This week we encounter what would at first sight appear to be a repeat of Jesus’ words from the Gospel extract of the Sunday before last. However, TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [MATTHEW 18:...
Expectant for Peace
Sunday 07 December
Scripture: Mark 1: 1 – 8
Prepare! Get ready!
This second week of Advent begins in the same manner as last week did. Jesus’ instruction was to ‘Stay awake!’ Today it is Isaiah and John the Baptist.
Many have already commenced their preparations for the Christmas feast: shopping, gift lists, Christmas puddings, baking, decorations, travel plans, hotel and flight bookings, and much else. In fact, so much time is taken up preparing for Christmas that many Christians have no time to pray, read the Bible or go to Mass – on Sundays and weekdays. What about you? Have you been able to make time for prayer, Scripture and Holy Mass? Have you joined your Neighbourhood faith-sharing – or has life just been too busy?
What does your preparation for Christmas involve? Spirituality or sentimentality? Faith or customs and traditions?
John the Baptist was, according to today’s Scripture, a voice crying in the wilderness. Some in Jerusalem and Judea heard his call and went to him for Baptism in the Jordan. Many didn’t. They were too busy, there was too much happening in their lives to hear a call to repentance and forgiveness of sins. Yet again today, the noise of traffic, shopping malls, the ringing of tills, busy restaurants and pubs, drowns out the voice of John the Baptist which is echoed by the Church, calling its members to prepare for the Lord’s coming, to get rid of the many distractions and to make a straight path.
The Lord’s coming is very near to us. Like John the Baptist, the Church points us in the direction of Jesus: Prepare! Get ready! Will you listen to this voice? Will you heed the call? This second week of Advent is your chance to do something significant, substantial and real to prepare yourself for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. The Healing Mass on Tuesday at 6.00pm and the Penitential Service next Tuesday are opportunities to experience what Jesus was born into our world to bring to us: Healing, Reconciliation, Forgiveness and Peace. Let this be your way to get ready and to make his paths straight.
Give some thought to what you can do to be an instrument of Peace in your home, marriage, workplace, on the roads and in your social environment. Through the Eucharist today let the Peace of Jesus come into your heart and remain within you, and through you may the lives of others be touched by his Peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your Peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. Amen.
Monday 08 December
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Scripture: Luke 5: 17 – 26
Who can forgive sins but God alone? This is what was in the minds and hearts of the Pharisees as they witnessed the healing of the paralytic. They could not comprehend the awesome reality that God was in their midst! Perhaps we need to feel sorry for them. How could they possibly know? How could they believe this amazing truth? Their hearts and minds were closed. If only they were open to the slightest bit of compassion, to a little measure of kindness. Then they would have been able to see, to believe and to recognise that in the goodness, compassion and kindness of Jesus was the presence of God; healing and forgiving.
A ritualistic and over-zealous religion can do that same to us as well. It’s the stuff that drives so many religious zealots today. They know little, if anything, about compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, humility, tolerance and forgiveness. It is so easy to be critical, judgemental and condemnatory.
When we open our hearts and minds they we too can be filled with awe, and witness the wonder and power of God in our midst. We need to be careful not to fall into the trap which the Pharisees went headlong into. God’s presence is all around us and most especially in the Sacraments of the Church; our personal encounter with him. This is especially true of the two Sacraments we are invited to receive on a regular basis: Eucharist and Reconciliation. The Eucharist is offered to us daily and Reconciliation frequently. Advent is a call and invitation to us to take full advantage of these two Sacraments in order to prepare our hearts and lives for the Birth of the Saviour.
The friends of the paralytic were prepared to do anything to get him to Jesus so that he could be healed. Jesus offers himself to us in the Sacrament of Healing in tomorrow’s Healing Mass. Take full advantage of his Healing Presence for the healing of your heart, mind, body and soul. Be like the paralytic’s friends and bring your family and friends who are in need of Healing.
Lord Jesus, you came into our world to bring us healing, forgiveness and peace. In this Advent Season we come to you. We place our complete faith, hope and trust in you as we ask for the gift of healing for ourselves and for those we love.
