Sunday, December 31, 2017

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God - Mother Knows the Song of the Angels


The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, you are my friend, my Father, and my protector. I come to you on this new day confident in your presence. I renew my love for you, trusting in your guiding hand.

Petition: Lord, I want to hear the angels sing. Help me learn to listen. 

  1. Sometimes We Need a Little Help: Would the shepherds have been impressed to find Mary, Joseph, and the child Jesus if the angels had not explained what was happening? They would have just thought it was a poor, vagabond family—unimpressive and unassuming like their own lives as shepherds. Yet the angels opened them to a reality that they would never have imagined or perceived. In my life God has also sent me angels who help me discover him: the faith of a parent or grandparent, the sweet, innocent faith of a child, the good example of a friend, a teacher, a priest or a nun, the example of our Holy Father. Mary also teaches me to discover God in her Son. Do I thank God for these angels that he has sent me? Do I follow their advice and look for Christ in the simple, ordinary circumstances of my life?
  1. Hints of a New Song: In a symphony, the first movement only hints at the central theme. Mary had first heard this theme from the angel Gabriel. Now the shepherds take up this theme—the hymn of the angels—and even though the shepherds play their part with great enthusiasm, it probably makes very little noise outside the little town of Bethlehem. Yet the song had begun, and it would grow to a crescendo as Christ lived out his mission. History unfolds God’s mysterious plan of salvation. I am part of that history, of that symphony. Do I do my best to continue Mary’s song, God’s song, by living my commitments and taking part in apostolate?
  1. And His Name Shall Be “God Saves”: Mary and Joseph take up the hymn. They know the secret: this child will save Israel and will save all mankind. They begin to explain to the world, using an ancient name, Joshua (Yeshua), a name that now becomes not just a promise but a person. This is God’s new name. This is Our God: God Saves. He is not merely a God who is the source of everything. Our God is intimately committed to us, and he puts himself “in the line of fire” to save us. Man had suspected that God was Creator, and the Jews had received the surprise of his friendship, but neither Gentile nor Jew dreamed that God was also this type of love. Do I dare to dream of God’s goodness? Do I let Christ give me peace and hope in the midst of this despairing world?

 Conversation with Christ:  Lord, I have heard something new today. You remind me this Christmas that it is time for a new song, a song of confidence and hope. Mary teaches me this song, this good news. I want to bring this good news more deeply into my life. I know that you are helping me to discover you more each day. Help me also discover you to others.

Resolution: In Mary’s presence, I will strive to “sing this new song” (the Christian virtue I have determined to cultivate) today by making a special effort in one aspect of living this virtue.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - Rooted in Love


When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Introductory Prayer: Jesus, you were a small child in your Mother’s arms. You were a baby who needed the protection of Joseph. You felt their goodness and love. Today I want to celebrate this love of your family. I want to enter into this love and bring it also to my own family. I believe and trust that you will help me in this.

Petition: Lord, help me discover the wonders of the love of the Holy Family.

1. The Bridegroom Is with You: Our God is a God of love. A family participates in this love because God is the source of the love that draws them together. The love that is so spontaneous, as well as so sacrificial, in a family shows the presence of Christ’s love. Jesus makes this love spring forth. It is homage to his Father and homage to his love for us. Am I aware of Christ’s loving presence in my family? Do I strive to collaborate with his love?

2. Family and Covenant: A family is fruit of a covenant, and God is part of this covenant. God has always wanted to make man part of his family, beginning with Adam and Eve. The Holy Family demonstrates the definitive covenant of God’s love for each of us. They live it with wonder and, like Abraham, they put their faith totally in God, bonding themselves totally to his will and to his love. They play their parts in the working of God’s plan, and God will keep his promise to them, making them providential collaborators in his plan of salvation. We can be sure of God’s faithful love in the family. We can be sure that he is working his plan of salvation with faithfulness. Do I strive for unity in my family by living supernatural charity?

