Lent is a profoundly important period for Christians – remembering the journey of the Israelites from slavery to freedom; and preparing for the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Lent...
Scripture James 5: 7 – 10
Patience! Its at the top of my wish list for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. The pace of Advent intensifies this week – Christmas is around the corner – the Birth of the Saviour is very near. For many this is enough to cause great panic – not because they are afraid of the Lord’s coming, but because the preparations for the Christmas celebrations haven’t been completed.
For authentic Christians there is a sense of Joyful Anticipation! How wonderful! The Lord’s coming is near! I can’t wait for him to come and be born again in my heart and in my life and in our world!
When our need for Jesus is great, then so too is our eagerness and anticipation. Only then do we begin to feel the Joy which the Church celebrates this third week of Advent. It becomes a very real experience for us.
The words of St. James echo within us “do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon.” Advent Hope, Peace and Joy all rolled into one! How do we express all of this? Sing and dance if you want to (nothing wrong with that!) but James’ advice is a little more sober; “Do not make complaints against one another.” Let’s take that a little further – no fighting and quarreling, no unnecessary arguments and conflicts; be patient, compassionate, kind and gentle. Be thoughtful and considerate. Be at peace with yourself and others. And of course, be patient like a farmer patiently waiting for the precious fruit of the ground.
We should be able to discern a difference within ourselves this week as our spiritual preparation begins to take root within us and influence everything we dio and say. We don’t need to put on sackcloth and ashes to show that we are in a sacred time of waiting and expectation. Let them know we are Christians by our love!
Do something joyful today – play your favourite music or visit a place that makes you happy or (like myself) have a Magnum ice-cream! Whatever it is, have an experience of happiness and joy so that you can know the joy our spieirual preparation can bring. Do something to makes others joyful too!
Father, may I be an instrument of the joy Jesus came to bring. Help me to be joyful within myself, with my family and my neighbour. In preparing my heart and life for Jesus may I be patient, hopeful and expectant. Strengthen me to be patient and tolerant and give me the courage to do what I can’t do on my own. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be …
MONDAY 12 DECEMBER
Scripture: Matthew 21: 23 – 27
As humans we are guided and driven by human thoughts, sentiments and desires. If we wish to aspire to the things of God, to eternal life, then we must revise our habits and rely more on the teachings of Jesus rather than the things the world has to offer.
This is not an easy transition to make because of our basic humanity. We also tend to think that we are self-sufficient and do not need any help. The fact is that without God’s help we are doomed.
This is why the psalm suggests that we call for help, “Lord, make me know your ways”, and then later we are called to action, “The Lord will come, go out to meet Him.” Why? “Great is his beginning and his reign will have no end.”
If we fail to perceive this vital understanding of our relationship with God, plus our dependence on Him, and if we try to do it on our own, we are, again, doomed to failure.
It is difficult to relinquish our independence and to place our faith, hope and trust in God. To have a spiritual life this is what we must do! We can’t afford to be like the priests and elders who asked Jesus, when he was teaching in the temple, “What authority have you, for acting like this?” Jesus, the Son of God, had every authority because the only way to the Father is through Him. But because their hearts were so hard and unbending they couldn’t possibly know that! We can afford to be like them!
As we draw closer to Christmas let us pray that we continue to remember that life in this world will end some day, but that life in the next world will take over and is eternal.
Will it be Heaven or in Hell? The choice is ours! Don’t be like the priests and the elders who thought they had all the answers, but found to their horror, that they could not answer the one question Jesus posed.
Write down the words FAITH, HOPE and TRUST. Then ask yourself, “Do I put my complete faith, hope and trust in God?” What do you need to do in order to allow your spiritual life to guide your life – instead of the things of the world?
Thank you Father for sending us your Son Jesus who fills us with his divine presence and strengthens us to do what we cannot do on our own. Help me to place my complete faith, hope and trust in him as I follow his way to eternal life where you live for ever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
TUESDAY 13 DECEMBER
Scripture: Matthew 21:28-32
“What is your opinion?”
We are often called, as was done recently, to experience what it means to be a full member of the Church. Our Parish Stewardship Programme asked us to place a tick next to one or more Time or Talent which we could share as our “work in the vineyard”.
There are some who have committed wholeheartedly with every intention of using their Time and Talents as a dedication to ensure that the needs of Christ’s Church are fulfilled.
There are also many who have neglected to respond to the invitation to fulfill not only the needs of the Church but also the need to believe and understand that each and every one of us must demonstrate in real and practical ways that we BELONG in a Community of Faith. This is how we express God’s presence in us; the presence that will bring JOY, not only to me but also to all who are part of the great family of God – my spiritual family!
We often struggle to make time to share the unique abilities that we have. We are filled with good intentions but lack the ability to put these into practise. As a result we lapse into becoming “Sunday Catholics” who, in reality, have only about one hour a week to give to God.
Can this minimal one hour bring us a real sense of Joy and JOY to God?
More often than not we think “What’s in it for me?” The truth is that when God gives to us he gives from his abundant generosity – nothing is held back! He gives with his all with great love and with the greatest Joy that you can ever think of. Now is the time for us to imitate his generous love as we celebrate with Joy the gift of his Son. Be inspired by his generous love! Experience the Joy which comes from being of service to him and his Church through Christian Stewardship.
Have you made a Dedication of your Time, Talents and Treasure to the parish? If not, do it today! But do it with a generous heart and do it Joyfully!
Lord you are my hope and my salvation. With your help may I bring JOY to your Church in the imitation of your self-sacrificing love. May my life be filled with opportunities to be of service to you and your Church. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
WEDNESDAY 14 DECEMBER
Scripture: Luke 7: 19 – 23
Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard.
