Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Daily Advent Reflections
Longing for Peace
Advent is when peace becomes something visible. All year, of course, we long
for peace, but Christians spend these four weeks preparing for the coming of the Messiah,
the Prince of Peace. We long not solely for peace on earth, the absence of conflict, but
also, more deeply, for the peace of Christ, “peace that surpasses all understanding” (see
Phil 4:7). When we celebrate Mass each Sunday, we pray for this peace and even exchange
a sign of it before we approach the table of the Eucharist.
As deep and personal as our desire is, faith tells us that peace is essentially
social. As we move toward the feast of the Nativity, the feast of Christ among us, we are
challenged to broaden our understanding of peace and to open our hearts all the wider.
Our world is longing for peace in so many places! We long for peace in Iraq
and pray that our own who have been sent there will be safe from harm and returned soon
to their families and lives full of promise. We long for peace in Israel, where the needs
of both Palestinians and Israelis must be met. We long for peace in Africa, which has seen
so much struggle, as the poor struggle to develop against so many odds, now added to by
the epidemic of AIDS. We long for peace in the states of the former Soviet Union, in China,
India and all parts of Asia. We long for peace in Ireland.
But we long not only for peace among those who fight. We also long for peace
in the hearts of those struggling with poverty of all sorts—those in the developing
world and those who struggle in the shadows of the developed world. And of course, we long
for peace for the victims of natural disaster—especially the countless families still
putting lives together in the tsunami region of Asia, and the countless families dealing
with the disastrous effects of the recent hurricane seasons in the southern United States.
We pray for displaced people everywhere.
This Advent, let us open our hearts for peace. Let our prayer for Christ’s
coming be a longing for wars to end; for troops to return to their families. But let it
also be a longing for justice, a longing that things set awry will be made right.
First Sunday of Advent
Time to wake up
Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, signaling the beginning of the holiday
season in the world around us. Yet today’s Gospel calls us to enter into a time of
watchful waiting, of preparation or keen awareness. Let us resolve to hold off the holidays
for a bit, to tune in to the gospel, to prepare our hearts for the mystery of the Incarnation,
the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Monday (Is 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11)
Can you see it?
What a vision today’s readings offer us—a world in which people
yearn to walk in the ways of the Lord, in which “one nation shall not raise the sword
against another.” Will we ever live to see it? Only if each of us works towards it.
Be a harbinger of the Kingdom today by being a peaceful presence wherever you go.
Tuesday (Is 11:1-10; Lk 10:21-24)
What we have seen
Jesus tells us today to count our blessings: We have seen and heard what
kings longed for. The peace of God has come to live among us! We have only to open our
hearts to the work of grace in our lives. We have only to turn to our Lord for help.
Wednesday (Is 25:6-10a; Mt 15:29-37)
Following in their footsteps
Jesus’ invitation to Peter and Andrew, to James and John, is one he
continually issues to all: Will you follow me? Will you join me in my mission? If we say
yes we can count on having our lives turned upside down—and enriched beyond measure.
Don’t hoard your unique wealth. Share it with others, in Jesus’
name, through daily acts of kindness.
Thursday (Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)
Check those foundations
Of course we all want to be like the wise man who builds his house on rock:
solid goals, clear sense of direction, eyes on the prize. But how easy it is to get lost
along the way, to become drenched in the consumerism that can so easily seize us at this
time of year! Search your soul today for signs of crumbling foundations, and begin any
repair work that is needed.
Friday (Is 29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31)
I can't keep it in!
The story of the two blind men cured is the story of all of us. We blindly
go through life, missing the real story of love as we struggle to be Number One. But the
One who saves can give each of us sight, if we are only willing to have faith. And when
we see, how can we help but tell the world?
Saturday (Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt. 9:3510:1. 5a, 6-8)
Moving beyond pity
Jesus was moved with pity at the sight of the “troubled and abandoned” he
saw. How can we not also be moved as the haunting eyes and faces cross our TV screens—the
dazed victims of tsunamis and earthquakes, the helpless innocents caught in war zones,
the lost in our cities? To take in their images is one thing; to be moved to action by
becoming one of Jesus’ laborers is another. How will you join his labor force?
