Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:28-30
What a beautiful invitation from Jesus! This passage is worth reading over and over and memorizing so that it can easily be reflected upon during those more difficult moments in life. We all have those moments. The moments when we feel overwhelmed and burdened. It could be we are burdened by some tragedy in life, or it could be we are burdened by the small and monotonous aspects of life. One of the greatest daily burdens is that of our own sin. But whatever the case may be, Jesus wants us to hear and believe these words. “Come to me…” He says. Come to me no matter what is going on in your life. Come to me without hesitation and without fear.
Jesus also promises us that His “yoke is easy” and His “burden is light.” What does that mean? Does it mean that coming to Jesus will remove all hardship from our lives? No, not really. What it means is that coming to Jesus will enable us to endure and walk through any hardship we encounter in life.
Advent reminds us that God the Son came and took on our human nature and all that goes along with being human. And though He never sinned, He allowed Himself to experience the effects of sin and the burden it imposes. So as God, He is able to look us in the eye and tell us that He understands our hardships because He lived them. He lived them out of love for us so that He could help us endure, joyfully, all we face in life.
Reflect, today, upon this gentle and glorious invitation from Jesus. Let Him enter into whatever it is that burdens you. Let Him carry the yoke that you carry and give you, instead, the gentle yoke He has prepared for you. The cross you bear may not go away, but it will be transformed and made light in His grace.
Lord, I surrender my life and all that I am to You. I accept Your invitation to come to You. Thank You for Your unfailing compassion and concern for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Further Reading – Our Lady of Guadalupe
Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
“In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:14
Jesus makes this statement after telling the parable of the one lost sheep. The shepherd leaves the ninety-nine and goes searching diligently for that little one. The parable goes on to state that, “If he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray” (Matthew 18:13).
We are all “one of these little ones.” At first, it may seem unfair that the shepherd rejoices more over the one lost sheep than over the ninety-nine. But if we understand that each and every one of us is that one lost sheep, it makes sense.
As we ponder this parable, it’s essential that we reflect upon the deep desire of the shepherd to find us. We must look at his concern, his tireless effort and his diligence in seeking us out. This is the care God has for you.
Reflect, today, upon you being that one lost sheep. Being “lost” in our sin is not a pleasant experience. Sin brings fear, despair, confusion, anger and the like. But if we can turn our eyes to the Good Shepherd in the midst of our sinfulness, we will regain hope. We will regain hope that our God cares for us so much that He will never stop searching for us. And when He finds us, His heart will be filled with the greatest joy!
Lord, in the midst of my sinfulness and confusion I turn to You. I trust that You will seek me out. May I always trust in Your burning love for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint of the Day – Saint Damasus I
Monday of the Second Week of Advent
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, “We have seen incredible things today.” Luke 5:26
They were “astonished” because Jesus cured the paralytic after he was lowered through the roof of a house in which Jesus was teaching. Jesus cured him and they were amazed.
But this was not what amazed and astonished people the most. What was most astonishing was that Jesus also said to the paralytic, “As for you, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20). Jesus then confirmed that He had the power to forgive sins by performing this physical miracle.
True, most people went home that day speaking first about the physical healing. But you can be certain that, as they pondered this experience, they were even more deeply moved by the forgiveness of sins. Perhaps they did not fully understand what this all meant. But, nonetheless, His words of forgiveness were quite powerful and transforming.
Reflect, today, upon your desire to receive God’s forgiveness in your life. Do you long to hear these words spoken to you? Do you long to experience the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus in your life? The reason He came from Heaven to Earth was to offer you the forgiveness of your sins. Miracles do not matter in the end. What matters is mercy and forgiveness. When you receive this gift of His mercy you will also glorify God with a joyous and holy astonishment as you see this incredible gift unfold in your life.
Lord, I do desire Your mercy and forgiveness in my life. Help me to lower myself before You so that I can hear You say, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Jesus, I trust in You.
Second Sunday of Advent
“A voice of one crying out in the desert. ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” Luke 3:4
On this, the Second Sunday of Advent, we are given the person of St. John the Baptist to ponder. What a gift he is! Jesus Himself stated that “among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist” (Matthew 11:11). What a compliment!
What is it that made John so great? We can point to two things in particular. The first has to do with his calling and the second has to do with his virtue.
First of all, John was great because he was the transition from the Old Testament Prophets to the New Testament. He was the bridge that prepared for the new life to come. His unique mission makes him truly great.
But John was great not only because of his unique calling, he was also great because of the virtue he had in his life. And it is this gift that is worth pondering for our own inspiration more than any other.
The particular virtue that John had was that of humility. He saw himself as nothing other than a “voice of one crying out in the desert.” And the Word he spoke was Jesus.
John acknowledged that he was not even worthy to stoop down and untie the sandal straps of Jesus (Mark 1:7). He was praised by many and followed by many and yet he continuously said of Jesus that “He must increase and I must decrease” (John 3:30). John was not in it for praise and honor; rather, his mission was to point everyone to the Savior of the world. He could have sought the honor and praise of many and he would have certainly received it. They may have even made him king. But John was more than willing to fulfill his mission and then submit himself to the cruel sword of his executioner. His humility was such that he was focused only on Jesus and desired only to point to Him.