3. Spiritual Inheritance: The Holy Family is a source of blessing. My family is also a source of blessing, even though moments of sorrow are bound to happen. When I live with faith my role in the family, I help to bring these blessings on the world. Often it is the example of Christian families that attracts others to the faith. Often the most powerful apostles, whether lay or consecrated persons, are fruit of the strong faith that is lived in the family. A family should not be closed in on itself; like the Holy Family, it has a mission. It must promote God’s message in the world through example and action. Do I give example to the members of my family? Do I strive to be an apostle both inside and outside the home?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for sanctifying family life by your presence. I want to discover you more in my family and those around me. Help me to accompany my loved ones in their moments of both joy and sorrow. You are with us, Lord. Help us to be your apostles.

Resolution: I will take a moment to listen attentively to and speak with a member of my family who may not have received much attention from me recently.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas - A Child and Wonder


There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was 84. She never left the Temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem. When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I come like Anna today to live the one thing necessary in my life: my relationship with you. I believe that you are faithful to your promises. I believe that you will triumph over sin and death. I love you, Lord. 

Petition: Lord, help me to see how I can better witness to you.

  1. She Worshipped: We all have something we worship. Wisdom teaches us whom we should truly worship: God alone. God deserves our full hearts, because he is the one who is our true Father. In worship we rediscover our greatest treasure, as did the Prodigal Son: “I will return to my Father’s house” (Luke 15:18). In worship we return to that place where we are most deeply welcomed and cared for, to that place where we discover our true friend, where we become more deeply our true selves. Worship also opens us to receive God’s graces. It helps us appreciate the gifts that God wants to give us. Do I strive to worship God with all my heart, mind and soul during the Eucharistic Celebration?
  1. She Spoke about the Child to All: Prayer and worship here on earth do not end only in going to church. They allow us to discover the good news about God’s love, so that we can also share this good news with others. Prayer that does not lead us to evangelize is self-deception. Our Holy Father shows us this intimate connection between prayer and evangelization. He invites us to give to others what we have discovered in being close to Christ. He challenges us to bring others to Christ. Am I living this contemplative and active spirit?
  1. The Child Grew and Became Strong, and the Favor of God Was Upon Him: Christmas is a message of hope. God is quietly preparing the future. A child and a young person are reminders that God does not give up on the world, that in each generation he can find new ways of bringing his salvation to all mankind. Am I youthful, spiritually speaking? Am I always trying to learn what God wants to teach me each day, striving to form those virtues that will make me a better instrument of God’s grace? As one who follows Christ, I should have confidence that God’s favor also rests on me; that he looks at my humble, often hidden efforts with great love; that in spite of my weakness he is helping others through me to see the good news that he is present and active in their lives.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I thank you for your presence and care. You have made me in your image, and in the presence of your Son I discover the depths of your love. Help me to grow in wonder at your love today, and help me to bring your good news to others.

Resolution: Today I will spend a quiet moment before the child Jesus and thank him for his presence here among us. I will also strive in a particular way to be cheerful and friendly to everyone I meet.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas - In the Spirit


When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, I long to abide in your presence. You refresh my soul and fill me with your light, although I don’t turn to you often enough or exercise enough faith when I do remember you. But here I am now, Lord, ready to spend a few precious moments with you in the room of my heart. I want to pick up more readily on the inspirations of your Spirit. I want to be a docile instrument in your hands to serve you and your Church. 

Petition: Lord, teach me to be open to your Spirit.

  1. Simeon, a Man of the Spirit: Luke tells us three times in this short passage that Simeon was a man who was attentive to the Holy Spirit. The “Holy Spirit was upon him” since “it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord.” Simeon was in conversation with the Spirit and learned to listen to his holy inspirations. Just as in Christ’s life we see him many times moved by the Spirit—for example, to come to be baptized by John and subsequently to be “driven by the Spirit” into the desert—so in Simeon’s life, he is not only inspired, but also powerfully moved by the Spirit. We should take a moment in our meditation to admire this man who lent himself totally to the movements of the Spirit.
  1. Mary, Overshadowed by the Spirit: There is no one who demonstrates docility to the Spirit more than Mary Immaculate. She didn’t put up any obstacles to the work of the Holy Spirit; as the Spirit expresses to us through the Gospel writer, “the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). As John Paul II describes it, Mary “responded with faithful obedience to every request of God, to every motion of the Holy Spirit.” As she stands here at the presentation of her firstborn son, she now hears words spoken to her through the Spirit’s instrument: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Once more, Mary acquiesces to the Holy Spirit and accepts the foretold suffering far in advance.
  1. Amazed by the Spirit: All of us have heard incredible stories of moments in which the Holy Spirit clearly intervened or directed a situation. Maybe we have experienced this in our own lives. Is there any reason why we shouldn’t? Are there any obstacles that the Holy Spirit would find in our lives? He should be the soul’s gentle guest. But how do we foster this friendship with the Holy Spirit? We have to bring silence into our hearts so as to distinguish his voice from the noise of so many worldly voices trying to drown out his word, and it also means we have to be docile and obedient once we have heard it.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, there are so many lessons to be learned from your presentation in the Temple. I have taken one of them: the presence of your Holy Spirit so evident in this Gospel passage. In the Christmas season we celebrate your being among us as a tiny child. Yet, your whole life will show us how to be docile to the Holy Spirit. You have sent him so that we might not be alone. May he always accompany me in life, and may he always remind me of the many things you did and said, as you lead me to the Father’s house.

