We're born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts,
one of the saints tells us. It's a space for God alone. Until
we recognize what it is, we try to fill it up by stuffing earthly
things into itpossessions, activities, self-importance.
It's like trying to force the wrong piece of a jigsaw puzzle into
a space not meant for it. We don't know why we're not satisfied,
so we search for novelty in the things we cram into the hole.
It doesn't work. Nothing but God will fit the God-shaped
Advent is our time to unclog that hole, to clear
out all the litter. What obstructions are blocking the space we
give to God in our lives? Are we offering him a temporary parking
place until Christmas, or a permanent dwelling?
If we're faithful to this season year after year,
something wonderful happens. We want to give God more and more
room. The feeling lasts longer and longer after Christmas. The
God-shaped hole enlarges! Each year it widens. Like a dilated
pupil in the eye, people see more and more of God in us and less
and less of our own willfulness. We're able to say with John the
Baptist and the great saints, "He must increase and I must decrease."
One day we suddenly realize that when Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord," the God-shaped hole in her heart
was the largest of all. Not only could people see God in her life,
they could see him magnified, enlarged!
Use the daily reflections in this Update
to eagerly enter into the season set aside by the Church for the
ongoing enlargement of our hearts.
First Sunday of Advent
Pause and watch
we hear the Gospel message to wake up and tune in. This first
week of Advent is the time to stop our normal routine and listen
for the signs around and within us. The Sunday readings proclaim
that the Day of the Lord is coming. How will be prepare ourselves?
Lord, help me carve out time to spend in
silence with you.
MONDAY of the First Week (Is 4:2-6; Mt
Stop yourself from judging. A Roman centurion cared
so much for his lowly servant that he went out of his way to seek
Jesus. He risked being ridiculed by his peers. He was an "outsider,"
yet our Lord praised him extravagantly. When was the last time
you went out of your way to seek Jesus in prayer and solitude?
Free me, Lord, from thinking I have all the
TUESDAY (Is 11:1-10;
Rest. "Blest are the eyes that see what you see."
Are you taking time to appreciate the wonders that surround you?
Have you read something that needs more reflection? Find an extra
few minutes today for a quiet walk or a look at the stars or simply
thinking about the gifts God has lavished on you.
Father, slow me down so I won't miss what's
WEDNESDAY (Is 25:6-10;
Don't worry. The disciples grumbled to Jesus, "It's
hopeless! How could we ever get enough bread?" Seven loaves later,
their worries were history. Your problems are not bigger than
those of the disciples. Do what you can, then be at peace. Especially
pray at bedtime so you can let go of today and begin tomorrow
In you, O Lord, I place all my trust.
THURSDAY (Is 26:1-6;
Mt 7:21, 24-27)
Turn off the TV. Or at least tell the kids all those
commercials are designed to make people greedy. Find a way to
teach about the real St. Nicholas and his spirit of giving. As
a generous bishop he loved children and gave dowries to poor girls.
You have at least three things in your house you can do without.
Give them to someone who can use them.
Empty me of greed, Lord Jesus.
FRIDAY (Is 29:17-24;
Slow down. Jesus waited until two blind men caught
up with him. He'll wait for you too. He doesn't wear a wristwatch,
and there are days when you should take yours off too. Say yes
to Jesus when he asks if you want him to heal your spiritual blindness.
Deliver me, Jesus, from the idolatry of the
SATURDAY (Gn 3:9-15,20;
Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38)
Learn how to wait. The Jews waited impatiently for
a Messiah because they thought they knew how he would save them.
Mary's only desire was to serve. Her yes was followed by years
of patience as she waited without understanding how the divine
plan was unfolding. Can you let go of the need to know everything
ahead of time?
Give me patience, O God; teach me to wait.
