Home»Features»Advent Reflections 2022

Advent Reflections 2022

33
Shares
Pinterest WhatsApp

Introduction to Advent 2022

Invitation to Prayer: Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord.

Reflection: The first candle is about to be lit!  Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent.  Hopefully, you are participating with an Advent Wreath in your home this season.  In his excellent article, The Weaving of Moral and Sacramental Theology in the Advent Wreath, Anthony Crescio describes the meaning and symbolism of the Advent wreath, along with the virtues enacted by its use. “The Advent wreath calls us to cultivate the three virtues of repentance, religion, and reverence as we prepare to meet Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, at His Nativity.”  Read his article for more on each of these.  Tomorrow we begin with preparation and penance.

This call to prepare is seen in the readings from this Sunday.  Isaiah beckons, “Come, climb the LORD’s mountain… that He may instruct us in His ways, and we may walk in His paths.”  With urgency, St. Paul says, “it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep”, “the day is at hand”, “throw off the works of darkness”, “make no provision for the desires of the flesh”, “put on the armor of light”.   Christ in the Gospel reading says, “you also must be prepared for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

The liturgical color of Advent and 3 of the four candles of the wreath is purple.  As in Lent it signifies penance, yet it is inseparable from hope.  The Season is one of anticipation in preparation for a hopeful celebration.  From Isaiah: , “The branch of the LORD will be luster and glory, and the fruit of the earth will be honor and splendor.”  “The LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:  shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from the storm and rain.”  Then again in the Gospel, “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.”

May we approach our Savior in humility as the Centurion with the faith that we may be healed of all that paralyzes us in our faith journey and freed from all that keeps us from joyfully anticipating His coming.

Prayer: Come and save us, LORD our God; let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Action: Enter more fully into this Advent season with penance and preparation by going to the Sacrament of Confession and marking the days with an Advent Wreath until the celebration of our LORD’s coming at Christmas.

David Ulmer 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 November 27- First Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 2:1-5, Ps. 122:1-9, Romans 13:11-14, Matthew 24:37-44.

Invitation to Prayer: “Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.”

Reflection: “Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake!”

Isn’t it amazing how busy and noisy life becomes during the Advent season?  If you’re reading this today, you probably want to prepare your heart for Jesus in this season.  It always seems so difficult to fit in the time of prayer in the midst of shopping for presents, baking cookies or preparing feasts, and spending time with family and friends.  Even though we may be on vacation for part of Advent our schedule is often disrupted and it is difficult to find time to pray.  The devil wants us to remain so anxious and busy that we forget about Jesus.

Our Lord reminds us today that time is short.  He reminds us of our truest priority in life.  Him.  If we want to pass the true joy of Christmas on to others we need to firstly encounter the Lord.  In the midst of doing so many things, I actually encourage you to do LESS this Advent season so you can be more available to Jesus and your family. Maybe that means saying no to some event or activity so you can make Jesus your priority.  Have you scheduled time with Jesus?  Be not afraid. Put Jesus on your daily calendar. How can we simply sit with our Blessed Mother and learn from her to ponder the life of Christ?  As we embark on this Advent journey, may we sit patiently with the Blessed Virgin and experience the peace of waiting for Jesus.    

Prayer: Come Holy Spirit, Come through Mary.  

Father Jacob Willig is the Chaplain at the Catholic Newman Center at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Advent Reflection for November 28 – Monday of the First Week of Advent
Isaiah 4:2-6; PS 122:1-2, 3-4b, 4cd-5, 6-7, 8-9; Matthew 8:5-1

 Invitation to Prayer: Come, Lord Jesus, into our lives, where we seek healing, but may be too paralyzed to act.

Reflection: The centurion was only really trying to get his servant cured.

His plan was simple and direct – to go and ask Jesus to cure a servant he valued. Jesus was willing to come. He offered to come right away, but the centurion was willing to wait, deferring to Jesus’ authority and the demands on his time. He had faith enough to believe that Jesus would cure his servant in the proper time, saying a word of healing.

I wonder if he realized that in trying to broker a cure for his servant, he actually is brokering a cure – a conversion of heart – for us. Over two thousand years ago a servant was paralyzed – in pain and unable to move. Isn’t that all of us at one time or the other in these days?

This is the perfect Gospel for the beginning of Advent. If we look close enough, we will see we are both the centurion and his unseen and ill servant in a time of waiting, an advent of their own, if you will.

Like the centurion we want healing for the ones we care about, perhaps including ourselves, all done out of love. We don’t feel worthy to have the Physician make a house call or even cross the threshold into our innermost self. Our inner room is not tidied up enough to receive divine callers, we think. Yet, we do recognize the authority and skill of the Physician. We trust that there will be a cure.

We are also the servant – paralyzed and stuck in place, unable to move from our current condition without the curing Word. With a word He can make our hurt disappear, get us on our feet and back on the path to do the work we are called to do. To care for the poor and vulnerable – children yet to be born and the conditions their expectant mothers live in, people who are underpaid and underemployed, people brought low by racism, people sitting on death row, people facing the cross hairs of war and hate.

Prayer: Good and gracious Healer, say but the word and our souls will be healed, so that we can work to heal the harm done to others.

Closing: Make a call or advocate today to be the “centurion” looking to heal the ills befalling our neighbors.

Pam Long served as Regional Director of the Catholic Social Action Office, retiring in 2017. She is a parishioner at St. Julie Billiart, Hamilton.

 

Advent Reflection for November 29 – Tuesday of the first week of Advent
Readings: IS 11:1-10; PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17; LK 10:21-24

Invitation to Prayer: Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Reflection: Peace. It’s a term kicked around, but something we desire.

Following Christ and taking his words to heart, is the greatest path of peace.

These past years our world of personal pace and world peace has been upended with a tragic pandemic, and war in Europe.
During the pandemic, our lives changed drastically on a dime. There were lockdowns, children couldn’t go to school, life memory events were cancelled: all creating a hole in our lives. Peace was shattered,

I went through a shattering peace moment in the summer. I fell, shattered my ankle and my first thoughts were why me? Yet hundreds of people prayed, The staff at the hospital brought me peace in their assistance and smiles. Encouragement triumphed over doubt. So many people I never knew guided me on the path of peace with Jesus Christ the guiding hand.

As darkness overtakes daylight, we are travelling toward a day that the world changed forever more. It’s a wonderful time to utilize God’s gifts of encouragement and perseverance. Those tools lighten the darkness and bring about peace. Days of quiet and listening. Do you hear what I hear?

Prayer: Lord Jesus help me to encourage my friends and family and walk with them in a journey of Christ this Advent Season. Help me to shed my sins to be a warrior of peace.

Action: This Advent, help out those around you, especially encourage and persevere with those dealing with loss.

