Against the background of this Sunday’s celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul let us recall the ancient maxim that "the Church prays what she believes and believes...
Longing for Light
WEEK ONE: HOPE
Sunday 28 November
Scripture Romans 13: 11 – 14
I don’t want to sound like a prophet of doom but we do live in a world which has become darkened by widespread Godlessness. The war in Syria continues to take its toll (an estimated 11 000 children have been killed); our country is still ravaged by crime, violence (especially against women and children), corruption and greed; poverty, hunger and homelessness plague the continent of Africa; the tensions in the Middle East continue unabated – and so the list goes on. We live in a world that is Longing for Light!
In the midst of the darkness Christians are called to be a people of HOPE. Interestingly Pope Francis has chosen, in his first Encycical, to focus on the Joy of our Faith. Christians are called to be people of HOPE, PEACE, JOY AND LOVE. Advent reminds us of this, and that these are more than nice words and concepts but the very essence of our Faith.
It was into a darkened world that Jesus was born 2000 years ago and it will be in the midst of our darkened world that Jesus will be born again this Christmas. But this will only possible if every Christian is willing to allow Jesus to be born again in our hearts.
St. Paul reminds us today that it is time to wake up from our sleep. “The night is gone, the day is at hand. Let then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.”
It would seem that Roman society then was no different to ours today – especially during this ‘festive season.’ So St. Paul encourages us “Let us live decently as people do in the daytime; no drunken orgies, no promiscuity or licentiousness, and no wrangling or jealousy. Let your armour be Jesus Christ.”
Take St. Paul’s words to heart and let your spiritual observance of Advent temper the ‘festive season’ so that the Light of Jesus may shine in your life and your home, and through each of us, illuminate our darkened world at Christmas.
1) Be a witness to Jesus the true Light 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.
2) Spend 10 minutes in prayer every day. Commit to using this daily reflection throughout Advent.
3) 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.
4) Pray a decade of the Rosary every day ~ focus particularly on the Joyful Mysteries.
5) 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 each day for family prayer
6) Also display the Bible in a special place in your home – perhaps close to the Advent wreath.
7) Ask for God’s forgiveness for the sins, faults and failings that bother you and make a decision to participate in the Penitential Service.
8) Contribute a toy or gift for an underprivileged child.
9) Invite an inactive Catholic or an ‘unchurched’ friend to accompany you to Mass on Sunday.
10) 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.
11) Avoid using the word ‘xmas’ and take pride in adding the name of Christ to Christmas. Point this out whenever you see the word ‘xmas’.
12) Tell a child the story of the Birth of Jesus ~ the real story of Christmas.
Father guide me as I begin my Advent journey. Let this be a time of spiritual renewal and growth for me, a time to realise just how much I need the presence of Jesus within me and how much we need Jesus in our dark world. May I be ready and waiting in Joyful Hope and with eager expectation when he comes! Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be …
Start your Advent well by attending Holy Mass at 9.00am tomorrow
Monday 02 December
A Faith Filled Family That Prays And Celebrates Together Stays Together
Scripture Psalm 121:1 – 9
I rejoiced when I heard them say” Let us go to God’s house”
God wants us to rejoice, to be so happy that we can’t sleep for joy, that we are speechless in our praise and our faces hurt with smiling. Like no other time in the year it is Christmas when people seem to make the extra effort to be kind, generous and forgiving. Yes the negative bugs will be there, but how about focusing on a less stressful and more rejoiceful Christmas.
A change of focus will truly make us rejoice – most of the rushing around is unnecessary, prayers are more important than a fattening gift, a donation or a gift to help a struggling family with school fees will bring more joy than another piece of jewellery. We have only ourselves to blame for the Christmas rush, stampede, frenzy – only the crazy join the rat race. We are called to join the walk of grace, not the rat race. So I wonder if even I who write this will be brave enough to walk and not run this Advent season!
Then we will want to go to God’s house to thank him for the things that really matter. We invite friends for parties and dinners, why not invite the same friends, even those of other faiths to come with us to the house of God to rejoice with him?
Our families are where we need to begin, sharing the Blood of the Lamb with our blood relations, making extra efforts to show love, forgiveness and peace in our homes and communities.
