Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wed., Dec. 30: 1 John 2:12-17; Luke 2:36-40

The world and its enticements are passing away, but whoever does the will of God remains forever. The world itself is God’s creation, awaiting God’s rule, but John uses "the world" here to mean the domain of Satan. Worldly possessions and attitudes lead us away from God. The Christmas season juxtaposes the image of the Savior as a helpless infant born in a stable, the child of the poor, against the overkill bombast of images touting the glitter of material things. Let us resolve to learn what we can do to heal and preserve our planet and to ensure an equitable distribution of the earth’s resources to all God’s beloved children.

*Lord, grant us your wisdom and your grace that we may grow strong in your service.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tues., Dec. 29: 1 John 2:3-11; Luke 2:22-35

Whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked. We sought repentance and conversion during Advent. We welcomed the Lord Jesus at Christmas. Now what? Soon the lights and tinsel will be memories, whereas real life, with its everyday challenges and demands, is bearing down on us. How do we keep "that Christmas feeling"? We can’t. It’s as short-lived as wilting Christmas greenery. But how do we keep the Christmas spirit in our hearts and our choices? By remembering John’s sober warning that if we say we walk in the light yet fail to love all people — no exceptions! — as our brothers and sisters, then we’re still in the dark.

*Lord, help me to see with your eyes as I walk by your light.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mon., Dec. 28: 1 John 1:5–2:2; Matt 2:13-18

If we say, ‘We are without sin,’ we deceive ourselves. Herod couldn’t risk a challenge to the status quo, even from a tiny baby. Through the ages, the actors and scenery change, but the script is basically the same. The very young, the unborn, the old, the sick and the helpless are all made subject to marginalization, neglect and death, all because they somehow threaten us. We will not trust God and risk alternative solutions to put the lives of the defenseless ahead of our comfort. So we cause or at least silently condone war, famine, abortion, exile, forced marches and genocide. Wake up! As Thomas Merton observed, "There are no innocent bystanders."

*Lord, help me to remember that I am my brother’s and sister’s keeper.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sat., Dec. 26: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59; Matt 10:17-22

They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. Stephen, the first martyr, fully understood the significance of Jesus’ teachings. He followed Jesus’ example and, like Jesus, faced judgment and martyrdom. Also like Jesus, he asked forgiveness for his persecutors. He looked only to heaven for the truth and stood firm in his faith.

*May we have the faith and the strength to do the same, we pray.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fri., Dec. 25: Christmas Day

Note other options for readings

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

The gift we receive today is the incarnate Word. Our present is his physical presence. The Lord takes his place among his people; our God is visible, approachable, knowable and familiar. He is not merely in the likeness of the human form. He is truly human. In being born of woman and taking the form of our flesh, he experiences and understands our frailty firsthand and shows us how to love each other despite our imperfections and weaknesses. He reveals to us how the Father’s glory, full of grace and truth, can perfectly dwell within the human vessel — the brightest Christmas light, the shiniest package or the most beautiful carol that remains throughout the year. Jesus, our brother, in taking your place as God’s presence among your people, you’ve revealed God’s love and fidelity in a way more real than we could ever imagine. We are grateful for the moments of grace we experience in your presence.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 24: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Luke 1:67-79

… because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace. What could be more tender or merciful than God’s gift of the Savior to lift us out of darkness, save us from death and give us comfort and peace? This is more than a promise fulfilled; it is freedom, forgiveness, redemption, salvation. It’s the coming of hope.

*The Lord is with us. Alleluia.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wed., Dec. 23: Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Luke 1:57-66

What, then, will this child be? From his infancy it was clear that the hand of the Lord was with John the Baptizer. Though it may not have been immediately clear to those who knew him that he would be the one who would prepare the way for the coming of the Savior, it was obvious to those present at his circumcision that he had a great call. We, too, are called not only during this last week of Advent, but each and every day, to prepare for the coming of Jesus and to go before him to announce his glory. Even if we’ve spent recent days consumed with the trivialities of the season, it’s not too late — it is never too late if we trust in the Lord. Certainly Elizabeth and Zechariah can attest to that!