Resolution: I will spend the day attentive to the Holy Spirit and make this a particular point for my examination of conscience.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs - Angel Wings

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child, to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed for Egypt, and stayed there until the death of Herod, so that what he had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time that he had ascertained from the magi. Then was fulfilled what had been said through the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.”

Introductory Prayer: Father, I come into your holy presence this day aware that you guide my life with love. I believe that nothing happens to me unless you will it. I renew my faith in your promise of heaven, where every tear will be wiped away. Thank you for getting involved in our cruel world in order to heal it with your love.

Petition: Lord, may my presence today be a help to those in need.

1. Angels: We want to cry with these women who have had their children stolen from them in the most defenseless time of their lives. Human cruelty reaches so deep that it desires to maintain power by snuffing out the lives of others! Yet these children silently remind us of another reality. They remind us that there is a place where tyranny does not reign. There is a King who rules by love and whose kingdom cannot be defeated by cruelty. These children are messengers of that kingdom. They have been called to give a brief but powerful witness of the fight that this King will wage for love. They have gone ahead of him, and their mothers will find them and hold them forever one day in the presence of their King.

2. Prophets: Thy Kingdom Come! This is the cry of these children. One day this new King will reign, but it will happen through a terrible fight with death and cruelty. These children are powerful prophets of the struggle of this King. They are prophets of the drama of human history where everything is at stake. Their cries are powerful prayers that will be heard by the Father, and their cries begin to stir in that special Child the desire to give his life as a ransom for souls. He will reign by pouring out his life as a gift for these children and for many souls.

3. Children: The Church has declared these children martyrs. The first saints of Christ are infants. Infants speak to us at Christmas, and their witness does not go unnoticed. These children inspire the Church and pray for her. A child speaks to us of goodness and innocence. A child reminds us of the attitude we should have before God. Christ always lives with a heart of a child, a heart that trusts completely in his Father. He shows special predilection for children. He knows that often they are his most powerful apostles, inviting others to God’s house by the simplicity and intimacy of their love for him. How many parents have been converted or discovered a deeper relationship with Christ through the example of their children!

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, it saddens me so much to see how these children were taken from their mothers and killed. It tears my heart apart to see how today so many children are never given the chance to know their mother’s love because of the evil of abortion. I want to be a consolation to your heart, Lord. I want to give the very best of myself to you today in order to offer you some of the love that these children wanted to give. Let my life be a witness of unselfish love. Let me be like you.

Resolution: I will find some way of encouraging a mother of a young child

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist - Eager Heart


On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don´t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, today I am reminded of the intensity of love that you stir in the hearts of your followers. I want to be your follower today. I believe that you love me. I believe that you have overcome sin and death. I believe that you walk with me.

Petition: Lord, give me the joy of discovering you as St. John discovered you.

1. Eager: St. John had been enthused by Christ from the very beginning. Early on Christ had won his heart. In his Gospel, John would record many things about Christ in a very personal way, giving us special insights into Christ. Christ allowed him into his heart, and John’s faith gave him reason to hope in the Resurrection. That is why he runs with such eagerness to the tomb. He does not yet know that Christ is risen, but he wants to know. He wants to be where Christ is. Am I eager to be with Christ? This time of Christmas is a special time in which I can naturally feel attracted to Christ. Do I take advantage of this grace and try to converse more with him?