Today we read how John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus to check whether he really was the promised Messiah. John’s father was a priest and Luke tells us that his parents were ”righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly,” (Luke 1:6) so we can be reasonably certain that John would have been well versed in the writings of the prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah into the world. It is interesting that Jesus didn’t instruct John’s disciples to tell him that indeed He was the Messiah, the Son of God, but rather to tell John what they had seen Him do and what they had heard Him say. Jesus knew that John would know without any shadow of doubt, that truly Jesus was the “One who was to come” by what his disciples had experienced first-hand, having witnessed Jesus in action.
In Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 7:15-16) Jesus warns the disciples about false prophets and He says “By their fruit you will know them.” In a similar way, the true Messiah would be known by His fruit. St. Paul writing to the Galatians (5:22) reminds us that the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. These are the very qualities we see evident in the life of Jesus throughout the gospel accounts. Do others see the fruits of the Spirit being lived out by us in our day to day lives? Would people know that we are Christians by seeing us in action and by hearing what we say?
The lead up to Christmas is a wonderful time of celebration. It truly is the time to make merry but it is also at this time that we find it all too easy to get caught up over-indulging in the year end festivities. Let us be mindful that people judge us on what we do and what we say and moderation in all things should be the order of the day.
God our Father, Help us to be aware of the fact that people are drawn to faith by the example of others. Grant us the wisdom to know when our speech and actions are not appropriate as a child of God. Let us be a good example to others as they witness us living out the joy of our faith. Amen
THURSDAY 15 DECEMBER
Scripture: Luke 7: 24-30
John the Baptist was physically related to Jesus although we are not sure if he was a close or distant cousin. Our gospel reading today picks up from yesterday where John’s disciples asked Jesus if He was the One, the Promised Messiah. Jesus had replied in a manner which left them with no doubt that He was.
In this reflection place yourselves in the actual circumstances. We know that we are all called to lead people to Jesus just as John did. We know through countless studies of human behaviour that teaching is second to witness in terms of bringing about a change in the hearts of people.
How do others see us? – as a reed swaying in the breeze: a people who follow fashion; changing morality to suit us; changing beliefs to accommodate our thinking and not God’s plan; obsessed with material things, luxury and status; behaving like politicians who cross the floor to secure their ambitions and careers; not doing anything about the fact that we are born utterly selfish; denying others a share in our prosperity where we use God-given talents to further our own ends; allowing possessions to stand in the way of personal fulfillment; displaying an indifference that renders the lives of others as useless; not realising that intolerance is our enemy and that poverty enslaves and entraps people, and so much more.
Or, do they see us reflecting “what God had in mind for us”: a people who are not in an era of change but a people driving a changing era in terms of social and economic and political matters ( there are 1,250,000,000 Catholic Christians – more than enough to move Creation forwards and stop the reversal); a people who use talents for the benefit of others, who are generous in terms of time and money; who are wise, creative and who have learnt from the collective experiences of others; a people who really honour, adore and glorify the One in whom they trust and in whom they have their hope in a manner that draws others to the Father, Son and Spirit.
As a prelude to your Advent reconciliation with God (Sacrament of Reconciliation) examine those aspects of your life that allow you to sway in the breeze.
Come Holy Spirit, draw back the curtains in our hearts that prevent us from seeing what God has in mind for us. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
FRIDAY 16 DECEMBER
Scripture: Isaiah 56: 1 – 3; 6 – 8
“All who observe the Sabbath, not profaning it and cling to my covenant, these I will bring to my holy mountain”
One of the strongest “characteristics” of modern times is the desire on the part of most, if not all people, to be “included”. We don’t want to be left out. For young people, growing up, this has become almost an obsession, and has led, in some cases, to making wrong choices and getting into trouble. But it is all important to be seen to “belong”, to be accepted as one of the group. Across the timeline people have had hurtful experiences by being excluded from some or other group, club, gathering, and these experiences leave scars.
The Jewish people saw themselves as an exclusive group. They were the “Chosen People” – the ones God had singled out to enter into covenant with. They were very possessive of this status, and regarded all other people and cultures as inferior or lesser beings. If you wanted to claim Jewishness as your heritage you were expected to be able to reel off your family tree for at least ten generations in order to prove that claim. The problem was that this “exclusiveness” led them to believe that God only listened to them, that He only favoured them, and that when ‘The Day of the Lord’ finally arrived, that belief would be vindicated.
Jesus changed all that – when He walked around Palestine, preaching and teaching, he was at pains to get the apostles to leave their prejudices about “foreigners” behind them, and praising the level of faith that he found in non-Jewish individuals. When He is about to ascend back to the Father, He commissions the apostles to “Go, make disciples of all nations…”.
We need to question our own attitude to people who are different from us – different because of their beliefs, their customs, their language or their culture. Our country does not have the strongest track record when it comes to accepting foreigners, and we have seen some really horrific acts arising out of xenophobia. All people are God’s children – made in His image, created in love, and worthy of respect and dignity. Are we according them these things? Or do we see ourselves in some way as being superior to another?
God’s love is unconditional and all inclusive, and we are privileged to have it showered upon us. Are we, as baptised followers of the Lord, extending that same love to others?
Make time to talk with someone of a different faith, or culture – not with the intention of “converting” them to your way of thinking or belief, but in a genuine effort to understand them and so accept them. If you find yourself “labelling” people who are different, ask the Lord to help you to be free of any such prejudice.
God our Father, You love all people equally, and want all to be included in Your plan of salvation. Help me to see others as You see them, and to love them as You do. Amen. Come Lord Jesus!