December 12, 2021 – Third Sunday of Advent
Charity for All
Father Edward McIlmail, LC
The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.” Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.” Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.
Introductory Prayer: As Christmas draws near, I desire to learn more deeply your example of humility by coming among us as an infant. I pray that this season rekindles my sense of hope in your providence.
Petition: Jesus, grant me the grace to grow in the virtue I need to cultivate most.
- Within Reach: Charity demands justice, at the very least. According to the Compendium of the Catechism (n. 381), justice consists in the firm and constant will to give to others their due. In this passage Saint John the Baptist points out two levels of justice toward neighbor. In the first level, he tells the tax collectors and soldiers to be content with the money that comes their way rightfully. The second level goes further. It demands that we share our surplus with those in genuine need. That surplus could be all around us: in our closet, our pantry, our checkbook. What could I share with the poor? A saintly maxim says: Live simply, so that others can simply live.
- Open to All: People of all sorts approach John the Baptist for advice. He responds to them all. They hunger for meaning. They want to repent. Those same people are with us today. Maybe they are fallen-away Catholics, or Evangelicals, or Jews, or Muslims, or even atheists. They too seek meaning in their lives. All of them, whether or not they realize it, seek Christ, who “fully reveals man to man himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 22). Have I been willing to share that “secret” with others? Are there areas of my life where I shy away from talking about religion? The office? The mall? The dinner table? John the Baptist wouldn’t exclude anyone. Would I?
- Groundwork: By calling for charity and justice John wants to prepare the people for the arrival of the Messiah. Without hearts open to others, they would not be able to accept the robust message of Christ. Charity prepares the heart for the seed of the Gospel. If ever my relationship with Christ grows cold, I should ask, “How is my charity?” The key to finding myself demands that I look first to serve God and others.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, for you, charity is the highest value. You even spoke about it the night before your death. “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Christmas should enkindle charity in my heart. Let me see you in every person I meet today.
Resolution: I will perform a special act of charity today for someone at home, work or school.
December 13, 2021 – Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
My Present for Jesus? A Heart Filled with Love
Father James Swanson, LC
When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe in you, but not just with the assent of my mind. Since I believe in you, I commit my whole life into your loving hands. I know that you cannot deceive me or let me down, because you are goodness and mercy itself. I humbly offer you my love. Though I know it is so weak, I am certain, nevertheless, that my desire to love you more is pleasing to you.
Petition: Lord, help me to grow in my faith.
- A Faith That Manifests Itself in Deeds: We are preparing for the coming of Jesus. Where does he come from? What is his origin? Like the Pharisees, many people today try to dodge this uncomfortable question. If we asked them right out, “Do you believe?” They might very well say, “Yes.” But their lives tell another story. They don’t do anything, or at best, they do the minimum to follow Jesus. If Jesus were only a human being, it would be fine to follow him half-heartedly, accommodating what he taught in order to make it more suitable to ourselves. But if he is really sent by God, then none of us has the authority to change or water down anything he taught. Our lives should be a clear reflection of everything Jesus taught, insofar as we know his teachings and are capable of putting them into practice. Is that what my life shows? Does it clearly witness to my belief that Jesus is from heaven—that he was sent by God?
- A Faith That Comes from the Heart: The way the Pharisees followed the Law seemed to be faultless, or at least it seemed much closer to being faultless than the lives of the other Jews. The Pharisees even went so far as to add many rules of their own to make sure they never even came close to breaking the rules God gave the Jewish People. It would seem that their lives did give testimony to their firm belief in the Messiah. Yet, when the Messiah appeared, they missed out. They didn’t recognize him. What happened? While their lives gave testimony to their beliefs, their hearts were not filled with the necessary love for God. They were unable to recognize the Messiah; rather, they were filled with self-love. They did the right things for the wrong reasons—selfishness or seeking the esteem of others. In short, they had the wrong attitude. Is this my kind of Christianity? Do I act “correctly,” but out of selfishness or some other unworthy motive?
- A Faith That Grows Stronger at Mary’s Side: To prepare well for Christ’s coming I would do well to ask Mary for her help. She prepared herself for nine months for the first coming of Jesus, and she did an excellent job. She can help me. If I haven’t asked her for her help yet this Advent, there is still time to do so.
