a righteous ruler, a Savior filled with your Spirit.
In him you reveal your perfect and powerful love,
a love that encompasses all people.
Through your Son, you liberate the world
from hatred, injustice, and violence,
so that all creation may know true harmony and lasting peace.
By the power of the Holy Spirit,
grant us wisdom, strength, patience and mercy.
Grant us the gifts we need to bear good fruit
and to be signs that your kingdom has begun.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Sunday, December 8, 2019 - Busy Waiting
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 11:1–10; Psalm 72:1–2, 7–8, 12–13, 17; Romans 15:4–9; Matthew 3:1–12. John the Baptist warned people to change their lives or be excluded from God’s kingdom. His water ritual was a way for people to show that they believed him, but it wasn’t the only sign they were to give. When some Jewish religious leaders said they wanted to be baptized, John demanded that they prove it. These leaders thought that, simply because they were Jewish, God would include them in his kingdom.
We cannot claim that our Christian Baptism guarantees us a place in God’s kingdom, either. In the Second Reading, St. Paul makes it clear that although God has extended salvation to all, both Jews and Gentiles must treat one another with patience, mercy, and love. Everyone who wants to live in a world without violence or pain, danger or devastation, must surrender to God’s Spirit, just as Jesus did.
Sometimes we think of Advent as a season of waiting for God, but John the Baptist reminds us that God is waiting for us, too. God waits for us to blossom into holiness, to spring up with deeds of love. If we don’t get busy preparing for God’s arrival, “the ax lies at the root of the trees.” But if we demonstrate our sincere desire to turn toward the Lord, we become signs for others to follow. And then, with Christ in our midst, “the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord” and God’s kingdom “shall be glorious.”
This Week at Home
Monday, December 9 - Immaculate Conception
It is impossible for us to prevent sin from passing into the next generation. We see how quickly children imitate us and our sins. In the dogma of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we celebrate a moment in which God kept someone free from sin so that she could be mother to the sinless Son of God. This perfect Son, who came into our world as an infant, gives us hope that one day our children will perfectly imitate our Savior. Ask God to forgive you for a time that a child saw or heard you act sinfully. Today’s Readings: Genesis 3:9–20; Psalm 98:1–4; Ephesians 1:3–12; Luke 1:26–38.
Tuesday, December 10 - Shepherding the Lost
Jesus offered consolation and forgiveness instead of immediate condemnation. He looked upon God’s people differently than they looked upon themselves. Where some saw only hopeless sinners, Jesus saw people who yearned to be led back to God. Show that you are ready for God to find you by asking someone for forgiveness and by letting go of a grudge. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 40:1–11; Psalm 96:1–3, 10–13; Matthew 18:12–14.
Wednesday, December 11 - Burdens
God helps us carry our burdens. He lifts us up when our bodies drag us down. He yokes himself beside us in the person of his Son. We must, therefore, ask ourselves what burdens we ought to carry and what loads we can set down. Our arms might be full of things we do not need to hold onto. Check your Christmas to-do list, and cross off anything that doesn’t truly help you and others prepare to celebrate the gift of God’s Son. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 40:25–31; Psalm 103:1–10; Matthew 11:28–30.
Thursday, December 12 - The Faces of Grace
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrates Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego, an appearance that inspired thousands to convert to Christianity. Many have venerated since childhood the image of Mary that was revealed to Juan Diego. We rejoice that God makes himself known across cultures and languages. Pray with an image of Mary or Jesus from a different part of the world, and reflect on God’s love for all people, everywhere. Today’s Readings: Zechariah 2:14–17 or Revelation 11:19a; 12:1–6a, 10ab; Luke 1:26–38 or Luke 1:39–47.
Friday, December 13 - Expectations
Sometimes we refuse to see God at work. We dismiss a teaching or invitation from God because it doesn’t fit our expectations of how God should act. We might even think it is foolish. Jesus insists that what seems silly to us is wise to God. It seemed absurd that God would become human, yet that’s exactly what happened. God’s way is difficult for us to accept, but it is the only way for us to become one with God who came to be one with us. Make a list of things you expect from God, and surrender that list in prayer. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 48:17–19; Psalm 1:1–6; Matthew 11:16–19.
