Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Gospel LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection

Advent is a time for both anticipation and receiving. For the first two weeks, we prepared our hearts and lives for the coming of our Lord and Savior. And for the past two weeks, we turned our hearts and minds to the future when Christ will come at the end of time. Now as Advent ends we conclude our period of expectant delight and now attend to the Christ Child who again claims us as his own. This Child reminds us and is the center of the many facets and mysteries of our belief: divinity and humanity, birth and death, babe and king, manger and cross, innocence and suffering, life and resurrection. This is the Child who saves; the child born specifically and purposefully for you!

We have awaited the coming of the Christmas Child. Let us receive him as babe and king. Let us lay our humble gifts alongside the frankincense, myrrh and gold as we present ourselves to this Christ Child, our Lord. Let us relinquish our former images and expectations in favor of an open and honest relationship. Let us surrender our presumptive understanding of this earthly life in favor of being open to receiving holy grace. In receiving this Child at the beginning of this new year, let us follow our Blessed Mother’s example, saying: let it be done to me according to God’s will, for nothing is impossible for our God!

– Most Rev. George R. Lucey, FCM

Action Step

God is always calling us.  Let us listen to his call and think, are we ready to say “yes” to participate in God’s divine plan.

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Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

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Reading: Luke 1:57-66
When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child
she gave birth to a son.
Her neighbors and relatives heard
that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her,
and they rejoiced with her.
When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child,
they were going to call him Zechariah after his father,
but his mother said in reply,
“No. He will be called John.”
But they answered her,
“There is no one among your relatives who has this name.”
So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.
He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,”
and all were amazed.
Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed,
and he spoke blessing God.
Then fear came upon all their neighbors,
and all these matters were discussed
throughout the hill country of Judea.
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying,
“What, then, will this child be?
For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”
(Luke 1:57-66)
Reflection:
The wider community had expectations for John. He was only eight days
old and already they were making assumptions. They even were going
to choose his name and call him Zechariah after his father.
Assumptions can have a big impact in our lives. Both when they are made
about us and when we make them about others. We assume a family member
is “lying again.” We have our intentions questioned by a colleague. We know
that we have the whole world figured out. This is wrong though. We don’t
know the hearts and minds of others and few know our own. Sure, sometimes
we are proven right and sometimes we live up to the presumptions made by others –
but is it truly helpful for us to live this way?
Would our relationships be stronger if we practiced the pause before making
an assumption? We we find our peace if we did not jump to conclusions? Would
we be surprised how our hearts might respond if we opened them along with
our minds in our encounters with others? What might we accomplish if we
had the courage to move beyond the assumptions that others make about us.
God knows all – we struggle to understand as best we can on this side of life. If
we understand our limitations, we just might grow more than we have ever
thought we possible.
– Fr. Matthew Bailey, FCM
Action Step:
Follow the words of Lori Deschene today and “Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

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Reading:  Luke 1:46-56

At that time, Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
” my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid. ”
Now me blessed all generations,
because the Almighty has done great things for me:
“holy is his name,
and mercy on those who fear from generation to generation.”
He has shown strength with his arm
scattered the proud of heart,
“down from their thrones of the powerful
and lifted up the lowly,
the hungry filled with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He protects Israel, his servant,
remember mercy
as he had promised to our fathers to
Abraham and his descendants forever.”
Mary remained with her about three months and returned home.

 

Reflection

The “Magnificat” was pronounced by Mary at the time of the “Visitation” to her cousin Elizabeth. This beautiful hymn / song of praise that burst forth from the purest and most Immaculate Heart of Mary, can serve for us as a model in our own spiritual life, and teaches us to really praise God with all our being! Below are some simple reflections, which may be useful about Mary’s Magnificat!

