THE GATHERING RITE Inside the Church When Christ's faithful gather inside the church, the candles are lit, the altar has been prepared by the sacristan, the choir gathers in the...
SUNDAY 27 NOVEMBER
Scripture Romans 13: 11 – 14
It is quite possible that over a period of time in our spiritual lives we fall asleep and faith takes on a familiar ritual and routine. On this First Sunday of Advent and at the beginning of the Advent Season the Church calls us, through St. Paul, to “wake up now” because “the time has come.”
Advent is a time for renewal, change and transformation; a time to get rid of the old habits of sin, and a lifestyle more suited to the cover of darkness. We are children of Light who have allowed the light of faith to be dimmed and darkened by the things of life.
Advent is our opportunity to experience an awakening in our faith and to prepare for Jesus to be born-again in our lives, our hearts and our world.
It is, however, a challenging season beause as we set ourselves to focus on a spiritual preparation for Christ’s Birth at Christmas, the world around us is already celebrating the traditions, customs and commercialism which characterises this time of the year. It is really difficult not to get caught up in all of this. Herein lies the challenge because this is what separates the wheat from the chaff: the choice authentic Christians make to keep this season holy and to prepare ourselves for the Saviour’s Birth.
It is not an easy choice and decision, but then this is what it means to be a follower of Jesus and to live the values of his Kintgdom which we heard about on the Feast of Christ the King last Sunday. The truth is that it is He who gives us the strength and courage to do what we need to do this Advent. The time has come to wake up. Put your faith, hope and trust in him.
- Spend 10 minutes in prayer every day. Commit to using this daily reflection throughout Advent.
- Make a extra special effort to attend a weekday Mass (or to attend Mass as often as possible) during Advent. Welcome Jesus in the Eucharist with the same joyful enthusiasm as you would welcome him on the day of his coming.
- Pray a decade of the Rosary every day ~ focus particularly on the Joyful Mysteries and Mysteries of Light.
- Make an Advent wreath with three purple candles, one pink – one for each week of Advent and a white candle in the middle to be lit at Christmas and display it in a prominent place in your home, to be used every day for family prayer
- Display the Bible in a special place in your home – perhaps close to the Advent wreath.
- Avoid using the word ‘xmas’ and take pride in adding the name of Christ to Christ Point this out whenever you see the word ‘xmas’.
- Ask for God’s forgiveness for the sins, faults and failings that bother you and make a decision to attend the Penitential Service on Tuesday 20 December.
- Contribute a toy or gift for an underprivileged child. Take a tag off the St. Vincent de Paul Christmas Tree.
- Invite an inactive Catholic or an ‘unchurched’ friend to accompany you to Mass on Sunday, and possibly to the Penitential Service
- Be a witness to Jesus the Saviour of the World by sending only Christmas cards and Christmas emails that carry a message of the real meaning of Christmas. In this way you communicate to family, friends, customers, clients and business associates what Christmas really means to you! Do not be afraid to make your faith and beliefs known. Remember that this is more than just the season of peace and goodwill – or happy holidays!
- Contact friends or members of your family whom you have not seen or heard from for a long time. Invite them to share a meal with you and your family.
- Tell a child the real story of Christmas.
Father strengthen and guide me as I begin this Advent journey following the Star which leads to Jesus. May this be a time of spiritual renewal and growth for me; a time to realise just how much I need Jesus to be born-again in my life so that I may experience his Divine Presence leading and guiding me. Help me to wait in Joyful Hope and with eager expectation for his coming! Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be …
MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER
Scripture Matthew 8: 5 – 11
It is a custom in the western world to make “New Year” resolutions on the first day of a new year. We do this to try and change the things in our lives that need to be changed.
In our Catholic Faith we began our New Liturgical Year yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent. Perhaps we should be looking at the things that need to be changed in our spiritual lives, and although it is already the second day of our new Liturgical Year, it is not too late to consider and implement the changes we need to attain eternal life.
Let us look at today’s gospel for inspiration. Here we read about a centurion, a Gentile – a person whom the Jews looked down upon, but nevertheless a man who is so inspired by the teachings of Jesus that he puts aside all prejudice and ask Jesus to cure his sick servant.
Do we have the same depth of faith in Jesus?
Do we believe that if we ask, we too will be cured of our spiritual infirmities?
Have we the faith to put all our hope in Jesus, just as the centurion did?
The centurion was a man of authority, but he realised that he could do nothing for his servant. He had, however, the common sense to accept the good he had seen Jesus do.
We too, need to have this same common sense, the sense that will help us to follow the path that Jesus points out for our salvation. We need to place all our trust in Jesus, by accepting, as the centurion did, that we cannot do it on our own.