Reflect, today, upon this humility in your own life. Do you tend to point to yourself or to Christ? Do you seek the praise of others or do you humbly point all praise and glory to God? Humility is the path that St. John the Baptist took and it’s the path we must strive for each and every day.
Lord, thank You for the gift of St. John the Baptist. May his witness of humility inspire me in my Christian walk. Help me, Lord, to always point others to You rather than to myself. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint of the Day – Saint Juan Diego
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Solemnity
(Patronal Feast of the United States – Always a Holy Day of Obligation)
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38a
Happy Solemnity! This is a day to celebrate! Today, we honor the glorious and miraculous Immaculate Conception of our Blessed Mother, an act of God’s most profound mercy.
It is fitting that we see the Immaculate Conception as an act of profound mercy. Why is that so? What is it about this solemnity that is so closely linked to mercy?
Mercy is a gratuitous gift of God. By “gratuitous” we mean that it is not merited or earned. Mercy is not owed to us by God. If it were, it would not be mercy, it would be our right. But we have no right to mercy. It is freely given by God and it is given in abundance.
As for this glorious Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, it’s important to look at it as a gratuitous gift from two perspectives. First, the “Immaculate Conception” means that when God created the Blessed Virgin Mary, He created her without sin. This was done through what we call a prevenient grace. This grace given her is an act of God’s perfect and gratuitous mercy. She did not earn it or merit it; rather, God in His goodness chose to create her without original sin so as to have a suitable instrument by which the Son could come into the world. Mary, for her part, embraced this gift and chose to remain sinless throughout her life by a continual act of her free will.
Second, in creating our Blessed Mother immaculately, God did not keep her to Himself. He was not selfish with her. Instead, He chose to make this perfection of His creation our own mother. The Immaculate Mother Mary is now our spiritual mother in the order of God’s grace and mercy. This, also, is an act of perfect gratuitous mercy on the part of our loving God. We do not deserve such a spiritual mother and protectress, but we have her and she is always there interceding for us and bestowing many graces from God upon us as a perfect mother would.
Reflect, today, upon this twofold gratuitous gift of God’s mercy: 1) He created Mary Immaculate out of mercy, and 2) He gave her to us as our own mother and queen. Seek her motherly care today and throughout the year!
Dearest Mother my Queen, I gaze upon the beauty and holiness of you who, though a mere creature, are perfect in every way. You have been granted this singular and gratuitous grace from God with which you perfectly cooperated. May I always rely upon your motherly love and care and may I always allow you to bestow the grace of God upon me in accord with the Father’s plan. You, dearest mother, are a gratuitous gift of Mercy to us all! Mother Mary, I love you. Pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Further Reading – Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Friday of the First Week of Advent
“Let it be done for you according to your faith.” And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” But they went out and spread word of him through all that land. Matthew 9:29b-31
This statement from Jesus is directed to two blind men who come to Him, beg for mercy and healing, believe in faith that Jesus will heal, and then are healed. But what’s quite fascinating is that Jesus tells them not to speak about their healing to others. Why would He say this?
First of all, the request of Jesus would have been impossible to follow. Everyone who knew these blind men would have known they were blind. And then, out of the blue, they could see. How could such a thing be contained?
Jesus most certainly knew that they could not contain such a miracle but, nonetheless, spoke these words to these men. To understand why Jesus said this we must understand the motive He had for healing them.
Jesus’ healing of these men was done purely out of love for them. They cried out for mercy and Jesus wanted to offer mercy. He did not do it as a way of gaining public praise or notoriety. He did it out of love for these blind men.
He also did this miracle to teach that He can heal the blindness of our hearts. He wanted these men to come to faith in Him and “see” Him for who He was. Therefore, this miracle was something deeply personal and was done out of concern for these two men to strengthen their faith.
What’s interesting to note, however, is that these men could not contain the joy they had at receiving this gift from our Lord. They had to cry out in gratitude and share their story. We can be certain that Jesus was not offended at this but saw it as a necessary result of their faith.
How about you? Do you see God at work in your life and then seek to spread the joy of His work in your life? Do you regularly witness to His action and healing? Do you seek to allow others to see all that God has done for you?
Reflect, today, upon the joy in the hearts of these blind men at their healing. And ponder your own joy at God’s activity in your life. If your joy is not overflowing, perhaps it’s a good day to ask the Lord, with a deep faith, to help you see!
