Daily Advent Reflections
Longing for Peace
Advent is when peace becomes something visible. All year, of course, we long for peace, but Christians spend these four weeks preparing for the coming of the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. We long not solely for peace on earth, the absence of conflict, but also, more deeply, for the peace of Christ, “peace that surpasses all understanding” (see Phil 4:7). When we celebrate Mass each Sunday, we pray for this peace and even exchange a sign of it before we approach the table of the Eucharist.As deep and personal as our desire is, faith tells us that peace is essentially social. As we move toward the feast of the Nativity, the feast of Christ among us, we are challenged to broaden our understanding of peace and to open our hearts all the wider.
Our world is longing for peace in so many places! We long for peace in Iraq and pray that our own who have been sent there will be safe from harm and returned soon to their families and lives full of promise. We long for peace in Israel, where the needs of both Palestinians and Israelis must be met. We long for peace in Africa, which has seen so much struggle, as the poor struggle to develop against so many odds, now added to by the epidemic of AIDS. We long for peace in the states of the former Soviet Union, in China, India and all parts of Asia. We long for peace in Ireland.
But we long not only for peace among those who fight. We also long for peace in the hearts of those struggling with poverty of all sorts—those in the developing world and those who struggle in the shadows of the developed world. And of course, we long for peace for the victims of natural disaster—especially the countless families still putting lives together in the tsunami region of Asia, and the countless families dealing with the disastrous effects of the recent hurricane seasons in the southern United States. We pray for displaced people everywhere.
This Advent, let us open our hearts for peace. Let our prayer for Christ’s coming be a longing for wars to end; for troops to return to their families. But let it also be a longing for justice, a longing that things set awry will be made right.
First Sunday of Advent
Time to wake up
Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, signaling the beginning of the holiday season in the world around us. Yet today’s Gospel calls us to enter into a time of watchful waiting, of preparation or keen awareness. Let us resolve to hold off the holidays for a bit, to tune in to the gospel, to prepare our hearts for the mystery of the Incarnation, the coming of the Prince of Peace.
Monday (Is 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11)
Can you see it?
What a vision today’s readings offer us—a world in which people yearn to walk in the ways of the Lord, in which “one nation shall not raise the sword against another.” Will we ever live to see it? Only if each of us works towards it. Be a harbinger of the Kingdom today by being a peaceful presence wherever you go.
Tuesday (Is 11:1-10; Lk 10:21-24)
What we have seen
Jesus tells us today to count our blessings: We have seen and heard what kings longed for. The peace of God has come to live among us! We have only to open our hearts to the work of grace in our lives. We have only to turn to our Lord for help.
Wednesday (Is 25:6-10a; Mt 15:29-37)
Following in their footsteps
Jesus’ invitation to Peter and Andrew, to James and John, is one he continually issues to all: Will you follow me? Will you join me in my mission? If we say yes we can count on having our lives turned upside down—and enriched beyond measure. Don’t hoard your unique wealth. Share it with others, in Jesus’ name, through daily acts of kindness.
Thursday (Is 26:1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27)
Check those foundations
Of course we all want to be like the wise man who builds his house on rock: solid goals, clear sense of direction, eyes on the prize. But how easy it is to get lost along the way, to become drenched in the consumerism that can so easily seize us at this time of year! Search your soul today for signs of crumbling foundations, and begin any repair work that is needed.
Friday (Is 29:17-24; Mt 9:27-31)
I can't keep it in!
The story of the two blind men cured is the story of all of us. We blindly go through life, missing the real story of love as we struggle to be Number One. But the One who saves can give each of us sight, if we are only willing to have faith. And when we see, how can we help but tell the world?
Saturday (Is 30:19-21, 23-26; Mt. 9:35—10:1. 5a, 6-8)
Moving beyond pity
Jesus was moved with pity at the sight of the “troubled and abandoned” he saw. How can we not also be moved as the haunting eyes and faces cross our TV screens—the dazed victims of tsunamis and earthquakes, the helpless innocents caught in war zones, the lost in our cities? To take in their images is one thing; to be moved to action by becoming one of Jesus’ laborers is another. How will you join his labor force?
