By: Sister Melannie Svoboda, SND
is a season of hope. I like this
definition: “Hope is the belief that a
better world is possible.” We hope for a better world because God promises us
one. And God shows us how to bring this about: by following Jesus’ way of
Each issue carries an imprimatur
from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Reprinting prohibited
The weeks of Advent are often hectic. Let the following reflections serve as an
oasis of calm amid the holiday rush, inviting you to pause and consider what
the coming of Jesus really means. May the rich Scripture readings of Advent enliven your
faith and love as together we build that better world—hope-fully!
FIRST SUNDAY: ABOUND IN LOVE
33:14-16/1 Thes 3:12–4:2/Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Jeremiah, God promises the Israelites a better future. How consoling these
words must have been for people suffering at the hands of the Babylonians. How
consoling for us, too, amid personal and societal trials of all kinds. Then St. Paul urges the
Thessalonians to “abound in love,” a love demonstrated by one’s conduct. In the
Gospel, Jesus exhorts us to “Be vigilant.”
vigilant today and look for opportunities to abound in love.
Prayer: God of
Love, move my heart with your words this Advent.
MONDAY: THE POTENTIAL IN TREE STUMPS
tree stump is a sad sight, a reminder of where a tree once stood. Yet Isaiah
says the Messiah will come from the good-for-nothing stump of Israel. Using
this vivid image, Isaiah reminds us that appearances can deceive, potentiality
can be hidden, and marvelous things can emerge from unlikely places.
Action: Try to
see potential in one unpromising situation.
Prayer: God of
Growth, help me remember that appearances can be deceiving.
TUESDAY: RECLAIMING A SENSE OF WONDER
said that children are the epitome of discipleship. They take delight in simple
things: a flower, a kitten, a favorite toy, a game of peek-a-boo. Advent is a
good time to slow down and re-appreciate those things we take for granted. We
can start with the people in our daily lives. Then move on to things like a cup
of coffee, an orange, a winter sunset, falling snow, the scent of pine.
Re-appreciate someone or something.
help me to reclaim a childlike wonder.
WEDNESDAY: GOD'S IS EXTRAVAGANT
announces that God will serve a meal of “juicy, rich food and pure, choice
wines.” Mmm! In the Gospel, Jesus feeds a huge crowd with so much food that the
leftovers fill seven baskets. Both readings proclaim God’s extravagance. As a
friend of mine says, “If God made chocolate chip cookies, they’d be crammed
something extravagant today.
God, help me to love where I’m holding back.
THURSDAY: WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?
26:1-6/Mt 7:21, 24-27
first reading raises this question: whose side is God on? God is on the side of the poor and needy; God “humbles
those who dwell on high.” If we’re on God’s side, then we too must be on the
side of the poor and needy.
your local food pantry or homeless shelter.
Prayer: God of
those in need, I want to be on your side.
FRIDAY: HELP ME TO SEE
today’s Gospel, two blind men pester Jesus with their cry, “Have pity on us!”
Jesus asks them, “Do you believe that I can [cure your blindness]?” They
answer, “Yes, Lord.” He touches their eyes, and they can see. Even if we’re not
physically blind, we have our blind spots, areas in our lives we neglect or
refuse to look at.
Identify one of your blind spots. How might you improve your vision in this
help me to see things as you see them.
SATURDAY—IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: MARY IS LIKE US
3:9-15, 20/Eph 1:3-6, 11-12/Lk 1:26-38
Church has given Mary many titles: Immaculate Conception, Mother of God, First
Disciple, Refuge of Sinners, Queen of Heaven. But Luke reminds us that Mary was
fully human, like us. She was fearful, confused, and questioning. In the end,
though, she surrendered herself totally to God in faith and love.
Action: Have a
talk with Mary today.
help me discern and embrace God’s designs for me.
