Advent Daily Reflections – Week Three
Sunday 11 December
Scripture: Matthew 11: 2 – 11
The role of John the Baptist is often overshadowed by the preaching, teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. Today Jesus himself highlights the ministry of John because his whole ministry is based on the firm foundation of John and the prophets of the Old Testament.
The message which Jesus sent to John via his disciples was “Go back and tell John what you hear and see.” What they saw and heard (eyewitness testimony) is what Isaiah prophesied and what Jesus proclaimed at the beginning of his ministry in Luke’s Gospel when, in the synagogue in Nazareth, he read:
The spirit of the Lord has been given to me,
for he has anointed me,
He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor,
to proclaim liberty to captives
and to the blind new sight,
to set the downtrodden free,
to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” Is. 61: 1-2, Luke 4: 18-19
This is what John’s disciples heard and saw!
What do people hear and see when they look at us Christians during this Advent Season? The honest truth is that, in all likelihood, we pay more attention to the Christmas traditions: Santa Claus, the Christmas Tree, decorations, exchanging gifts, and Christmas eating and drinking, than we do to the birth and presence of Jesus. What do non-Christians hear and see when they observe you during Advent and Christmas?
If we spend more time in the shopping malls than we do in Church, then there is something wrong! There are even those who are too busy preparing the Christmas Day family luncheon to go to Mass. It happens!
This week, celebrate the joy of the nearness of the Lord’s birth by shifting your focus from a traditional Advent and Christmas to a Spiritual Advent and Christmas. Start now – today!
Come Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Come Lord Jesus come into my life. Come Lord Jesus come and be born in me. Let your presence be my greatest gift this Christmas. Amen.
Monday 12 December
Scripture: Matthew 21: 23 – 27
We are always looking for a higher authority, someone who is in charge. In our thinking, we are not going to accept the word or decision of an employee, a lower person, a mere worker or assistant. We insist on speaking to someone in charge!
The chief priests and elders confronted Jesus, “What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?” I often wonder if this is what happens in the Archbishop’s office on a Monday morning; all the complaints about what Father said (or did) at Mass on Sunday!
These religious leaders had very obviously failed to listen to what Jesus said. If they had, they would have marvelled at his words. But they were the religious authority after all, and that was all they were interested in. It is easy to fall into this trap. It happens when we become too full of ourselves and our self-importance, when our hearts are no longer in the right place.
I often wonder what would have happened if the religious leaders at the time of Jesus were truly spiritual men, with the best interests of the people at heart, if they had welcomed and embraced the message and person of Jesus.
Does history not repeat itself today, in our time, and in our Church? It’s easy to tell – just look at your religious leaders, the elders in your parish.
We look to the leadership and example of Jesus to see if our own religious leaders act and behave with the spirit of Jesus, a spirit of humility and service. On the other hand, why pick on our religious leaders? Let us look at ourselves. Do I act and behave with the spirit of Jesus? Or am I filled with a sense of self-importance, and my position of authority as a parish leader?
Advent calls for a change of heart, to modify my attitude and behaviour. This is the real joy of Advent: our opportunity for Metanoia!
Are you expectant with Joy? Or do you walk around with the burden of the world on your shoulders, complaining about everything there is to complain about, criticizing those who are doing things for others in our homes, workplace, our country? I imagine that the religious leaders and elders who confronted Jesus were stern, serious and joyless people. How sad! Let the coming of Jesus be the reason for your Joy! Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! (Or as the song says: Don’t worry – be happy!)
Give me Joy in my heart O Lord. Let me be truly Joyful at the nearness of the Saviour’s birth. Amen.
Tuesday 13 December
Scripture: Matthew 21: 28 – 32
“… you did not believe him, and yet the tax collectors and prostitutes did”
The gift of free will and choice is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. It gives us the freedom to make up our own minds when we hear or see something – ‘do I believe what I saw and heard, or not?’ Then, having made a decision as to the answer, I am prompted to respond positively or negatively.
The two sons in today’s Gospel had choices. Their father has asked them to do something – one consented, but did not actually go, while the other refused initially, but then thought better of it and went to do the work.
Jesus says that the people listening to Him had the same choice to make. There would be those who would refuse and stay ‘lost’, while there were others, labelled as ‘sinners’, who heard John the Baptist, and recognized that in his message there was hope: hope that they could ‘wash away’ their past lives and start afresh – become new people, living a new life! So they responded positively!
