Make level within us all that sin has made rugged;
take the crooked paths of our hearts and make them straight.
May our repentant hearts turn to you and,
at the coming of your Son, be found eager to welcome him
so that, in joyful celebration,
your chosen people can say, “Here is your God!”
Through Christ our Lord.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
A New Heaven and Earth
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 40:1–5, 9–11; Psalm 85:9–10, 11–12, 13–14; 2 Peter 3:8–14; Mark 1:1–8.
During this second week of Advent, we reflect on the future God has in store for us. When we delve more deeply into the Scriptures, it becomes clear that Advent is not as simple as we may think. Last week’s readings urged us to be watchful and to ready ourselves for Christ’s coming. This is not easy; it requires attention to God’s Word within us. This week’s message is in the same vein.
The prophet Isaiah paints a beautiful picture for the Israelites who are in captivity. Salvation will come, and the Lord will forgive all their sins. The image is radical. Isaiah depicts mountains being leveled and valleys being filled. He directs Zion to tell this Good News to the entire world. A similar theme is in the Gospel. John the Baptist is the herald of the coming Messiah. John calls all creation to repent and seek God’s forgiveness. He is the herald who paves the way for Jesus, the one who reveals the new heaven and earth, which Peter speaks of in the Second Reading.
What does it look like to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming of Christ? It takes a vulnerable and watchful heart. We can find ourselves held captive. When we seek God’s forgiveness with contrite hearts, we open ourselves to an amazing grace. God’s mercy is the wellspring of all healing. So let us act out our salvation in the ways we live and announce the triumphant entry of the coming Christ.
This Week at Home
Monday, December 11
Today’s Gospel concludes with the phrase, “We have seen strange things today.” As we begin the second week of Advent, it is important to recall the marvelous things our God has done for us in Jesus Christ. Through his Paschal Mystery, we are saved from death and share in eternal life. Jesus comes to heal or liberate us from all that paralyzes us and that keeps us from living the Good News. What incredible things have you seen? Around the Advent wreath, share ways you have been saved by God. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 35:1–10; Psalm 85:9ab and 10, 11–12, 13–14; Luke 5:17–26.
Tuesday, December 12
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mary’s message is one of hope and assurance. Appearing as a pregnant woman, she reveals that the child she carries will free the poor and oppressed. In the second option for the Gospel, John, who is in Elizabeth’s womb, leaps with joy as Mary greets Elizabeth. Consider the times you have leapt with joy when you encountered Christ. Today’s Readings: Zechariah 2:14–17 or Revelation 11:19a; 12:1–6a, 10ab; Judith 13:18bcde, 19; Luke 1:26–38 or Luke 1:39–47.
Wednesday, December 13
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells those who are burdened to come to him so they can find rest. Jesus is explaining to the crowds that he is the new law (yoke); to gain wisdom is to learn from him and follow him. St. Lucy, whom we honor today, understood this invitation. Lucy heeded Jesus’ call and found rest/life with him. Take time today to research Lucy and the traditions surrounding her feast; for example, bake braided bread. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 40:25–31; Psalm 103:1–2, 3–4, 8 and 10; Matthew 11:28–30.
Thursday, December 14
St. John of the Cross
The psalm refrain today tells us that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and kind. It recalls God’s saving deeds when he rescued his people from exile and slavery. It is a psalm of praise and thanksgiving to tell of the faithfulness of God. The psalmist wants to tell everyone of God’s Kingdom. In the Gospel, those who oppose John’s message and eventually Jesus’ message are attacking God’s Kingdom. Advent calls us to announce the coming of God’s Reign. Write a poem of thanksgiving today and be mindful of God’s infinite love and mercy. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 41:13–20; Psalm 145:1 and 9, 10–1, 12–13ab; Matthew 11:11–15.