Greg Hartman celebrated his 30th year on staff at The Catholic Telegraph

Advent Reflection November 30 – Wednesday of the First Week of Advent
Readings: Rom 10:9-18; Ps. 19:8, 9, 10, 11; Mt 4:18-22

Reflection: God is perfect in every way. All that God is and all that God does is perfect. This is pretty basic affirmation, yet one not so well-known aspect of this perfection is that the Father loves the Son and the Son, in turn, receives the infinite love of the Father. Whatever the Son is or has, He has from the Father. In other words, in God there is infinite perfect reception. To be properly receptive then is a kind of perfection.

In our first reading today, St. Paul teaches that “faith comes from hearing,” (Rom 10:17). Faith is not something that we can make up, no, it must be received from without. I have often thought that the greatest difference between Catholicism and Protestantism lies in this simple fact. Sola scriptura (scripture alone) in some shape or form will always devolve into sola ego (what I alone think). We end up coming up with our own interpretation, but the greatness of Catholicism is that we don’t make it up, we receive it. Reception is the essence of Catholicism and of our daily Christian life.

We often experience the perfection of receiving with joy. Who doesn’t like to receive a nice gift? But there are other things that we are less inclined to receive: daily trials, great hardships, and correction. We often balk at the reception of such gifts. In the face of such negative experiences, we are filled with a great desire to act and make up a new reality. We might speed and break traffic laws when there is congestion, excuse ourselves when corrected, and escape the hardship and monotony of life with a preferred drug of choice. We don’t know how to receive all that God gives us.

During Advent we must elicit a great yearning within our heart to receive the Christ child more perfectly once again. Our family prays the St. Andrew Novena prayer every day from November 30 until Christmas to prepare our hearts to receive Christ anew. I have often thought of that midnight hour “in the piercing cold,” of how baby Jesus chose to receive his moment of birth in such dire conditions to be able to give Himself to me. What a wonder to behold. In the helplessness and generosity of the Christ child we find the perfect model of reception.

St. Andrew Novena Prayer: “Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my petitions through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.”

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 December 1 – Thursday of the First Week of Advent
Readings: Isaiah 26:1-6; PS 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a; Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our minds and hearts to discern Your will so that we may always point others towards you through our word and deed.

Reflection: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock” (Matthew 7:24).

In today’s gospel, Jesus elevates those who not only listen to the Word, but also act on the Word. The distinction is drawn between those who listen and act verses those who solely listen. Our Lord points out that simply listening is not enough; that action is 100% necessary in building up the kingdom of God.

I’m deeply reminded of this when working with the Catechumens and Candidates seeking sacramental entry into the Catholic Church. Learning about the faith is simply the first step. It is only truly fulfilled through ACTION. In other words, how do you LIVE the faith.

The same can be said for each one of us as we journey through this pilgrimage of Advent. Many of us spend time each day reading from our Advent Meditation Booklets provided by our parishes, listening to Bishop Robert Barron, or reading these Advent meditations from the Catholic Telegraph. But do any of these meditations actually matter if we are not taking what we are reading and putting them into action?
Surely no one is saying that listening to the Word of God is a bad thing. Yet Jesus challenges us by stating that listing is simply NOT ENOUGH. For if we only listen but do not act, we will be as fools who built our houses on sand. But one who listens AND acts is like a wise man who built his house on rock (Matthew 7:24).

So take Jesus’ words to heart. Read your daily meditations and then PUT THEM TO ACTION! Be fed from the living Word and then ACT. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as I make this pilgrimage back into your loving arms, give me the grace and strength that I need to always look to you as my guide, my rock, and my foundation. For it is only through resting in you that I will be able to cross this desert into the promise land.

Closing: Take a moment this week and ask yourself if you are truly LIVING the faith or simply living the life of complacent Catholicism. Are you listening and acting….or just listening?

Cody Egner has served as the Director for the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization for the Eastside Family of Parishes (St. Cecilia and St. Mary) since 2015. He is also the Founder and CEO of St. Charles Catholic Pilgrimages.

Advent Reflection for December 2 – Friday of the First Week of Advent
Readings: Isaiah 29:17-24; PS 27:1, 4, 13-14; Matthew 9:27-31

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, Emmanuel, open my eyes so that I may see your glory.

Reflection: “Do you believe that I can do this?” What a question, Jesus. Here in the midst of 2 blind men who followed him, crying out his name, begging for help. “Do you believe that I can do this?”

In the book of the prophet Isaiah, God is revealing to us that soon the deaf shall hear, the blind shall see, oppression will cease, and all will be free. I don’t know about you, but today I don’t always see, hear, or feel that. In a world full of poverty, oppression, and slavery (to so many things) it can be easy to get discouraged in the world and feel blind, deaf, oppressed, and enslaved.

But, we are not meant to stay here!

Christ Jesus, Emmanuel, is coming! The one who opens the ears of the deaf, sets captives free, and opens the eyes of the blind. Yet, Christ Jesus is not an oppressive dictator. He is not going to force his will upon us. Instead, he asks and patiently awaits our response to this simple question, “Do you believe that I can do this?”

Christ Jesus is asking us what we want to be healed from! So, what do you want him to do for you? Start by thinking about the thing in your life that is holding you back from being fully united with Christ. Think of the thing that blinds you to God’s goodness, the thing that makes you deaf to His voice, or the way you’re enslaved to your own sinfulness. We all have something deep inside us that makes us question, “God, can you actually do this?” But, Christ is asking us to have faith that he is the one foretold by the prophet Isaiah who will set us free from sin and bring us into the kingdom of Heaven. Be bold in your asking, for there is nothing too big or too small for the God of the universe.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief. Please open my eyes so that I may see you in a new way. Open my ears so I may hear you in a new way. Open my mind so I may understand you with a new understanding. Open my heart so that I may receive you in a new way.

Closing: On this first Friday of Advent, take some time today to sit with God. Read the Gospel again today, but put yourself in the place of the blind men and ask the Lord to free you and heal you from whatever is blinding you from God’s presence in your life.

Alex Bodenschatz served as a NET Missionary from 2018-2020 and now works with NET as the Eastern Regional Recruiter.

Advent Reflection for December 3 – Memorial of St. Francis Xavier
Readings: 1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-23 and Mk 16:15-20

Invitation to Prayer: As we near the end of our first week of advent preparation, we arrive at the feast of one of the most prominent saints of the Church, St. Francis Xavier. . This saint, who is the co-founder of the Society of Jesus, is widely known for his missionary work.  It is clear that, from the beginning, the impetus for the community was to go out and spread the Gospel. This, of course, is in sharp contrast to the way so many of us have been living lives of “preaching to the choir.”

Reflection: “Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” This command from Jesus in Mark’s Gospel is one of striking phrases of His that makes me sit back and say, “Are you serious, Jesus?” But he doesn’t back down from the statement. In fact, he gives the apostles his assurance that their preaching will be effective and then is “taken up into heaven.” The apostles are now left alone with a command and a promise. How would I respond? How do they respond? Check out the next line! “They went forth and preached everywhere.”