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, I am sorry for the poor way I put my faith into practice. I am even sorrier that when I do act in accordance with your teachings, all too often my attitude is wrong. I don’t practice your teachings according to love for you, but according to my selfishness, concern for the approval of others or comfort. Help me to correct my attitude; help me to live with more love each day; help me to imitate more closely the way of life you taught me by your words and example.
Resolution: I will examine my attitudes to see if my actions really do speak of love for Christ, or if my own interests are ruling my life. Then, during the day I will choose something that is hard for me and try to do it well and out of love for Jesus Christ.
December 14, 2021 – Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Sharing in the Labor of the Father’s Vineyard
Father James Swanson, LC
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
Introductory Prayer: Father, here I am before you, ready to open my heart to you. I believe that you are my God, my Creator. I am confident that you are leading me home to you day by day. You wish to draw me closer to you, because you have given me your only Son as my Redeemer. I love you and wish to cooperate with your loving designs for my salvation and the salvation of countless souls. Here I am, Lord, to do your will!
Petition: Lord, help me to cooperate generously in your work of salvation.
- Saying “Yes, But No”: It seems that the longer we have been following Jesus, the more we are like the second son in the parable. We have said “Yes” to God. Our intention is to follow him, but in the end, we don’t seem to follow him very well. We come up short. Then we renew our resolutions to follow him more closely, and before long, we catch ourselves once again using up our time on ourselves and doing very little for him. What’s wrong? We don’t truly want to be like the second son, who said “Yes” only with his lips. In what aspect of my life am I saying, “Yes, but no”?
- Doing the Bare Minimum: Isn’t at least part of the problem that Jesus doesn’t come first in our lives? Since we live in a world where many follow him lukewarmly, if at all, it’s easy to think we are doing a wonderful, even exceptional, job with the way we practice our faith. It’s easy to think this way even when we’re doing little more than the bare minimum, or perhaps living with a fatal flaw in some basic virtue like charity or purity. What if we were evaluated in our Christianity the way we would be evaluated for a job? Would we keep that job if we never worried about doing more than the bare minimum, or if we lacked one of the basic skills needed for it? Why do I think I can get away with shoddy work when it comes to Jesus? Do I forget that God the Father invites me to work in his vineyard, the Church, not as a servant, but as his son or daughter?
- I Am Crucial for the Salvation of Souls: Following Jesus is the single most important thing I have to do in my life. It is more important than any job I could ever have. He has given me a mission in my life similar to his own mission. Our Lord wishes me to earn graces not only for myself but for many souls out there whom I may never even know. These graces could be crucial for the salvation of many souls. Certainly, if I am married, my spouse and children would be the first ones to benefit from the graces I gain through my prayers, good works and sacrifices. But in addition, I have no way of knowing how many others will depend on my holiness. I need to be ready at any time to bear witness to Jesus and to be a faithful instrument of his grace for whomever he places in my life.
Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, I am preparing myself to celebrate the beginning of your mission of salvation. Help me to understand the importance of the part of your mission you have entrusted to me, so I can live it well as you hope I will. Help me to be more faithful to the daily living of my Christian life and to give witness to you in all situations. Help me to guide others to you with real Christian charity, not pride, so they will not be repelled by my behavior, but drawn to you. Help me to be the light to my family that you want me always to be.
Resolution: What part of my mission do I do the most poorly? I will take some time to think about how I will accomplish it better today and put it into action.
December 15, 2021 – Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
God Among Us
Father Shawn Aaron, LC
At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to the Lord, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are always present to me in my waking and in my sleeping, but I am not always present to you. Forgive my inattentiveness to you, Jesus, my Creator and Redeemer. Thank you for the gifts of life, my faith in you, my family and the many other gifts you have granted me. I wish you to be the center of my life despite the countless times I put myself first. I love you and long to draw nearer to you in my prayers and actions.
Petition: Jesus, help me to discover your loving hand in my daily life.
- Are We to Wait for Another? “He came to his own, and his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11). This is perhaps one of the saddest phrases in Scripture. The “Desired of Nations” came to those who should have desired him most but they did not recognize him. Yet, if we are not careful, this can occur on a daily basis in our own lives. In our desire to make spiritual progress we might be turning a deaf ear to the voice of conscience and the lights of the Holy Spirit because we are looking for “bigger, more spectacular” opportunities to love God. We are caught looking for “something else” while he is coming to us in the most ordinary circumstances of loving my spouse, children, parents or peers.
