As in today’s Gospel, people with disabilities sometimes need friends to bring them to Jesus. Does someone need a ride to Mass? Can all people access our church, sanctuary, religious education, and social spaces? Are children and adults with disabilities invited to participate in religious education and liturgical ministries? We must ask these questions if we are to say that “all are welcome.” Today’s Readings: Isaiah 35:1–10; Psalm 85:9ab and 10, 11–12, 13–14; Luke 5:17–26.
Tuesday, December 11 - The Good Shepherd’s Love
The metaphor of God as Shepherd and us as his sheep dates to the Old Testament. Isaiah compares God to a shepherd who feeds, carries, and leads his flock. In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the “Good Shepherd.” Today’s Gospel has an example of how he is “good”: when just one of us goes astray, he leaves the others behind to search for that one. God never forgets about us or gives up on us. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 40:1–11; Psalm 96:1–2, 3 and 10ac, 11–12, 13; Matthew 18:12–14.
Wednesday, December 12 - Our Lady of Guadalupe
Mary, lowly and poor herself, showed concern for the poor when she appeared, with brown skin and wearing indigenous robes, to Juan Diego near Mexico City in 1531. She asked him to build a church in her honor. His bishop disbelieved such a story from this poor indigenous man. Three days later, when she told him to ask again, dozens of red roses dropped from his cloak, and the bishop saw the image of Mary imprinted on it. He built the church! Mary gave hope to Mexico’s oppressed people, and to this day she is invoked to intercede for the poor and suffering. Today’s Readings: Zechariah 2:14–17; Judith 13:18bcde, 19; Luke 1:39–47.
Thursday, December 13 - St. Lucy
In the Gospel, Jesus sings the praises of John the Baptist, who will soon be martyred at the hands of Herod. Today the Church honors another martyr, St. Lucy, who died in ad 304 during a Roman persecution of Christians. She is said to have brought food to Christians hiding in the catacombs, wearing a wreath of candles to light her way. Lucy means “light,” and we remember her during this season of waiting for the Light of the World. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 41:13–20; Psalm 145:1 and 9, 10–11, 12–13ab; Matthew 11:11–15.
Friday, December 14 - St. John of the Cross
The first psalm is a recipe for a happy and fruitful life: “The law of the Lord is their joy; God’s law they study day and night.” John of the Cross, in sixteenth-century Spain, was called to a life of prayer in a Carmelite monastery. When other friars turned on him and imprisoned him for nine months, he had encounters with God that he described in mystical poems. He spent those days and nights joyfully with nothing to distract him from the love of the Lord. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 48:17–19; Psalm 1:1–2, 3, 4 and 6; Matthew 11:16–19.
Saturday, December 15 - An End to Wrath
Today we hear about the great prophet Elijah. Taken to heaven in a whirlwind, he is to return as a forerunner of the Messiah: “to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord.” Jesus, who has just been transfigured and appeared with Moses and Elijah, explains that John the Baptist has fulfilled the mission of Elijah. Who will prepare the way for the Messiah’s return? Who among us helps to turn hearts toward God and each other? 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—God of Truth
God of truth, you help us to see ourselves for who we are in our selfishness and sinfulness. We are stung and left to ask, “What should we do?” Strengthen us to follow your Great Commandment: to love you, Lord, with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. Save us from your judgment and instead rejoice over us as we rejoice in your great kindness. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, December 16, 2018—Rejoice! The Lord is near
Today’s Readings: Zephaniah 3:14–18a; Isaiah 12:2–3, 4, 5–6; Philippians 4:4–7; Luke 3:10–18. The people who gather around John the Baptist are both stung by his words and attracted by what he is saying. Their self-interest and avarice have led them to dishonest practices, but now they seem willing to leave those ways behind to welcome the Christ. John assures them that, although he is not the Christ, another is coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. The anticipation is building, and we can imagine their excitement as they await his coming.
Excitement is building in the Church as we move through Advent. This Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete,” a word that means “rejoice.” St. Paul tells us why: “the Lord is near.” We know, as John’s disciples only hoped, that the Lord has come and lived among us as one of us. That alone is cause for rejoicing. We also know that he died and was raised from the dead, and he shares his risen life with us through the Baptism promised by John. More reason to rejoice! But since God has extravagant love, there is more. Jesus has promised he will return, that there will be new heavens and a new earth, and God will be “all in all.” We wait for that day, the Parousia, rejoicing that the Lord is near.
As you light the rose-colored candle on your Advent wreath this week, recall the day when you were baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire. What words and signs help you to know that the Lord was near on that day and continues to be with you? How is your life different because of your Baptism? Are you on fire with love for God?
Monday, December 17 - Meet Jesus’ Family
In the Middle East, even today, people care about family history. They don’t want to know so much “who are you?” as “whose are you?” Matthew obliges by giving us Jesus’ family tree. To fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah, he must come from the line of King David. Since Abraham is the father of all Jews, the genealogy must go back to him. What does Jesus’ genealogy tell us about our heritage? Whose are we? Today’s Readings: Genesis 49:2, 8–10; Psalm 72:1–2, 3–4ab, 7–8, 17; Matthew 1:1–17.