In the Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul doubles down on the responsibility of every follower of Jesus Christ to preach the Gospel. He says, “Woe to me if I do not preach [the Gospel]”, and “I have been entrusted with a stewardship.” To preach the Gospel, according to St. Paul, is to recognize that we have been given a great gift and to share that gift with all “in order to save at least some.”

In our everyday lives, it is easy to surround ourselves with people who think and believe just like we do. That’s not bad! Jesus actually modeled that behavior with his apostles by investing deeply in a small group of people. However, he never stopped seeking the lost! And that is where we can so often fail in our own spiritual journeys. “Preach the Gospel to every creature” is not about preaching to the choir and expecting that when they sing, every creature will come to know Jesus. Instead, it’s about personally seeking opportunities to share the way God truly matters in our lives. If our relationship with Jesus makes our lives better, then don’t we want others to know how to have a better life?

Prayer: Loving Father, you filled St. Francis Xavier with a zeal for saving souls through the preaching of the Gospel to every corner of the earth. May we be inspired by his constant vigilance to the movement of the Holy Spirit in his life and be ever in tune with your Holy Will for our lives, and in so doing, draw closer to you through the witness of the way you have saved us. Amen.

Wayne Topp is the  Managing Director of the Young Adult Evangelization and College Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Advent Reflection for December 4 – Second Sunday of Advent
Readings: Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12

Invitation to Prayer: Let us open our hearts to the Lord, to offer Him praise and to glorify God for His mercy.

Reflection: As we begin this Advent season, we are invited into the beginning of a new liturgical year. When we start something new, there can be fear or a bit of hesitation as we enter into the new season whether it be a new job, a new school, a new relationship. But, once we are welcomed in, that fear subsides a bit. St. Paul writes to the Romans, “Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Remember how that first welcome or greeting in a new situation felt. How it calmed your nerves or brought peace amidst the storm. I challenge you, this Advent season, to be that face of welcome to others. We often have lapsed Catholics, returning to Mass during this Advent and Christmas season. How can I welcome them as Christ welcomes me?
In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist prepares the way for the coming of the Lord. Through his preaching, people acknowledge their sins and turn to the Lord in repentance and many were baptized. The Lord wants to welcome us back into full communion with Him. So, if it’s been a while since your last confession, find a time to make a good confession and repent of your sins this Advent. As we prepare our hearts to receive the Lord Jesus at Christmas, we can receive Him more fully with our souls cleansed for sin. John the Baptist said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Prayer: Jesus, prepare our hearts to receive you more fully. Help us to welcome others into our lives and into your Church. Grant us the grace we need to repent of our sins and turn to you and the Sacraments to receive your love and mercy.

Andrea Patch is the Eastern Regional for NET Ministries.

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

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, be with me in my desert.

Reflection: The readings for today brought that beautiful quote by St. Augustine to mind: “I gazed into my deepest wound and was dazzled by your glory.” It begins with an awareness of woundedness, leads to a readiness to contend with that which has been broken, and results in a profound encounter with the loving mercy of God. In the first reading, Isaiah shares a hope-filled promise, that “The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. . . ” But a future promise for a renewal of life implies the current reality of a place of desolation. Even now, in the Year of Our Lord 2022, we are well aware of the deserts that remain before us, the many jackals ready to devour us, and so much sorrow and mourning that has yet to flee. And yet, in the desert, Isaiah says, “A highway will be there, called the holy way. . . It is for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.”

His words call to mind those of Christ: “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” Both speak to the mystery of suffering in the economy of salvation. It is through our suffering- in the midst of our very desert – that he makes a way for us to come to him. The woundedness that we face in our relationships with others, ourselves, and the rest of the world is precisely where he desires to bring the healing that can only come about through his love. Our awareness of the dissonance reveals to us that we were not created for this brokenness – we were created for relationship with God and we are deeply in need of a savior to restore wholeness in our lives.

But a response is still needed from us: we must still pass through the desert; we must follow where he leads; we must “strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!” What a gift, then, that we are a Church, the living Body of Christ, and the Communion of Saints, who can bring each other to Christ for healing. In different moments of our lives, we may be the ones bringing a friend on a stretcher to Christ, or the ones on the stretcher ourselves. In bringing each other to Christ, sharing the encouraging word, bearing each other’s burdens, we ourselves are opened to receive his healing mercy. Certainly, it may not look like the healing that we expect or even hope for: we may not receive a miraculous physical recovery, or the sudden overcoming of an addiction, or a complete restoration of a broken relationship. But it is in bringing our wounds to him that we are healed of the much deeper affliction of sin, that we also might be wounded healers in the midst of this desert, bringing his love and mercy to others.

Prayer: Loving Father, through the incarnation of your Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, you invite me into relationship with you as your child. Help me to trust and follow you through the desert of this earthly pilgrimage. Enkindle within me your Holy Spirit, that I might be a channel of your love in the midst of the world, and so bring many to abide with you forever. Amen.

Paco Patag is a homeschool graduate and an alumnus of Cincinnati State Community College, the University of Cincinnati, and the Saint John Leadership Institute. He serves as the Associate

Advent Reflection for December 6 – Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent (Feast of St, Nicholas)
Readings: Is 40:1-11, Ps 96:1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 13, Mt 18:12-14

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our ears to hear the message of your loving power.

Reflection: Think about comfort. Maybe that word evokes a certain food, a warm blanket for a chilly day, or even a kind word from someone you know. Maybe we’ve even heard that word used in the last days of a loved one’s life: “All we can do is make them comfortable.” The word indicates a transferal of strength, a lending of support from someone who stands with another. In the first readings from today’s Mass, God’s prophetic Word is an appeal for comfort to His people.

Maybe, as the light wanes and the weather gets colder, we find it hard to muster up enough strength for ourselves (let alone strength to lend to others). If God is speaking “Comfort my people” to His Church today, how can we respond? Our readings reveal that when God desires comfort for His people, it is a desire that those people would let themselves be comforted. He is there to be our strength, if only we let Him.

The remainder of our selection from Isaiah speaks to the power of His Word and the might of His Arm. It also shows us that His strength is a tender support, like the gentle embrace of a shepherd carrying a lost lamb back to the fold. It is this theme that Jesus picks up in our Gospel from today, reminding us that He is the Good Shepherd who gave up everything in hopes that not one of us “little ones” would be lost.

Let us be mindful that someone in our life may need to hear that God has enough strength for whatever cross they are carrying. We may even need to hear this word ourselves. As we continue the Advent journey to Bethlehem with the Holy Family, let us be reminded that the St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary give us models of reliance on God, the one who brings true comfort.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you have revealed to us the strength of a Father who loves us. May we be willing to let His will be done in our lives so that his strength can be a true comfort to us and those around us this Advent season. Amen.

