Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Advent Day by Day
Search for Light
The Church celebrates the feast of the Birth of John
the Baptist in June, around the time of the summer solstice, the
longest day of the year. From John—s feast onward, days become shorter
and light decreases. Now, during Advent, we approach the winter
solstice, the darkest day of the year, that includes nature—s promise
of more light to follow.
John knew he must decrease so that Christ may increase.
We can take his analogy into our hearts. As we prepare for the coming
of Christ, we can try to understand how we can decrease so that
Christ may increase in our hearts and in the world.
These Advent reflections express our natural longing
for the light of the world.
First Sunday of Advent
do we go from here?
Thanksgiving—s rituals of family, food and friends
prepared us for the coming weeks of increasing darkness. The outside
world is already in Christmas frenzy, urging us to get out there
and shop, shop, shop. But the externals of power and possessions
do not satisfy the longing. No matter how much we accumulate, there
is something else we need. As God—s creations, we can only find
security in God—s care. Too many times we forget that, and waste
time wandering around in the dark looking for substitutes. Take
time this week to be grateful for God—s gifts.
A time of hope
(Is 4:2-6, Mt 8:5-11)
much of what the prophet Isaiah wrote about ancient Israel applies
to our world today. No matter where we are, we fear war. We hold
fast to the Lord—s promise: —The Lord—s glory will be shelter and
protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover
from storm and rain.— But how? Fear enters our hearts unbidden,
like a thief in the night. It moves around unchallenged until we
remember how to dispel it with the light of Christ. Today, list
your reasons for hope in the future.
Peace can enter our hearts
(Is 11:1-10, Lk 10:21-24)
God—s promises are for our world, not for some ancient desert in
As God—s Spirit rests on Jesus and enters
the world through him, we know these promises are real: —The wolf shall be a
guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid.— But when? And
where? Our faith teaches on many levels all at once. Try to work peace between
some warring factions in your heart today.
Enough for everyone
(Is 25:6-10a; Mt 15:29-37)
God—s bounty is not like an apple pie that, once eaten, is no more.
We often have a hard time believing this, as days grow
shorter and the light grows dim. While we can remember the warmth and abundance
of summer, we are not always sure it will come around again. But God invites
us to the feast, and God—s bounty will stop our tears. Today, practice God—s
providence by refusing to be frightened about any future material needs.
I'm just one person
(Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)
We are always building. We build homes. We build a network of friends
and associates, of memories and of customs. The rock-solid foundation of our
society is its citizens.
If obligations to family and friends allow, this week participate in one civic
activity—a school board or a library committee meeting, or voting in a special
election. One person can make a difference in building a just society.
(Is 29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31)
Physical blindness is a terrifying prospect. Yet we close our eyes
in trust for large amounts of time—when we sleep, when
we pray, when we rest, when we are in
deep thought. God—s promise of great light only comes out of darkness. Just for today, leave aside one
distraction. Watching just one fewer television program, or skipping the sports
pages, will create more space for God—s enlightenment.
Help me, O Lord
(Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt 9:35—10:1, 5a, 6-8)
Sometimes God seems very distant. While Advent is a time of hopeful
waiting for the Lord, it is also a time of deep sorrow and sadness for those
who are closing a year filled with loss. The Lord can bind up the wounds of
his people only with your help. Perhaps today you can be especially attentive
to others— sorrows, notice when they are sad and listen to their grief. You
may be the only Jesus they meet all week.
Second Sunday of Advent
Sometimes we are like old cars in the winter. We
need to get going, but just can—t get started. John the Baptist
did not spend much time getting about his ministry: He just went
out and did it! What can you do this week to give you and others
a little more time, a little more energy, a little more quiet to
prepare the way of the Lord? Maybe a local supermarket will put
a box at the checkout to collect food for the poor. Perhaps a neighbor—s
driveway needs clearing of snow or leaves. How about taking that
nap? What random acts of kindness can you perform this week for
others and for yourself?
Traveling on the journey
(Is 35:1-10; Lk 5:17-26)
God has promised that for our journey —a highway will be there, called
the holy way.— But there are very few roadmaps for the spiritual life. Saints
both ancient and contemporary help us place markers for our journeys by telling
us about theirs. This week, learn something about the life of one saint who
crosses your path—perhaps there is a statue of him or her in your church—and
see if this saint has left any markers
for your journey.