2. Fast: No hesitation; Get there as quickly as possible. John knows where he has to go. Nothing else is as important. He does not let anything get in the way. A saint lives his life quickly, even if his years are long. He lives it quickly because he lives each day, each moment, intensely for Christ and souls. He lives his prayer life intensely—in spite of the natural fatigue and moments of dryness—because he knows the time spent in prayer is the most important moment of the day. A saint lives his service to his family and to others with the intensity of love. Rather than tiring him, love brings him closer to God. Am I afraid to love and to live with intensity?

3. Believing: John was rewarded for his faith. His Lord is alive! No amount of cruelty and evil—not even death itself—can defeat his Lord. John teaches us to believe in Christ, to discover with joy the signs of his presence. Am I using this Christmas season to reaffirm my faith in Christ’s presence in the world? Do I cultivate a supernatural outlook in the things I do, in the way I deal with those around me? Do I build up confidence in Christ’s victory in souls and discover the signs of that victory?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for St. John’s faith. He was close to your heart. Help me to place my heart in your heart. I want to run to you, Lord, throughout the ups-and-downs of my life, the good times and the bad. Today I will stay close to you in my heart. Stay close to me also.

Resolution: I will pray the Creed in front of a manger scene today and make a special effort to talk about God’s providence in my conversations with others.

Feast of Saint Stephen, First Martyr - The Power of Witness – Feast of St. Stephen

Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved.” 

Introductory Prayer: Lord, I open my heart to you on this new day. Because of your unfailing love for me, you deserve my deep gratitude and complete confidence in you, so I set my entire being at your disposal. Do with me what you wish. I know that you love me and that nothing that can truly harm me will happen as long as I keep striving to live in your love.

Petition: Lord, help me to experience your forgiveness and learn to forgive in return.

  1. “Do Not Hold This Sin Against Them!”These words of St. Stephen (Acts 7:60) repeat Christ’s last words on earth. He has entered into Christ’s heart. He is on fire for his Lord. This fire is making him pass through the same crucible of rejection and death that Christ passed through. And he is walking in the fire without being scorched. His heart burns so much for Christ that it cannot fester with hatred and despair. Like his Lord, he wants only the salvation of his persecutors. Am I letting my heart to be ignited with the flame of love that burns in that Child in the manger? Am I showing the zeal of love that is selfless service?
  1. The Case of Saul: The Acts of the Apostles records the approval of Stephen’s martyrdom by Saul. Saul was a man who thought he understood everything. He thought he knew how evil Stephen was and what a threat his teaching brought. His intentions seemed correct, but he was dead wrong. Saul will later speak of himself as someone born dead. He was dead –– dead in his soul – because he had missed the point. Yet God is merciful. Saul soon becomes St. Paul. Jesus accepts the prayer of Stephen just as the Father accepts the prayer of Jesus. We do not need to be afraid. God accepts our prayers, too. He will do marvels if we persevere in prayer and service.
  1. 3. Hard of Heart: We’re often pushed out of our comfort zone by Christ’s message. We are ready to be forgiven by Christ and by others, but it is not so easy to take the logical next step of quickly and easily forgiving others. To become a forgiving St. Stephen we need to keep in mind that we, too, are Saul. The Christmas Season is a perfect time for a change of heart. By contemplating today the loving face of God in that child in the manger we can experience his tender, infinite love for us. Anchored in his friendship we can gain the magnanimity of heart to set aside any ill will from past injuries and desire for everyone to find the peace and joy that only comes from knowing the Word Incarnate.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, thank you for the example of St. Stephen, the first martyr of your young Church. On this day after your birth, you also show me the birth of total courage in love. I believe that I am safe in your arms no matter how hard the difficulties. I believe that you entrust me with your mission. Today I renew the commitment to be faithful to my mission as a Christian and an apostle “till death on the battlefield.” Jesus, you are my Lord. I will follow you.