Closing: As you reflect on those in your life that may need comfort, allow the Holy Spirit to reveal one name to you. Make a serious commitment to reach out to that person in some way before Christmas arrives.

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

Advent Reflection for December 7: Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
Readings: Is 40:25-31, 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10, Mt 11:28-30

Invitation to prayer: Jesus calls us to rest. Bring to mind any burden you carry today and prepare to lay it at the feet of Our Lord.

Reflection: How can we understand the easy yoke and light burden of Our Lord?

We turn to St. Mechtildes, who when she was tormented with fearful headaches and could find no rest, heard these words from Christ as He showed her the wound in His side, “enter now, and be at rest.” This she did, and entered in with gladness. And it seemed to her that He had as many silken pillows as she had felt pangs of headache. And the Lord said, “Silk worms carry silk, and of Me it has been written, I am a worm and no man. Until now thou hast served Me devotedly in labors; from now on thou shall study to serve Me in pleasing exercises of virtues by My example; and the things you cannot carry, I will carry.”

This yoke of Christ is not so much a yoke as a silken pillow, because it does not press us with trouble, but releases us from the weight of earthly things, and raises us to Heaven.

Prayer: “God our Father, help us always to turn first to your son in times of trouble, knowing he will lighten every burden, if only we ask.”

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

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, help me recognize and imitate the brave and humble cooperation in your Divine Humanity that the Blessed Virgin Mary freely gave to all people through your Incarnate Word.

Reflection: Today we celebrate the great mystery of Mary’s conception without Original Sin. This patronal feast day of the United States invokes a vision of brave and humble decisions to invite our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to master our lives and show true freedom by his ways.

Bravery and humility make a most challenging combination! So often when the aggressiveness of bravery urges me forward to love in uncomfortable circumstances I find myself leaving humility behind. When I see myself as the protagonist in loving my neighbor, that’s a prideful, possessive love; when I recognize my mere cooperation with God in that moment as an agent of his mercy, that’s my imitation of Mary at its best.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, this day I ask for the grace to be humble and brave like your Mother. Help me cooperate with your plan for me so that I can know, love and serve you and lead others to you as Mary does. Amen.

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

Advent Reflection for December 9 – Friday of the Second Week of Advent
Reading: IS 48:17-19, PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6, MT 11:16-19

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, open our hearts, minds, and ears to hear your guidance and follow your ways.

Reflection: No matter what situation you’re in, you can be sure of one thing – people will tell you what you to do. Whether this comes in the form of gentle guidance, unrequested advice, stern direction, or a reminder of the rules, you will be told what to do. Sometimes, this guidance is immensely helpful and offers clarity and peace. At other times, the guidance is laced with pessimism, competition, and/or selfishness. And sometimes – just sometimes – it is immediately clear that what you’re hearing is the voice of God.

Regardless of where you find yourself – on a mountain top or in the deepest ditch, filled with love or dread, feeling worried or clueless – God has a path forward. The tricky part, of course, is removing the barriers (whether they be internal or external) and humbly listening to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the path is easy and sometimes it’s treacherous, but it’s always the right path. Sometimes the path is taking two steps back, sometimes it’s staying still, and sometimes it’s a leap of faith into the unknown, but God’s path is always born out of love, powered by love, and towards love.

There have been many, many times in my life when I didn’t know what to do next or where to turn. But there’s never been a time when – if I calm my mind and open my heart – God hasn’t been there waiting patiently, lovingly to lead me where I need to go. Just like when I put out my hand to lead my young daughter across every street or when I ask my teenage daughter if she needs me to listen to her when she’s facing any difficulty, God is there. The next step is up to us.

Prayer: God, you are always there for us. Jesus, you love us unconditionally. Holy Spirit, you guide us through our lives. I pray that I can let go of my earthly worries; accept your presence, love, and guidance; and journey faithfully to more perfectly love you, myself, and my neighbor and continue to build your kingdom.

Andrew Musgrave is the Director of the Social Action office, and his wife of Ten 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 10- Saturday of the Second Week of Advent
Readings: Sir 48:1-4, 9-11, 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19, Mt 17:9a, 10-13

Invitation to Prayer: Lord, as we journey through this period of preparation we call Advent, may we turn our hearts to meet you who come to meet us.

Reflection: How hard is it to turn? If we turn around to see something behind us… this may be easy when we are young and harder as we age. If we’re talking about a large ship like an aircraft carrier or the Titanic, it can be quite difficult to turn around. If we have a car with power steering perhaps that makes it a bit easier. But how hard is it for us to turn our hearts? Today’s readings remind us that we need to turn our hearts to the Lord. Elijah the prophet spoke words that “were as a flaming furnace” trying to get people to turn their hearts. John the Baptist, who Jesus tells us is the new Elijah, came with the word, “repent.” Jesus tells us that the scribes got it right… Elijah must come before Jesus. What he is telling us today is that we need to heed both Elijah and John the Baptist’s words: “Repent and turn to the Lord.” In doing so, we will be turning to Jesus who is waiting to meet us there.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, my heart can be so stubborn and my pride too strong. Send your Holy Spirit to help me repent and turn my heart to you. Help me to humble myself as you did in the manger, so that I can more readily follow your plan for my life and gain the gift of Eternal Life you came and won for me.

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 11 – Third Sunday of Advent
Readings: Is 35:1-6a, 10, Ps 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10, Jas 5:7-10, Mt 11:2-11

Invitation to prayer: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.”

Reflection: Happy Gaudete Sunday! In our Entrance Antiphon for Mass today (quoted above), St. Paul instructs us to “rejoice in the Lord always.” To find joy in every situation. This is an important reminder for each one of us because, as we look at the world around us, and even at our own lives, we might find many reasons not to rejoice. Continued attacks on the dignity of human life, increased division amongst people, high prices wherever you turn – all of this can make it challenging for us to rejoice. We wonder, perhaps, how we can actually put into practice Paul’s words, when it seems that so many things are not going well. It’s helpful to know that Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, including this particular verse, while in jail. Even while undergoing this trial, this suffering, Paul is still able to see a cause for rejoicing.

What’s the reason for Paul’s joy? “The Lord is near.” God is with him, as, indeed, God is with us still. That is what enables us, as followers of Jesus, to rejoice always – because we know that no matter what is going on in our lives – Jesus, our Lord, our Savior, and our King, is near. He is not far from any of us. As we begin now this third week of Advent, what can we do to grow in our awareness of, and appreciation for, the presence of Jesus in our lives? How can we allow these next two weeks to truly help us be prepared to celebrate His birth with great joy and to welcome anew Him Who is called Emmanuel – God with us?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Mother Mary said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Allow me, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to know the joy that You, my Savior, want to bring into my life.