On the road again
(Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)
The journey is long. Isaiah tells us to
—make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.— If we concentrate on
clearing the debris from our interior paths, we will be helping others as well,
making way for the coming of the Lord.
We don—t always realize how much light
or dark we shed on others. Today, keep
a little list of every person you speak to. Tonight, ask God to grant light
in a special way to each and every one of them.
Our strength is in the Lord
(Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)
Can you walk and not grow
weary? Not many of us can. Advent is only 10 days old and already we may be
tired and forgetful of our promises. Is the burden too heavy? Or have we simply
refused to allow anyone to help us? Sometimes when we think we are depending
on God we are really only depending on ourselves. Today, accept
some help when it is offered. Thank the
person who holds a door or makes space
in a long line of traffic. The important thing is not to accept help as our
due, but as
the gracious act of another member of the
Body of Christ.
(Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)
Today Jesus tells us, —There has been none greater than John the
Baptist.— How can
this be? During these ever-shorter days of Advent, we remember John said he
must decrease. When we move ourselves out of the spotlight and point to Christ,
become greater in the eyes of God. With John the Baptist as our model, we can
continue to light the path of others. Spend some time today helping another
get a job.
(Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)
you have heard the expression: —His lights are out.— Some people
tend to daydream a lot. The Lord promises us that if we pay attention
our —prosperity will be like a river.— This is true in our work,
our interior lives and our relations with others. —Paying attention—
does not mean being scrupulous or critical, but rather noticing
the small and subtle changes life can bring. This day, pay attention
to the small changes in your life and listen for the small changes
in the lives of others.
First things first
(Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13)
Scripture tells us that Elijah must come before the Messiah, and
Jesus reminds us that Elijah has come in the person of John the Baptist. Have
we even recognized that he is making straight the way of the Lord? The birth
of the Lord is really quite close. Get organized today. Make a list today
of tasks, and be sure to include special things to do for the elderly and the
lonely, especially in your own family.
Third Sunday of Advent
Preparing the way of the Lord
John the Baptist—s message was simple and clear:
Repent! We often forget we might have something to change in our
lives. This week many parishes will have communal penance services,
with the opportunity for individual confession. No one likes to
go to Confession, because no one really likes to give up the past.
If we examine our hearts to see where we have not allowed the Lord
to enter, we may find there are some sins—small or large—we need
to give up permanently. Plan to attend the penance service in your
parish, or in a neighboring parish, this week.
The Church has special readings for December
17-23. Follow the daily readings until December 17.
Who's in charge here?
(Nm 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)
The human Jesus in Scripture is not all
that different from us. People in authority challenge Jesus— right to preach
and to heal. We often fail to act because we are waiting for someone else to
give us permission.
Do you need permission to call a friend?
To smile at a stranger? To take a little time
for yourself? God gives us permission
to act as Jesus would, to others and to
ourselves. Be kind to someone you know
and to someone you don—t know today.
At the end of the day, do something kind
(Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)
When asked to do what we do
not want to— do, we can complain or we can comply. Some people do both. When
things do not go our way, we cry out to the Lord about his —unfairness.— But
eventually we have to follow God—s will in our lives. Often a single person
has caused a painful change in our plans. Even if this person hurt you deeply,
eventually the larger picture will emerge to show that you were in God—s care
at every moment. Pray for someone who has hurt you.
Is it you?
(Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23)
John the Baptist needed to re-check Jesus— identity. Jesus sent
John—s disciples back with the instructions, —Tell John what you
have seen and heard.— We are often confused by what we hear when
we pray. The silence and darkness of our hearts can be invaded by
false prophecy, false light. It is always a good idea to talk about
prayer with another person, someone more experienced. Today, consider
speaking with a spiritual director about your prayer life.
Ready or not!
(Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)
The march of time does not slow for
anyone, and there is never enough. Today think of some simple ways to prepare
for Christmas that will not take you away from family or friends. Instead of
buying gift tags, make ones out of wrapping paper or old cards. Instead of going
shopping for decorations, go for a walk with someone and collect pine cones.
