For a lot of people, Halloween has become synonymous with sweets, costumes, scary stuff, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. But do you know the Christian connection to the holiday? The true...
Expectant in Hope
Sunday 30 November
Scripture: Mark 13: 33 – 37
Advent is our time to wake up from the slumber of complacency, apathy, routine and ritual and to be alert to the Lord’s coming. Today the Church begins a new Liturgical Year with the Season of Advent. Its an opportunity for new beginnings for each of us as well.
This is quite a challenge because Advent arrives at what is probably the busiest time of the year. For many its an inconvenience. For us it’s a challenge and an opportunity. Accept the challenge, grasp the opportunity. It will be worthwhile.
Advent is a time for us to wake up to the reality of our God who came into our world born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, our God coming into our world this Christmas, and our God coming into our world at the end of time.
When God came the world was, by and large, unprepared for his coming. Besides the shepherds, wise men from the East and a few others, hardly anybody noticed. Despite the warnings, reminders and call of the prophets they were unprepared. The activities of life had distracted them from what God was doing. They had become complacent and had turned their faith into a routine and ritual.
As Advent begins today we hear the world of Jesus himself “Stay awake!” When he comes he must not find us asleep. As the Christmas hymn so joyfully proclaims “Let every heart prepare Him room” (Joy to the World). We awaken to his coming which is very near. Christmas is just over 3 weeks away. Instead of getting into a panic about gifts to be bought and wrapped, shopping to be done, invitation to be sent or responded to and all the other busy stuff of these next three weeks, we should rather put faith first and make our hearts ready for the Birth of the Saviour – no longer in a manger in Bethlehem but in hearts that are ready, prepared and waiting for him to be born again. Do this an everything else will fall into place – a very secondary place in comparison to the wonder and joy of the Saviour’s birth in the hearts and lives of all who believe.
1) 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.
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 and Mysteries of Light.
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 every day for family prayer
6) 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 attend 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 real story of Christmas.
Father guide me as I begin this Advent journey. 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 and to experience his Divine Presence leading and guiding me. Help me to wait in Joyful Hope and with eager expectation for his coming! Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be …
Monday 01 December
Scripture: Isaiah 2: 1 – 5
God is wanting to do wonderful things in us and through us this Advent Season. This is why, at the beginning of Advent we hear his invitation: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord.” Advent is a journey. We began this journey yesterday. It is a journey of expectation and hope, a journey from darkness to light, a journey into the very heart of our God. Christmas brings God among us. For those who really want and need God in their lives this invitation cannot come sooner! Others will go through the Advent rituals and still others will miss out on it completely.
Following this Advent programme will help and guide you in your journey. At the beginning of Advent we need to share in Isaiah’s vision. It is a vision filled with Hope. Look ahead – to beyond Christmas; to ahead to what God is going to accomplish in the world, perhaps not during our time but in His time. Through our faith we share in this divine plan. He will overcome the evil and horror of war, poverty, hunger, religious conflict and all that troubles our world. All nations and all peoples will stream to Jesus who cam to bring salvation and redemption to all.
This is why we are Expectant in Hope. We must believe and trust that God will do this. Christmas this year will be a little foretaste for us. So we begin this journey by opening our hearts and preparing for his coming. During this time we allow him (through his Church) to teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.
Make a copy of this Advent programme and share it with someone so that they too may have a spiritual experience during this next few weeks and prepare their hearts and lives for the Saviour’s birth.
Come Lord Jesus, come into my heart, come into my life, come into our world. Amen.
Tuesday 02 December
Scripture: Luke 10: 21 – 24
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see”
Jesus, on taking up His public ministry, quotes Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, new sight to the blind…”
We know that Jesus cured the physically blind, and gave new spiritual sight to many – enabling them to see Him for who He was, and have new understanding of God’s love for each one of them.
It is difficult to see in the dark; in pitch darkness even the best sight is of little use. In such circumstances we can only pray and hope that light will come from somewhere so that we will be able to see and find our way. We need light to see.
Spiritually speaking, we need the light of Jesus in order to see clearly. When we find ourselves in spiritual darkness it is usually because of the way we look at things, events or people. We can be blind to our own faults completely and yet so critical of the faults of others. We can despair about the things going on in the world around us, and feel that the darkness is closing in. When that happens it is because we am not seeing with the eyes of Him who is supposed to be living within us.
We need the insight and guidance that only the Holy Spirit can give us, and Advent is the season to welcome that LIGHT – to cherish it, and let it break through into every aspect of our lives.
Jesus told the twelve that they were “blessed” to see what they did; blessed to have the opportunities they did to learn and grow; to deepen their understanding of God and His actions in the lives of people; blessed to have the HOPE that His message of love and salvation held for them and all those who believe. He challenged them to pass this LIGHT and HOPE on to others. We have been given this same challenge.
Think about whether or not you are a person of HOPE?
If your answer is positive then share with as many people as possible the reasons for your hope.
If your answer is negative then spend time analysing what is needed in order to change this situation.
Lord Jesus, give me your eyes to see with; give me your Spirit that I may see You in others. Fill me with the Spirit of Hope and show me how I may share that hope with others. Amen.
Wednesday 03 December
Scripture: Matthew 15: 29 – 37
What can satisfy the deepest hunger and longing of the human heart? Isaiah prophesied that God would provide a heavenly banquet for all peoples and would destroy death once and for all (Isaiah 25:6-8). Jesus came to fulfill that promise. Jesus’ miracles are both a sign of God’s kingdom and a demonstration of God’s power. They also reveal the magnitude of God’s mercy.
