As many of you may well remember, this Sunday’s celebration of the Holy Family at Nazareth is my nemesis? I have long found it difficult to be comfortable in preaching...
Longing for Light
WEEK THREE: JOY
Sunday 15 December
Scripture: James 5: 7 – 10
In our world of instant everything we have become a very restless and impatient people. We have grown unaccustomed to having to waiting for anyone or anything. With Christmas, however, it’s a little different. Unlike children who have probably already started counting the sleeps to Christmas, we are desperate for a few extra days because we haven’t got everything done yet. Christmas is just over a week away!
Chances are we will find it difficult to be joyful this week as we do battle with long lines at the checkout, crowded shops, no parking, heavy traffic and crowds of holiday-makers (for us here in Durban).
Today St. James tells us to be patient. This is one of the great virtues most of us battle with. The “Keep Calm” slogans are all around but we pay little attention to them – especially at this time of the year.
Its no use complaining. Complaining just makes us more miserable. Use today, before the week begins, to make some decisions about how you are going to be a patient, calm, tolerant and uncomplaining person in the week ahead. “Do not grumble” St. James says.
We have to change our attitude as Christmas approaches. This is what Advent is all about; preparing ourselves in an appropriate way for the coming of the Saviour. Are you willing to do this? If so, here are a few suggestions:
• Spend the first 5 to 10 minutes every morning this week in silence and in thanksgiving for the gift of the new day (regardless of the weather); for the people in your life; for the opportunity you have to do good and be good. Ask God to help you to be a positive influence in the lives of others today,
• Go to Mass, listen carefully to the Word and receive Jesus in the Eucharist. It is his living presence within you that helps you to be a patient and positive person,
• Make some time to spend before the Blessed Sacrament – even if it is just 5 or 10 minutes. Sit quietly in the presence of Jesus. Do nothing. Just invite Jesus: Come Lord Jesus come into my heart, Come Lord Jesus come into my Life, Come Lord Jesus come and be born again within me this Christmas,
• Go to Confession. Spend some time reading the examination of conscience as part of your preparation. Make a good confession. Cleanse your heart. Make a new beginning.
• As you face and confront the busy week, in every stressful situation pray for the gift of patience and tolerance – and remember your commitment.
• Write these following words and put them in a place where you can be constantly reminded: compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, tolerance and forgiveness. Make them real for yourself.
In the Gospel you heard at Mass today; Jesus tells the disciples of John the Baptist to go and tell John what they see and hear. The presence of Jesus always brings change and transformation. What do people see and hear from us, from you, as we wait to celebrate the Birth of Jesus?
Strengthen me O Lord to be patient as I wait in joyful hope for the Saviour’s coming. May I be an example to all whom I encounter this week. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be …
Go to Mass and be strengthened by Jesus in the Eucharist.
Monday 16 December
Scripture: Matt 21: 23 – 27
“ … and they argued with one another… “
Jesus in today’s Gospel shows us how sneaky we can be when we want our own way. The priests came trying to disprove the authority Jesus had. Their jealousy, and sense of self-importance prevented them from accessing the truth. They got no answer from Jesus because their arguing amongst themselves caused them to be deceitful. The opinions of others clouded the truth.
When there are arguments and selfish opinion-making, the truth is difficult to see. Public opinion and majority opinion can then cloud the truth. That is why each of us must stop and think for ourselves. I must rely on my personal relationship with Our Lord Jesus to guide me to the truth. Then I will have peace, even if others around me are arguing and opinion making.
Called to “Be the Change I want to see “ I must be strong enough to stand up for what I believe regardless of what others are saying around me, especially if I find the truth uncomfortable to hear. Dictators, bad leaders and cruel malipulators rely on those who do not speak the truth simple to spread their destruction. There are more good people and opinions than bad, but the bad get more airtime because the good keep their hearts closed.