SECOND SUNDAY: PARTNERS WITH GOD
5:1-9/Phil 1:4-6, 8-11/Lk 3:1-6
favorite poster reads: “Resign as general manager of the universe.” Too often I
try to manage and save others—family, friends, my religious congregation, the
Church. But St. Paul
speaks of the Philippians’ “partnership
for the gospel,” reminding them that they don’t proclaim the good news alone,
but in alliance with God and others. The bottom line: we do not save the world; God
over an anxiety to God today.
God, remind me that you are the manager of the universe.
MONDAY: FAITH AND LOVE ARE CREATIVE
marvel at the ingenuity of the paralytic’s friends. Unable to get through the
door of the house, they climbed on the roof and lowered their friend—stretcher
and all—through a hole in the tiles.Their resourcefulness is more than merely clever: it shows their deep love for their
friend and their faith in Jesus.
something creative for someone else.
Jesus, make my faith deeper and my love more ingenious.
TUESDAY: APPRECIATING THE PARTICULAR
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he sometimes addressed large crowds, Jesus appreciates the particular, the
individual, the one. His parable of the lost sheep demonstrates how he goes out
of his way to find the one lost sheep. How consoling! Jesus doesn’t relate to
us as part of a holy herd, but as unique individuals whom he knows and loves.
people as individuals today.
Shepherd, know me, love me.
WEDNESDAY—OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE: ADAPTING OURSELVES TO OTHERS
2:14-17 or Rv 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab/Lk 1:26-38 or 1:39-47
Diego was a simple peasant, not a bishop, priest, or nobleman, yet Mary spoke
to him in his local dialect. She sensitively adapted herself to his culture.
How do I treat “ordinary” people—store clerks, waiters/waitresses, maintenance
Action: Treat everyone you meet today
Prayer: Our Lady
of Guadalupe, pray for us!
THURSDAY: MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
again, God makes some extraordinary promises: “I will help you. . . . I will not
forsake [the afflicted and the needy].”
Such promises don’t mean God does all the work. The social activist Dorothy Day
said, “No one has the right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much
work to do.” How am I working to build a better tomorrow?
God, help me to build a better tomorrow.
FRIDAY: BEWARE OF SPIRITUAL IDENTITY THEFT
people rejected John the Baptist because he was too austere; they rejected
Jesus because he wasn’t austere enough. Good thing Jesus didn’t get his
identity from what the crowds wanted him to be. No, he got it from his beloved
Abba. Do other people or current fads ever determine your identity?
Identity yourself with Jesus by something you say or do.
may my loving relationship with you determine who I am.
SATURDAY: REMEMBERING WHY THE BABY CAME
48:1-4, 9-11/Mt 17:9a, 10-13
this halfway mark of Advent, we’re inundated with Christmas music and
decorations. But plopped in the midst of this preparatory joy is Jesus’ grim
prediction of his passion. We must never forget why this sweet baby came: to
free us from sin and death. How? Through his self-sacrificing love on Calvary.
Jesus or someone else for their love.
Jesus, may the sacrifices I’m making to prepare for Christmas proceed from
THIRD SUNDAY: REJOICING OVER WHAT'S RIGHT
3:14-18a/Phil 4:4-7/Lk 3:10-18
St. Paul gives
us two seemingly impossible commands: “Rejoice in the Lord always” and “Have no
anxiety.” How can we rejoice always with
so much pain in the world? We can if we see all suffering within the context of
God’s all-encompassing love. And yes, a certain amount of anxiety is normal,
but we can never forget that God’s love is greater than all the evil in the
Celebrate what’s right with your life.
of all joy, I entrust my pain and anxieties to you.
MONDAY: EVERY FAMILY HAS ITS GEMS
49:2, 8-10/Mt 1:1-17
are fascinating. You never know who might turn up. Jesus’ genealogy includes individuals of renown and of ill repute. His family wasn’t perfect. Neither is
ours. Yet every family has its gems, those individuals we cherish and admire.
Who are the gems in your family?
off the family album and pray for and with your ancestors.
may I always trace my spiritual ancestry back to you.