Second Sunday of Advent
Take a deep breath
As we long for Jesus and the peace he promises, the words of consolation
Isaiah offers today are timely. They are soothing words: comfort, tenderness, glad tidings.
The Lord we await, the Lord we are promised, is one who, like a shepherd, feeds his flock
and gathers the lambs in his arms. How can we model this same good news to a society that
so often reveres power and strength? Consider this your job description during this Second
Week of Advent—at home, at the office, at your parish. Get ready for some real work!
Monday (Is 35: 1-10; Lk 5:17-26)
Rise and walk
We’ve heard the call to prepare the way of the Lord. Now it gets more
personal. As we hear the story of the paralyzed one, surely we see ourselves on the stretcher.
We have a thousand paralyzing reasons not to embrace the message of peace. Jesus cuts through
all of them and commands us to walk.
Tuesday (Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)
Recovering from loss
Who of us hasn’t been—or felt—lost? Whether we have a childhood
memory of momentary separation from a parent, a teenage recollection of not fitting in
or an adult sense of being adrift, feelings of pain and sadness can surface. We are all
the lost sheep of whom Jesus speaks today. But he welcomes and seeks our return home. What “lost
sheep” can you take into the fold of your family today?
Wednesday (Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)
My yoke is easy
Here is a message for all of those burdened by the guilt of inaction in the
face of destruction around the world: people in poverty, people at war, people in need.
Jesus tells us to step ahead and act. He promises us to be with us, for the yoke, with
him beside us, is easy.
Thursday (Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)
You name it
“Be it done to me according to your word.” We can all too easily
recite the words Mary proclaimed to the angel Gabriel. God doesn’t ask of us the
great things asked of Mary. But he does yearn for our “Yes! Yes, you name it!”
What are we doing for God and our neighbors that helps bring about a Kingdom that will
have no end?
Friday (Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)
Whats our excuse?
Advent calls us to prepare the way of the Lord, to open our hearts to the
work of God among us. Yet there are so many things competing! And as Christmas approaches,
things won’t get any lighter. Stop and consider: How can I be sure that I am preparing
the way of the Lord today?
Saturday (Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13)
Missing the point
It takes the disciples a while to understand what Jesus is saying in today’s
Gospel. Where do we fail to hear not just the words of Jesus but also the heart of his
message? Listen closely to Jesus today—not just to his words but to the challenging
message behind them.
Third Sunday of Advent
The path is clear
Being without light is one of the most unsettling of experiences for those
of us who have become accustomed to living with the gift of electricity. To be in the dark
is to be disoriented, without a sense of direction. Today’s readings offer us a clear
path—just the path we need as we edge toward Christmas. It is one of prayer, gratitude,
hope and goodness. Could we ask for clearer directions in the midst of these frenetic days
when we can so easily lose our moorings?
Monday (Is 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)
Today Jesus catches the Pharisees in their own game. As they get caught not
saying anything for fear of saying the wrong thing, Jesus says he’ll have none of
it. We are challenged today to sharpen our focus on what is important: the coming of Jesus
and our challenge to conform our lives to his call.
Tuesday (Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)
Ouch. How many times must we be reminded of our potential—our gift?—
for hypocrisy! We hear it yet again from Zephaniah, who warns against
“insolent” prophets and “braggarts.” Few of us find such people
appealing, but the alternative—humility, pure truth—is so difficult. Consider:
Why do we so often try to get by with the easy stuff, as if Jesus doesn’t know us
at our deepest level? Lord, transform our hearts!
Wednesday (Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23)
Signs of the Messiah
Could this be the one? People of good will are searching, and we hear from
the Gospel that this indeed is the one we’ve been awaiting. How do we know? The blind
see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have
the good news proclaimed to them. What are we waiting for?