  1. The Soul of Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord. The highest form of prayer is praise. May Mary inspire us to praise and recognize the greatness of the Lord in every action we undertake.
  2. My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior! Mary rejoices in God. True and authentic happiness can only be found in God! All humanity sincerely wishes happiness, but many experience sadness, because they seek happiness in a false and illusory God, an idol, a mere mirage under the forms of having power and pleasure.
  3. God has seen the humility of his servant. A humble person recognizes that all the good things he can do come from God. May Mary obtain for us a humble heart! so that everything we do in our place of work, study or community is for the greater glory of God.
  4. They will call me blessed! True! Each time we meditate on the Hail Mary we say to Mary “Blessed are you among women … and blessed is the fruit of your womb JESUS! every time we receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist Jesus dwells in us as in Mary.
  5. Holy is his name. Mary lives the second commandment of the law of God – to keep the name of the Lord holy we must make reparation for the offenses we make to his holy name through evangelization and mission.
  6. His Mercy reaches his faithful ones. The greatest attribute of Jesus is to be praised as merciful, but mercy is related to the Beatitudes and to one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Fear of God. “The fear of the Lord, is the beginning of Wisdom.”
  7. God overthrew the proud and the arrogant. At all times we must examine our consciences and our lives, to prevent the insidious dust of pride from contaminating us, our spiritual life. May Virgin Mary intercede for us!
  8. God feeds the hungry, especially those who hunger for the word of God and hunger for the Bread of Life. Through the reception of Holy Communion. Mary teaches us to live the Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness, because they will be satisfied.”
  9. God helps Israel his servant! The followers of Jesus must be true servants. Jesus said with great clarity: “The Son of man has not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The greatest commandment is to love others as I have loved you!
  10. ABRAHAM. He is the Father of faith. Mary is the woman of faith. Even when Mary stayed under the Cross of her suffering and the Son dying, her faith never wavered. Mary teaches us to be grateful for the faith we have freely received as a gift, not only to cultivate the faith, but also to grow in our faith. One of the most effective ways to grow in our faith is to share our faith with others. The mystery of the Visitation teaches us through the example of Mary, that our faith must be shared by word and example of active charity!

– Bernardo Cardona

Action Step

The Magnificat of Mary is a model prayer for all of us. this prayer can serve as an excellent means, to give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ, for our spiritual and material goods, especially after receiving it in Holy Communion! What better way to praise the Eucharistic Lord than through the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

Secondly, Mary gives us an example of surrender to the will of God, we are called to say Yes, to say: Do in me according to your word when starting each day, at the end or at any time when doing our work and fulfill lovingly our mission.

Let us pray on this day especially for vocations to the service consecrated in the American National Catholic Church so that in the image of Mary, do not be afraid to Say: Do unto me according to your word.

 

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

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Reading: Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
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,
“Most 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.”

Reflection:

Wonder. Elizabeth had to have been filled with wonder, amazement, and awe. In such a brief moment, she was filled with grace by the Holy Spirit and was then able to recognize the mother of her Lord. Her infant in her womb physically responded to Mary’s voice. What an exciting moment. Elizabeth acknowledged and validated Mary’s condition both as mother of our Lord as well as Mary’s ‘Yes’ to our Lord’s calling. I want to be like Elizabeth and to trust in God’s plan for me.

Let us bring this sense of wonder and awe to our lives by not just saying ‘Yes’ to God’s calling but in receiving the gifts and joy of the graces of the Holy Spirit. Saying ‘yes’ is marks the beginning of this wonder-filled relationship with God. Let us take a moment to revel in the joy of the anticipation of our Lord coming into our lives. Let us take time to celebrate this invitation of love and peace. Let us pray with St Mother Teresa: Make us worthy, Lord, to serve others throughout the world who live and die in poverty or hunger. Give them through our hands, this day their daily bread and by our understand love, give peace and joy.

– Fr. John Bye-Torre, FCM

Action Step

Take some time today to renew our devotion to our blessed mother.   She is a great example for us and she continues to intercede for us in heaven.  May we follow her footsteps in giving birth to Christ in the world.

 

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

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Gospel: LK 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph,
of the house of David,
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said,
“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel,
“How can this be,
since I have no relations with a man?”
And the angel said to her in reply,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
Therefore the child to be born
will be called holy, the Son of God.
And behold, Elizabeth, your relative,
has also conceived a son in her old age,
and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;
for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.”
Then the angel departed from her.

Reflection:

Today we meet Mary at the day, the very hour when the angel came to her with God’s request. She had been chosen from all eternity for her role. Mary didn’t feel special, didn’t think she was worthier than the other young women in her village, yet the angel came to her and asked her the question on which our salvation rested. And Mary said yes, the first of many in her young life not allowing fear or doubt to keep her from giving herself to God in simple faith and trust. Her path from that moment became difficult—did her parents understand when they saw that Mary was with child? We know from scripture her fiancé, Joseph, had his doubts. I’m sure the townspeople gossiped as her child continued to grow in her womb. But Mary never hesitated to say “Yes” even if it made things hard for her. Because of Mary—the Word became flesh and humanity was reconciled to God.

We need to be people whose only word to God is “Yes” no matter what it costs us. The joys will outweigh the sorrows as we live for others and not ourselves. In Mary, we have an advocate and model of who we should be for God and each other.

– Mthr. Phyllis McHugh

Action: Make a conscious decision to embrace your day and everything it holds for you. Ask Mary to help you find God in everything you do today.