*Let us profess with confidence and joy, "Yes, the Lord is coming."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tues., Dec. 22: 1 Sam 1:24-28; Luke 1:46-56

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. Stop. Put down the shopping list. Step away from the baking. Take a deep breath and simply exult in the wonders of the Lord. Enjoy the splendor of God’s favor. Delight in the Lord’s coming. We spend so much time preparing for the holidays that we may let them pass without savoring their message and their meaning. If we don’t take the time to contemplate the joy of this moment and react like Mary in utter exuberance at how blessed we are, then we make this season of grace a time of deadlines and drudgery.

*Let us raise our voices in joyful hymns for God’s wondrous favors, we pray.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mon., Dec. 21: Song 2:8-14 or Zeph 3:14-18a; Luke 1:39-45

And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? This week as we look toward Bethlehem, we stand in awe like Elizabeth that we’re worthy to participate in such a miracle. Indeed, who are we that our Lord should come to us? At least Elizabeth understood her kinship to Mary and the familial ties they shared. Most of us merely stand dumbstruck at being among the blessed. Instead of doubting our worth and questioning God’s motives, however, we will be much better served during this time of grace if we look at ourselves and our loved ones gathered around us and try to see each other as God sees us — precious, beloved and infinitely worthy of the best Christmas gift possible, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. O Lord, we’re grateful for the precious gift of your Son. Thank you for considering us worthy.

*Help us to see in ourselves and others what you see and love in us, we pray.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sat., Dec. 19: Judg 13:2-7, 24-25a; Luke 1:5-25

How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years. Poor Zechariah! The moral of his story might be: "When the angel of the Lord appears to you, don’t ask questions!" If the Advent and Christmas seasons teach us nothing else, we should at least come away with less cynicism. These are days for pondering the most wonderful stories we know, for telling about how our God is with us. Some say that Christmas is (just) for children. Not so, but we could take a lesson from them, for they have not yet grown jaded with the years. May we use these final days of Advent to recapture our capacity for wonder. O Root of Jesse, come!

*For wonder and awe, we pray.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fri., Dec. 18: Jer 23:5-8; Matt 1:18-24

This is the name they give him: ‘The LORD our justice.’ Our anticipation of the Lord’s coming grows. With wonder we recall his birth, yet we long for him to come again, and we pray that he might come to us personally now as we grow in knowledge of his ways. It has been said that we can’t really know Jesus without doing justice. So perhaps justice is the missing piece. We’ve shopped, cooked, decorated and wrapped gifts, but has any of that helped the poor and oppressed? How much have we given to charity, not just of our money, but as a volunteer, offering also our time and our talent? How might we make an ongoing commitment to the poor? O Lord and Ruler of Israel, come!

*For justice, we pray.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 17: Gen 49:2, 8-10; Matt 1:1-17

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Israel’s history was filled with promise. God promised Abraham countless descendants, a people who would be the source of blessing to all nations. In renewing the covenant with David, God also promised that David’s royal line would be without end. Matthew illustrates how Israel’s history reaches its climax with the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Jesus — the One through whom all peoples find blessing, the One whose reign is without end. We are the people of God’s promise. When Christ’s love reigns in our hearts, we become instruments of God’s blessing to the world. We pray today: O Wisdom, come, teach us the way of prudence!

*For hope in God’s promises, we pray.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Wed., Dec. 16: Isa 45:6b-8, 18, 21b-25; Luke 7:18-23

And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me. We all know what it feels like to be disappointed with another person. But if we analyze the situation, often enough we find that in fact we can’t really blame the other person for letting us down. Rather, our own faulty expectations of that person have let us down. Many in Jesus’ day expected a warrior-king Messiah. They were stuck on that image, so they rejected Jesus. Others, however, recognized that this authoritative Teacher and compassionate Healer surpassed all expectations. As we sojourn through this season of anticipation, what are our expectations of Jesus? Do we harbor any illusions based on who we think God should be?

*For humility and openness to Christ, we pray.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tues., Dec. 15: Zeph 3:1-2, 9-13; Matt 21:28-32

He said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. We may be among those who readily said "Yes" to Advent when it began, but by now, perhaps, we must admit that we have not followed through. We haven’t changed anything, but instead find ourselves taken in again by the consumerism and greed that co-opt the season each year. Or we may be among those who said "No" to Advent at the start … but now we’re having second thoughts. The good news is that Advent is a standing invitation. Whether we’ve been fickle or slow, there is still time to use this blessed season well, time for loving service to others and prayerful anticipation of our Lord.

