Mary. Her soul magnifies the LORD, proclaiming His greatness and exults!

“Steeped thus in Scriptural thought and phraseology, summing up in its inspired ecstasy the economy of God with His Chosen People, indicating the fulfillment of the olden prophecy and prophesying anew until the end of time, the Magnificat is the crown of the Old Testament singing, the last canticle of the Old and the first of the New Testament.”* What more can be said of this beautiful song of worship?
Maybe this Christmas we can respond to God’s great gift of love by giving all we hold close to our hearts back to Him in faithful obedience. It might be the unmet longing for a child. We may harbor a fear of another pregnancy with all the responsibility. It could be the sadness of the loss of a miscarriage. Maybe it is the joy of the little one you now hold or anticipate. Whatever it is even ongoing temptation and frustration, let us leave it with Jesus. Let us remain with Jesus in every aspect of God’s gift, in the manger, on the cross, in the Blessed Sacrament.

Prayer: Oh God, may our souls magnify You with our Mother Mary and our hearts burst with the joy of Your coming to fill our hungry hearts with Your gift of love.

*Henry, Hugh. “Magnificat.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 16 Dec. 2021

David Ulmer recently joined the CNE as Associate Director for Chastity and Natural Family Planning after working as a pediatric nurse for nearly 30 years. NFP and Humanae Vitae led David & Linda and their children into the Catholic Church in 2005. His parish family is St. Columbkille in Wilmington.

 

Advent Reflection for December 23 – Thursday of the Fourth Week in Advent
Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; 25:4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14; Lk 1:57-66

Introduction: Redemption

Reflection: Today may be the highest stress day of the year. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Do I have everything, are the presents bought and wrapped, do I have all the food for my guests: and then the dreaded one thing I missed. I missed a gift, I missed making that certain kind of mashed potato or famous rolls I make every year. Or worrying that the one gift I bought online in October, still hasn’t arrived.

Instead of dread, this should be the day of anticipation. You may have seen the movie where Clark Griswold tries to make the perfect Christmas event: and everything goes wrong. Yet today, everything is perfectly right.

Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand!

In Luke’s gospel, Elizabeth has her child. Her mute husband is given back the gift of speech after writing on a tablet “John is his name.”

So while we immerse ourselves in festivities, it’s the best day to stop and anticipate how Christ was placed in our lives: in a simple manger. God is among us and our redemption is at hand. Could there ever be a better message than that?

The simple act of saying yes, accepting God’s great gift of mercy and redemption. Sharing that gift with your family and friends this weekend. Is there any better gift than that?

Prayer: Lord, open my eyes to the simple gifts of your mercy and kindness. As we celebrate the Christmas Season, help me share that gift with those around me. And Lord, need a little patience as well!

Greg Hartman is on the staff of The Catholic Telegraph

Advent Reflection for December 24 -Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent
2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16, PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29; Lk 1:67-79

Invitation to Prayer: Let us raise our prayer to the Lord, the one who comes to be our savior.

Reflection: Today’s Gospel is the Canticle of Zechariah. This Scripture is a regular part of Morning Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours. We are reminded to worship God as He has come to His people to set them free. He is fulfilling His promise of long ago. Zechariah reminds us that through God’s compassion we will be “guided into the way of peace.”

As we look to celebrate the Solemnity of Christmas, we long to be guided to a lasting peace. We are called to be peaceful people. It can be easy to get lost in the hectic, not always peaceful, Christmas gatherings and gift giving sessions. Let’s not forget that our Savior came to save us, bring peace and to fulfill the Father’s promise. This is the last day of Advent, let’s be prepared spiritually for the Lord’s birth. Let’s have great faith like Zechariah!

Prayer: Loving God, we place our trust in you. Help us to continually be aware of your saving presence in our lives. Make us grateful for the many gifts you provide for us every day.

Father Ed Pratt is the pastor of Ascension Parish in Kettering and the Chaplain of Badin High School in Hamilton.

Reflection for December 25th The Nativity of our Lord
Readings from the Mass at Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12 Psalm 97:1, 6, 11-12. Titus 3:4-7, Luke 2:15-20

Invitation to prayer: A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us!

If you will, place yourself on that road to Bethlehem as a young shepherd who just encountered the angel of God proclaiming the news of the Savior’s birth… I imagine my heart would be pounding with excitement recalling the bold voice of the angels still stirring in my ears! “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people!” This was truly something celestial…unbelievable. To be overcome by the presence of angels announcing to us the savior, who is wrapped in swaddling clothes. I imagine the night cold and dark, but in my excitement and fervor, bolstered by this celestial encounter of glory, I speedily scurry to meet the Son of God!

It is amazing how the Lord comes to each of us today. He wants to encounter you in a radically personal way, not dis-similar to the way that the shepherds encountered Him on that cold night in Bethlehem. On this day I would encourage you to sit with the Gospel of Luke and place yourself in the midst of the holy family and the Christ child. How would you feel when the Blessed Virgin asks you to hold Jesus? What would you say to Him?

Prayer: Jesus, I know that you love me and desire to encounter me in a deeper way this Christmas day. May I know your love for me in a new way. I pray that I may ponder your living Words of love echoing in my ears and continually reflect upon them in my heart.

Fr. Jacob Willig is the Chaplain to the Catholic Newman Center at Miami University

 

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