Resolution: Today I will look for the positive side in everyone I meet. I will look beyond their limitations. I will forgive anyone who might offend me.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) - Flesh, Glory, Grace

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 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 the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man´s decision but of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father´s only Son, full of grace and truth. John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This is he of whom I said, ´The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.´” From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father´s side, has revealed him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, thank you for this Christmas day. I believe that you became a little child to redeem me and show me the Father’s love. I love you. Your birth shows the depth of your love for me. I choose to recommit myself today to be a Christian in love with you.

Petition: Lord, help me to grow in wonder at your love.

1. Flesh: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” For most families, Christmas is a day of special closeness. We take time to be with each other. We also know that God is close. He is that “someone” who unites us in love. Today, in astonished silence, we contemplate the Christ Child. Amid all the excitement and emotion of our Christmas day we cannot help but stop in amazement: My God lets me put my arms around him. Here is an amazing mystery of closeness. Here is where all human closeness finds its greatest expression. It is God’s initiative. He became flesh. He lives among us. Do I let myself draw close to Christ? Do I allow him to love me? Do I allow myself to love him?

2. Glory: “And we saw his glory.” For John, the glory of God that shines in the face of Christ is the glory of love. Jesus glories in being able to love — in being able to love us. What an amazing God we have! He defies our reason. His Christmas glory lies in making himself so humble that he becomes a tiny child dependent on our love. His glory will later consist in embracing his cross and dying out of love for us. Do I appreciate this glorious love? Am I ready to enter into its mystery? Am I ready to make my heart today shine with this glory of God’s love?

3. Grace: “…Full of grace and truth.” The grace spoken of here is the Father’s loving glance. Jesus brings the Father’s loving glance to our world and to our lives. He transforms our world into the very place where the Father finds his Son. The Father is pleased; Christ lives among us. This is the grace that is Christ: God’s initiative of love. Grace is a gift. It does not depend on me. I simply have to accept and receive it. I simply have to appreciate it, as John did. Do I appreciate Christ? Do I try to make my life a gift like his was?

Conversation with Christ: Jesus, thank you for this Christmas day. I know it may be busy, but I also know it is very beautiful. It is beautiful because you are here, Lord. Thank you for being here this Christmas day. I want to love you as Mary did. I want to bring your grace and glory to those around me.

Resolution: Today I will strive to show special joy and goodness in my relations with others, especially with my family. I will look for an extra way to make each of them happy today.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Advent - Power of Personal Freedom

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, favored one! 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.

Introductory Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have given Mary to us as our Blessed Mother. Thank you. I know that she constantly intercedes on our behalf and that you listen to her prayer. I am confident in your mercy and love. You are guiding me home to spend eternity with you. I place all my trust in you. I offer you my weak, but grateful love in return.

 Petition: Lord, grant me the grace to embrace you in faith, hope, and love.

  1. “Sent from God”: Too often we attribute too much of our achievements to our own doing. Our education, wealth, or technological ability can lead us to have a false sense of security in our ability to shape our world. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s plan for the salvation of the human race is his own initiative. He sends his Son into the world at a precise time and in a precise place. He prepares Mary beforehand with everything she will need to fulfill her mission as Mother of the Redeemer – a mission that she accepts in freedom and through faith. I do well to realize more and more that God is also the true protagonist of my own life.
  1. “Do Not Be Afraid”: One of the constant refrains of the Gospel is Jesus’ admonition: “Do not be afraid.” When the Lord draws near, our natural tendency is to be afraid. We can be afraid of his presence. We can be afraid of what he might ask of us. We can be afraid of our own limitations in the face of the call to true conversion and holiness of life. We can be afraid of the apparent obstacles along the path of Christian discipleship. Like Mary, we need to overcome our fear by embracing God’s will with faith and love. As our confidence in God increases, our fear decreases. As our love increases, our fear disappears. Of what am I afraid in my relationship with the Lord? Am I surrendering my fear by giving myself in faith?
  1. “May It Be Done to Me”: What a truly incredible thing it is to make the salvation of the human race dependent upon the free response of Mary! Mary’s “yes” to God shows us the power and transcendence of personal choice. It also sheds light on the importance of our own personal “yes” to God with regard to his plan for our lives. Mary’s loving, faith-filled consent to a plan she did not fully understand becomes the model of our own daily consent to the divine will as it manifests itself in our daily lives.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I have remembered through this meditation that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life.  I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love.