TUESDAY: TRUSTING AS JOSEPH DID
Joseph, a quiet and unassuming man, experienced God as an earthquake. Mary’s
pregnancy shocked and devastated him. As he tossed and turned at night, God
asked him to embrace Mary’s child as his own. He did. Later he was told to flee
with his family into a foreign land. He did. We know little else about this man
except that, amid the whirlwinds of his life, he trusted and obeyed God. Maybe
that’s all we need to know.
on a time God came as an earthquake.
Joseph, help me to trust God amid the whirlwinds of life.
WEDNESDAY: THE GOD OF SURPRISES
13:2-7, 24-25a/Lk 1:5-25
Advent readings continue to show God doing surprising things. Samson is born to
a couple who had resigned themselves to childlessness. Then Zechariah and
Elizabeth also conceive a child despite their advanced years. Both sons will be
a blessing for their parents and people.
some life to a lifeless situation in your family, workplace, parish, or local
Prayer: God of
Surprises, help me to be a blessing for others.
THURSDAY: EMMANUEL: GOD WITH US AND FOR US
child whose birth we anticipate is called Emmanuel. That name translates as
“God-with-us,” but it also means “God-for-us.”
In other words, God is in our corner working for our good. This is the God Mary
believed in. How else could she have surrendered herself so completely?
stock of your image of God and see if it needs any tweaking or major
be with and for us.
FRIDAY: ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a/Lk 1:39-45
after Mary conceives Jesus, what does she do? Run and tell her friends?
Withdraw into seclusion? Go to the Mediterranean for a vacation? Of course not!
She sets out “in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant, too.
Since Elizabeth is older, Mary assumes she will need help with the pregnancy
and birth. What a support these two women were for each other!
someone with a call, note, e-mail, or visit.
Prayer: Mary and
Elizabeth, thank you for your beautiful example of mutual encouragement.
SATURDAY: UNSELFISH LOVE LETS GO
Sm 1:24-28/Lk 1:46-56
hands over her son, Samuel, to Eli saying, “I give him to the Lord.” What an
unselfish act! Sooner or later, all parents must let go of their children and allow them to live their own
lives. We don’t “own” other people. Love knows this well.
over someone or something to God today.
God, I entrust all my loved ones to you.
FOURTH SUNDAY: SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
5:1-4a/Heb 10:5-10/Lk 1:39-45
world tells us power is everything. What a contrast to our
Advent readings and the Christmas story. Jesus will be born not in a mighty
city, but in the tiny town of Bethlehem. His mother won’t be a queen, but a
teenage peasant. His father won’t be a military general, but a humble
carpenter. The irony of it all!
God, help me to value the small and vulnerable.
MONDAY: THANKING GOD
2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16/Lk 1:67-79
is Christmas Eve. In the Gospel, we hear Zechariah’s beautiful canticle of
thanksgiving to God for the birth of his son. He praises God for visiting and
showing mercy to his people. Then he predicts his son will be a prophet who
will prepare the way for God’s coming more fully into the world.
your own canticle of thanksgiving to God for visiting your life.
Prayer: Blessed be God forever!
CHRISTMAS DAY: BEARERS OF PEACE
Is 9:1-6/Ti 2:11-14/Lk 2:1-14
easy to romanticize the first Christmas: cozy manger, clean straw, fluffy
sheep. But we must remember: Joseph couldn’t find decent housing, and Mary gave birth in
a smelly stable. God didn’t give them serenity, convenience, and
clarity of vision. They had only their faith to sustain them. That’s all we
Action: Be a
bearer of peace today. Merry Christmas!
help me to walk by faith.
Svoboda, a Sister of Notre Dame from Chardon, Ohio, has ministered as teacher,
novice director, and congregational leader. The author of many books, she also
gives talks and retreats nationally.
NEXT: Ten Achievements of Vatican II (by Berard Doerger, OFM)