In the multiplication of the loaves and fishes we see a sign and a symbol of what God always does. God knows our needs and he cares. When God gives, he gives in abundance. The gospel account records that the leftovers from the miraculous meal was more than seven times the amount they began with. Seven is a symbol of completion and wholeness. When God gives, he gives until we are satisfied. When God works for his people he gives abundantly – more than we could deserve and more than we need. He nourishes us with his life-giving word and with the bread of heaven. In the kingdom of heaven God will feast us at his banquet table. Are we satisfied with God’s provision for us? And do we long with expectant hope for the coming of his kingdom in all its fullness?
Feeding the hungry is what Jesus did and calls us to do. This Advent will provide many opportunities for us to do the same as well: the SVDP Christmas Tree, the Food Basket at Mass; a Christmas Hamper for a street person. These are just a few of the opportunities in the parish.
Lord Jesus, you alone can satisfy the longing and hunger in our hearts. May I thirst for your kingdom and find joy in your presence. Give me the true bread of heaven and nourish me with your life-giving Word. Amen.
Thursday 04 December
Scripture: Matthew 7: 21, 24 – 27
Advent puts our Christian faith to the test. Is our faith built on the rock of Faith or are we Christians by custon, tradition, ritual and convenience, with little or no foundation? Do we go around saying “Lord, Lord” or do our actions, attitudes and behaviour demonstrate our faith?
It is easy to get caught up in the customs, traditions and sentimentality of Christmas without the slightest awareness of what God is wanting to do in our lives and in our world. Almost the whole world celebrates Christmas in one way or another. Again this year there will be billions spent on gifts, food and drink. But will there be any meaning to the gift-giving or reason for the celebratory meal?
What will be the reason for your Christmas celebration? For those whose faith is built of Jesus our rock the answer is very obvious. When we put faith first everything else falls into place.
While the rest of the world goes into a frenzy of eating, drinking and shopping the followers of Jesus enter into a time of deeper spirituality, prayer, going to Mass, reading scripture and consciously preparing for Jesus. Instead of “Lord, Lord” we choose to say “Come Lord Jesus.”
Would it be possible to moderate and temper your alcohol and food intake this Advent?
If you haven’t already done so, plan now to attend a weekday Mass (or more), to spend a little extra time in prayer and to share your faith with others.
Lord Jesus, help me to place my complete faith, hope and trust in you. May this Advent be a timer of spiritual renewal for me as I prepare myself for your coming. Amen.
Friday 05 December
Scripture: Matthew 9: 27 – 31
Did Jesus really expect these two men to remain silent about having their sight restored? How could they possibly contain their joy?!
They believed that Jesus could heal them and their faith was rewarded. They deserved it, he told them.
This is what Jesus came into our world to do. Do yo believe this? He came to bring healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and peace. This is what we can expect during the Advent Season. The blind men wanted to be healed. Do you want to receive the Lord’s forgiveness, to experience his healing presence, to be filled with his gift of peace, and to be reconciled with God and others?
Jesus came to remove our blindness too; to help us see the wonderful presence of God and to experience His presence in our lives – and in our world. When we look at the state of our country and our world it is easy to yield to despair. In this week of Hope we have to and must believe that Jesus is our Hope. He will turn the darkness into light. He is the Light of the World. Let him be your Light this Christmas.
What area(s) of your life would like the Light of Jesus to enter into? Make a list of what you would like Jesus to do for you. Put the list into your Bible.
Lord Jesus, come into my heart and into my life. Remove the blindness which prevents me from loving you and others with all my heart. Renew your presence within me and help me to live in the light of your presence. Amen.
Saturday 06 December
Scripture: Matthew 9: 35 – 10:1, 5-8
Preparing for the coming of the Kingdom of God
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. (Matthew 9: 35-38).
Waiting for the birth of a baby can be both a busy and exciting time. Busy, because of all the preparations to be undertaken and exciting because we await the arrival of a new member of the family.
This should be true of Advent. We should be busy spring-cleaning our hearts, getting rid of of all the negative thoughts and attitudes which have accumulated over the past year. We should be excited because we can make a brand new start in our walk of faith by welcoming Jesus into our hearts once again.
The Kingdom of God broke into our world at the birth of Jesus. In the same way it can be established in our lives as we submit our will to God’s rule in our lives. We can do this by adopting the attitude of John the Baptist: He [Jesus] must become greater; I must become less. (John 3:30)
This should be our way of life as we joyfully await the Second Coming of Jesus – more of Jesus, less of me. More of his will, less of mine. More of what he wants, less of what I want.
“So think of the kind of holy and godly lives you must live as you look forward to the day of God and eagerly wait for it to come.” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
How can I prepare myself to welcome Jesus into my heart this Advent?
• Spending time with Jesus – listening to him and talking to him.
• Thinking about what he has taught me and acting upon it.
• Using the many opportunities given by my parish to grow in my relationship with Jesus (Attending a week day Mass; meditating upon these reflections; visiting Jesus in the Adoration Chapel; celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation)
Lord Jesus, I offer you my time, talents and treasure in building up your Kingdom, so that your name, which is the Name above all names, may be known and loved. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Advent 2014 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Fr. Deacon Peter Venter, Irene Helsdon, and Deacon Henry Blair. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. May this Advent be for you a time eager Expectation and joyful Hope.
Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, Durban North. Advent 2014