Thursday (Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)
Can we get real?
Long before “reality TV,” Jesus warned us to get real about his
Kingdom and to listen to John the Baptist, who announced its arrival. How are we using
our time to prepare for the one that John has promised? Are we rooted in reality, or in
the make-believe promises offered us of what Christmas is all about?
Friday (Is 56:1-3, 6-8; Jn 5:33-36)
Sent by God
When we stand up for peace, we must do so with the confidence that peace
is the will of God. People in the Gospels are always seeking Jesus’ credentials,
and he assures them he is the real ticket. When he calls us to be God’s peacemakers,
against war, against poverty and injustice, we are given an authentic mission.
Saturday is always December 17 or later, late Advent. Please
Fourth Sunday of Advent
What message do we hear?
Today is a day of messages, a day when God’s incarnation is announced
to the world. Like the drama in today’s Gospel, the Lord’s saving action is
announced to each of us. As evangelists, messengers of the Good News, we each are challenged,
in turn, to announce God’s presence to our hurting world. The presence of God among
us is the gift that allows each of us to be heralds of peace.
December 17 (Gn 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:17)
The Jesus of history
In just over a week we celebrate the birth of Jesus—yes, the sweet-faced
infant but also the Messiah who had a family that went back 14 generations. The older we
get, the more we appreciate learning about our family tree, about the history of those
who went before us. But we can lose track of some of those branches. Resolve to contact
a lost or forgotten family member.
December 18 (Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-25)
These final days before Christmas, “late Advent,” call us to
focus all the more. Now is the season when our attention is the most distracted by last-minute
gift-buying and Christmas parties. Yet our faith tells us to slow down and prepare our
spirits for the Lord’s coming. Let us be mindful of that.
December 19 (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a; Lk 1:5-25)
The forest and the trees
As Christmas draws ever nearer, our thoughts can easily turn to the demands
that just won’t go away: last-minute shopping, mailing a few more cards, planning
menus for meals with family and special guests. In today’s Gospel Luke tells the
story of the birth of John the Baptist. We know full well what comes after that, but we
can so easily get overwhelmed. Make time today for an act of kindness—one you don’t
really have time for.
December 20 (Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)
The Lord is with you
This is the week of annunciation, when the Lord’s coming presence among
us is announced to the People of God. Our longing for peace will be fulfilled. But the
world did not understand the peace of Jesus when it came. We pray to understand Jesus’ peace
and to bring it to the world.
December 21 (Sg 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45)
A journey of faith
Our thoughts turn to Mary today. How could they not as she prepares for the
birth of Our Savior? How many more days, how many more hours she must be thinking as she
sets out, in haste, to visit her cousin Elizabeth? Put aside your own cares. Who can you
visit today who needs your presence and your utter trust?
December 22 (1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)
The world upside-down
Today we pray along with Mary, the Mother of God, her magnificat. It is a
prayer of praise, of awe at the power of God to steer history in God’s direction.
The lowly are important in God’s eyes. The rich go away empty-handed. What is God
telling us today?
December 23 (Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)
The time is near
For Elizabeth, the time has arrived. She gives birth to a son, who is named
John. Can the birth of Jesus be far behind? These are days filled with blessings and promise.
Find the time to slow down and spend peaceful time with your family. Don’t count
the hours that remain. Savor them.
Waiting is over
Now our four weeks of preparation come to an end. Our practice of waiting,
watching, listening, has all been for one purpose: to make room in our hearts for the “here-yet-still-coming”
Prince of Peace. As much as we let the Peaceful Lord fill our lives, we take his mission
of peace to our families, to our communities, to our world.
The dawn of peace
Thank God for the gift of Jesus! Today we celebrate the birth of the Messiah,
the proof that, in God, all things—including our hopes for peace—are possible.
Let us dwell on the coming peace, the peace Jesus brings into the world and leaves with
us, and celebrate what a gift it is.
Next: Dawn of the Messiah (by Edward Sri)