The Lord Jesus expects us to watch in great expectation for the most important event of all – his return in glory at the end of time!
We don’t need to do all the shopping we normally do – perhaps handmade gifts, lunch at home, cards to our neighbours, staying at home having quality time with our family with a home project like planting a new flower bed, painting a bedroom, weaving a carpet, promenade walks… simple stress-free fun. This will give us time to focus on our real needs and the great gifts already given to us – our need to belong and feel loved and appreciated for the uniqueness of each other.
Heavenly Father you sent your Son, your beloved Son to be born like us on earth and to grow up with daily temptations and duties. May our preparation to celebrate his coming be a really different experience this Christmas where our stockings are empty because our hearts are filled with rejoicing at knowing the awesome love you have for us. Amen.
Tuesday 03 December
Scripture Luke 10 : 21 – 24
What does Jesus’ prayer tell us about God and ourselves?
First, it tells us that God is both Father and Lord of the earth as well as heaven. He is both Creator and Author of all that he has made, the first origin of everything and transcendent authority, and at the same time, goodness and loving care for all his children. All fatherhood and motherhood are derived from him.
Jesus also makes claim which no one would of dared to make: He is the perfect revelation of God. Our knowledge of God is not simply limited to knowing God – who he is and what he is like. We can know God personally and be united with him in a relation of love, faith and friendship. Jesus makes it possible for each of us to personally know God as our Father. To see Jesus is to see what God is like. In Jesus we see the perfect love of God – a God who cares intensely and who yearns over men and women, loving them to the point of laying down his life for them upon the cross.
Do we pray to our Father in heaven with joy and faith in his love and care for us?
As we begin the season of Advent in preparing for the birth of Jesus, let us daily acknowledge God as our Father by praying joyfully and with complete faith the ‘Lord’s Prayer’.
Lord Jesus Christ, give me the child-like simplicity and purity of faith to gaze upon your face with joy and faith in your all-merciful love. Remove every doubt, fear, and proud thought which would hinder me from receiving your word and trust and humble submission.
Wednesday 04 December
Scripture Isaiah 25: 6 – 10 and Matthew 15: 29 – 37
There is probably more food consumed during this month of December than any other time of the year: year-end parties, family gatherings and crowded restaurants. In the light of this, there exists the possibility that when we read Isaiah’s vision of the Heavenly Banquet, it actually doesn’t sound all that attractive. Imagine though, what this vision would be like for a child in Africa scratching in the dust for a few grains of rice!
During Advent we need to have in mind this (or a) vision of our future glory, all that which awaits us at the end of our lives, when Christ shall come to take us home. The feeding of the multitude in today’s gospel passage from St. Matthew reminds us that God always strengthens (feeds) his people in their journey through life, just as he did the people of Israel during their journey to the Promised Land. Their vision of the Promised Land was that of a land flowing with milk and honey – and they were not disappointed!
In this, our journey through life, Advent reminds us that as we journey towards our Promised Land, our heavenly banquet, God will feed us and strengthen us so that we may confront and overcome all that we experience and endure in this life. The Eucharist is our Living Bread come down from heaven. The practical suggestions on Sunday mentioned we should do our best to receive the Eucharist as often as possible as part of our preparation for the Lord’s coming. Today’s scripture reminds us of how important this is. By joining in at the Table of the Eucharist at Mass we prepare ourselves to sit at the table of all God’s children in the heavenly kingdom; the Banquet of the Lord.
There can be no better practical suggestion than to encourage you to attend Holy Mass as often as possible and reveive the Eucharist. Make this personal encounter with Jesus and integral part of your Advent this year.
Father, you never abandon your children. Just as you did of old, so now you feed us and strengthen us with the Body and Blood of your Son Jesus, the Bread of Life. Thanks you for this great life-giving gift. Amen.
Tomorrow is our Mass for Healing. Jesus came into our world to heal.
Celebrate his healing presence and power.
