Dec 20, 3rd Week of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 24) invites us to open our hearts to the Son of God: "Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory." But only by the power of God can we open ourselves to the mystery that God offers us: "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," which is the favor of sharing in God's own divine life. And so in the O Antiphon we call out: "O Key of David, opening the gates of God's eternal Kingdom, come and free the prisoners of darkness." In Isaiah 7: 10-14 Ahaz was afraid to ask for a sign from God. And in Luke 1: 26-38 Mary was "troubled" because the angel called her "highly favored" and "blessed among women." There is something in us that is afraid to believe God could be blessing

Dec 19 3rd Week of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm is: "Fill me with your praise and I will sing your glory" (Psalm 71). We need to praise God, celebrating what is good about him, or we will not appreciate his glory. Judges 13: 2-25 tells us Samson was born of a woman who "had borne no children." But "an angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, 'Though you are barren and have had no children, yet you will conceive and bear a son." This reminds us of the story of Sarah, the mother of Isaac (Genesis 11:30; 17: 15-19; 21: 1-3); Rebekah, the mother of Jacob (Genesis 25:21}; Rachel, the mother of Jacob's sons Joseph and Benjamin (Genesis 29:31, 30: 22-24; 34: 16-18); Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:

Dec 17, 3rd Monday of Advent

Today's Responsorial Psalm is: "Justice shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace forever" (Psalm 72). But now we go deeper. We ask how Jesus will bring this about. Jeremiah 23:5-8 tells us God will "raise up a righteous shoot (branch) to David. to reign and govern wisely.. In his days Judah shall be saved and Israel dwell in security." The O Antiphon tells us this will come about through the wisdom of his laws: "O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the law to Moses on Sinai.." But Jesus does not save us by laws alone. The antiphon continues, "come to rescue us with your mighty power." Good laws can bring about justice, but Jesus does much more than that. The "fullness of peace"

Dec 16, 3rd Sunday of Advent

What keeps me from "rejoicing in the Lord always" as the Entrance Antiphon tells us we should do? Is it mostly things outside of me that take away my joy or things inside of me? Are these things under my control? Does God have power over them? The Entrance Antiphon tells us we should always rejoice because "the Lord is near." If the Lord is with us, nothing can really harm us. No matter how sick or sad or set upon we feel, if Jesus is with us and within us we have everything we need for the fullness of joy - forever. Jesus is God. God is everything that is good, everything desirable. If we are united to Jesus and God through grace, we have within us right now everything we will need or desir

Dec 15, Second Saturday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm gives us the starting point of fulfillment: "Lord, make us turn to you" (Psalm 80). Sirach 48: 1-11 tells us this was the role of the prophet Elijah: "to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their children, and to re-establish the tribes of Israel." This was also John the Baptizer's role: "He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go be- fore him, to turn the hearts of. the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1: 16-17). Jesus said that for those who were "willing to accept it," John the Baptizer was "Elijah who is to come" (Matthew 11:14). Bu

Dec 14, Second Friday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm sets us on the path to fulfillment: "Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life" (Psalm 1). Why is the world in such bad shape? Why, after two thousand years of Christianity, is there still so much poverty and violence, so much hatred and division on earth? Why is there so much indifference to the need of those who are crushed by poverty, enslaved by drugs, alcohol and addiction to money and power? It is not God's fault. He tells us in Isaiah 48: 17-19, "I, the Lord your God, teach you what is for your good and lead you on the way you should go." God teaches and leads; we just won't listen and follow. But if we would, everything would change. We have God's

Dec 13, Second Thursday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm gives the secret to fulfillment: "The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger and rich in compassion" (Psalm 145). There is in all of us a lust for power and achievement. We want to "be like God" (Genesis 3:5) by breaking all resistance to our goals, our will. And anger can energize us for this. But this is not God's way: "The Lord is. merciful; slow to anger." St. Thomas Aquinas said that God gave us the emotion of anger for self-defense - not just against aggressors, but against our own apathy and fear. Anger energizes us to over- come obstacles. But anger and force are two different things. Force and violence are not God's way. Fear also drives us to violence. But

Dec 12, Second Wednesday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm gives us an answer to discouragement: "O bless the Lord, my soul!" (Psalm 103). Discouragement is the greatest obstacle we have to overcome in seeking fulfillment in life. After all, to be totally fulfilled, to live life "to the full," is to be like God. And Isaiah 40: 25-31 quotes God asking: "To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal?" And yet, Jesus said that the goal of his life was just this: "I came that they might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10). To be "full" is to be filled to our capacity, whatever that is. Since the human mind can know God exists, we can never be totally satisfied until we know God as he is - which is beyond human

Dec 11, Second Tuesday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm tells us what to rely on in seeking to change the world: "The Lord our God comes in strength" (Isaiah 40). When Isaiah 40: 1-11 tells us "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed.." he uses the language of power. God "rules by his strong arm." But God doesn't use "strong arm" tactics. Rather, "like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs. leading the ewes with care." In the Old Testament deeds of evident power revealed the "glory of the Lord": impressive signs and military victories over enemies. But in Jesus Christ the New Testament reveals the "glory of the Lord" in a very different way. When the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest heaven