Pope Francis calls us to be merciful and to focus on the poor, with these two principles we pursue peace and justice.
When last did I speak out against a racial remark, an unkind utterance, or made a judgement about someone I know little about. Did I feel at peace? Am I willing to change this?
Heavenly Father you believed in each one of us to see, love and be the truth. Forgive us the time we have let public opinion and cowardice to bring conflict and injustice. Help us be strong to stand for the truth and seek peace. Amen.
Tuesday 17 December
Scripture: Matthew 1: 1-17
It is an interesting exercise to trace our family roots back to our ancestors; where they came from and what they passed on from their generation to the next. They give us our roots and help us to understand our heritage.
Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus traces his lineage from Abraham, through the line of David, King of Israel. Jesus the Messiah is the direct descent of Abraham and David. God in his mercy fulfilled his promises to Abraham and David that he would send a Saviour and a King to rule over the house of Israel and to deliver them from their enemies. Jesus is the fulfillment of all God’s promises. He is the hope not only for the people of the Old Covenant but for all nations as well.
He is the Saviour of the world and redeems and leads us from slavery to sin. In him we receive acceptance, through our baptism, into a royal priesthood and holy nation as sons and daughters of the living God.
Do we recognize our spiritual genealogy and do we accept God as our Father and Jesus as the sovereign King and Lords of our lives?
We are all members of Jesus’ family – we are his brothers and sisters – sons and daughters of his Heavenly Father. If we have harmed a brother or sister in Christ, either by thought, word or deed, then tonight at our Penitential Service let us ask our Father for forgiveness.
Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Messiah and Saviour of the world, the hope of all nations. Be a ruler of my heart and king of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your wise rule and care. Amen.
Wednesday 18 December
Scripture: Matthew 1: 18 – 24
Emmanuel, a name which means “God-is-with-us”. I love this concept – this reality! God came to be with us! What an extraordinary thought! Question is, do we really believe this? Yes, we know that Jesus came. For many it remains a past event, the event of Bethlehem 2000 years ago.
Today we are reminded that God came to be with us, in every circumstance and situation in our lives. This is why Jesus assured us at the end of his ministry “Know that I am with you always: yes, to the end of time” Matthew 28: 20.
Such is the nature of our God of love who wants to be with is – who is with us. He has no desire for praise and worship, honour and glory. He wants to be and is with us always. This is the very essence of love. Love is never self-seeking or self-centered. Love always puts the other first. The reality is that we are never God-forsaken or abandoned. Whatever darkness, grief, anguish, sadness, sorrow, pain, hardship, despair or suffering we may experience, we must know that God-is-with-us. He will never abandon us, never forsake us. In his own wonderful and mysterious way, he will turn the darkness into light.
This is why Advent finds us Longing for Light. In the celebration of Christmas we are reminded again and again that God came to be with us, to turn whatever darkness we may experience into Light. This Christmas put your complete Faith, Hope and Trust in him. He will never abandon you!
What is your Longing for Light? Which area(s) of your life have become darkened by the things of life? Light a candle today and let it burn for a while to remind you that Jesus is coming to turn the darkness into light, to lead you out of the valley(s) of darkness into his own wonderful light. Read John 1: 9 – 14. (it’s the Gospel for Christmas Morning Mass)
Lord I know that you are with me. Increase my faith so that I may constantly grow in this awareness and learn how to trust in you. Dispel the darkness from my life so that I may walk always in the light of faith. Amen.
Thursday 19 December
Scripture: Judges 13: 2 – 7; Luke 1: 5 – 25
“Do not be afraid, your prayer has been heard”
Privacy and silence have become the equivalent of “luxuries” in the lives of many of us. We attempt to cram 48 hours worth of activity into 24, and are on the go day and night. We are “busy” about so many things that we deprive ourselves even of the sleep necessary to stay healthy and whole!
As for prayer – well, where can I fit that in?