You came that we may have life to the full. We open our hearts to you. Fill us with your healing presence. Touch us with your healing hands and be born again with us. Come Lord Jesus, bring us healing in mind, heart, body and spirit that we may serve you with all our strength and be examples of faith to others. Fill us with your Peace, help us to be Joyful, and strengthen us in your Love, now and forever. Amen.
Tuesday 09 December
Scripture: Matthew 18:12-14
“Will he not leave the ninety-nine and go in search of the stray?”
Anyone listening to this question coming from Jesus, and knowing anything at all about sheep, would probably have laughed and said, “You have to be joking? Leave ninety nine sheep alone and go looking for one? If you do that you’ll have ninety nine lost when you come back!”
Through the prophet Isaiah, God says, “My ways are not your ways, my thoughts are not your thoughts”. (Isaiah 55: 8) Indeed, that is true, and it is precisely because His ways are not our ways that our Heavenly Father sent Jesus into the world to seek out the “strays”; to find them, minister to them, and to rejoice when He is able to “bring them home safely once more”.
It is a lovely image and one that gives us great comfort when we are “lost” : that He will come looking for us, and not give up till He finds us. But, do we extend that same comfort to others? These days there is a “callousness” that has crept into the flocks, and we can find ourselves saying, “Well, that person has chosen to be lost – so let them get on with that choice!” We can’t be bothered to look for the “lost” members of our congregations and to enquire why they have strayed, or to tell them that we are the poorer for their absence. It all takes too much time and trouble, and we make every excuse as to why we shouldn’t do it.
Thank God that His ways are not ours! To Him each person is unique, special, and created in Love – not one is expendable – not one is to be lost if at all possible.
Let us, this Advent, strive to be like Jesus – let us “look for the lost” and with His help bring them safely back to the fold.
If you know of someone in your own family and/or among your circle of friends, who is not going to Mass and has distanced themselves from the community, invite them to Come Home to the Father’s House in preparation for Christmas.
Lord, I thank You for Your amazing love and endless patience, for Your willingness to look for me when I go astray. Keep me close to You, following Your way. May I do Your will in everything. Amen.
Wednesday 10 December
Scripture: Matthew 11: 28 – 30
What an amazing invitation! There are no strings attached, nothing asked for in return, and no price to be paid. “Come” Jesus says. It is as simple as that!
There are many among us (ourselves included) who are overburdened; weighed down by the struggles, challenges, hardships and troubles of life. How wonderful then to hear this invitation from Jesus! All we need to do is respond in faith. No complications, just a faith response. Our souls find rest in Jesus. This is what he was born into our world to bring. This is the Peace the world cannot give; it is his gift to us.
Is this too hard to believe? Perhaps it is for some. Or maybe it sounds too simplistic. Throughout history, people have offered sacrifices to their gods, either to apease them or to find favour with them. When our God came among us in Jesus it was he who sacrificed himself, who gave himself! Still too hard to believe? Yet this is the truth of our faith. God demands nothing of us, but in Love he gives to us. Today, put your complete faith, hope and trust in him. Take him at his word. In the midst of whatever it is you experience in life put yourself in his presence, place yourself in his hands, and find comfort in his love. Know that he is truly Emmanuel: God with us.
Make some time to be alone with God today. Simply be still for the presence of the Lord. Allow your heart to connect with the heart of God. Feel his presence and abandon yourself to him. Speak to him of the things in your heart and open your heart to listen to him and be guided by him.
Father, I place into your hands my friends, family and myself. I put my complete faith, hope and trust in you. Lead me, guide me, heal me and strengthen me. Amen.
Thursday 11 December
Scripture: Matthew 11: 11 – 15
“If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen.” (Matthew 11 : 15)
Advent should be a time of quiet contemplation, but in the hustle and bustle of our daily life, it is certainly far from being a quiet time. In most shopping malls renditions of “Frosty the Snowman” blare out while tired, bored children are dragged from shop to shop whining and whinging. Even a brief respite in a coffee shop or restaurant is far from a quiet experience. Is it any wonder that we find it so difficult to take time out to be quiet and listen to what God wants to tell us?
