Each issue carries an imprimatur from
the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
Open Wide the Doors To Christ
One of my favorite posters showcases the most interesting doors
in my home city. It—s a montage of photos, lined up row after row, a colorful feast for
the eye and a source of meditation. Intricately carved doors, simple wooden doors framed
in gray stone, iron-gated church doors, heavy doors inlaid with beveled glass. Their variety
beckons me to ponder what they share: the "doorness" of the doors.
Doors send a mixed message: dividing or joining, protecting
or welcoming, withholding or revealing. Closed, bolted, locked, doors make a powerful statement
about our need to separate ourselves—from strangers, annoying salespeople, anyone making
demands on our dwindling time. Unlatched, flung open, doors suggest how far humans will
go as they draw others into their private space, to listen, to hurt, laugh, cry and heal.
Doors suggest mystery. In corners of musty cellars, at the edge
of an attic, in the labyrinths of pretend haunted houses, they tempt us to explore the
Doors invite hope. We sit expectantly, and often anxiously,
in hospital lounges for word of new birth or successful surgery, the door to the operating
room or emergency room the focus of our gaze and attention.
At the dawn of the millennium, Advent is a door to a new era.
As you break open the Advent Scriptures during these first days of the new liturgical year,
open your heart to the possibilities of renewal and rebirth. Wait expectantly, vigilantly
and quietly for the Word Made Flesh to be more visible in your daily life.
First Sunday of Advent
Stay awake. In Thornton Wilder—s play Our Town,
a character wonders, "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it—every, every
minute?" "Saints and poets maybe" is the response. Christ comes daily in every single minute
of our lives in unexpected ways. Be a saint today, by being fully awake and alert to the
nuances of life that elude those who sleepwalk.
MONDAY (Is 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11) Walk in the
light. We humans keep missing the message: Swords, spears, heat-seeking missiles,
scenes of mass annihilation continue from one millennium to the next. Have faith that
Jesus— message can cure the world. Make a little peace today.
TUESDAY (Is 11:1-10; Lk 10:21-24) See with
a child—s eyes. In retrospect, the divine plan for saving the world seems a bit foolish.
Why send a child to do a man—s job? Jesus— appearance among us as an infant reinforces
today—s readings that "a little child shall guide them." Only if we become as open and
transparent as children will we be able to comprehend the utter simplicity of God—s plan:
to love us for all eternity.
WEDNESDAY (Is 25:6-10; Mt 15:29-37) Share
your gifts. One promise in Isaiah is that "God will wipe away the tears from all
faces." We are realistic enough to know we can never eliminate illness, suffering or
sadness, but we can pool our loaves and fishes to lessen the burden of others. Take time
to be at the side of a friend walking in a personal valley of darkness. Your kindness
may astonish others while testifying to the goodness of God.
THURSDAY (Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27) Reinforce
your foundation. At times our lives may seem uncertain and out of control. As the
holiday season lures us toward peripheral concerns, it—s good to make a spot check of
our core values. What are the rocks upon which our lives are built? If our health and
wealth were suddenly buffeted by ill winds, would we still hold fast to our faith? Pray
today for the grace to build your life on a firmer foundation.
FRIDAY (Is 29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31) Share the
miracles in your life. As the prophets predicted, Jesus performed incredible feats
of healing on those whose faith was strong. After Jesus cured the faith-filled blind
men, he admonished them not to tell anyone. But who can keep quiet about the wonderful
workings of God? Tell someone you know how you have been touched by God—s love.
SATURDAY (Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35—10:1,
6-8) Be a loyal sheepdog. Like John the Baptist, we are companions to the shepherd,
not the head shepherd. When Jesus— heart went out to the crowds who were lying exhausted "like
sheep without a shepherd," he knew he wouldn—t be around forever. So he commissioned us,
his disciples, to carry on his work. Any skilled herding dog takes cues from the shepherd.