So, take time out to pray and reflect on your life over the past year, and then make your New Liturgical Year’s resolutions for the year ahead. “Let go let God.”
As you reflect on your life today thing of one thing or area of your life which you need to let go of and leave it in God’s hands. Just do it!
Father, help me to place my complete faith, hope and trust in you. May this Advent be a time of grace and renewal for me as I wait iin Joyful HOPE for the Saviour’s coming. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
TUESDAY 29 NOVEMBER
Scripture Isaiah 11: 1-10 “Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit”
In this Season of Advent we are called to “Follow the Star” – not a rock star or a sports star- no! In our lives we are called to follow the “Rising Star of Jesus.” Simple is it not?
In the reading from Isiaiah we are told that “a shoot will come from a stump- a branch will grow from his roots” Worded so simply but – have you ever planted a seed or a tree and tried to “follow” its growth? If you haven’t, give it a try. You will learn a wonderful lesson of patience.
There is much more that we can and will gain, no matter how difficult it may seem, from “FOLLOWING” in the life that only Jesus can offer to us; that which He gives to us through the power, His Power of the Holy Spirit. This, the Holy Spirit is what Jesus came to earth to deliver, and to leave with us, to follow, that we may receive and use the gifts that enable us to focus on the true meaning of life; that we will grow, as the branch did, to an everlasting life. Eternal life in the House of God that “shall allow justice to flourish, and great peace (will be with us) forever”.
Following a “star” created by us humans has a limited life. When we follow the STAR created by God, as in Jesus Christ, we are following a Divine Power that can and only – lead us to the place with; “Him shall the nations seek, and His dwelling shall be glorious!”
Our lives, especially at this time, can be a constant rush so push, yes push some of this time into your crammed diary; to sit at the Table of the Lord and enjoy a quiet heavenly meal with Him at Holy Mass.
Father, help us to appreciate the graces that you give to me, that I may invite you into my life knowing that, in following you – the STAR, you are revealed to me through your Sacred Body and Blood. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
WEDNESDAY 30 NOVEMBER
Scripture: Matthew 15:29-37
They put these down at His feet and He cured them.
The theme for our Advent Reflections this year often brings to mind the familiar account of the wise men from the East who followed the star to Bethlehem and then, having found the infant king, paid Him homage and presented Him with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Our reading today tells about a large crowd of people who had been following, not a star, but the young man from Nazareth, the king Himself. They too had brought gifts which they laid at His feet. This time the gifts were far more precious than gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gifts were beloved family and friends who were blind, deaf, mute, crippled and lame.
No doubt the crowd who followed Jesus had witnessed the wonderful miracles of healing and the resulting transformation of people’s lives. They had seen those who had been previously afflicted with all manner of illnesses and disease be made whole in body, mind and spirit. They in turn, full of hope, had brought their nearest and dearest to Jesus for Him to heal and restore them to health.
There are many people in our families and community who are in need of spiritual healing. Sadly many of them have no one to bring them to Jesus so that He can touch their lives and restore them to faith and give them the hope of eternal life. As you start out on your journey this Advent, what offerings are you going to lay at the feet of Jesus?
We all know people who, for one reason or another, have stopped practising their faith. Many of them are just waiting for an invitation by someone to return to church. Will you be the one to extend an invitation to one of these beloved children of God to attend Mass with you this Advent in preparation for the wonderful celebration of the birth of our Saviour at Christmas?
God our Father, You sent Jesus into the world to teach us how to live as children of the light. Help us to be aware of those longing to be healed spiritually. May we guide them to follow the light of Jesus so that they may experience the hope which our faith gives us. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
THURSDAY 1 DECEMBER
World AIDS Day
Scripture: Matthew 7: 21, 24-27
The storms of life: the economic hardships, the pain and suffering issues, the broken relationships, death and the judgement of God will always be present. In the gospel today, Jesus gives us the single most important solution to coping with the world in which we find ourselves on a daily basis. This compelling advice is given early in His ministry of three years and is the last of His parables in His Sermon on the Mount. He wants us to listen (internalising what we hear) to His words which He was to give us in the “Our Father” – “Thy will be done on earth as in Heaven”. The Christian who puts these words of Christ into practice has diligently and consistently and humbly to submit their wills to the Lord and to ask the Holy Spirit to guide their minds and hearts.
When the crises manifest themselves, the outcomes will either be a tragedy which destroys the human spirit allowing the devil an easy entry into the heart, or a victory having withstood the test of faith. The tragedy comes from an attitude to life that is built on my will, my self-righteousness and my refusal to accept that Jesus is the only One who can save us from our sinful human nature. It is an attitude built by fools on sand (anything other than Jesus’s teachings) – the most useless of foundations. Its theme song is “I did it my way”.