Resolution: I will embrace God’s will today as Mary did — with faith and love.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent - Hark, the Herald – The son of Zechariah


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. 

Introductory Prayer: Lord, as I humbly kneel before you in prayer, I recognize your power and glory. Without you, I am nothing, but with you I can do all things. With this trust, I implore you to help me make good use of this time of prayer as an expression of my deep desire to love and imitate you. I am here to please and glorify you.

Petition: Lord, help me to appreciate more deeply the role of parents and families as domestic churches.

  1. Amazing Grace: Elizabeth and Zechariah received the great grace of a child in their old age. And not just any child: he was John the Baptist. To ready him for his great vocation, he would need the love and guidance that are unique to parents. Great people often trace their path from the love of a mom or dad (frequently both), who might remain hidden from the world. Am I grateful to my parents for what I received from them? Am I regularly seeking what is truly best for my spouse and children and not just what seems best in the eyes of the world?
  1. God’s Call: The child would not be named after his father, but rather would receive the name God chose. The great tension in the life of a child (and sometimes an adult) is the close identity they have with a parent ― or with a parent’s plans for their life. In truth, our identity rests in our heavenly Father. God alone gives us meaning and a vocation in life. Could there be expectations of a parent or other family member that hold me back from God’s plan for me? Or, if I am a parent, do I unjustly impose my plans on my children? Do I interfere in their vocation? In their marriage?
  1. Zechariah’s “Yes” – Zechariah’s voice returns only after he acquiesces to God’s plan and agrees to the child’s name. When we finally say “yes” to God in our life, that’s when we find the deepest meaning of our lives. That’s when we can express ourselves the best. Am I keeping God waiting?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, Zechariah took a long and winding road on his path over nine months. Let me see my own life as a path, and have patience with those who are still on their path.

Resolution: Today, I’ll say “yes” to one thing that God has been asking of me.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Friday of the Third Week of Advent - Favor Is the Key


Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.

Introductory Prayer: I love you, Lord, for you have loved me first. You have allowed me to see your provident hand in so many events of my life; how can I not believe in you? These days of Advent have slipped away so quickly. You are almost at my doorstep, ready to knock. I want to be ready for your arrival on Christmas Day. Therefore, I pour out my humble plea before you.

Petition: Lord Jesus, mark my life with gratitude.

1. The Key Word: The Magnificat, and indeed the entire history of salvation, can be summarized in the word “favor”. This is the true motive of Christmas. God looks with favor (or good will) upon mankind. Many times, we see our spiritual life as the effort we make to become pleasing in God’s eyes, drawing his blessings down upon us. This would mean that in some way we bring about our own growth in holiness. This is not the case: God is never “obliged” to grant us his grace. We do not “deserve” anything from God. Our spiritual life should consist in presenting ourselves before God as we truly are: sinners. By placing our weakness before his omnipotence, we draw down his favor to lift us up from our misery and to adopt us as his children. This is what happened as he “looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant (Mary).”

2. The Gift of Himself: To demonstrate his immense love for us and to give himself to us, God becomes one of us. Love makes us seek to become more like our beloved. How could God become more like his beloved creature? He not only became man, but he shared the lot of the poorest of the poor. Very few humans, even among the paupers, have been born in a stable. How many babies are laid in the feeding trough of a cow or horse? Well, that is exactly what a manger is. Though he was rich (he was God almighty), he became poor, to enrich us with his poverty. We need to ask ourselves what we are doing to become more like our beloved. What are we doing to imitate Christ in his gift of self? Have we learned to put aside our whims and fancies in order to do the things that are pleasing to our spouse, children or parents? These are the ways to prepare ourselves for a grace-filled Christmas.

3. Abundant Blessings: The rest of the Magnificat is a glorification of God, recognizing the favors he bestows upon those who love him. All generations will call us “blessed.” God will show the might of his arm, he will lift up the lowly, and the hungry he will fill with good things…. We truly have so much for which to be thankful. The challenge of our Christian lives is to be mindful of our blessings and mark our actions with the seal of gratitude. We glorify God and we bless God when we try to respond according to all the good he has done in our lives. Then in turn, others will call us blessed, because our filial attitude opens the door for God to enter in and do still more good through us. Do I count my many blessings often? Do I truly seek to “repay” God by cooperating, and am I aware that in return he will bring about still more good and bless me more?