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

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Reading: Luke 1:5-25

In the days of Herod, King of Judea,
there was a priest named Zechariah
of the priestly division of Abijah;
his wife was from the daughters of Aaron,
and her name was Elizabeth.
Both were righteous in the eyes of God,
observing all the commandments
and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren
and both were advanced in years.

Once when he was serving as priest
in his division’s turn before God,
according to the practice of the priestly service,
he was chosen by lot
to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.
Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside
at the hour of the incense offering,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him,
standing at the right of the altar of incense.
Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, and fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you shall name him John.
And you will have joy and gladness,
and many will rejoice at his birth,
for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.
He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb,
and he will turn many of the children of Israel
to the Lord their God.
He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah
to turn the hearts of fathers toward children
and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous,
to prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

Then Zechariah said to the angel,
“How shall I know this?
For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
And the angel said to him in reply,
“I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news.
But now you will be speechless and unable to talk
until the day these things take place,
because you did not believe my words,
which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”
Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah
and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.
But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them,
and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.
He was gesturing to them but remained mute.

Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived,
and she went into seclusion for five months, saying,
“So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit
to take away my disgrace before others.”

 

Reflection:

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all people:
come to save us without delay!

The days of Advent in this calendar year drawer nearer and nearer their end.  We cry from our woundedness for that sign of God’s love to come into our midst. Are we ready to recognize and embrace this sign of love when it appears?

In today’s gospel, LK 1:5-25, we are challenged to both be patient for and awake to the unexpected outpouring of God. Zechariah is a patient, dutiful man.  Gabriel comes as the voice of God to announce the most unlikely pregnancy of his wife, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is a unique partner in the story of salvation by this pregnancy.  She is also freed from the shame of being barren throughout her long life.

What does all of this really say to us?  Consider what the unexpected brought to this aging couple? A “high risk” pregnancy, the excitement of a child and the concomitant change in lifestyle, Elizabeth is released from the shame she bore as a barren woman, and Zechariah is silenced.   It is quite a mixed bag.

In the end, God has made known the answer to the prayers of this couple, in God’s own time.  When it was right, God took action.

The twist in this story is the silencing of Zechariah.   Zechariah asked for a sign. As a result of  his weak faith, it seems God gave him as sing and some time to reflect upon the magnitude of this great event

Today we join the chorus of Christians through the centuries singing, “O Root of Jesse…”   Are we ready to patiently wait for God to action.  Will we recognize the gift of God’s love when it appears?  Can we say yes? Are we one who needs a sign? Of equal importance in our openness to accept this gift God sends in our  midst. Are we ready to be healed and saved?

– Owen Borda

Action :

As you move through your day’s activity, take note of the times the love of God is made present in your life. I mean, actually write the events down.  Reflect on the magnitude of this gift and the many signs that made this love manifest.

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

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Reading: Matthew 1:18-25

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.

 

Reflection

We’ve read the birth narratives so often that we may have become a bit dulled to the extraordinary fact, foretold by the prophet Isaiah (7:14) that “God is with us.” God is Emmanuel.

Just let that sink in for a bit.

Many earlier religions believed that the gods visited earth from time to time, but they were never really “with us.” They incarnated out of curiosity, to seduce, to wreak mischief or havoc, or simply to strut their stuff. But they remained distant and disdainful. After slumming among humans for a few days, they inevitably returned to the celestial realms whence they came.

But the God you and I worship is different. Emmanuel is here to stay. We’re constantly in God’s presence, and he in ours.

As the Father, God is the Master Craftsman who creates the heavens and the earth, stamping them with his divine imprint. Wherever we look, the landscape is effulgent with God.

Emmanuel.

As the Son, God physically incarnates, pitching his tent in our midst, humbling himself out of sheer love to share our humanity so that we might partake of his divinity, dying so that we might live. Everyone we meet is a bearer of Christ. Whenever we gaze into another’s face, Christ stares back at us.

Emmanuel again.

Through the Holy Spirit, Christ indwells each and every one of us, ceaselessly calling us to himself, gifting us with insight and inspiration, inviting us to so conform ourselves to holiness that it’s no longer we but Christ who lives in us.

Emmanuel yet again.

The fruit of the Spirit associated with the third week of Advent is joy. How entirely appropriate! How could we not rejoice, knowing that God is Emmanuel, always present to and in us and always loving us to fuller life?

– Fr. Kerry Walters

Action Step

God is with us, but are you with God? Resolve today to make yourself more fully available to the Lord, and take one concrete step towards that goal. How can you comport yourself today to more mindfully embrace Emmanuel?