We need to be loyal, alert and dedicated to the gospel as we care for the lost sheep in
Second Sunday of Advent
Open some doors for Christ. John the Baptist turned heads
by his dress and his diet—but most of all by his message. He could have been the focus
of attention, a prophet or messiah in his own right. But he pointed beyond himself, reminding
the enthralled crowds, "You ain—t seen nothin— yet," until they could catch a glimpse of
the long-awaited savior whom John heralded. Live life so fruitfully that others will be
moved to commit to a life as a follower of Jesus.
MONDAY (Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26) Lead an
incredible journey. Few of us have witnessed cures as miraculous as friends walking
away from their sick mats, but each of us has seen and facilitated "incredible things" happening
in our world. We can strengthen feeble hands. We can be a crutch for knees that are weak.
We can say to the frightened, "Be strong, fear not." We can be instruments of God in
the lives of others.
TUESDAY (Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14) Be open to
rescue. "What do you think of this?" Jesus asks his followers. Would a shepherd leave
99 sheep to rescue the lost one? Crazy, yes, but true. We are so loved that God will
not let us slip through the cracks or wander away. Admit you are vulnerable and weak
today, allowing yourself to be comforted by the gentle touch of God.
WEDNESDAY (Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30) Take a refreshing
break. How many more shopping days until Christmas, how many more gifts to buy and
cookies to bake? Slow down today and take a prayer break, eliminating one nonessential
task from your to-do list. Ask for a body and spirit lift from the God who invites us
daily to "come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome" and who has promised
to "give strength to the fainting."
THURSDAY (Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15) Give a gift that
grows. We sometimes believe that the more expensive gifts are, the more they—ll mean
to the receiver. Today—s passage from Isaiah reminds us of the beauty of nature—in marshlands,
springs, the cedar, the cypress and the pine. Think of alternative natural gifts as you
head into the final days of this consumer season. Give gifts that will bloom or grow
perennially, reminders of God—s hand in sustaining creation.
FRIDAY (Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19) Be slow to judge
others. "To be great is to be misunderstood," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Even the
Messiah had a hard time pleasing everyone. When John the Baptist didn—t eat or drink,
his critics called him mad. But then, Jesus didn—t measure up either, since he ate and
drank enough to be labeled by his enemies as "a glutton and a drunkard." The Kingdom
of God has plenty of room for diversity. If Jesus withheld judgment, so must we.
SATURDAY (Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:10-13) Keep your
chin up. Each of us has causes we—d be willing to fight for. But when others don—t
see their value, or when they criticize us for our words and works, it—s hard not to
feel downhearted. Don—t give in to defeat. Remember that you—re in good company. Elijah, "whose
words were as a flaming furnace," and Jesus, the Word Incarnate, also suffered greatly
at the hands of critics.
Third Sunday of Advent
Lighten up. As we move into a new millennium, we rejoice
in this thought: The Messiah is already among us. This presence is confirmed through our
good works—as we help the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame leap high, the voiceless speak.
When we share from our riches or our poverty, when we lead a just life, we confirm the
MONDAY (Nm 24:2-7, 15-17; Mt 21:23-27) Accept life—s
ambiguities. Life is not clear-cut, neither are the answers we seek in prayer. Jesus
responded to his challengers— question with another question, one that made them think
more deeply. Often it is in the questions of life that we are pushed to find truth and
TUESDAY (Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32) Clothe yourself
with humility. Though we have reason to rejoice that our days of intense Advent are
nearing the end, we have no reason for smugness. The "proud braggarts" will be knocked
down, while the remnant of "humble and lowly" will enter the Kingdom. Status in life
does not guarantee salvation, as Jesus pointedly reminds his listeners. How shocked they
must have been to hear that the despised tax collectors and prostitutes would be first
among the redeemed.
WEDNESDAY (Is 45:6-8, 18, 21-25; Lk 7:18-23) Speak
good news to the poor. Doomsday prophecies intermingle disaster with outrageous feats
of glory. But Jesus sets us straight. The Kingdom will be recognized in this age not
through royal trappings and wondrous displays, but through the daily work of believers
who know the truest mark of the arrival of the Messiah: that "the poor have the good
news preached to them."