Justice brings peace
(Is 56:1-3a, 6-8; Jn 5:33-36)
Did you ever feel cheated? Maybe the floor man did not return to
repair that one bad board. Maybe the grocery bag broke, and you ended up with
spaghetti sauce on the floor. Justice in our own lives explains what it means
to live in a just society. We know how our peace is disturbed when others
do not attend to their responsibilities.
For today, concentrate on being just in
all you do and say.
(Saturday will always be December 17 or later.)
Fourth Sunday of Advent
The first joyful mystery of the rosary is the Annunciation.
Mary was asked to participate fully in God—s plan for her. That
is not easy, especially when we have made plans for ourselves. This
week, as the day when Mary—s mystery was revealed to the world approaches,
consider your own strengths and weaknesses, the special gifts you
have to offer Jesus through the People of God. If we spend time
thanking God for who we are, we learn better who we will become.
God—s plans for us always work out, even if our own plans do not.
Family and friends
(Gn 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:1-17)
Every year we hear Jesus— family tree, all the way back to David.
There are so many generations, it seems possible that everyone in Israel is
related to Jesus. In fact the Book of Chronicles shows almost 4,000 years of
ancestors to Jesus, who was born over 2,000 years ago. If we really stop to
consider our known and unknown relations, we might see the world a little differently.
Do that, just for today.
(Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-25)
if we know who all our ancestors are, we have one special set of
parents to thank for our lives. An Italian proverb asks why, if
one father can raise 12 children, 12 children cannot care for one
father. Our society says we need plenty of free time. Self-development
is the theme of the day. But too much self-development often becomes
self-involvement. And that eliminates caring for our own elderly
relatives. Learn where your elderly relatives would really be safest
Watch for the sign
(Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a; Lk 1:5-25)
have —advance— people who prepare things before they go to a given
town. Angels in Scripture foretold the births of Samson and of John
the Baptist. Zechariah, John—s father, was struck dumb when he learned
he would have a son. We, too, may be —dumbstruck" when we finally
recognize God—s plan for us. If we are, it is a sure sign that we
have learned what it is. Comfort a young person who may be searching.
(Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)
The birth of Christ depends
on human acts. Mary said yes to Gabriel—s announcement that she would be the
mother of God, but not before asking the obvious question: How? The answer is
the same for all God—s plans. The spirit of the Lord will come upon us, but
we must cooperate. We must use our human resources to bring Christ to the world.
Once we say yes, the rest is easy. Share your gratitude by being secure in who
Secrets of the dark
(Song 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45)
God comes to us in secret. When Mary went to stay with her cousin
Elizabeth until the birth of John the Baptist, Elizabeth knew right away what
was going on: —And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should
come to me?— Today is the darkest day of the year. As the earth slumbers, waiting
for the coming of the Messiah, spend a little secret time with the Lord.
(1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)
Gratitude is the cornerstone of the spiritual life. Hannah was delighted
and offered him to the Lord. Mary praised God—s action in her with the Magnificat.
The onslaught of holiday chores and cares may cancel any thoughts of singing.
life itself is a magnificent gift to be grateful for. Pray Mary—s Magnificat
with her today, and smile.
Messages and messengers
(Mal 3:1-4; 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)
some people this season the messages never end. Mailboxes are stuffed
with cards; e-mail and voice mail abound. For some people, however,
there is not such a frenzy of contact with family, community and
colleagues. Christmas is a hard time for many people. As you finish
up preparations for Christmas, think about sending a card or making
a call or even extending an invitation to someone who is alone.
Let there be light!
This evening the lights will be shining in the church
and in our hearts. But outside entire nations still lumber about
in the dark, making huge national decisions that affect everyone
on the planet. Recall with family and friends that Christ brought
justice and peace to all this night. Resolve to make justice and
peace a priority in the coming year, as a gift to all.
As you celebrate the day with family and friends,
count each card, gift and greeting as a special blessing. Share
memories, give compliments, cry a little and laugh a lot. Know that
Christ has come into the world and lives in your heart.
Next: The Incarnation (by Kenneth R. Overberg,