Fr. Tim Ralston is Pastor of Parish Family SE-6: St. Bernadette, St. Mary Bethel, St. Peter New Richmond & St. Thomas More

Advent Reflection for December 12-Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Readings: ZEC 2:14-17, JUDITH 13:18BCDE, 19, LK 1:26-38

Prayer: Lord God, may we allow you into our hearts and into our lives in the expected and the unexpected. May it be done unto us according to your word.

Reflection: My daily commute to the Archdiocese’s Pastoral Center in Downtown Cincinnati via I-75 South contains what you would expect to find in a rearview mirror on any drive: cars and headlights following, changing lanes, and then making their way into my blindspot before zooming past (don’t worry, I do my share of the passing, too – safely, of course). One day in November, however, I had the unexpected fill my rearview mirror – an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a large magnet on the hood of a car. I recognized the car from the parking lot at the Pastoral Center but had yet to see it or another vehicle with such a display “in the wild”.

The event made me smile and then ponder at how unexpected our Lord and our Blessed Mother can be at work in our lives without our choosing of the timing. A route I take every weekday became a reminder of the presence of God in my life.

For St. Juan Diego, meeting Mary on the site of a former Aztec temple was unlikely part of his schedule as he walked to Mass one December morning. Then, to continue a morning of the unexpected, he receives a message from Mary to share with the Bishop! The resulting recognition of Mary’s presence and her message of life through her Son to a culture steeped in human sacrifice led to the conversion of 10 million people to Christianity.

This poor, uneducated, and unexpected farmer is chosen out of history, at age 57, because God can use anyone at any age at any time. Just ask Mary herself or her cousin Elizabeth, both of unlikely age in their separate ways, yet chosen to fulfill a part of God’s plan for salvation.

The Church, in her wisdom, gives us Advent as a time of expectation, a season of preparation and anticipation. We do not just remember Jesus’s birth but also wait for his Second Coming. In what is expected – the traditions, the gatherings, the friends and family, the giving and charity, even the daily commutes, let us also be open to the unexpected that the Lord of all time and space can use for miracles.

Closing Prayer: Lord of our lives, salvation, and all time, thank you for remembering us. Thank you for seeing our lives, caring for us, and for giving us hope of things yet to come. Please work miracles in our lives. Please help us be open to the unexpected and find you waiting there for us. Jesus, we trust in you.

Molly Gallagher is a Scheduling Administrator for NET Ministries’ Eastern Regional Office and volunteer for Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at Guardian Angels Catholic Church.

Advent Reflection for December 13-Memorial of Saint Lucy
Readings: ZEP 3:1-2, 9-13, PS 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 AND 23, MT 21:28-32

Invitation: The Lord hears the cry of the poor.

Reflection:  In today’s gospel, Jesus challenges the Chief Priests and Elders on two sons. One was asked to go into the vineyard but he said no, but eventually went. The other son said yes, but didn’t go. Which son was in his father’s grace, and the natural reaction was the first. Yet Jesus says it’s the tax collectors and prostitutes that enter heaven before the righteous.

I often struggle with obligation versus love of obligation. I can go through the motions, attend Mass and leave the same person I was an hour before. However, falling in love with that time with Christ is always a life changing experience, even if it’s a nudge. It’s easy to fall in love with obligation goes right. Yet when obstacles are thrown in front of us, the love of obligation strengthens us for those times. There are certain times we don’t have the strength and it’s others prayers lift us.

This Advent our journey is about to bring us to the greatest enlightenment: the birth of Jesus. A moment that forever changed the world. In the next few weeks, how has that moment changed your life?

Prayer: Saint Lucy, whose beautiful name signifies light, by the light of faith which God bestowed upon you increase and preserve His light in my soul so that I may avoid evil and be zealous in the performance of good works, and abhor nothing so much as the blindness and the darkness of evil and sin. Obtain for me, by your intercession with God perfect vision for my bodily eyes and the grace to use them for God’s greater honor and glory and the salvation of souls. St. Lucy, virgin and martyr hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. Amen.

Greg Hartman celebrated his 30th year on staff at The Catholic Telegraph

Advent Reflection for December 14-Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church
Readings: IS 45:6C-8, 18, 21C-25, PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14, LK 7:18B-23

Reflection: “Let the earth open and salvation bud forth; let justice also spring up! I, the Lord, have created this.” In today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, we hear of God’s desire for justice. At this time, Israel is in disarray. The people have turned away from God, and are about to be conquered by the surrounding nations. The situation looks bleak, but the Lord offers hope. He says, “Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!” Despite Israel’s sins and falleness, God assures his people that he still loves them and wants to be with them. Ultimately, his people continue to disobey him and wind up in captivity. He does, however, promise them a savior.

Fast forward several hundred years, and we see Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. We see him in the midst of many miraculous acts- curing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and expelling evil spirits. He comes to the many broken, suffering people and cures their ills. The savior promised by God has come and has begun to heal his people. Still, Jesus does not make a big show or fully reveal his identity. The disciples of John the Baptist approach Jesus and ask him whether he truly is the one to come, or if they should look elsewhere. Jesus does not come right out and say “I am the Messiah!” But he does quote the prophet Isaiah, by which he hints that he is indeed the one who is to come.

Jesus wants to be with us and present in our lives, but he does not usually reveal himself to us in an explicit or flashy way. He wants us to give us a choice: are we willing to take the risk and follow him? Are we willing to be attentive, waiting and listening to hear his voice? This Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare to celebrate Christ’s first coming and we look forward to his second coming. But most of all, we should take this time of Advent to prepare our hearts to be a dwelling place for Jesus. This means examining our consciences to find the areas where we still struggle to follow God fully, as well as quieting ourselves to listen for the voice of the Lord, so that we may truly turn to him and be safe.

Prayer Father, you sent your only begotten son to be our savior and heal our iniquities. Grant us the grace and humility to recognize our faults, and the patience to listen attentively to your voice. Create in our hearts a dwelling place for your son, and grant us all that we need to follow you more perfectly. We ask this through your son 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 on Pastoral Internship. He is also a former intern at The Catholic Telegraph. Christopher’s home parish is St. Mary, Urbana.

 

Advent Reflection for December 15 – Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
Readings: Isaiah 54:1-10; PS 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b; Luke 7:24-30

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we prepare during this Advent season for your blessed Nativity, help us to order all things towards you. For you Lord, are all that truly matters.

Reflection: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you” (Luke 7:27).

When reading today’s Gospel, you’ll notice Jesus addressing the crowds after John the Baptist’s messengers had left. He initially addresses the crowds by stating “What did you go out to the desert to see, a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see” (Luke 7:24-25)

Let us today apply that same question to our lives. When we attend Mass, what are we seeking? Of course, we know the true question should be “WHO are we seeking?” Too often we find ourselves going through the motions without truly and actively participating in the Mass. Do you find yourself getting distracted during Mass? What about during your personal prayer time at home? Do you find yourself failing to give God time every day in prayer? At times, the busyness of our day creeps into our personal relationship with our Lord, unfortunately becoming a wedge between us and God.