THURSDAY (Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30) Hold firm to your
beliefs. John the Baptist knew little of luxury. The only certainty in his life was
his unwavering belief in his mission: to baptize and to pave the way for one greater
than himself. In our culture with its chameleon values, it—s easy to be a "reed swayed
by the wind." In these last days of Advent, we need to take stock of our beliefs about
FRIDAY (Is 56:1-3, 6-8; Jn 5:33-36) Be a light in
the darkness. During these long days, we might feel that the daylight hours are too
short, especially as we cram in parties, shopping and gift-wrapping. Move inward today
to find a spark of love. Be a modern-day John the Baptist—a "lamp, set aflame and burning
bright"—as you interact with family and friends.
Saturday is December 17 or later.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Trust in God and in yourself. Joseph, Elizabeth and Mary
received messages that were hard to accept: The Son of God would be brought into the world
with Mary as the sacred vessel. What fear, what incredulity must have filled them as they
adjusted to their role in making this miracle of the Word enfleshed a reality. Miracles
can happen in our lives too if we take to heart the angel—s words: "Nothing is impossible
DECEMBER 17 (Gn 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17) Celebrate family
ties. Though it can be tiresome to listen to so many names unfamiliar to us, today—s
list of Jesus— ancestors provides reflective time to meditate on our own family heritage.
As the names of the men and women in today—s Gospel flow out, allow the rhythm of the
words to sweep you back into memories of your own family. Look for the positive things
from your family that give you identity.
DECEMBER 18 (Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-24) Thank a father
today. Today—s is Joseph—s Gospel, one of the few where this unassuming man takes
center stage. Of course, being central to the story is all about moving out of the limelight.
A just, humble man, Joseph has descendants in all the holy fathers around us. Today,
do something special for your father, your husband or a man who epitomizes Christian
DECEMBER 19 (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25; Lk 1:5-25) Be open
to surprises. Two barren women, Samson—s mother and Elizabeth, no doubt had given
up on motherhood. Their own and their husbands— stance of openness conditioned them to
hearing, and believing, the incredible news from an angel—"terrible indeed." Be hopeful,
stay open to surprising visitations and good news in your life.
DECEMBER 20 (Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38) Be an agent for
good. Mary—s "Let it be done to me as you say" could imply a passive attitude toward
the inevitable in life. Troubled by the messenger—s announcement, Mary questioned, then
cooperated with the plan for salvation. Not passivity but contemplation allowed her to
declare herself a free agent of the Lord. Like Mary, we are called to hear and reflect
on the word of God, then to act on it.
DECEMBER 21 (Sng 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45) Be present to
a loved one. Class reunions and family reunions for those who hardly know each other
can be tedious, but reunions between those who deeply love one another and have been
apart bring only joy. Mary—s visit to her cousin Elizabeth caused baby John to leap for
joy inside her. Take time today to surprise a distant loved one with a pre-Christmas
call, card or e-mail.
DECEMBER 22 (1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56) Sing a hymn
of praise. Mary—s canticle acknowledges the wonderful things that God did in her
life. Though not as historic as the "great things" done in Mary, each of us has received
special graces this season. Take time to enumerate these visitations from God and to
DECEMBER 23 (Mal 3:1-4, 4:5-6; Lk 1:57-66) Spread
your joy around. How happy Elizabeth—s friends and relatives were when John was born.
Their joy culminated in a gathering for his naming on the eighth day. These days before
Christmas should be filled with joy and anticipation, but too often we and our frazzled
friends get crabby and short-tempered. Be an instrument of good cheer today.
CHRISTMAS EVE (2 Sm 7:1-5, 8-11, 16; Lk 1:67-79) Walk
in peace. Our Advent journey is ended. Like Zechariah, if we reflect on what God
has done for us, we will spill out songs of praise. A faithful God will never forsake
us, for we have entered into a covenant that demands faithfulness on our part and on
God—s. Dark days notwithstanding, God promises to be a Dayspring to us. One door has
closed but another bursts open as we move confidently in the way of peace.
Next: O Antiphons Proclaim the New Era (by Kathy Coffey)