Friday, December 15
We are invited in today’s readings to contemplate the Wisdom tradition in the Scriptures. Those who follow the Christ are taught the right path. They live in the light. Listening to the voice of Wisdom brings the fullness of life. Take time to listen to Christ’s voice. Reconnect with a wisdom figure in your life. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 48:17–19; Psalm 1:1–2, 3, 4 and 6; Matthew 11:16–19.
Saturday, December 16
In Plain Sight
Today’s readings connect back to the readings from Thursday. John the Baptist, like Elijah, has announced the coming Reign of God, but some did not recognize him. It can be easy to miss what is in plain sight. Jesus also tells his disciples that he will suffer. Whom do you recognize as one who announces the coming of Christ? Let the refrain of the psalm be your prayer today so that we might see the living God and be saved. Today’s Readings: Sirach 48:1–4, 9–11; Psalm 80:2ac and 3b, 15–16, 18–19; Matthew 17:9a, 10–13.
Third Sunday of Advent - December 17, 2017
Herald of Light
O God of Justice,
you called the prophet John the Baptist,
to prepare the way for the coming of your Son.
John’s message of repentance led others to embrace you.
Grant your servants ears to hear his cry in the desert of their hearts
so that, transformed by love,
we, too, may turn and embrace you.
Fill us, O God, with the Spirit of courage
and strengthen our will to be heralds of the Light.
Make us fervent in our prayer
and direct us to bring glad tidings to the poor
so that, on that final day,
we may be found holy and blameless in your sight
as we rejoice in the gift of your mercy.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, December 17, 2017
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 61:1–2a, 10–11; Luke 1:46–48, 49–50, 53–54 (antiphon: Isaiah 61:10b); 1 Thessalonians 5:16–24; John 1:6–8, 19–28. Today is Gaudete Sunday, the turning point in the season of Advent. After two weeks of contemplating the end-time and Christ’s Second Coming, the Church invites us to rejoice in Christ our Savior. We are filled with joy because we know that the coming of Christ is the coming of our salvation. Like Mary, we rejoice because God’s love overflows into the world and takes root in our hearts.
Today’s response, taken from the Magnificat, is Mary’s great song of praise and puts her words of praise on our lips. Imagine the joy she must have experienced. When has Christ filled you with joy? When we ponder the Incarnation, how can we not be filled with joy? Jesus is the Anointed One who brings Good News to the poor and frees the enslaved. Everything that God has promised to his people is revealed in Jesus and continues today to be revealed in his Church.
Even though this Sunday is joy filled, we cannot forget that many have lost hope and that they find themselves on the margins. Jesus calls us to carry the cross and be heralds of the Good News to the poor and brokenhearted. It is not always easy, but this is the work of all the baptized. This week, gather a group from your family or parish and using these readings for prayer, begin discerning how your community can bring glad tidings to the poor and release to prisoners.
This Week at Home
Monday, December 18
In this third week of Advent, the readings begin to focus more directly on the birth of Christ. In today’s Gospel, Joseph learns how Mary conceived Jesus. Although Scripture does not provide a lot of insight on Jesus’ foster father, the glimpse we get here shows an obedient, loving, and generous man. This passage helps us know that God, through the Incarnation, is truly with us. The praying of the “O” Antiphons begins this week. Consider using them with your meal prayer this week. Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 23:5–8; Psalm 72:1–2, 12–13, 18–19; Matthew 1:18–25.
Tuesday, December 19
O Root of Jesse
The two readings today present God’s awesome power to overcome any trial. First, we hear the story of the wife of Manoah who learns from an angel that she will bear a son. Second, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth, will conceive a son. Imagine how these two women, once barren, rejoiced at the news of conception. Upon their lips were songs of praise. Light candles and pray today for all the unborn and for those who are unable to conceive. Today’s Readings: Judges 13:2–7, 24–25a; Psalm 71:3–4a, 5–6ab, 16–17; Luke 1:5–25.