Jesus came into this world to offer us hope – to offer us the chance of a new life – life in Him, and life that would be everlasting! Have you made the choice to accept?
Make time to reflect on your choices in life – particularly recently. Are there decisions which have been wrong, now that you look back? Do you pray about decisions you have to take? What is your hope when you pray?
Loving Father, thank You for the gift of choice. Guide me in my life so that the decisions I make will be the right ones, and lead to fruitful outcomes. Amen.
Wednesday 14 December
Scripture Luke 7: 18 – 23
John the Baptist had spoken the truth to power. He had criticised Herod Antipas about his incestuous and adulterous marriage and had been thrown into a filthy prison. The only reason he had not been executed was that Herod feared the reaction of John’s many disciples as John had preached throughout Galilee.
His days were long and the devil began to tempt him with thoughts that possibly he had misidentified Jesus as the Messiah. Deep within himself John knew his first cousin was the Promised One because he had leapt in Elizabeth’s womb when the pregnant Mary had visited: but he wanted to make sure that his ministry had not been in vain; that the revelation by the Father through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was the Son of God at Our Lord’s baptism was indisputable. He just needed to hear from Jesus that He was the long-awaited Saviour – those reassuring words to set his heart at rest. His fears are allayed when he realised that Jesus is doing what no Old Testament prophet ever did.
We do not readily see all the miracles that John’s disciples were able to witness and possibly wish we were able to see them now, thinking this would better our relationship with Jesus and make it truly joyful seeing Him in action.
Advent is a time when we reflect on whether we too are wanting proof that the birth of Christ is such a miracle that we need to make inner space for Him, or whether we are to be blessed with the resurrected Saviour’ s words to doubting Thomas “ Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe” ( John 20:29) .
Consider whether you take the impending birth of Jesus as another historical fact or whether the true significance of Him coming to earth frees you from your prison of doubt and fear as to who He really is: God incarnate.
Holy Spirit of God, kindle within us the joyful understanding of the significance of the birth of the Saviour gifted to us by God the Father. Amen.
Thursday 15 December
Scripture: Isaiah 54: 1 – 10; Luke 7: 24 – 30
Expectant in Joy: This passage from Isaiah was written during the Babylonian Exile. The people of Judah had endured great shame and humiliation because of their failure to be faithful to the Lord’s call. In their hour of weakness and need the Lord assures them of his everlasting love, ‘with great love I will take you back… with everlasting love I will take pity on you.’ The reading concludes with that wonderful promise, ‘the mountains may depart, the hills be shaken, but my love for you will never leave you.’ This is a promise that must have brought Joy to the hearts of those in exile. God speaks as the faithful lover whose love endures even though his spouse has shown herself unfaithful. This was a message that the people in exile needed to hear.
It is also a message that we need to hear as we prepare expectantly and Joyfully for the coming of the Lord at Christmas.
Our world is in turmoil, our leaders have gone astray. We could be a mirror of the people to whom Isaiah spoke. We, however, are privileged to live in this time of Christ, a time where we can be ever more expectant of Joy through our Lord Jesus Christ. The message of Isaiah is one that Jesus proclaimed even more loudly. It is the good news of the hospitable love of God not only by his words but by his life, death, and resurrection. He continues to proclaim that good news as risen Lord through the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus proclaims in the gospel reading that the least in the kingdom of God is greater even than John the Baptist who was the long-awaited messenger to prepare the way of the Lord. John did not live to see what we have come to see or to hear what we have come to hear. He did not live long enough to be graced in the way we have been graced through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Because we have been so graced we are able to live in the expectant Joy of His saving Love.
When you attend Mass, what do you hope to see or experience? Are you attentive to the liturgy; the Scripture readings, the homily and the music? Do you truly enter into the liturgy? Or do you space out and think about what you have to do that day? Be honest: What is your experience of the celebration of the Eucharist? Is it Joyful or do you simply go through the motions of attending Mass? Is your heart and mind focused on this sacred experience? Make this your intention today.