Saturday, December 14 - Turn
We read in 2 Kings 2:11 that the prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven. In the centuries that followed, people came to believe that Elijah would return to prepare people for the day of judgment and a new era. The most significant similarity between Elijah and John the Baptist was that both devoted themselves to turning people back to God. In this season of preparation, the words of Elijah and John echo in our ears. Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Acknowledge the ways you have turned away from God, and renew your efforts to turn back to him. Today’s Readings: Sirach 48:1–11; Psalm 80:1–19; Matthew 17:9–13
Third Sunday of Advent
Loving God, all that was broken, you bind up, all that was lost, you restore. We rejoice that you have come to save us, but sometimes we weaken and lose heart. When we grow tired, give us your strength. When we grow fearful and uncertain, give us your resolve. When we forget you in times of pain and sorrow, inspire us anew with your love and consolation. Heal all that ails our hearts so that we may walk with unwavering faith into the everlasting joy of your kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Today’s Readings: Isaiah 35:1–6a, 10; Psalm 146:6–7, 8–9, 9–10; James 5:7–10; Matthew 11:2–11. On this Gaudete Sunday, we rejoice that we will soon celebrate the Incarnation. Our excitement increases as schools let out, Christmas parties begin, and stores ramp up their bargains. With so much going on, the joy of Christmas might feel effortless, but our readings remind us that true joy comes from commitment and perseverance.
St. James urges us to be patient and steadfast in our faith despite whatever unkindness or injustice assails us. It is easy to be joyful when things are going well; it shows true faith to remain uplifted when life gets hard. The prophet Isaiah knows this, too. He prophesied that God would bring back those who were forced to leave their homes because of war. Any who wish to share in this glorious future, however, must remain strong and steadfast for the long journey home.
For John the Baptist and others, remaining steadfast in joyful hope meant accepting that God’s plan of salvation was unfolding differently than they thought it would. Although Jesus revealed God’s compassion, in other ways he was not the messiah they wanted. Some people were even offended by Jesus. It took effort for people to set aside their expectations and receive Jesus with joy.
This Sunday we ask ourselves what could steal our joy away, and we recommit ourselves to being strong, patient, and steadfast in faith, come what may.
This Week at Home
Monday, December 16 - Speaking Truly
Balaam, who was not an Israelite, was called upon by a foreign leader to curse God’s people. Instead, Balaam blesses Israel. Despite what others want, Balaam obeys God. Despite challenges to his authority, Jesus also persists in proclaiming God’s word. Make a list of people who have bravely spoken God’s word in the face of opposition. Reflect on what they teach you about staying true to God’s word. Today’s Readings: Numbers 24:2–7, 15–17a; Psalm 25:4–5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8–9; Matthew 21:23–27.
Tuesday, December 17 - Jewish Savior
Judah was one of the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. Because it was the only tribe to survive a series of foreign attacks, other nations came to refer to the region this tribe inhabited as Judea and to its people as Jews. In his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew is careful to show that Jesus is both Jewish and of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to his people. The Catholic Church’s use of the O Antiphons highlights Jesus’ Jewish roots. List the O Antiphons and pray with them until Christmas. Today’s Readings: Genesis 49:2, 8–10; Psalm 72:1–2, 3–4ab, 7–8, 17; Matthew 1:1–17.
Wednesday, December 18 - The Ultimate Salvation
While prophesying that God would save his people, Jeremiah refers to the people’s enslavement in Egypt and then to the invasion of Assyria centuries later. During both of these times God’s people experienced enslavement and suffering. When the angel appears to Joseph, he announces that Jesus will save all people from the greatest of all enslavements: sin and death. Make a paper chain and hang it on your tree as a reminder of the bondage from which Christ has freed us. Today’s Readings: Jeremiah 23:5–8; Psalm 72:1–2, 12–13, 18–19; Matthew 1:18–25.
Thursday, December 19 - Conceptions
We might not know the story of the wife of Manoah, but Zechariah definitely would have heard of her. He also would know the stories of Sarah and Hannah, two other women in the Old Testament who unexpectedly conceived a child. Despite knowing such stories from his own religious heritage, Zechariah questions Gabriel’s prophecy. Help people to celebrate God’s gift of life by bringing donations to a local pregnancy center or by volunteering at a shelter for women and children. Today’s Readings: Judges 13:2–7, 24–25a; Psalm 71:3–4a, 5–6ab, 16–17; Luke 1:5–25.
Friday, December 20 - Trust
King Ahaz did not want to ask for a sign because a sign would require his doing something that would probably cost him. God asks Mary to do something that will also significantly change her life, but she obeys. Nothing like this had ever happened in the history of her people, yet Mary entrusts herself to God’s extraordinary plan. Surprise someone with an unexpected act of kindness today as a way of sharing God’s wondrous goodness. Today’s Readings: Isaiah 7:10–14; Psalm 24:1–2, 3–4ab, 5–6; Luke 1:26–38.
Saturday, December 21 - Leaping for Joy
Our hearts leap for joy at the Incarnation, as we hope they’ll leap again for joy at our Lord’s return in glory. All of the readings for today remind us that our God in whom we place our hope and trust will work wonders in our lives. Read both options for the First Readings, then compose your own joyful song of praise to God. 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.