- Go and Tell John What You Have Seen and Heard: Jesus appeals to reason in order to elicit a deeper response of faith. To summarize his message for John: “You will know a tree by its fruit.” John has already heard of the works of Christ. So, why does Jesus re-emphasize what John already knows? Precisely because we do not always know how to discover the works of God in our daily lives at first glance. It is as if to say, “Open your eyes and your ears to learn the ways of God. I am constantly at work in your life; discover my action, hear my voice, and you will come to see my plan for you.”
- And Blessed Is the One Who Takes No Offense at Me: Remember, this statement is directed to the “greatest man born of woman.” Therefore, it must not frighten us that the paths God chooses are sometimes quite mysterious to us. Israel needed John’s testimony, yet he spends his last days in prison, hidden from the public eye. “What a waste of much-needed talent!”—this is the cry of reason unaided by faith. Doesn’t God understand how important John is to the equation? Doesn’t he know that we need good leaders in society and in the Church? Doesn’t he know that my husband, my wife, or my child is too young to die? Doesn’t he know…? It is a subtle temptation to question whether God actually cares about justice in our daily lives or whether his plan is truly the best option. Satan loves leading us down this labyrinthine path. But faith enables us to cling to the truth that God is indeed all-powerful and all-loving. Faith gives us an enlightened vision to find the way and travel it safely. Am I always able to count my blessings no matter what happens in my life?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I believe in you because you are always faithful to your promises. You never promised that life would be easy but you did promise that you would give me the grace to carry the cross you ask me to bear. Sometimes I simply do not want to carry it. Help me to bear it generously with faith and love. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.
Resolution: Today I will visit the Blessed Sacrament and recite the creed. If I cannot make it to visit our Lord, then I will present myself to him in the quiet of my heart and recite the same.
December 16, 2021 – Thursday of the Third Week of Advent
A Faithful Witness
Father Shawn Aaron, LC
When the messengers of John the Baptist had left, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see—a reed swayed by the wind? Then what did you go out to see? Someone dressed in fine garments? Those who dress luxuriously and live sumptuously are found in royal palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom Scripture says: ‘Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, he will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John; yet the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than he.” (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors, who were baptized with the baptism of John, acknowledged the righteousness of God; but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, who were not baptized by him, rejected the plan of God for themselves.)
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I long to see your face. Though I cannot see you now with my eyes, I believe in you with all my heart. I know that you are smiling at me and that you’re waiting to lavish your graces on me, so I open my mind, heart and will to you now. Here I am, Lord, to do your will. Teach me; I’m ready and longing to be with you alone for these few precious moments.
Petition: Lord, grant me the gift of fortitude.
- What Did You Go Out to the Desert to See? “Words admonish, examples move” (Slovak proverb, cited by Pope Saint John Paul II, Homily in Rožňava, Slovakia, September 13, 2003). John was a faithful witness. His fidelity culminates in the shedding of his blood to do God’s will. His ultimate greatness is precisely because he followed God’s plan generously even when everything was not clear. He trusted God because God is trustworthy. For this reason, every year at Advent the Church still “goes out to see John” as a tribute to his heroic witness to God’s salvific plan. We look to him as an authentic hero of fortitude so that we can be inspired to imitate this virtue in our daily lives.
- A Reed Swayed by the Wind? Quite the opposite! The people flocked to the desert to find a prophet, a rock-solid witness of truth, a beacon of hope and a man of God, just as today they still flock to see the Pope for the same reasons. These are men whose strength of character has been forged in the fire of fidelity. “The real strength of a man lies in the fidelity of his witness to the truth and in his resisting flattery, threats, misunderstandings, blackmail, even harsh and relentless persecution. This is the path on which our Redeemer calls us to follow him. Only if you are ready to do this, will you become what Jesus expects of you, that is, ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’ (Matthew 5:13-14)” (Pope Saint John Paul II, Palm Sunday Homily, March 24, 2002). In what aspects of my life am I tempted to “give in” instead of holding on tenaciously to what I know Our Lord is asking of me?