Tuesday, December 18 - A Righteous Man
Today we hear an account of Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s perspective, including his dream in which an angel spoke to him. Matthew calls Joseph “a righteous man,” and his deeds show him to be so: He does not want to expose Mary to shame. He listens to the angel, and he follows the angel’s commands. How does God make his will known to us? Are we listening? Are we willing to do something that might be difficult? Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 23:5–8; Psalm 72:1–2, 12–13, 18–19; Matthew 1:18–25.
Wednesday, December 19 - Flower of Jesse’s Stem
The “O” Antiphons have for centuries been part of Evening Prayer from December 17 to 23. Each gives a title to Christ, links him to Isaiah’s prophecy, and implores him to “come!” Today we pray, “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Christ, who like King David descended from Jesse, is a king of a different order, adored by all nations. It is hard to wait for such a king! Today’s Readings: Judges 13:2–7, 24–25a; Psalm 71:3–4a, 5–6ab, 16–17; Luke 1:5–25.
Thursday, December 20 - Do Not Be Afraid
In Luke’s account of the Annunciation, Mary is initially troubled at the angel’s greeting; but after Gabriel assures her she has nothing to fear, she consents to be the mother of the Messiah. St. John writes: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18a). Mary’s perfect love for God allows her to accept God’s plan for her life. Do your fears hold you back from giving your life totally to Jesus? Today’s Readings: Isaiah 7:10–14; Psalm 24:1–2, 3–4ab, 5–6; Luke 1:26–38.
Friday, December 21 - Leaping for Joy
Song of Songs uses poetic images for the love between God, the lover, and his people, the beloved. In The History of the Kingdom of God: From Creation to Parousia, theologian Sofia Cavalletti writes, “A plan has always existed in the mind of God, the aim of which is to bring humankind to the full enjoyment of God.” While we await that day, we can enjoy God’s presence now. John leaps for joy in his mother’s womb in recognition of Jesus, just as the lover in the Song of Songs leaps across the hills on his way to the beloved. Today’s Readings: Song of Songs 2:8–14; Psalm 33:2–3, 11–12, 20–21; Luke 1:39–45.
Saturday, December 22 - The Greatness of the Lord
Have you ever felt a strong desire to praise God—perhaps while on a mountaintop or at the birth of a child? When Mary hears Elizabeth’s greeting, she is overcome with that desire. As she proclaims the Magnificat, she praises God for his holiness, justice, and great deeds. Her prayer reveals so much about our God and offers such perfect praise that the Church prays it each day at Evening Prayer. Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 1:24–28; 1 Samuel 2:1, 4–5, 6–7, 8abcd; Luke 1:46–56.
Fourth Sunday of Advent - The Abundant Gifts of the Holy Spirit
Lord and giver of life,
you spoke through the prophets,
and they foretold the coming of the Savior.
You came upon the young virgin,
and she conceived in her womb the Son of the Most High.
You gave Elizabeth your gift of knowledge,
and she called Mary “the mother of my Lord.”
You filled John the Baptist with joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting,
and he leaped in his mother’s womb.
We, too, desire your transformative power in our lives.
We ask you to fill us to overflowing so we may
boldly proclaim the coming of Christ,
give birth to him each day in our hearts,
know his presence in all we meet,
and rejoice in the sure knowledge that he has come among us.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, December 23, 2018 - The Spirit Speaks through Elizabeth
Today’s Readings: Micah 5:1–4a; Psalm 80:2–3, 15–16, 18–19; Hebrews 10:5–10; Luke 1:39–45. When we meet Elizabeth in today’s Gospel, she is caught up in astonishing events. She is carrying a child in her old age while her husband, Zechariah, has been rendered mute after questioning an angel who gave him a message that the child would be conceived.
When her relative from Nazareth comes for a visit, Elizabeth grasps that something even greater is now happening. Her baby leaps in her womb; and Elizabeth, bursting with the Holy Spirit, knows at once the news that Mary has come to tell her. She is overwhelmed that her relative has been chosen to bring to birth the promised Messiah, and she recognizes God’s abundant blessing in both Mary and this child.
Mary, who had shared the news from the angel Gabriel with Joseph alone, now hears Elizabeth’s words echoing the words of the angel. Gabriel had called Mary “favored one”; Elizabeth calls her “blessed among women.” The angel had said the child to be born would be “holy, the Son of God”; Elizabeth calls him “Lord” (Luke 1:35).
Both Gabriel and Elizabeth echo Micah’s long-ago prophecy of the Messiah: “his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth: he shall be peace.”
With Christmas nearly here, let us welcome Christ into our hearts with the same joy that Elizabeth did, and pledge to be instruments of his peace in our families and our world.
Monday, December 24 - Giver of All Gifts
Our gifts are bought and ready to be presented to loved ones. David, too, wants to give a gift—a house for God. God reminds David that God is the giver of all gifts, that all David has is from him. God shows his generosity by promising David a different kind of “house”—a kingship through his descendants that will last forever. Jesus, King over all peoples, fulfills the promise. We give thanks for God’s extravagant gift of his Son. Today’s Readings: 2 Samuel 7:1–5, 8b–12, 14a, 16; Psalm 89:2–3, 4–5, 27 and 29; Luke 1:67–79.