Dec 10, Second Monday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm is our song of support as we work for change: "Our God will come to save us!" (Psalm 85). To take on a task as daunting as the renovation of human society all over the world, we need something to encourage us! And we find it in Isaiah 35: 1-10: "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak. Say to those whose hearts are frightened: 'Be strong, fear not! Here is your God.. He comes to save you.' " People can't see the truth? "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened." People won't listen? "The ears of the deaf will be cleared." People are just unable or unwilling to act or respond? "Then will the lame leap like a stag; the tongue of the mute

Dec 9, Second Sunday of Advent

It would be a mistake to think Jesus is only working to make people "holy" in a sense so "spiritual" that it does not address the problems of society. Jesus came to establish the "reign of God" on earth, which the Mass of Christ the King describes as "a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace." All of these characteristics go together. For Jesus to lead us to one he must lead us to all. The Opening Prayer and the Alternative Opening Prayer both speak of "wisdom," which St. Thomas Aquinas defines two ways: as "the habit of seeing everything in the light of the ultimate end," and as "the gift of appreciation for spiritual things" (sapien

Dec 8, First Saturday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm tells us who will find fulfillment: "Happy are all who long for the coming of the Lord!" (Isaiah 30:18 and Psalm 147). Why is longing so important? Isaiah 30: 19-26 tells us it is because the Lord can answer the prayers of those who really want them answered - if they are praying for what is important. "He will be gracious to you when you cry out. As soon as he hears he will answer you." But we have to "cry out." God has to hear urgency in our voices. If we ask for true fulfillment in life - for light to see what we should do and for strength to do it - and really want what we ask for, God can give it to us. But if we don't really want to be fulfilled - if we just wan

Dec 7, First Friday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm gives us the guiding light to fulfillment: "The Lord is my light and my salvation!" (Psalm 27). Isaiah 29: 17-24 tells us that the Lord leads us "out of gloom and darkness" and into fulfillment by making the deaf hear and the blind see. Then "Those who err in spirit will come to understanding, and those who find fault will accept instruction." We are gloomy and we gripe because we don't feel fulfilled. Life is frustrating because we are off course and society is off course. And there seems to be no remedy for it. But there is. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Matthew 9:27-31 tells us Jesus is the remedy. Two men came to him who were blind. They weren't just wal

Dec 6, First Thursday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm for today points to our fulfillment: "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Psalm 118). He who comes in the name of the Lord is Jesus. Isaiah 26: 1-6 tells us that if the Lord is in our midst we have "a strong city." We can "trust in the Lord for- ever, for in the Lord God we have an everlasting rock." But we have to open our hearts to him. If we do, then the gates to peace will be open to us: "Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace for its trust is in you." Jesus came as the promised "Son of David" to fulfill all of God's promises (see 2 Samuel 7: 11-17). But he does n

Dec 5, First Wednesday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm in today's Mass tells us where to look for fulfillment: "I shall live in the house of the Lord all my life" (Psalm 23). We grow to fulfillment by being with Jesus. And this is only possible because he came to be with us: "The Word became flesh and lived among us [literally, "pitched his tent among us"], and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Isaiah 25: 6-10 tells us: "On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food.. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation. For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain." In Matthew 15: 2

Dec 4, First Tuesday of Advent

The Responsorial today gives us the assurance and source of fulfillment: "Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace forever" (Ps. 72). Justice shall flourish because Isaiah 11:1-10 tells us "A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse [Jesus' ancestor].. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.. He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted.. There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea." The root and beginning of all justice and peace, all renewal of Church, government and society, is the knowledge of Jesus: his knowledge shared with us, our inti

Dec 3, First Monday of Advent

The Responsorial Psalm is a key to today's readings: "Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord" (Psalm 122). Isaiah 2: 1-5 tells us how Jesus is going to save the world through his Church as successor to Israel: "All nations shall stream toward it.. that [God] may instruct us in his ways." If people listen and do what God teaches, "one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." The violent history of nominally Christian Europe and the Americas proves that we have not listened, learned or lived the teaching of Jesus as we should. Few Christians read the Bible deeply. Even fewer spend significant time reflecting on it or discussing its meaning. T

The First Sunday of Advent (Year C)

The Entrance Antiphon in today's Mass calls for an action: "To you, my God, I lift up my soul. I trust in you." The Responsorial Psalm repeats it. Advent invites us to ask ourselves deeply whether, in fact, this is what we are doing. What does it mean to lift up my soul, to trust in God? What visible actions in my life are a sign that I am? The Opening Prayers tell us praying is not enough. Their key phrases are: "our hearts desire... our minds are searching.. increase our strength of will for doing good." To "lift up our soul" means to lift up our minds to see, our hearts to desire, our wills to make decisions and act. Only if we do this will the "dawn of his coming" find us "rejoicing in

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