Zephaniah announces great news in the Reading for Friday of the Third Week of Advent. “The LORD, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear” (Zephaniah 3:16). Christ is in our midst. We have no further misfortune to fear. How can this be? Life is full of misfortunes. I believe Christ helps me deal with misfortunes. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am better able to engage life’s misfortunes with wisdom and love. I am less likely to take out my misfortunes on others. I am more likely to forgive. How does God help you with misfortune?
In the Reading for Thursday of the Third Week of Advent, Isaiah prophesies of a future king. “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Isaiah wants to instill confidence in God. Jesus is our Emmanuel. Signs of God-with-us abound in family, friends, the grief stricken, the hungry, the imprisoned, the mentally ill, and in all of God’s creation. Where do you find signs of God with you?
Gabriel visits Zechariah in the Gospel for Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent. “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John” (Luke 1: 13). The angel first reassures Zechariah then announces that his wife is pregnant with John the Baptist. God’s presence, angelic or otherwise, is reassuring. Jesus is God is with us. I imagine Jesus telling me to not be afraid. Jesus’ reassurance helps me focus less on my problems and more on those who need me. With his peaceful presence, I am empowered to be Christ for others. How does God help you with your fears?
Joseph has a dream in the Gospel for Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent. An angel announces that his betrothed Mary is pregnant with Jesus, God with us. The angel calms his fears and urges him to take Mary as his wife. “Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Matthew 1: 24). I admire Joseph’s fidelity to Mary. He stayed with Mary irregardless of what others were thinking about her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. He knew that together they could deal with the crisis better than alone. God wants us to remain faithful to our loving relationships through bad and good times. God was steadfast in the promise of a messiah. God desires we be steadfast in care for those we love, no matter how difficult. How are you faithful to those you love?
Matthew lists the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel for Monday of the Third Week of Advent. The family tree concludes with Mary. “Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ” (Matthew 1:16). Jesus was born of a woman. The Son of God was born just like you and me. Because of Jesus, God still dwells in our flesh and blood. God lives in me. God lives in you. How blessed we are that God is so close! This is the good news proclaimed by the angels and shepherds at the birth of Christ. How close is God to you?
In the Reading for the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Isaiah urges the people to follow God’s commandments. “I, the LORD, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go” (Isaiah 48:17). I struggle with Isaiah’s prophecy. I want to do what I think is good for me. For example, I want to lash out at someone who hurts me. It would make me feel better. Yet God knows what is really good for me and for others. Following Christ’s example, I fore go the immediate self satisfaction of retaliation for a more conciliatory and healing approach. God shows us the way to what is good for us. What good does God want for you?
Mary visits Elizabeth in the Gospel for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Elizabeth greets her with a blessing. Mary responds, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Luke 1:47). Mary had a profound appreciation for God’s blessings. Confident in God’s providential love, she says “Yes” to Gabriel’s invitation to bear God’s Son. With Mary, I praise God for the great things God has done in my life. God expects great things from me too. Following Christ’s example, I respond to God’s unconditional love by unconditionally loving God and others. So I pray for the grace to welcome the great things God still has in store for me. What great things is God accomplishing in your life?
Isaiah prophesies God’s tender mercy in the Reading for Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent. Hearing the cries of the people in exile, God promises a way home. Their travail is ending. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God” (Isaiah 40:1). Jesus is God’s comfort. Financial troubles, illness, troubled marriages, addiction, and other woes alienate us from God and one another. Through Christ we find our way back to God and each other. For what do you need the comfort of Jesus?
Jesus heals the paralytic in the Gospel for Monday of the Second Week in Advent. This miracle strikes everyone with awe. “We have seen incredible things today” (Luke 5:26). Advent also invites us to reflect on the dominion of God already begun with the birth of Jesus. The wonders of God are already happening. God shares his life with us in simple and incredible ways. The smile of a spouse, rays of the sun, prayers of a friend, recovery of a stroke patient, visit by a home nurse are among the countless gifts of God. Where is God in your day?
Jesus heals two blind men in the Gospel for the Memorial of Saint Ambrose. When they ask for healing, Jesus says, “Do you believe that I can do this? ‘Yes, Lord’, they said to him” (Matthew 9:28). Then Jesus heals them. Unlike the blind men, I think I can do everything by myself. Usually I need help. I can accomplish much more good when I rely on help, especially God’s help. Any good I do comes from God. Mary knew this. She said “Yes” to bearing the Christ child. Jesus asks us if we believe that with God all things are possible. Can you answer “Yes”?