The Gospel for Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent narrates the birth of John the Baptist. After giving his son the name God chose, Zechariah is able to speak again. “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God” (Luke 1: 64). With his speech restored and his newborn son swaddled, Zechariah understandably praises God. Yet his first utterances are blessings. He could have complained about being mute for so long. He could have groused about being too old to raise a son. Instead he praises God. Zechariah’s example gives me pause to consider my own reactions to people and things. Do I complain, grouse, and grumble about my lot? Or do I give thanks praise, and glory to God for my blessings? The holidays are challenging. We tend to focus more on what goes wrong than on what goes right. For whom or what can you praise God?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent, Mary gives praise to God for choosing her as the mother of Jesus. In her Magnificat she glorifies God for looking with favor on someone as poor and simple as her. “He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (Luke 1: 51-3). These and other stories in the Bible attest to God’s love for those who are poor and marginalized. Christ had special concern for them in his public ministry. He cured the lame, fed the hungry, forgave the sinners. Through us, Christ continues to love the poor, needy, and dispossessed. Everyday we encounter people who are hungry for food, clothing, shelter, comfort, reassurance, love, confidence, companionship, faith in God, and other basic human needs. How do you help God fill the hungry people you meet everyday with good things?
In the Gospel for Thursday of the Third Week of Advent, the angel announces to Joseph in a dream that Mary is pregnant with Jesus. “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’ ” (Mathew 1: 22-23). Jesus is God with us. This is good news! With God dwelling among us, the world is ultimately a benevolent place. God is with us amidst violence, hunger, unemployment, illness, grief, and other sorrows. With God, we have hope of overcoming our pain and suffering. The birth of Jesus reassures us God is restoring the world to its original goodness. How can you help?
The Gospel for Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent traces the genealogy of Jesus. “Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations” (Matthew 1: 17). Jesus was born of a blessed lineage. His family tree included Abraham, the father of faith, Ruth, the devout daughter-in-law, and David, the exemplary shepherd king. The faith of these holy men and women influenced his faith. The witness to God’s loving care passed down through the generations inspired his trust in God. Christians too are blessed by this spiritual legacy. I am blessed by the powerful faith witness of my parents and grandparents. They inspired my faith. I remember my father kneeling in prayer at his beside. I think his prayers helped him cope with his chronic illness. I remember my mother carrying her rosary beads. A widow herself, she was probably praying for someone in grief. I can still hear my grandfather singing at the top of his voice at mass. I inherited their faith in Jesus who reveals God’s loving care for us all. Who has inspired your faith?
In the Gospel for Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent, Jesus tells the parable of the two sons. The father asks his two sons to tend the vineyards. The one who said “no” later changed his mind. He went to work. The one who said “yes” never went. The first son did the will of his father. Jesus tells the story to rebuke the religious and civil leaders. “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him” (Matthew 21: 31b-32). The public sinners know they need to repent. They do God’s will. The righteous think they do not. They reject God’s will. Outcasts and sinner who repent will enter the kingdom of God first. God’s reign includes everyone who does God’s will. Disciples of Jesus give witness to God’s will by their loving actions. How can God help you become a more loving person?
In the Gospel for Monday of the Third Week of Advent, the religious and civil leaders question the authority of Jesus. “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23b) Jesus responds with his own question “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” (Matthew 21:24-25a) The leaders reply. “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27a). Sometimes I am like those leaders questioning the authority of Jesus. I doubt that Jesus is really God. I wonder if the resurrection really happened. Yet I experience Christ alive in me and in others in countless ways. My pastor preaches the good news of Jesus Christ. My parishioner friends pray for me and for others. My wife loves me in good times and bad. I love my sons unconditionally. My neighbors look out for the widows and widowers on our block. The love of Christ pours out of these and many others in good things said and done. That is authority enough for me. How about you?
In the Gospel for the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the angel tells Mary she will be the mother of Jesus. “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her” (Luke 1: 38). Mary responds wholeheartedly to God’s plan. She is our model. I am having trouble living up to her example. I am dealing with some family issues over which I have little control. I want to fix the problems. I wish I could offer more than prayerful and loving support. I am trying to rely on God to resolve these family issues. I look to Mary for inspiration. How does Mary inspire you to put your trust in God?