The victory comes from an attitude to life that is built on trying to discern and do the will of God, true righteousness (following the teachings and precepts of the Church) and on accepting Jesus as our personal Redeemer. It is an attitude built on rock (Jesus) -the most stable of all foundations. Its theme song is “I did it Your way”.
Take time to consider an important decision you recently made. Was discerning the will of God and the teachings of Jesus a part of the process that helped you to arrive at your decision? Learn from this exercise in making decisions.
Dear Lord, as we ponder the AIDS pandemic, may we build our response and courses of actions upon the rock of your teachings. Compassion, mercy, no judgement, physical, spiritual and emotional support to name a few. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
FRIDAY 2 DECEMBER
Scripture: Isaiah 29: 17 – 24 Matthew 9: 27 – 31
“Do you believe I can do this?”
Look at the prophecies in the reading from Isaiah today:
*Lebanon will become fertile land, and the fertile land a forest;
*The deaf will hear
*The blind will see
*the poor exult
*tyrants shall vanish
*all disposed to do evil will be destroyed.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? ‘Too good to be true’, the cynics among us will say. Look at the world around us – if anything, it all seems to be getting worse, not better. Evil would appear to be spreading, people are starving, homeless, and without even a country to call their own. Tyrants abound in one form or another, and sickness and disease are still wreaking havoc.
What Isaiah was speaking of was the end result of the Messianic era – a time in the future when the Messiah had come, and “put all things under his feet”. We know that the arrival of Jesus in our world began that era, and through his words and actions in the lives of people, some of the prophecies made by Isaiah began to manifest themselves. But the picture has not yet been realized. It still points to the future. Isaiah’s dream is meant to rekindle our hope, and inspire and energize us to get involved in making that dream a reality.
God want s us – you and I – to help bring about the reality that is promised. He needs our help. He wants us to take seriously the fact that we are “made in His image”, but also to understand that we can do nothing without tapping into His power.
Jesus asks the two blind men who approach Him in today’s gospel, “Do you believe I can do this?” They answer, “Yes, Lord, we do.” The question we are being asked by Jesus now is, “Do you believe that you and I together can bring about a more just, loving and equitable world?” What is your answer?
Examine your own attitudes with respect to the world we live in, and the problems that burden humanity. Are you a person of hope? Do you believe that the picture can be changed? Undoubtedly God could change it all with just one word, but He looks to all those who say “I believe” to do their bit to bring about the Kingdom of God. What can you do – yourself, with your family, or with your community?
O Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Remove from my heart and mind any thoughts of hopelessness or despair. Fill me anew with Your Holy Spirit, and guide my thoughts and actions so that I may be an effective witness for Jesus in this world. I ask this in His name, Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
SATURDAY 3 DECEMBER
Scripture: Isaiah 30:19
“He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry.”
We all long for peace – peace in the world, peace in our relationships and especially peace in our hearts. But we are often restless, agitated, uneasy. Why is that so?
Could it be that our thoughts are too often far from God and our conduct is not in line with what is pleasing to him? When we are drawn to say something and we sense that it would be unwise, inappropriate or hurtful, we say it anyway. When we are inclined towards an act that we know would not be good for us or worthy of a Christian, we do it anyway. We surrender our dignity, our virtue, our moral standards for some short-lived gratification. Not surprisingly, we then feel disappointed, unhappy, ashamed, distressed. Our relationships with God and others are not the same for a while.
Why do we exchange what is worthy for what is base, that unsettles us and disturbs our peace? It seems that we lack the will to truly amend our lives. A history of yielding to temptation has made it so easy for us to go down the same road again. Bad habits have become so ingrained in us, that they are difficult to overcome, without help.
The primary source of help is the one that we neglect. It is God himself. We may call upon him, but not too insistently, lest he answer and we have to let go forever those attractive weaknesses! God wants nothing more than the conversion of the human heart. He is waiting for us to repent sincerely and seek his face, so that he can show us his mercy. He will listen and respond to a genuine, fervent cry for help: “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you” (Isaiah 30:19).
Pray for the grace to recognise and overcome the main weakness or habit that damages your relationship with God and others.
Gracious Father, grant me the willpower never to contemplate, even for a moment, what offends you. Give me the strength to say and do only what pleases you, that I may give you glory and find my peace in you. I ask this through Christ our Saviour, Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
These Advent Reflections are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Lawrence Surgeson, Deacon Mark Wardell, Veronica Donnelly, George Cominos, Irene Helsdon and Fr. Justin Stirton. Please feel free to copy and distribute but do acknowledge the writers. We wish you well on your spiritual journey through Advent as you follow the Star which leads to Jesus.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Westville. Advent 2016