*For the grace to turn to God, we pray.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mon., Dec. 14: Num 24:2-7, 15-17a; Matt 21:23-27

Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things. Jesus deftly parries the chief priests’ and elders’ questions concerning his authority, countering so as to make them demonstrate their own lack of authority. If they can’t say where John, Jesus’ herald, came from, why should Jesus be obliged to answer them at all? In fact, the chief priests and elders lack the basic attributes that would allow them to accept Jesus’ authority: trust, respect and humility. Instead, fear, arrogance and self-interest motivate them to oppose him. What prevents us from submitting fully to Jesus’ authority? As we anticipate our celebration of the Incarnation, what blocks us from knowing God-with-us more fully?

*For humble deference to Jesus in all things, we pray.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sat., Dec. 12: Zech 2:14-17; Luke 1:26-38 or Luke 1:39-47 or any readings from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary

How does this happen that the mother of my Lord should come to me? This is Elizabeth’s question when Mary visits her. Perhaps Juan Diego asked the same question. Perhaps Juan’s bishop, who had served the church all his life, asked, "Why him? Why not me?" Mary appeared to Juan Diego not as a European Madonna, but as a beautiful Aztec Princess. And it is she, this Patroness of the Americas, who led millions to Jesus. Perhaps we Catholics in the United States should consider the faith of our neighbors to the south and pray for the grace to receive our Latin American brothers and sisters as friends and models of faith.

*Juan Diego, pray for us.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fri., Dec. 11: Isa 48:17-19; Matt 11:16-19

Wisdom is vindicated by her works. Jesus’ critics are going to be unhappy with him no matter what. They call John a demon because he fasted. They call Jesus a glutton because he enjoyed food and drink. In my years on a parish staff I found that critics had a lot of power. Even an anonymous note from an apparent crank could initiate a discussion that lasted way longer than the criticism deserved. If we make our decisions prayerfully, we shouldn’t be swayed by the inevitable critic who won’t be happy no matter what. Meanwhile, be sure to be a person who praises — often and loudly. In everyone’s life it takes a lot of praise to balance the disapproval.

*Jesus, give me the grace to praise and thank others.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 10: Isa 41:13-20; Matt 11:11-15

The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent are taking it by force. This verse is obscure. The first part is not so difficult to understand. From the Holy Innocents to Calvary, from ancient martyrs to modern ones, the kingdom has suffered violence. But what does it mean that "the violent are taking it by force"? This verse has been used to condone violence on behalf of the kingdom, but I can’t live with that. Perhaps there is violence of a different kind — the violence of Dorothy Day’s "harsh and dreadful love." There is a violence done to our core selfishness when we choose love over all else. It burns us from the inside out and remakes us into a person more like Jesus.

*Jesus, when we pray to be like you, we should tremble at the prospect. Make us brave.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wed., Dec. 9: Isa 40:25-31; Matt 11:28-30

Come to me … and I will give you rest. Both readings today refer to weariness and the strength that is available to those who hope in the Lord. Today we remember Juan Diego, canonized in 2002 by John Paul II, whose homily was a moving tribute to the faith of the indigenous people of Mexico. There is conflict today for citizens of the United States. What is to be done about immigrants? What does our faith say? Is the civil law more important to us than the natural law that compels good people to feed their children? Isn’t it possible that the passionate faith of the countrymen and women of Juan Diego might be a source of strength to the world-weary wealthy who have lost hope?

*St. Juan Diego, pray for us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tues., Dec. 8: Gen 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38

May it be done to me according to your word. Mary the Christbearer is the model for us as Christ-bearers to the world. Whereas she was predisposed to accept God’s plan for her, we struggle — both with knowing that plan and acceding to it. We rarely find ourselves with such a ready "Yes." We add a codicil: "May it be done to me according to your word … as long as your word doesn’t stretch me too much." Pray today for the United States, who claims Mary Immaculate as patron.