Second Sunday of Advent
Listen and prepare
promise of the Lord's goodness is all around uswe have only
to listen. Prepare the Lord's way, we hear John the Baptist proclaim
in the Gospel. We prepare by repenting, turning towards God. One
way to turn is to listen to God's word, to listen to our neighbor,
to listen to the world around us. Listening is an important part
of preparing the Lord's way.
Teach me, Lord, to be a better listener.
MONDAY of the Second Week (Is 35:1-10;
Keep your ears open. If you're not attentive you'll
miss the tone of voice as Jesus says, "Friend," to the paralytic
lowered on a mat. Jesus combines healing with forgiveness of sins.
You too can hear Jesus call you "Friend" with the warmth we all
feel after receiving the forgiveness of our sins. Your parish
has a communal penance service during Advent. Be alert for the
Help me forgive others the way you forgive
TUESDAY (Is 40:1-11;
Apply the parables. The Good Shepherd leaves 99
sheep and looks for one that's lost. Advent is the season to shepherd
your relationships. Is there one relative or friend you've lost
touch with because of the 99 things you're caught up in? Can you
give that person a phone call today while you're thinking about
Lord, help me reach out to others with special
WEDNESDAY (Is 40:25-31;
Learn. "Learn from me," says Jesus, "for I am gentle
and humble of heart." There are people in your life who are gentle
and humble of heart too, but they're drowned out by noisier types.
Maybe they're in your own family. They're worth listening to.
Take time to draw them out, away from all the racket.
Remind me to listen to your quiet ones, Lord.
THURSDAY (Is 41:13-20;
Consider John the Baptist. A fiery preacher. Not
exactly Brooks Brothers clothing. But oh, what a message! Would
he have turned you off because of the externals? What would the
nutrition police have thought?
Lord, free me from being influenced by appearances.
FRIDAY (Is 48:17-19;
Accept rejection. People took offense at the strictness
of John the Baptist as well as the sociability of Jesus. If you're
doing what you're called to do, someone will surely be miffed.
This happens frequently with people of conscience in the Church.
Be gentle with those who are offended, but not unduly surprised.
Whether dancing or dirging, Lord, let me be
doing your will.
SATURDAY (Sir 48:1-4,9-11;
Pay attention. "Elijah has already come," said Jesus,
"but they did not recognize him." How alert we need to be so we
don't miss what God's doing in our lives! Do you have a spiritual
friend you can share with? Sometimes two pairs of eyes are better
Give me companions on the journey, Lord.
Third Sunday of Advent
Seek Christ in our midst
We are moving ever closer to our heart's desire,
the presence of the Lord Jesus. Yet there already are signs of
Christ in our midst. Today's Gospel tells us of some of those
signs that point to the One who is coming. Where is healing in
our lives? Where are signs of charity and justice? John the Baptist
pointed out the signs of God's reigneach of us is challenged
to do the same.
Open my eyes to see you in all things, Lord.
For those days in the third week that fall on December
17-23, see Fourth Sunday of Advent.
MONDAY of the Third Week (Nm
24:2-7, 15-17; Mt 21:23-27)
Look for answers. The Jewish religious leaders demanded
answers from Jesus, but they refused to commit themselves about
the underlying questions. If you're honest with your spiritual
questions, you'll find wiser heads to help you as you grow. Don't
rely on the secular media. A good place to start is by subscribing
to your diocesan newspaper or going to the Web site AmericanCatholic.org.
Lord, enrich my understanding of our faith.
TUESDAY (Zep 3:1-2, 9-13;
Concern yourself with obedience. One son said yes
and the other no. Neither meant what he said to his father. Does
your no lead to regret and your yes to lack of follow-through?
How can you be more careful with your words? Follow up on at least
one thing today that will serve others.
Father, don't let my actions give lie to my
WEDNESDAY (Is 45:6b-8,
21b-25; Lk 7:19-23)
Anticipate obstacles. The search isn't easy. John
the Baptist himself needed reassurance. Occasional periods of
doubt and frustration are normal. Singing Christmas carols is
the simplest way to lift your spirits, whether you're in the choir
or the shower. (Is anyone teaching your kids the traditional religious
Help me when I get low, Lord.