The season of Advent is a PERFECT time to become soberly aware of these distractions. The Church’s encouragement of fasting is perhaps one of the most effective tools in identifying and eradicating the plethora of distractions we stumble into each day. This Advent, start by removing the distractions at home. When your children are tugging at your shirt desiring your attention, put down the screen. When you are at Mass and you find yourself thinking about your grocery list, pray: “get behind me, Satan!” and turn back to the Eucharist. When you find yourself too busy to pray, YOU ARE TOO BUSY! (St. Teresa of Calcutta).

Distractions are a part of life and because of that, we learn to live with them. The important thing is what you do after you recognize your distraction. Do you remain in the culture of noise, or do you recognize where you are and turn back to God? Let that be our challenge this Advent. Let Christ continue to be our focus!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as we journey through this Advent season, help us to drop our distractions and return to your loving arms. Amen.

Closing: For the mothers and fathers of young children, challenge yourself today to intentionally LOVE your children by putting down the distractions and go out and make a memory. In the end, this is what matters most. Love. Love. Love.

Cody Egner has served as the Director for the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization for the Eastside Family of Parishes (St. Cecilia and St. Mary) since 2015. He is also the Founder and CEO of St. Charles Catholic Pilgrimages.

Advent Reflection for Dec. 16 – Friday of the Third Week of Advent
Readings: Isaiah 56:1-3a, 6-8; Ps 67:2-3, 5, 7-8; Jn 5:33-36

Invitation to Prayer: Come, Lord, Jesus, expand our hearts to show how we witness to our love for You and the Father by the works we do for our human family.

Reflection: When we were kids, my aunt would write to us about what was happening with her family out in California. We would love to hear about the everyday goings-on. When we read her letters, it was as if she was in the room talking with us, even down to the ha-ha’s. It was her voice sharing her love of family in California and her love of family back in Ohio. She was witnessing to love of family.

There are times when I wish I could hear what Jesus’ voice sounded like. When I read Scripture, I get a bit of an idea of the sound of His voice. The words he uses, how he engages the scribes and the Pharisees, his pauses, his parables. We are fortunate to be able to listen in on his conversations with those who walked with him. A sort of holy eavesdropping that’s all perfectly fine because we are called to listen for His Voice as sheep are supposed to know the voice of their shepherd.

And what does His Father sound like? Sometimes we directly hear the voice of His Father in the Scripture passages. We learn, for instance, how proud God is of His Son. We learn more about the Father and the Son’s relationship in today’s Gospel, where we meet the ever-humble and always-truthful Jesus. He tells the Jews he doesn’t need human testimony to testify on His behalf.

Jesus words direct us to look deeper at the source, more than the sound of a voice. The works testify more loudly than words. “The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.” Recognizing and understanding these works of love for one’s neighbor, Jesus tells us, will bring us back to our Father and will ultimately ensure our salvation.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us perform works for our neighbors, including those who are experiencing poverty and living on the edges of society. Teach us to direct our actions to reflect our knowledge that we are all part of one human family, giving testimony to Your works and Your love of our Father.

Closing: Be aware of your works today. Examine how they give testimony to Jesus’ life within you. Pray the Our Father in gratitude.

Pam Long served as Regional Director of the Catholic Social Action Office, retiring in 2017. She is a parishioner at St. Julie Billiart, Hamilton

Advent Reflection for December 17 – Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
Readings: Genesis 49:2, 8-10; PS 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17; Matthew 1:1-17

Invitation to Prayer: Good and gracious God, who has kept his promises throughout the ages, be present with us today.

Reflection: What a family tree! In Matthew’s Gospel, we read the lineage of Jesus’ family, which can be very similar to many of ours. As we look through Jesus’ ancestors there are a few standouts both good and bad for various reasons. Today, we focus on the importance of Judah in Jesus’s family and the promises God has made in kept throughout salvation history.

From the begging God has made many promises, and He has kept them all. Today is just a glimpse of how he has done it. Jumping to the first reading from Genesis, we hear that Judah shall be praised by the other brothers of Israel. The Tribe of Judah would rule over the other tribes with Justice and Peace, as said in the Psalms today. Israel, the father of Judah, tells us that The scepter shall never depart from Judah, or the mace from between his legs. All of this is to be fulfilled by Jesus Christ, who is King forever, ruling with both peace (the scepter) and justice (the mace).
Another crucial figure in Jesus’s family that allowed God to fulfill his promise to the tribe of Judah, is Joseph, the husband of Mary. Joseph is the whole reason Christ Jesus can be included in this family we read about in today’s Gospel. If Mary isn’t betrothed to Joseph, Jesus would not have the lineage he has.

Prayer: God of Peace and Justice, thank you for keeping your promises. We ask that you would continue to pour out your spirit upon us so that we may grow in our ability to say yes to you and trust in your promises.

Closing: On this third Saturday of Advent, as we reflect upon the goodness of God and how he always keeps his promises, let’s look to Mary as an example. Let us take all these things that God has done for us, past, present, and future, and keep these things, reflecting on them in our hearts.

Alex Bodenschatz served as a NET Missionary from 2018-2020 and now works with NET as the Easter Regional Recruiter.

Advent Reflection for December 18 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
Readings: Is 7:10-14, Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6., Rom 1:1-7, Mt 1:18-24

Invitation to prayer: Listen for God’s voice

Reflection: In Matthew’s Gospel today, we hear of St. Joseph’s decision regarding what to do about Mary. We’ve all heard this story many times, how Joseph followed God’s command and took Mary into his home and helped raise Jesus. It showed the faith and trust of a good man who wanted to do God’s will. It’s the story all of us want to have for own lives, that we are good people who listen to God and do God’s will. Usually when we hear about St. Joseph in the Gospels, we hear that God has spoken to him in a dream, and he followed God’s plan. In our lives, we know God has a plan for us. We know God’s plan will lead us to heaven. However, in the busyness of the world, we don’t always make the time to listen for God’s voice, or the world around us is so loud, we can’t hear the whisper. As we approach the great feast of Christmas, let’s try to take some time every day to listen for God in our lives. God will not always use words, but as we practice listening for God, we’ll find it easier to hear God’s incredible plan leading us to heaven.

Prayer: Lord, help me to quiet my mind, my life, and my soul so I can hear Your voice. Give me the courage and strength to always say yes to Your call, knowing Your call will lead me to heaven.