Conversation with Christ: Lord, as I prepare my soul for your coming this Christmas, I invite you to enter my humble dwelling. Please do not pass by without bestowing your blessings upon my poor soul. I need your grace. I will not leave your presence today without at least a crumb from your banquet. Allow me to thank and praise you for your infinite mercy as you look upon your lowly servant.

Resolution: Today, out of gratitude for the many blessings I have received, I will give something good to someone in need.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Journey of Faith and Love - Fourth Week of Advent


During those days 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, “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.”

Introductory Prayer: Lord, help me to settle my mind and my heart. I know that you are present in this prayer. I want to turn aside all distractions. Increase my faith in your action in my life. You are leading me to yourself. Help me to place myself more fully in your hands. Increase my faith so that I will do anything and suffer anything for you. Use me as an instrument of your grace in the lives of those I meet today.

Petition: Lord, help me to follow Mary’s example of faith and love and bring you to others this Christmas.

1. Mary, Our Advent Model: Mary is truly the model of how we should be living Advent in preparing for Christ’s arrival. God the Father prepared her from the first moment of her conception to be the worthy mother of his Son. Like a faithful daughter of Israel, she had prayed throughout her youth for the coming of the Messiah. When she was a young lady, she discovered that she was part of God’s answer to that prayer, but in a way that would have far exceeded any Hebrew maiden’s prayers: not only would the Messiah be her son, but her son would also be God. Her “fiat”, her wholehearted “yes!” to the Archangel Gabriel, launched the proximate preparation for the birth of Jesus the Messiah. Let us enter into Mary’s response of faith, which is a guide for us along our own pilgrimage of faith. Let us listen to the beat of Mary’s contemplative heart, so that our Christmas may be as fruitful as that first Christmas.

2. Someone Who Loves Takes Notice of the Details: No sooner had the Archangel left Mary in Nazareth after announcing her important role in God’s incredible plan of salvation than Mary herself made plans to depart. She went with haste to help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth who was pregnant for the first time. Gabriel had not instructed Mary to go to Elizabeth’s aid, nor did he suggest it. Mary’s great love was sufficient to cause her to spring into action and embark upon the long sixty-mile journey to Elizabeth’s hometown outside Jerusalem.   In undertaking this challenging and potentially dangerous journey, Mary showed — as she did at the wedding feast in Cana — that someone who loves takes notice of the details.  She showed that someone who loves does whatever possible to lend a helping hand, even at the cost of considerable sacrifice. We can imagine that this was Mary’s attitude from her earliest childhood.

3. Be A Missionary – Bring Christ!  – By going to Elizabeth’s aid, Mary – carrying the tiny Jesus in her womb – became the first missionary, the first bearer of the Good News that would change all of human history. Mary was able to bring incredible joy to both Elizabeth and John the Baptist in her womb precisely because she was bringing Christ. And Mary was able to burst out with her beautiful Magnificat for the very same reason. To bring joy to others this Christmas, we really have to bring them Christ. He is the greatest gift we could ever bring to someone we love — all the material goods in the world fall flat in comparison. Without sharing Jesus, we are not giving our loved ones anything that is truly lasting. Bring Christ and you bring everything.

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, it is clear that your mother wants me to learn from her example. She inspires me to bring you to others this Christmas season. I know plenty of people who desperately need you in their lives, who need your forgiveness, who hunger for your love and presence, perhaps without even knowing it. I know that my loving relationship with you is never meant to be kept to myself; it is a gift meant to be shared. Your mother’s example shows me the way to live Advent well and explicitly challenges me to be a missionary by bringing you to the world.

Resolution: I will share my faith this Christmas season with a friend or relative in need.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent - Power of Personal Freedom



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, favored one! 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.

Introductory Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have given Mary to us as our Blessed Mother. Thank you. I know that she constantly intercedes on our behalf and that you listen to her prayer. I am confident in your mercy and love. You are guiding me home to spend eternity with you. I place all my trust in you. I offer you my weak, but grateful love in return.