THURSDAY (Is 54:1-10;
Expect the unexpected. "What did you go out to see?"
asked Jesus. You might not know ahead of time where each day will
lead you, but if you're faithful it'll always circle back to Jesus.
Staying on top of mundane chores frees you to go where the Spirit
Lord, show me the next steps I need to take.
FRIDAY (Is 56:1-3, 6-8;
Examine the testimony. "I have a testimony greater
than John's," says Jesus. Scripture and Tradition explain what
he meant. Choose one short phrase from today's Scripture to think
about through the day. Repeat it again and again as a prayer.
Increase my love of Scripture, Lord.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gaze on God's Glory
Put yourself into today's Gospel. It is the day
of God's glory becoming manifest. God's messengers, the angels,
are breaking into people's everyday lives, bringing the Good News
of Christ's arrival. What else could anyone be besides awestruck?
God's glory revealed always leaves us in a state of prayer. We
realize, in every bone of our being, that God is great and we
are small. Let all things be done according to God's will. Rejoice!
Teach me humility, my Lord who modeled it
DECEMBER 17 (Gn
49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17)
Visualize the people. All those names in Jesus'
genealogy! Each human life, cherished by God, is part of the divine
plan. And now look at the names on your Christmas card listit's
the same song, second verse. Are you ever prepared for the very
humanity of Christmas? Pray for the people whose names come up
in conversation, or on TV or the newspaper.
Come, O Wisdom of our God Most High!
DECEMBER 18 (Jer 23:5-8;
Sit with the Nativity scene. Joseph needed a dream
to tell him not to divorce Mary. Imagine the real-life struggles
of the other people involved. What did they think, what did they
tell their relatives? Did the Good News estrange them from anyone
right from the start?
Come, O Leader of ancient Israel!
DECEMBER 19 (Jgs 13:2-7,
24-25; Lk 1:5-25)
Reflect on Zechariah. Poor man. God finally answers
his prayer and he simply can't believe it. Notice it's right when
he's in the middle of his day-to-day routine too. Do you have
a similar story of God breaking into your life when you were least
looking for it? Compare it to Zechariah's. Include your muteness!
Come, O Flower of Jesse's stem!
DECEMBER 20 (Is 7:10-14;
Look to Mary. The human details of the Annunciation
include "she was deeply troubled" by the angel's words. How young
Mary was! Was all creation in some way holding its breath until
she said, "Let it be done to me as you say?" Only the Key of David
fits into our God-shaped hole.
Come, O Key of David!
DECEMBER 21 (Sng 2:8-14
or Zep 3:14-18; Lk 1:39-45)
Watch Elizabeth. "Who am I," said Elizabeth, "that
the mother of my Lord should come to me?" It's usually Mary who
has our attention, but think of it from Elizabeth's point of view.
Face-to-face with your own graces, what astonishes you? Does some
recognition "leap" deep inside? How do you acknowledge it?
Come, O Radiant Dawn, O Sun of Justice!
DECEMBER 22 (1 Sam 1:24-28;
Pray the Magnificat. Mary isn't the only one God
has done great things for. This is your opportunity to thank him
for what he's done for you personally, in your "lowliness." The
Church prays this prayer every evening as a corporate and personal
Come, O King of all nations!
DECEMBER 23 (Mal 3:1-4,23-24;
Envision the wonder. The party at the circumcision
of John the Baptist was a preview of our joy at Christmas. The
father of "the voice crying in the wilderness" found his own voice.
How can you best use your voice this Christmas?
Come, O Emmanuel, God's presence among us!
DECEMBER 24 (2 Sam 7:1-5,8-11,16;
Be ready. God never comes into our life twice in
the same way. The space we offer him is different each time. This
year it's wider than last year. If you're faithful, next year
it'll be wider still. And the year after that, and the year after
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!