Father Dan Schmitmeyer is the Director of the Office of Vocations in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

 

Advent Reflection December 19 – Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Readings: Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25A; Ps 71:3-4A, 5-6AB, 16-17; Lk 1:5-25

Reflection: Both of our readings today focus on the gift and blessing of children. Zorah is blessed with the birth of Samson and Elizabeth with the conception and subsequent birth of John the Baptist. We can all sympathize with their joy. The birth of a child should be a marvelously joyful occasion for a family because children are always a blessing. But what does that mean for couples that struggle with the cross of infertility? What does that mean for couples who have suffered from the loss of a child through miscarriage? Does God not want to bless them?

My wife and I suffered from two early miscarriages in the first year of our marriage. This was incredibly difficult on an emotional level but also on a spiritual level. It was difficult to shut out that voice that said, “maybe you don’t deserve to have this blessing,” “maybe God doesn’t want to bless you this way.” When it came down to it, I kind of thought that if God were not to bless us with children, then there would just have to be a privation in our lives that would be forever void. I slowly came to see that it was not a very Christian viewpoint to only believe that God is blessing me when He gives me what I want. If God can only bless us through the birth of a child, then God is actually not all that powerful. But if God can bless us not just despite our miscarriages but even through the cross of miscarriage then God is indeed all-powerful.

The grace of Christmas is in a very real sense the grace of poverty. That is what the birth of a child in the abject poverty and piercing cold of a manger teaches us. We ask God for blessings that are good and holy, but we often seem to get the very opposite. God is nothing but infinite love and unfathomable mercy, and He responds to all our sufferings by sending His infant son. The true blessing of Christmas then is presence, infinite presence within our poverty.

My wife and I were eventually blessed with the gift of a son and a daughter, and we thank God for the gift of our children that have preceded us in going to the house of the Father. We mourn these children that have passed but in the darkness of these miscarriages God was present and He was blessing us, and “if God is with us” then nothing can stand against us (cf. Rom 8:28-39).

Prayer: Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live” (Jn 11:25). Lord Jesus Christ, with you alone there is life and there cannot be any darkness. Prepare my poor heart to receive the grace of your infinite presence. Allow me to praise you and recognize your blessings in times of sorrow and darkness.

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 December 20 – Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Readings: Is 7:10-14 and Lk 1:26-38

Invitation to Prayer: The Bible is full of names and often times these names are repeated over and over throughout any given story. What is the power of these names? Why are they so important? What does it reveal to us about God’s plan of salvation? As you enter into prayer today, reflect on your own name, the origin of it, and the story it tells.

Reflection: “The angel, Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.” Our Gospel reading today opens with a brief outline of the way that God acts throughout the story of salvation. Here we see how specific God is in assigning Gabriel his mission. It’s not just any town, but a town OF GALILEE, called NAZARETH. It’s not just any woman, but a virgin. Not any virgin, but one betrothed to a man named JOSEPH (who also must be OF THE HOUSE OF DAVID). Finally, it is revealed that her name is MARY. In these few short lines, we see the beautiful way that God has prepared for this moment. He set aside the land of Galilee, he established the town of Nazareth, he raised up a man named Joseph from within the house of David (truly a man who could make a claim to the throne!), and set aside this young woman, Mary. And what is the message for her, “Do no be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” How awe inspiring to know that each of us is loved by God in the exact same way. He set us in this state, in this Archdiocese, in this town, in this parish, in this house, and the message he has for us, is special to us! Thank you God!

Then, after we meet Mary and we see how God’s love is revealed slowly over time, we come to the climax of the story: “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.” Now he wastes no time in getting to the most important news! Gabriel doesn’t set up the scene for Mary; he doesn’t talk about how great this child will be. He starts by revealing to Mary, his NAME! His name is primary! By revealing God’s plan in this way, Gabriel reveals to us that no matter what else we remember about Jesus and the way he is to be ruler of our lives, if we just remember his name, we can access the grace that He wants to pour into our lives.

Prayer: Jesus, your name is above every other name. You are the Key of David and before we know anything else about you, before we can experience the goodness you are to bring to this world on Christmas Day, we know your name. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we ask for the courage to share your name with all those we meet and to call on your name whenever we are in trouble. Come, Lord Jesus, O Key of David, by the power of your name, unlock the gates of heaven. Amen.

Wayne Topp is the  Managing Director of the Young Adult Evangelization and College Campus Ministry in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Advent Reflection for December 21 – Fourth Wednesday of Advent
Readings: SG 2:8-14, LK 1:39-45

Invitation to Prayer: Let us open our hearts to the Lord, to offer Him praise and to glorify God for His love and kindness.

Reflection: As I read through today’s first reading from the Song of Songs and the Gospel of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth, I am struck by the love that overflows. Two people in love may speak beautiful and loving words to one another as we once may have read in poetry like in the first reading. But, that lovey dovey type of language often fades away as time goes on. Our human love is only human. How much more does the Heavenly Father love you? Every minute of every day our loving Father is thinking of each one of us, because if He weren’t, we simply wouldn’t exist. The Father’s love is one that is overwhelming in the best sense of the word, because it is outside of our human understanding to love unconditionally. As we await the coming of our Savior on Christmas Day, we know that He has been waiting even longer for us.

Just as God, the Father’s love is a bit unfathomable, the love of Mary is also exemplary. In the midst of her own pregnancy at the age of 14, she heard the news that her cousin Elizabeth was with child and she set out to visit her and stay with her to care for her. The love that Mary demonstrates in serving her cousin shows us how we are called to serve. The humility in which Elizabeth receives her cousin teaches us how we are to receive gifts with gratitude and appreciation and not expectation or comparison. I pray that as this Advent season comes to a close, you too might allow the Lord to leap for joy because of the pride and love He has for you, His daughter or Son.

Prayer: Jesus, thank you for your love and joy that you choose to share with each of us. Help us today Lord to be a light of your love and joy to all those we encounter.

Andrea Patch is the Eastern Regional for NET Ministries.

 

Advent Reflection for December 22 – Fourth Week of Advent, Thursday
Readings 1 SM 1:24-28; 1 SM 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8; St. Luke 1:46-56

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: Have you thought about the greatness of God lately? As a husband and father striving to fulfill my duties in life, I think about God often as part of my petitions and requests, but don’t always contemplate His greatness. Today’s readings afford me the opportunity to do so, and I invite you to share in my reflections and prayers.

The Psalm response today is, “My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.” What must a person know to make such a joyful proclamation and mean it? As we know, there is a big difference between simply reciting something, and proclaiming it from the heart. I think one must contemplate how greatness of God to do it!

Our God created the heavens and the earth out of nothing! The voice that made the sun, moon, and stars simply by speaking, is the same voice that desires to speak to our hearts. The King of all nations that can do all things has humbled Himself to nourish us with His own body and blood in the Eucharist. What great power and love! The Almighty God who could make me do anything gives me the choice to love Him back. After all, you cannot truly love if it does not come from your own will.