Jesus, talking about prayer, says in Matthew 6: “When you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your God who is in that secret place, and your God who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”
Cultivating time for prayer is not always easy to do, but we need to think of life itself as a prayer – continuous – God is not just in the quiet, private places – He is everywhere, and wants to be involved in everything in our lives. So perhaps the “private place” is not actually physical, but a place within ourselves – e.g. while sitting in a waiting room, or while driving somewhere, or while waiting for someone. And, if distractions come, then offer those to Him – He understands.
Many people say, “But I prayed so hard for … and it didn’t happen, so what’s the point of continuing?”
Jesus never promised that we would receive exactly what we prayed for; He promised that the Father would give “good gifts to His children”. In answer to our prayer we will receive some “good gift” or other but, and we need to accept this too, it may not be at the time that we are asking that we receive that gift, and we might not recognise it straight away. God has no timeframe, and when He perceives the time to be right we will receive what He believes we truly need – something that is truly “good” for us.
Finally, we must persevere in prayer – pray with persistence and trust as Elizabeth and Zechariah did, and believe that our prayer “will be heard”.
• Resolve to set aside 10 minutes for prayer during your day – if possible, in a quiet, private space.
• But if you are not able to do that, then begin your day by offering it, and everything it holds to the Lord. Ask Him to walk with you, talk to Him as often as you can during the day – tell Him your worries and concerns, thank Him for the good things that happen, and ask Him to shed His light on the difficult things that challenge you. Before you go to sleep, review your day with Him, and thank Him for being there for you.
Lord, You are with me everywhere I go – as the psalm says, “If I climb to the heavens You are there”. You will not forget me, so help me not to forget You. Open my mind and heart to feel Your presence. Amen.
Friday 20 December
How much do I really praise God?
Scripture: Psalm 67
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Living our lives in the Spirit helps us to discover that everything and everyone is gift from God. What is our response?
There is so much taking place around us that is destructive and hurtful. When we can walk through this world, conscious of our giftedness then we can offer blessings and healing for ourselves and others!
Julian of Norwich wrote: “We long to be filled with endless joy and bliss, for we are made for this.” She understood that, in fulfilling our duty to praise and honour God, to bring peace and joy to others, we find a deep and last happiness for ourselves.
In our words and actions we can reveal God’s love for the world and so give him heartfelt and sincere praise.
I will do a kind act for each member of my family.
Lord, I rejoice in you! Forgive my confusion and cleanse my heart and thoughts from all that is wrong and contrary to your will. Help me to bear witness to your love in the world and in my family. Amen.
Come and support the Youth and Chrildren of our Parish as they remind us, in their own wonderful way,
of the Saviour’s coming into our world.
Saturday 21 December
Scripture: Luke 1: 39 – 45
“You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” (Luke 1:45). We all have, at one time or another, been left feeling hurt, let down and disillusioned by people who have not kept their promises to us. How do we know if we can trust God to keep his promises?
Having confidence in God to deliver on his promises is built on the foundation of a life-long relationship with him. This is borne out in the life of Abraham. Even though he was 100 years old and Sarah was 90 and barren, he did not doubt that God would keep his promise and make him (Abraham) the father of many nations.
“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4: 20-21).
God “is no respecter of persons,” (Acts 10:34). He treats everyone the same. He kept his promise to Abraham; he will keep his promise to you. Here are two precious promises that we Catholics can claim: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6: 54)
Do you want to live a blessed life and enjoy God’s favour? Then believe that the Lord will do what he said.
Is there an abiding sin, a bad habit or an addiction which has a strong hold over you?
• Read Philippians 4: 13.
• Let it to ‘sink’ into your spirit.
• Step out in faith, act upon it and live the victorious life which Christ won for you!
Father, I thank you for your promise in John 8: 36, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” On my own, I can never break free from sin which enslaves me. But strengthened by Jesus I can walk in freedom and live a life worthy of the calling I received from you. Amen.