Petition: Lord, grant me the grace to embrace you in faith, hope, and love.

1. Sent from God: Too often we attribute too much of our achievements to our own doing. Our education, wealth, or technological ability can lead us to have a false sense of security in our ability to shape our world. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s plan for the salvation of the human race is his own initiative. He sends his Son into the world at a precise time and in a precise place. He prepares Mary beforehand with everything she will need to fulfill her mission as Mother of the Redeemer – a mission that she accepts in freedom and through faith. I do well to realize more and more that God is also the true protagonist of my own life.

2. Do Not Be Afraid: One of the constant refrains of the Gospel is Jesus’ admonition: “Do not be afraid.” When the Lord draws near, our natural tendency is to be afraid. We can be afraid of his presence. We can be afraid of what he might ask of us. We can be afraid of our own limitations in the face of the call to true conversion and holiness of life. We can be afraid of the apparent obstacles along the path of Christian discipleship. Like Mary, we need to overcome our fear by embracing God’s will with faith and love. As our confidence in God increases, our fear decreases. As our love increases, our fear disappears. Of what am I afraid in my relationship with the Lord? Am I surrendering my fear by giving myself in faith?

3. May It Be Done to Me: What a truly incredible thing it is to make the salvation of the human race dependent upon the free response of Mary! Mary’s “yes” to God shows us the power and transcendence of personal choice. It also sheds light on the importance of our own personal “yes” to God with regard to his plan for our lives. Mary’s loving, faith-filled consent to a plan she did not fully understand becomes the model of our own daily consent to the divine will as it manifests itself in our daily lives.

Conversation with Christ: Lord, I have remembered through this meditation that you are the one guiding my life and all of history. I need to be mindful that you always intend good for me, even if it is painful and purifying. So I should never be afraid of your hand in my life.  I believe and trust in you my Lord, but increase my faith, hope and love.

Resolution: I will embrace God’s will today as Mary did — with faith and love.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent - Doubting Zechariah


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.”

Introductory Prayer: Grant me the grace to make the most of this time of anticipation for your arrival at Christmas, Lord. My faith rests in you, my hope looks toward spending eternity with you. Help me grasp the value of time in the face of eternity.

Petition: Lord, help me to see the signs that you send into my life.

1. Seeing, yet Disbelieving: Zechariah had no excuse for doubting. There he was: in the sanctuary of the Lord, burning incense ― a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It was a privileged moment, a sacred space. Even an angel appears! If ever a man should have been prepared for a special message, it was Zechariah. Yet he doubts. He doesn’t believe. He had followed “all the commandments,” yet his fidelity didn’t translate into a living faith at a crucial moment. Do we fall into the same trap? We say many prayers, but react with skepticism when God has a special request. Why is that? Are we trying to show love when we pray? Or are we just rattling on?

2. Excuses, Excuses: Zechariah thought his age would hinder God’s plan. He underestimated God’s power. Indeed, it is not God who is limited; rather, we are the ones who limit God, so to speak. Throughout the Bible, God called on unlikely people. Moses probably stuttered (cf. Exodus 4:10). Jeremiah was “too young” (Jeremiah 1:6). Peter was uneducated (Acts 4:13). Saul of Tarsus hated Christians (cf. Acts 9:1). All were unlikely prophets or apostles ― yet they let God use them. What’s my excuse for saying no to God? Am I too busy? Too old? Too young? Too unworthy? Could God be calling me to do something that I think is beyond my capability?

3. Plowing Ahead: God goes ahead with his plan despite Zechariah’s lack of faith. The Almighty was anxious to raise up a fitting herald (St. John the Baptist) for his Son. So he left Zechariah speechless for a time. We shouldn’t be surprised if God plows ahead with his own plans in our lives, even when we resist him. He might do something unusual in our lives in order to keep his plans advancing. Could those setbacks really be God’s hand at work? Might he be preparing us for something better?

Conversation with Christ: I like to think that I’m less stubborn than Zechariah, Lord. But sometimes it is hard to accept your will. I might even feel as if I have “missed the boat,” and that you are no longer interested in me. Help me reject this kind of thinking and to have confidence in you.

Resolution: I will pray a Hail Mary for the ability to say “yes” to God’s plans in my life.