Lord, do help me to see and help me to share the joy of seeing You with others. May that joy flow from my life for all to see. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint of the Day – Saint Ambrose
My Catholic Life!
c. Third–Fourth Century
December 6—Optional Memorial
Liturgical Color: White
Patron Saint of Russia, sailors, merchants, and children
Santa Claus signed the Nicene Creed
Traditions the world over are so embedded in the rhythms of daily life that their ubiquity goes unnoticed. Why a birthday cake with lighted candles? Why make a wish and then blow those candles out? The origin of this charming tradition is obscure. Why shake hands, toast by clinking glasses, cross fingers for good luck, or have bridesmaids? The sources of many traditions are so historically remote and culturally elusive as to allow diverse interpretations of their meaning. Today’s saint is without doubt, however, the man behind the massively celebrated tradition of Santa Claus, the most well-known Christmas figure after Jesus and the Three Kings. Santa Claus’ mysterious nocturnal visits to lavish children with gifts at Christmastime is not a tradition whose origin is lost in the mists of history. It is a tradition firmly rooted in Christianity.
Little is known about the life of Saint Nicholas. It is certain, though, that he was the Catholic Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor in the early fourth century. It is likely that he suffered for the faith under the persecution of Diocletian. He later attended the Council of Nicea in 325. “Nicholas of Myra of Lycia” appears on one of the earliest and most reliable lists of the Bishops at Nicea. A legend states that Nicholas was punished by his superiors for slapping the heretic Arius at the Council. At his death he was buried in his see city. Less than a century later, a church was built in his honor in Myra and became a site of pilgrimage. And the emperor Justinian, in the mid-500s, renovated a long existing church dedicated to Saint Nicholas in Constantinople. In Rome, a Greek community was worshipping in a basilica dedicated to Saint Nicholas around 600. The church can still be visited today. These churches, and hundreds of others named for Saint Nicholas, prove that devotion to our saint was widespread not long after his death.
When Myra was overrun by Muslim Turks in the 1000s, there was a risk that the saint’s bones would disappear. So in 1087, sailors from Bari, Italy, committed a holy theft and moved Saint Nicholas’ relics to their own hometown. In 1089 the Pope came to Bari to dedicate a new church to Saint Nicholas. Just a few years later, Bari became the rendezvous point for the First Crusade. Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of travelers and sailors, making him popular with the crusading knights. These knights, in turn, brought the devotion to Saint Nicholas they learned in Bari back to their villages dotting the countryside of central and western Europe. Thus it happened that a saint famous mostly in the east and along the shores of the Mediterranean became, in ways not totally understood, the source of gift-giving traditions that perdure until today in every corner of Europe.
Legends state that Nicholas saved three sisters from lives of shame by secretly dropping small sacks of gold through their family’s window at night, thus giving each of the girls a marriage dowry. Other legends relate that Nicholas secretly put coins in shoes that were left out for him. Nicholas’ legacy of gift giving became a Central European and Anglo-Saxon expression of the gift giving formerly exclusive to the Three Kings. Christmas night gift giving in northern lands thus slowly replaced the more biblically solid tradition of gift giving on the Feast of the Epiphany more popular in Southern Europe and lands which inherited its traditions.
The antiquity of the Church means it has played a matchless role in the formation of Western culture, a role that no faux holidays or new “tradition” can replicate. Santa Claus has roots. He wears red for the martyrs. He dons a hat resembling a bishop’s mitre. He often holds a sceptre similar to a bishop’s crozier. And he distributes gifts to children in humble anonymity on the night of Christ’s birth. Old Saint Nick, Father Christmas, or Santa Claus is real, in one sense. In all likelihood he signed the Nicene Creed. Our “Santa,” then, was an orthodox Catholic bishop who argued in favor of correct teaching about God as a Trinity. That was his first and most lasting gift to mankind.
Saint Nicholas, your service as a bishop included not only teaching correctly the mysteries of our faith, but also generous and humble charity in alleviating the material needs of your neighbor. Help all of us to combine good theology with Christian action like you did.
Thursday, December 6, 2018
Thursday of the First Week of Advent
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.” Matthew 7:24-25
Perhaps one of the hardest things to do in life is to listen. Are you a good listener? Do you know how to listen? Most likely this is a struggle for you since it is a struggle for most people.
Listening is more than hearing. Listening implies that one hears AND comprehends. Furthermore, in this Scripture passage, Jesus makes it clear that “listening” is not enough. Once we’ve listened (heard and understood), we must act. Acting on the Word of God involves a total embrace and surrender to His Word and will. It means you allow the Word of God to dictate your actions and to set your feet “solidly on rock.”
The imagery Jesus uses is quite descriptive. A house built on sand is very different than a house built on solid rock. One can only imagine the problems that await a house built on sand. Every storm that comes will cause great anxiety and worry. Fear will always be present as the sandy foundation slowly erodes away. But if the house is on solid rock, there is great confidence in the midst of a storm.
Reflect, today, upon the foundation of your life. Advent is a time when we examine whether or not the foundation of our life is Jesus. He entered our world and took on flesh so that He could be that rock foundation. And the path to that rock foundation is to listen, comprehend and act. Set your “house” on Him in this way and no storm will erode the foundation of your life.
Lord, may your human life become the foundation of my life. May my life be built upon You who are the Rock Foundation. Jesus, I trust in You.
Saint of the Day – Saint Nicholas