Wednesday, December 20
O Key of David
The Gospel Acclamation tells of the Key of David setting prisoners free. As we draw closer to Christmas, it is good to reflect on Christ, the Key who unlocks the gates of heaven. It is Christ, the descendant of David, who ransoms us from sin and darkness so we can walk in the light of his countenance. Take your keys today and use them in your prayer as you do lectio divina with today’s psalm. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 7:10–14; Psalm 24:1–2, 3–4ab, 5–6; Luke 1:26–38.
Thursday, December 21
This is the second time during Advent that we have heard this portion of the Gospel reading from Luke. Because John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb, she seems to know that Mary is carrying the Christ. Her prayer, which we say in the Hail Mary explains it all. Mary’s womb is blessed. Imagine if you were Elizabeth. How might you react to this news? Song of Songs provides images to ponder when we think of the bridegroom coming to be with us. How can we not leap for joy and sing a new song! Today’s Readings: Song of Songs 2:8–14 or Zephaniah 3:14–18a; Psalm 33:2–3, 11–12, 20–21; Luke 1:39–45.
Friday, December 22
O King of Nations
Today we encounter Hannah, the mother of Samuel, and Mary. These two women sing the praises of God at the birth of their children. Listen carefully to the psalm response today and notice its connection to the Magnificat in the Gospel proclamation. Both texts praise God’s power to cast the rich aside and raise up the poor. Jesus, the King of the Nations, has conquered the enemy — so let us rejoice. Today read a commentary on the Gospel and meditate on its rich imagery. Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 1:24–28; 1 Samuel 2:1, 4–5, 6–7, 8abcd; Luke 1:46–56.
Saturday, December 23
In the First Reading, the prophet Malachi announces a messenger who will prepare the way for God’s coming. The Gospel tells of the birth of John the Baptist, the one whose call to repent and prepare a way for the Lord began our Advent season. Have you listened to John’s plea? Review your Advent journey tonight, and be attentive to the rough ways in your life that still need straightening. Praise God for the good works already accomplished. Today’s Readings: Malachi 3:1–4, 23–24; Psalm 25:4–5ab, 8–9, 10 and 14; Luke 1:57–66.
Fourth Sunday of Advent - December 24, 2017
Find Us Ready
Good and gracious God,
who sent the angel Gabriel to announce the gift of your Son,
your love for us has no limits and endures forever.
As we prepare for the coming of Christ,
eliminate within us all sin and fear,
giving us pure hearts to receive him.
May the Holy Spirit fill us with your grace,
just as Mary was so filled,
and find us ready to stand in your presence to serve you.
Keep us faithful to the covenant you made with our ancestors.
May your joy saturate our beings as we go forth proclaiming your salvation,
so that, on that final day, we will forever sing your goodness.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, December 24, 2017
Today’s Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16; Psalm 89:2–3, 4–5, 27, 29; Romans 16:25–27; Luke 1:26–38. The readings proclaimed at the liturgy today invite us to ponder the mystery revealed in the birth of Christ. David wishes to build a proper house for the ark of God. The prophet Nathan reveals that God has a much bigger plan: to establish a house for him. God will build up the nation to prosper until the end of time. Because of the Incarnation, we are heirs to this promise and are members of God’s household. As the psalm states, God has made a covenant with his people and we continue the song of praise and thanksgiving.
This promise cannot be fulfilled without Mary’s yes. Since the time of the fall, all creation has waited for Mary. God chose her to bear his Son, the Messiah who establishes the Reign of God. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to give up everything (die to self) for another, especially for God’s will? Here is a young woman whose whole life changes when she humbly says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Tomorrow, the Christian world celebrates the birth of Jesus. The season of Christmas, challenges us to grow deeper in faith. Jesus reveals the Father’s love and mercy. At every liturgy, the Church celebrates this mystery and receives the presence of God’s own Son. We are to become what we receive—the Body of Christ. Take time today to reflect on your yes and see in what ways God has revealed himself to you.