*For United States citizens, those who seek refuge within its borders, those who look to the States for justice and those who fear U.S. intervention … for Mary’s protection and guidance, we pray.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mon., Dec. 7: Isa 35:1-10; Luke 5:17-26

We have seen incredible things today. Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine oneself as different characters in a Gospel story. In the healing of the paralyzed man we might be Jesus the healer, the afflicted man himself, his resourceful friends who let him down through the roof, the homeowner who is anxious about folks tearing up the roof, the person in the crowd who is finally about to have a long-awaited audience with Jesus when these guys butt in line, the religious leaders who wonder at this itinerant rabbi’s power and audacity. Try telling the story from each character’s point of view and see what lessons emerge.

*Jesus, healer and teacher, show us your way that we may be your presence in the world.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sat., Dec. 5: Isa 30:19-21, 23-26; Matt 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8

The kingdom of heaven is at hand! In the Lord’s Prayer we say, "Thy kingdom come," and we should be careful to realize that we are praying for a present reality, not something in the far future. We are preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus, who embodies the rule (kingdom) of God by his perfect submission to God’s will. When we welcome him into our hearts and lives, we are saying, with Mary, "Be it done to me according to your word." Let us use this time of Advent well, to pray and reflect on what needs to change in our attitudes, priorities and choices so that God’s kingdom may be firmly established in us.

*Lord, establish your rule in my heart and my life.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fri., Dec. 4: Isa 29:17-24; Matt 9:27-31

The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord. God is the one gift-giver who understands perfectly our fondest dream, our deepest need and our perfect fit. What we seek may be unfolded slowly or granted in an unexpected way, but God’s gift will never, never disappoint us. God gives us Jesus, the first Christmas gift, the gift that can always be opened further to reveal new wonders. Nothing we do or say can entitle us to this; it comes freely from God’s love. Let us call on the Lord, in faith and humility, for the grace to become more like Jesus and to grow into the loving, forgiving, generous persons we are called to be.

* Lord, we ask in faith to be made worthy to dwell in your kingdom

Friday, December 4, 2009

Thurs., Dec. 3: Isa 26:1-6; Matt 7:21, 24-27

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many find preparing for Christmas painful. It’s hard even to say "Lord, Lord" if we are mourning a lost loved one or have no family or job or money or home. But the Child in the manger is also the Man on the cross. Jesus came to take away our sin, bear our pain, show us God’s everlasting love for us and teach us that God’s will for us on earth is to love each other and show it by helping to bear each other’s burdens.

*Lord, teach us to love one another, especially those in any need.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wed., Dec. 2: Isa 25:6-10a; Matt 15:29-37

Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute … and he cured them. Jesuit scripture scholar Fr. Dennis Hamm has observed that the healing stories in the synoptic Gospels are parables about Jesus’ saving ministry. Consider the majority of the bodily ailments mentioned and their spiritual counterparts: the lame in body and those who have difficulty moving toward God; those who are blind or deaf in body or in spirit; the physically mute and those who cannot speak to God or about God to others. Advent is when we prepare for Christmas, when heaven’s gates are opened and healing Love comes down.

*Lord, heal us that we may see your goodness, hear your word, proclaim you to others and run joyfully to do your will.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tues., Dec. 1: Isa 11:1-10; Luke 10:21-24

He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. During the getting-the-jump-on-Christmas marathon of busyness let’s remember that it’s Advent — time to prepare our minds and hearts to welcome Jesus. In these economically troubled times, might we consider giving first to those whose financial problems may be worse than ours? Consider getting all members of the family involved in the parish Christmas outreach program or making Christmas cards for the chronically ill at local hospitals or nursing homes, especially those who have no family. Remember, it’s much easier to find the Holy Family at a homeless center than at a department store or office Christmas party.

*Come, Lord Jesus, show us your face in the faces of the poor and lonely among us.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mon., Nov. 30: Rom 10:9-18; Matt 4:18-22

At once they left their nets and followed him. The call of discipleship didn’t end with the apostles. It isn’t that fewer people are being called to vocations. The difference lies in the willingness to walk away from our distractions. We have ourselves so tangled in the nets of our lives and society that it’s very hard to escape. We all are invited to share in Jesus’ work in a unique and personal way. It’s time to free ourselves from whatever net traps us and heed the call.

*Jesus, we long to follow you; show us the way, we pray.