- The Least in the Kingdom of God Is Greater Than He: Behold the dignity of the baptized soul. The dignity of the human person is derived from our being created in God’s image (imago Dei) with an immortal soul endowed with reason, free will and a conscience. Thanks to Christ’s redemption, baptism elevates us from the already lofty position as imago Dei to the unthinkable grace of being a child of God. Even before we have ever accomplished the smallest morally good act, our dignity as children of God already far surpasses all of John’s greatest virtues combined. Once we conceive the value of our lives from this perspective, would we ever jeopardize this dignity with anything that could separate us from God? Do I grasp that love and gratitude for this precious gift of new life in Christ can be a strong motivation for carefully protecting my faith and seeking to make it grow? I am convinced that my faith will grow by my spreading it to others?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, it has pleased you to call me to the Catholic faith. It has pleased you to give me the grace I need to be a hero and a saint. Give me also the courage to cooperate with your grace when my human nature would rather take a different path than that marked out by your will. Mother Most Pure, make my heart only for Jesus.
Resolution: Today I will make one sacrifice at each meal for those who need the grace to come back to Jesus.
December 17, 2021 – Friday of the Third Week of Advent
The Deeper Meaning of My Life
Father Barry O’Toole, LC
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile. After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. Thus, the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, in this final week of preparation for your birth, I want to make ready a place for you in my heart. I believe that you are here with me and desire to speak to me. Because I love you, I, too, have longed for this moment of silence and recollection, though it hasn’t been easy to find. I trust that you and your grace will accompany me throughout this busy day, so that I might make the decisions that will be pleasing in your sight.
Petition: Lord, help me to be more aware of my human dignity and irradiate this to all I meet today.
- Rebuilding the Family Tree: Many people try to trace their family genealogy, going back centuries to determine their origins. Sometimes this search is easy because the family has lived in the same country, and perhaps even the same city, for many generations. In other cases, the search requires them to cross oceans, dig up buried records, and rummage through old, dust-covered volumes. The rebuilding of their family tree is an attempt to come to a deeper understanding of who they are. Jesus didn’t need all this study of his pedigree. If there is one conviction we could call the cornerstone of his life, it is his awareness that he has come from the Father and has assumed a human nature out of obedience to his Father’s will. We, too, come from the Father who created us. We, too, have a mission to fulfill here on earth. This is what gives meaning to our entire existence: Our very origin springs from the love of God the Father.
- God Is Always Faithful: The genealogy in the Gospel of Matthew goes all the way back to Abraham, our father in the faith. God had made a promise to Abraham, stating that he would make him “the father of a host of nations” (Genesis 17:4). Matthew wants to make it very clear from the very outset of his Gospel that God is always faithful to his promises. Jesus the Messiah, the son of David and the son of Abraham, is the fulfillment of everything God had promised. Thus, St. Peter would correctly proclaim, “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). Our very salvation rests in Jesus Christ. Do we turn to Jesus not only for our eternal salvation, but also in the midst of our daily trials and tribulations? Is he the constant reference point of our day?
- A Summary of Human History: Man was born for greatness: He was created in the image and likeness of God. The collection of names in Matthew’s genealogy is arranged in three groups, as if to make a statement about human history. (1) Abraham, through his obedience, deepened the covenant with God. Man was born and raised up to be a king. (2) Yet man turned out to be a tyrant. He abused the freedom God had given him, defying, disobeying and turning his back on his Creator. With tears in his eyes, the Father watched his prodigal son depart into exile. (3) However, God did not write human history to end in tragedy. He sent his Son into the world to help man regain his greatness: to raise him up to greater heights, to become sons of God. History is not a road leading nowhere; its goal is for us to be in heaven with God. So it’s not enough for us to know our origin is in the love of God the Father and our salvation is in Jesus Christ. We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in bringing about God’s gracious plan. We can invest our time to bring about Christ’s Kingdom in the workplace, in our homes and in society.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, your birth this Christmas is the center and culmination of human history. I thank you for the gift of life, for the mission you have entrusted to me, for granting me the possibility of recovering my dignity, and for adopting me as your child. I know my weakness and the mire I am capable of descending into—but for the help of your grace. I offer you this day and every day of my life as a gift of love to you. May this gift be always pleasing in your sight.
Resolution: Today I will examine my conscience and prepare my soul to make a good confession, so that my heart might be a worthy dwelling for the baby Jesus who is coming.
December 18, 2021 – Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
Father Edward McIlmail, LC
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come before you humbly. As one who has frequently fallen into sin, I am aware of my weakness. Your great love, though, assures me that your grace can keep me on the path to holiness.
Petition: Lord, let me better imitate St. Joseph in the way I deal with the people around me.