Second Sunday of Advent
Take a deep breath
As we long for Jesus and the peace he promises, the words of consolation Isaiah offers today are timely. They are soothing words: comfort, tenderness, glad tidings. The Lord we await, the Lord we are promised, is one who, like a shepherd, feeds his flock and gathers the lambs in his arms. How can we model this same good news to a society that so often reveres power and strength? Consider this your job description during this Second Week of Advent—at home, at the office, at your parish. Get ready for some real work!
Monday (Is 35: 1-10; Lk 5:17-26)
‘Rise and walk’
We’ve heard the call to prepare the way of the Lord. Now it gets more personal. As we hear the story of the paralyzed one, surely we see ourselves on the stretcher. We have a thousand paralyzing reasons not to embrace the message of peace. Jesus cuts through all of them and commands us to walk.
Tuesday (Is 40:1-11; Mt 18:12-14)
Recovering from loss
Who of us hasn’t been—or felt—lost? Whether we have a childhood memory of momentary separation from a parent, a teenage recollection of not fitting in or an adult sense of being adrift, feelings of pain and sadness can surface. We are all the lost sheep of whom Jesus speaks today. But he welcomes and seeks our return home. What “lost sheep” can you take into the fold of your family today?
Wednesday (Is 40:25-31; Mt 11:28-30)
My yoke is easy
Here is a message for all of those burdened by the guilt of inaction in the face of destruction around the world: people in poverty, people at war, people in need. Jesus tells us to step ahead and act. He promises us to be with us, for the yoke, with him beside us, is easy.
Thursday (Is 41:13-20; Mt 11:11-15)
You name it
“Be it done to me according to your word.” We can all too easily recite the words Mary proclaimed to the angel Gabriel. God doesn’t ask of us the great things asked of Mary. But he does yearn for our “Yes! Yes, you name it!” What are we doing for God and our neighbors that helps bring about a Kingdom that will have no end?
Friday (Is 48:17-19; Mt 11:16-19)
What’s our excuse?
Advent calls us to prepare the way of the Lord, to open our hearts to the work of God among us. Yet there are so many things competing! And as Christmas approaches, things won’t get any lighter. Stop and consider: How can I be sure that I am preparing the way of the Lord today?
Saturday (Sir 48:1-4, 9-11; Mt 17:9a, 10-13)
Missing the point
It takes the disciples a while to understand what Jesus is saying in today’s Gospel. Where do we fail to hear not just the words of Jesus but also the heart of his message? Listen closely to Jesus today—not just to his words but to the challenging message behind them.
Third Sunday of Advent
The path is clear
Being without light is one of the most unsettling of experiences for those of us who have become accustomed to living with the gift of electricity. To be in the dark is to be disoriented, without a sense of direction. Today’s readings offer us a clear path—just the path we need as we edge toward Christmas. It is one of prayer, gratitude, hope and goodness. Could we ask for clearer directions in the midst of these frenetic days when we can so easily lose our moorings?
Monday (Is 24:2-7, 15-17a; Mt 21:23-27)
Today Jesus catches the Pharisees in their own game. As they get caught not saying anything for fear of saying the wrong thing, Jesus says he’ll have none of it. We are challenged today to sharpen our focus on what is important: the coming of Jesus and our challenge to conform our lives to his call.
Tuesday (Zep 3:1-2, 9-13; Mt 21:28-32)
Ouch. How many times must we be reminded of our potential—our gift?— for hypocrisy! We hear it yet again from Zephaniah, who warns against “insolent” prophets and “braggarts.” Few of us find such people appealing, but the alternative—humility, pure truth—is so difficult. Consider: Why do we so often try to get by with the easy stuff, as if Jesus doesn’t know us at our deepest level? Lord, transform our hearts!
Wednesday (Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Lk 7:18b-23)
Signs of the Messiah
Could this be the one? People of good will are searching, and we hear from the Gospel that this indeed is the one we’ve been awaiting. How do we know? The blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. What are we waiting for?