Thursday 05 December
Scripture Isaiah 41: 13 – 20 Matthew 11: 11 – 15
“For I, Yahweh your God, am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you’”
Fear is a very common emotion in most people’s lives. We may not be conscious of it, but it lurks there in the background. We live in a very violent society and that in itself causes fear – we fear being hijacked, robbed or physically harmed. In this time of recession and financial insecurity, there are other fears – fear of being made redundant, fear of being unable to provide for ourselves and those we love. Add to that fear of some dreaded disease or death itself, and we are, as frail human beings, quite bound up with fear. So many of the causes of such fears are beyond our ability to control, and that makes us feel insecure.
Yet here is our God telling us “not to be afraid” and that He is “holding us by the right hand”. I am tempted sometimes, when at some ungodly hour of the morning fear is taking hold of me, to say to God, “It’s all very well for you to say “Don’t be afraid” – you’re not in this situation!” And then I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, facing death, facing ridicule, rejection and cruelty of the worst kind, and I realize that He has been in infinitely worse situations, and that he understands our human fears. He too was afraid, but He put His hand in the hand of the Father and walked on to face what awaited Him.
Our relationship with God needs to be a really close one if we are going to be able to do what Jesus did. I need to feel that He is right there with me, “holding my hand”, and strengthening me to face whatever lies ahead. It will not necessarily mean that the fear will disappear like magic, but that I will feel able to go on – that I am not alone – that His strength is there for me to draw on, and that as He says through Isaiah, “I will not abandon you”.
Reflect on how you view life and the road ahead. Are you fearful and afraid of what might lie in front of you? Think of someone you know who does not seem to be afraid. Talk to that person, share what troubles you, and ask how he/she deals with such things.
Then take time just to be with God – to dwell on His words, “Do not be afraid. I will help you”. Ask that these words might become real for you, with His help.
God our Father, help me to have a real understanding and experience of Your presence in my life.
Let me truly feel Your closeness and the assurance that You are walking with me. Take away any fears that I may have and help me to strengthen my faith and trust in You. Amen.
Friday 06 December
(St. Nicholas, Bishop)
Why do we fear anything with the Lord on our side?
Scripture: Psalm 27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear?
Henri Nouwen suggests that we often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval. God loves us without conditions even though he may not approve of everything we do! We do not easily understand or live in God’s boundless love and so we worry and live in fear. We constantly try to prove how good we are or give up because of continual failure!
However, the more we deepen our conviction that God does love us no matter what and that this love is enough for us, that we are safe in his hands and that we are being guided every step we make, then we will not be afraid.
The enemy is there, waiting to destroy us, but we can face the enemy without fear when we know that we are held safe in the love of Jesus.
I will look at my difficulties and problems and give them to the Lord and live today, confident of his help.
Lord, help me to remember that you are always with me. Thank you that even my smallest problem concerns you. You answer my slightest need. There is nothing I cannot do with you by my side.
Saturday 07 December
Scripture: Matthew 9: 35 – 10:1
In the first verse of today’s gospel we witness Jesus in action – teaching, preaching and healing. These were the signs of his transforming presence wherever he went. St. Peter tells the household of Cornelius, “He (Jesus) went everywhere doing good and healing all who were under the power of the Devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)
It has been said that a saint is someone in whom Jesus lives again. As Christians, ‘little Christs’ or ‘other Christs’ we should not just talk to people about Jesus, we must show him to them. They should encounter the love, joy, peace, compassion and forgiveness of Christ in us.
Like the river described in Ezekiel 47: 9 which makes the salt water fresh and gives life to large numbers of fish, we too, should spread the fragrance of Christ wherever we go. The world should be a better place because we are in it.
Isaiah writes, “God has appointed me to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the mantle of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Isaiah 61:3. God has placed us in this world not just to be different but to make a difference.
I read this from a poster in an office: Everyone brings joy to this office. Some when they enter, others when the leave. Which one best describes me?
‘Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose” (Proverbs 18:21). Decide today, that in every situation, you will speak words of life.
Lord, help me to see with the eyes of Jesus and move me with compassion for the plight of others – to meet their needs and heal their hurts. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Advent 2013 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Fr. Stephen Tully, Deacon Peter Venter, Irene Helsdon, Fr. Brett Williams and Deacon Henry Blair. We encourage you to copy and distribute to anyone you think may benefit from these Daily Reflections. May this Advent be for you a time of Longing for Light.