- No Gloating: Joseph was taken aback to learn that Mary was expecting a baby. Here was a woman he always knew to be beyond reproach. Legally he could have denounced her publicly. Yet he didn’t. He was ready to let the whole matter drop quietly, as if to give Mary the benefit of the doubt. What a great virtue this is: to think the best of others! It reflects a heart of peace and calm. How many friendships have ended―indeed, how many wars have started―because people assumed the worst of someone else. Have I ever judged the motives of someone else, only to learn later that things were not as they first appeared? To whom should I be giving the benefit of the doubt?
- Angelic Explanation: Notice that the angel appears to Joseph only after he decides to do the charitable thing and send Mary away quietly. So it often goes in the spiritual life: God reveals more of his plan to us only if we respond to a crisis with charity. It is as if Jesus says, “Treat others well and you will begin to understand me better.” In a crisis, is charity my first response?
- Jesus’ Portal: This Gospel passage could be called a second Annunciation. At the first Annunciation, Mary said “yes” to the angel. Now, Joseph’s “yes” was needed in order to ensure that Jesus would have the appearance of an earthly father (and a reputable lineage). Jesus often wants to come back into the world, so to speak, to touch lives: through a work of charity, a word of kindness―or even a new baby. He counts on our help though. What help could Jesus be asking of me so as to carry out his plans? Could I be thwarting his plans because of laziness, stubbornness, or selfishness? Is he asking me to cooperate with someone? With a loved one? A classmate? A co-worker?
Conversation with Christ: You wonderfully invite me to help you in your mission to save souls, Lord. You respect my freedom, and you want me to respond out of love. Let me appreciate that truth fully, and let me be generous with you.
Resolution: I will agree to one request (big or small) today to help someone.
December 19, 2021 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
From Beggar to Benefactor
Father Barry O’Toole, LC
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Introductory Prayer: Lord, you know the reality of my life and how much I need your grace. I believe that you love me and desire the best for me. I, too, want to respond to your love, and thus, with humility, I ask for your sanctifying grace. As I contemplate the wonders you worked in Mary’s and Elizabeth’s lives, I desire to imitate their attitudes and convictions, so that you will be able to transform my life.
Petition: Lord, make me an instrument of your grace and peace.
- Right to the Doorstep: After receiving God’s messenger into her life, Mary then becomes God’s messenger to her cousin Elizabeth. In such a short time Mary has learned so much from her Son. She delivers Christ right to Elizabeth’s doorstep and knocks. Without Elizabeth’s consent, Mary can go no farther. Elizabeth comprehends in an instant that this is more than a courtesy visit. Her child, John the Baptist, helps her to understand as he leaps for joy upon hearing Mary’s voice and perceiving Christ’s presence. Elizabeth allows them to enter her house, and Mary and Jesus begin to transform this family’s life. John and Elizabeth are filled with the Holy Spirit, and Elizabeth immediately becomes an apostle and prophet of God.
- The Cooperation of Man and God: Mary is always willing to help because she is so humble. Despite the fact that she is also pregnant, she doesn’t hesitate to perform small acts of charity and help with the ordinary chores around the house. However, Mary was also an instrument of the Holy Spirit as she went about her work, and, as with Elizabeth, the Holy Spirit was able to touch the hearts of others and to bring about their transformation by instilling sanctifying grace. Have I achieved a degree of holiness that I might also become an effective instrument of God for those around me?
- The Spontaneous Magnificat: The presence of God in Mary’s and Elizabeth’s souls can be seen in two ways. First, they both glorify God for the marvelous things he is doing in their lives: Elizabeth praises Mary for having brought the Savior into her life and for filling her child with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. Mary, in turn, praises God in the beautiful prayer of the Magnificat. Second, both Elizabeth and Mary become the first witnesses of the arrival of the Messiah. Every true encounter with Christ necessarily leads us to become his apostles. Have I, too, encountered Christ through prayer, the sacraments and service to my neighbor? Have I helped others to experience God’s loving presence in their lives?
Conversation with Christ: Lord, during this time of prayer, I want to enter into a deeper relationship with you. I want to experience your loving presence in the daily activities of my life. As Christmas Day approaches, I want to grow in my love for you. I want to share this love with others by imitating your meekness and humility. Please, do not pass by me this Christmas without granting me at least this grace. Transform this plea, the supplication of this beggar, into the treasure of a benefactor for others.
Resolution: Today, I will strive to share my experience of God with at least one person I meet.