Hear us, we pray, O Lord. Keep us close to you through our journey of life, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen
Friday 16 December
Scripture: John 5: 33 – 36
A person’s testimony can help others to strengthen their faith and bring them to Christ. John the Baptist was an extraordinary man who bore witness or testimony to Jesus Christ. As the forerunner, his mission was to prepare the way for the Lord by inviting people to repentance. John called people to change and pointed them towards Jesus. John is important precisely because he came to give testimony of the Jesus who was to come into world. This call is also addressed to us. During Advent we hear the voice of John calling us repeatedly to a change of heart.
In turn, Jesus says of John the Baptist, “John was a burning and shinning lamp.” This takes us back to the prologue of John’s Gospel (John 1:6-9):
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not light but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
Later in the Gospel, Jesus would declare himself as the Light of the world. John the Baptist was never the light but came to bear witness to the light. Furthermore, Jesus came to open the eyes of the blind and to free people from the darkness of sin, deception and ignorance. If people follow Jesus, they will never walk in darkness but in the light of life.
On this the Third Friday of Advent, we are called to emulate John the Baptist, to bear witness to the Light which is Jesus Christ. Our world has been darkened by sin, indifference, the absence of hope, and a lack of faith. Our testimony and witness to the presence of Jesus can help dispel this darkness. How do we dispel darkness? Start by being a joyful Christian. Before we point others to Jesus or open our mouths to give our testimony, we must first experience our joy in Jesus.
Joyless Christianity does not reflect the true message of Jesus. We are called to be a burning and brightly shining lamp to those for whom this season has no meaning. Our light and joy reflects the Light that is Jesus – who is the true light of Christmas.
You may know someone who has stopped practicing their faith or has stopped going to Mass. Find a way to reach out to them and invite them back to Mass or send them a message of love and encouragement.
May your grace, almighty God, always go before us and follow after, so that we, who await with heartfelt desire of the coming of your Only Begotten Son, may receive your help both now and in the life to come. We make this prayer through Jesus the Light of the world. Amen.
Saturday 17 December
Scripture: Matthew 1: 1 – 17
This is an account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Mathew 1:1)
Matthew was writing specifically for a Jewish audience. It was his intention that the people who read his account would be able to identify Jesus as the Messiah based on all the events in His life which fulfilled those prophesies found in the Jewish books of the Law and Prophets. Matthew sets out to demonstrate that Jesus was a direct descendant of King David, and that Abraham was His father in faith, just as all Jewish faith claims.
Heritage plays an important role in many cultures, and people are often judged according to their family lineage. It was important for Matthew to add Jesus’ ancestry because this gave credibility to his Gospel.
Jesus’ birth as a descendant of royal lineage was quite different to what the people expected. In all probability they had created an expectation that the coming of their Messiah would be more spectacular than a young, homeless woman giving birth to her child in a place where animals were housed. The only ‘spectacular’ event in Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus was the wise men and the Bethlehem star.
The build up to Christmas is an enchanting time and we should enter into this season with the awe and wonder of a young child listening to the magical story of a baby King born to in the humblest of circumstances and whose story has been retold over the centuries. Having read the genealogy of Jesus today we should be filled with a sense of anticipation and Expectant Joy as Christmas approaches. The One who was promised from the beginning of creation, and the great covenant with Abraham, is very near to us. His birth this Christmas will be different to that first Christmas in a dirty, stinky stable. This Christmas he comes to be born in hearts which have been prepared and made ready to welcome his birth. That is the essence of this second part of Advent which begins today. Pay particular attention to this at Mass this weekend and you will notice a change from the first two weeks of Advent. The Preface of the Mass expresses the joy of the nearness of the Saviour’s birth. Be filled with that Joy!
Each Mass provides an opportunity for us to welcome Jesus into our hearts through the Holy Eucharist. What better way can there be than to prepare for his birth than by receiving him in the Eucharist as often as possible. Try to attend at least one weekday Mass during the remaining weeks of Advent and welcome his Presence.
Father, thank you for the presence of Jesus in my life and especially His presence made real to me in the Eucharist. Give me a deep desire to receive Jesus more frequently during these final days of waiting for Him to be reborn in my heart. Amen.
These Daily Reflections for Advent 2022 are written by Fr. Desmond Nair, Irene Helsdon, George Cominos Mike Montocchio, Fr. Wandile Cagwe, and Veronica Donnelly. Please acknowledge the authors when copying and distributing. We wish you blessed Advent.