My God, I know you truly love me because you chose to be born a man, to suffer and die for me. Then you took up your life again and opened heaven’s gates that I might be saved and live with You forever. For this, my Lord, I can truly say my heart exults in You, my Savior!

Prayer: Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for being born into the world to save us from our sins. May we be able to unite our individual wills to Yours and proclaim from our hearts, “my heart exults in the Lord, my Savior”!

Joshua Agnew is a husband, father of 9 children, and Deputy Superintendent of Catholic Identity for the Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

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

Invitation to Prayer: Loving Father, open my eyes to the mission to which you call me in each moment of my life, and grant me the courage to carry it out.

Reflection: Given all the unconventional aspects of John’s conception and naming, it’s no surprise that the reaction of all the neighbors would be to say, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” It’s an incredible question – filled with hope, expectation, and perhaps even a little bit of intimidation – and I wish that we would ask it on a more regular basis. My newest Godson, Nathaniel Joseph, was just baptized on Gaudete Sunday. He’s a wide-eyed treasure, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as his gaze followed the light of his baptismal candle when I held it up before him. Through Baptism, we enter into the relationship of Jesus Christ with God the Father; clothing ourselves with Christ, we take on the identity of Beloved Child of God. Can we ever truly grasp the profundity of such a moment? How could we fail to wonder at each baptism, “What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”

We’re just a couple of short days from celebrating the Nativity of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and I hope that our celebration of Christmas brings a renewed gratitude for the gift of our lives and that of those around us. We are each a word of love spoken by God into this vale of tears, “To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” Christ comes to restore our relationships with God, others, ourselves, and creation, but we know that there is still much in our hearts that inhibits that restoration. Our fears should be allayed, however, for Christ, “is like the refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye,” which takes nothing of the substance itself away from the silver or gold or cloth that is being purified. The silver or gold or cloth only undergoes the process so that the impurities within might be removed, and so become more completely itself. In the same way, Christ desires us to embrace completely our identity as a unique and unrepeatable Beloved Child of God, that we might radiate Christ and his love in a way that can never be substituted or replaced by anyone else in history. How much is lost in any relationship whenever a word of love is obscured, distorted, or even silenced? May we be unafraid to proclaim Christ’s love to others, helping them also to fully discover the goodness of their lives in a sincere gift of themselves.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, help me receive you in a new way this Christmas, and so radiate your love in my life as a blessing to all those I encounter.

Paco Patag is a homeschool graduate and an alumnus of Cincinnati State Community College, the University of Cincinnati, and the Saint John Leadership Institute. He serves as the Associate

 

Advent Reflection for December 24 – Saturday of the fourth week of Advent
Reading: 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: Lord, amidst all of the challenges of life, give me your peace that passes all understanding and help me to rest in you.

Reflection: We’ve finally made it – our Advent journey is ending, and tomorrow we celebrate the greatest gift ever given. For four weeks we have anticipated with excitement the coming of the Lord, lighting our candles week by week, reflecting day by day, and preparing our hearts for God’s outpouring of love. (And if you’re like me, you’ve kept yourself very busy with shopping, cooking, decorating, celebrating, etc.)

In today’s readings, I feel the joy that comes at the end of a long trip, the conclusion of a hard-fought battle, and the completion of a difficult project – all thanks to God’s grace and mercy.
King David is finally at peace – “the Lord had given him rest from his enemies on every side,” “Neither shall the wicked continue to afflict them as they did of old,” “Your house and your Kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

The Psalmist celebrates the permanence of God’s love – “Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him, and my covenant with him stands firm.”
Zechariah can finally speak again and prophesies God’s forever faithfulness – “In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

I remember as a child walking out of the Christmas Eve late night service, my heart filled by carols and candlelight, knowing that our journey to Christmas had finally ended and feeling a deep sense of calm that Jesus has come. May you have a wonderful and beautiful Christmas, and may you rest in the peace of Christ.

Prayer: Christ, may your peace overflow in our hearts. God, may your abiding love nourish our souls. Holy Spirit, be with us today and always, filling us with faith and hope and guiding us to share it with the world.

Andrew Musgrave is the Director of the Social Action office, and his wife of Ten 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.

Reflection for Sunday, December 25-Christmas Day
Readings: Is 9:1-6, Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13., Ti 2:11-14, Lk 2:1-14

Invitation to Prayer: Lord Jesus, open our hearts to how much You love and desire us.

Reflection: Christmas Day is upon us, and the world rejoices because our Savior has been born! For many families, December 25th is a day that is filled to the brim with traditions. Some are purely for the joy of the day. Growing up, my family would always hunt for a tiny mailbox on our tree that housed the gift of a crisp dollar bill (a fortune to me and my siblings). Other traditions focus us squarely on the reason for a Christian’s celebration: the birth of Jesus. Perhaps your family reads a nativity story from the Gospels, or sings “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.

As I have grown older, a tradition has sprung up around a favorite Catholic author. St. Alphonsus Liguori is a Doctor of the Church and prolific writer. As a moral theologian par excellence, his many writings and reflections stress the great Love and Mercy that God has for His people. Every Christmas, I find myself reading a series of discourses he wrote for the Novena of Christmas. In the very first, entitled “The Eternal Word is Made Man,” he draws on saints and authors before him to paint a fantastic picture. The fictional scene is Heaven after the Fall of Man, and God’s heart grieves over the loss of His people. There seems to be nothing that can satisfy both His Justice and His Mercy in reconciling mankind.

It is concluded, in this poetic contest between Justice and Mercy, that an innocent must die for mankind to be redeemed. However, in looking across heaven and earth, there is no one found who satisfies the requirements – one who is not already a “debtor to death,” as we fallen creatures are. It is into this conundrum that Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word, offers that He will go to earth to save us all. In a phrase that foreshadow the prophet Isaiah and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the author describes Jesus’ words as “Lo, here am I; send Me.” Time and time again, God reminds Him of what this will mean: being made small in the Incarnation, a birth in a cave, a life of sorrows and indignities. Still Jesus says, “Lo, here am I; send Me.”

Today, we as Church celebrate no mere birthday. Rather, we celebrate a God who loves us enough to give up everything to be with us. A Savior who went on the most harrowing rescue mission in eternity. A Christ Child that is invited to be born into our hearts day after day until we are brought into the embrace of Heaven. As the reading from John’s Gospel proclaims to us: “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace… through Jesus Christ.”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your coming to this earth showed us that nothing can separate us from Your love if we allow it to penetrate our hearts. We ask that our own hearts would be aflame with love for You this Christmas season. Amen.

Closing: As you reflect on God’s immense love today, take a moment to share that love with others and to experience it from them as well. Merry Christmas!

Bradley Barnes currently serves as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry for the S-3 Family of Parishes.

Previous post

Vatican: Benedict XVI’s condition serious but stable

Next post

A Christmas Message from Archbishop Schnurr