Listening is an ability which few people have mastered in our world today. We hear so much but frequently fail to really listen. How intently do we listen to our friends when they confide in us, our children when they excitedly regale us with their lively stories or our elders whose ramblings we often consider completely irrelevant to what is going on in our lives?
What a challenge it is to find the time to sit quietly and meditate on the daily scripture readings. Even during these few minutes we spend reading this Advent Programme, our minds are wondering and dozens of random thoughts continue to bombard us. How difficult it is for us to quieten our minds so we can truly listen with our hearts!
The most precious gift we can give to someone is to listen to them and to give them our undivided attention.
God speaks to us in many ways, often using other people to get a message across to us. Let us try to really listen to others during this week and to take some quiet time for ourselves to listen to what God is trying to say to us.
Lord Jesus, I’m so busy. There are so many things I need to do. Help me to slow down so that I can quieten my mind and hear you speaking to my heart. Amen.
Friday 12 December
Scripture: Matthew 11: 16 – 19
What will satisfy us? Will we ever be satisfied? Jesus was the most perfect person who ever lived. Yet they found fault with him. Not even he could please everyone. John the Baptist had things said about him as well. Where does that leave us? The truth is that we will never be able to please everyone either. We will always have our critics and detractors.
Jesus did and said what he had to, regardless of what others thought and said. It was a generation which would never be satisfied.
Neither is this generation. Often it’s a case of ‘dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t’. Some give up and do what people want them to do and say what people want them to say. We can never do that. Advent is a real test for the followers of Jesus. Some give in and immerse themselves in the consumerism and commercialism of this season, with all the trappings, trimmings, customs and traditions that go with us. Others choose to stand apart, to be authentic to the spirituality of this season and to put faith first. This means having to make choices and decisions which may be unpopular with some but which are authentic to what we actually believe. It is sometimes the road less travelled rather than the path of least resistance which makes the real difference. We know that choice which both John the Baptist and Jesus chose.
The mission of the Church is to be both the voice of John the Baptist and the presence of Jesus in the world. In the process it is possible that we will suffer the same consequences as did John and Jesus. Neither sought popularity, fame, wealth or celebrity status. We must know that being a follower of Jesus will not always be easy or without criticism, rejection and condemnation. Jesus, born again in our hearts and our lives, gives us the strength, courage and endurance to proclaim and live by the truth of our faith. His circumstances were far from perfect and always challenging. He was able to rise above all of that, overcome obstacles and triumph over evil. With his living presence within us we can do the same.
It is easy to find fault and to be critical. Make a special effort today to refrain from criticism and to be free with compliments, affirmation and a positive attitude. Build people up rather than putting them down. And if you have nothing good to say about someone, rather say nothing at all!
Lord, help me to see the good in others. May I never delight in the faults and failings of others and realise that I am far from perfect. Help me always to do the best I can do and to be the very best that I can be. Amen.
Saturday 13 December
Scripture: Matthew 17: 10 – 13
Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.”
One of our parishioners restores MG’s, as a hobby. These cars arrive at his workshop all beaten up and shabby and leave in pristine condition – just as they once were on the showroom floor.
Jesus is calling us this Advent to restore our relationship with him. In the book of Revelation, Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus, “Yet I hold this against you. You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5.
Jesus gave us the first and greatest commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37. Do you love Jesus with the same fervour as you once did? Do you serve him as joyfully and passionately as you once did?
The Church at Ephesus was a busy Church – they used their gifts to benefit both themselves and their community. But they were acting out of the wrong motives. Work for God must be motivated by love for God. Our love for God is manifested in our service to others. Our hearts must guide our actions. What is the condition of your heart? Does Jesus have first place in your life? Do you love him more than anyone or anything else?
How can we rekindle our love for Jesus? Jesus gives us the answer, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15)
Start by doing what Jesus tells us to do in his Word. (See John 2:5 – for Mary’s advice to us)
Lord Jesus, through the power of your Holy Spirit, who lives in me grant me the desire to love you with all my being. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Advent 2014 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Deacon Peter Venter, Irene Helsdon, Veronica Donnelly and Deacon Henry Blair. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. May this Advent be for you a time eager Expectation and a deep and abiding Peace.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Durban North. Advent 2014