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Advent:

Open Wide the Doors To Christ

by Elizabeth Bookser Barkley

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 unknown.

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.

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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 our midst.

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 Incarnation.

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 direction.

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 Christmas.

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 with God."

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 fatherhood.

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 give thanks.

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.

Elizabeth Bookser Barkley, associate professor of English at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, is author of Loving the Everyday: Meditations for Moms and Woman to Woman: Seeing God in Daily Life (St. Anthony Messenger Press). She, her husband, Scott, and their three daughters are members of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish.

Next: O Antiphons Proclaim the New Era (by Kathy Coffey)

 

 

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, (then) I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me." — Rev 3:20

 Name a Holy Year Door for Your Home

The Holy Year Door is one of the many Holy Year observances of the Universal Church for Jubilee 2000 (Christmas 1999 until Epiphany 2001). In addition to the Holy Year Door at St. Peter—s Basilica at the Vatican, used since the first Holy Year in 1350, cathedrals, parishes and even Catholic households are designating a door to symbolize opening our hearts to Jesus Christ in a renewed way during this Holy Year celebration.

Naming a "domestic Holy Year Door" this Advent can bring home to your family the Christian significance of the new millennium. The household can designate the door at a convenient time with a simple prayer service and placing an appropriate symbol on the door. Making such a symbol could be a family project, or a ready-made symbol can be hung (see below).

A U.S. bishops— conference newsletter reminds us that designating a household door can be a constant reminder of what we are about: welcoming Christ in our homes and "opening the door to a new millennium as a renewed people."

St. Anthony Messenger Press, in cooperation with the U.S. bishops— con- ference and the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is providing a simple, colorful door hanger to designate a Holy Year Door in homes. A household prayer service is on the back of the card. See back page for ordering instructions.

Jubilee Door Hanger

St. Anthony Messenger Press offers a simple, colorful, sturdy Jubilee Door Hanger to designate a Holy Year Door in Catholic homes. The Jubilee Door Hanger reminds Catholics to "Open Wide the Doors to Christ." On the back is a household prayer service (3 1/4" x 8 1/4", hangs on the doorknob).

To order the Jubilee Door Hanger in bulk:

Call: 1-800-488-0488 M-F, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
$62.50 for each pack of 50
Order Number: I2000X (per pack)

To order a single Jubilee Door Hanger: Send $1.50 (check payable to St. Anthony Messenger) and a self-addressed, business-size stamped envelope to:

Jubilee Door Hanger (I2000)
St. Anthony Messenger Press
1615 Republic Street
Cincinnati, OH 45210

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