Thursday (Is 54:1-10; Lk 7:24-30)
Can we get real?
Long before “reality TV,” Jesus warned us to get real about his Kingdom and to listen to John the Baptist, who announced its arrival. How are we using our time to prepare for the one that John has promised? Are we rooted in reality, or in the make-believe promises offered us of what Christmas is all about?
Friday (Is 56:1-3, 6-8; Jn 5:33-36)
Sent by God
When we stand up for peace, we must do so with the confidence that peace is the will of God. People in the Gospels are always seeking Jesus’ credentials, and he assures them he is the real ticket. When he calls us to be God’s peacemakers, against war, against poverty and injustice, we are given an authentic mission.
Saturday is always December 17 or later, “late Advent.” Please see below.
Fourth Sunday of Advent
What message do we hear?
Today is a day of messages, a day when God’s incarnation is announced to the world. Like the drama in today’s Gospel, the Lord’s saving action is announced to each of us. As evangelists, messengers of the Good News, we each are challenged, in turn, to announce God’s presence to our hurting world. The presence of God among us is the gift that allows each of us to be heralds of peace.
December 17 (Gn 49:2, 8-10; Mt 1:17)
The Jesus of history
In just over a week we celebrate the birth of Jesus—yes, the sweet-faced infant but also the Messiah who had a family that went back 14 generations. The older we get, the more we appreciate learning about our family tree, about the history of those who went before us. But we can lose track of some of those branches. Resolve to contact a lost or forgotten family member.
December 18 (Jer 23:5-8; Mt 1:18-25)
These final days before Christmas, “late Advent,” call us to focus all the more. Now is the season when our attention is the most distracted by last-minute gift-buying and Christmas parties. Yet our faith tells us to slow down and prepare our spirits for the Lord’s coming. Let us be mindful of that.
December 19 (Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a; Lk 1:5-25)
The forest and the trees
As Christmas draws ever nearer, our thoughts can easily turn to the demands that just won’t go away: last-minute shopping, mailing a few more cards, planning menus for meals with family and special guests. In today’s Gospel Luke tells the story of the birth of John the Baptist. We know full well what comes after that, but we can so easily get overwhelmed. Make time today for an act of kindness—one you don’t really have time for.
December 20 (Is 7:10-14; Lk 1:26-38)
The Lord is with you
This is the week of annunciation, when the Lord’s coming presence among us is announced to the People of God. Our longing for peace will be fulfilled. But the world did not understand the peace of Jesus when it came. We pray to understand Jesus’ peace and to bring it to the world.
December 21 (Sg 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45)
A journey of faith
Our thoughts turn to Mary today. How could they not as she prepares for the birth of Our Savior? How many more days, how many more hours she must be thinking as she sets out, in haste, to visit her cousin Elizabeth? Put aside your own cares. Who can you visit today who needs your presence and your utter trust?
December 22 (1 Sm 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56)
The world upside-down
Today we pray along with Mary, the Mother of God, her magnificat. It is a prayer of praise, of awe at the power of God to steer history in God’s direction. The lowly are important in God’s eyes. The rich go away empty-handed. What is God telling us today?
December 23 (Mal 3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66)
The time is near
For Elizabeth, the time has arrived. She gives birth to a son, who is named John. Can the birth of Jesus be far behind? These are days filled with blessings and promise. Find the time to slow down and spend peaceful time with your family. Don’t count the hours that remain. Savor them.
Waiting is over
Now our four weeks of preparation come to an end. Our practice of waiting, watching, listening, has all been for one purpose: to make room in our hearts for the “here-yet-still-coming” Prince of Peace. As much as we let the Peaceful Lord fill our lives, we take his mission of peace to our families, to our communities, to our world.
The dawn of peace
Thank God for the gift of Jesus! Today we celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the proof that, in God, all things—including our hopes for peace—are possible. Let us dwell on the coming peace, the peace Jesus brings into the world and leaves with us, and celebrate what a gift it is.