“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Excerpt from Matthew 21:23-27)
People noticed Jesus’ authority in his teaching, his healing and the forgiveness of sins. However, there was no explicit proclamation of the source of this authority. As those who ask him really want to trap him rather than adhere to this new way, he questions them about the source of the authority of John the Baptist, his precursor. They recognised that John’s actions revealed that Jesus was acting on God’s behalf. Yet they did not believe Jesus and accept him. We often try to find what we consider good excuses in order not to believe God’s messengers. This season before Christmas is a time to question ourselves seriously and to recognise and accept God’s messengers in our lives.
What are some of the excuses that I use not to believe some people who challenge me to change my way of living?
Tuesday 14th December
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Excerpt from Matthew 21:28-32)
The chief priests and the elders of the people now have to answer a question based on a parable drawn from daily family experience of saying one thing and acting in another sense. They are forced to take sides this time and recognise that words are not enough. In a similar way, Jesus brings home the point that being religious leaders is not enough. It is actions that count. This advent season affords us the chance to desire and work towards a greater consistency between what we say and what we do. When our “yes” to God is translated into action for the good of the poor and the marginalised of our society, we are welcoming God’s messengers as we should.
When have I said “Yes” when I actually meant “No”? What did I do about it?
Wednesday 15th December
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard.” (Excerpt from Luke 7:19-23)
It is probable that the image of the Messiah that John had expected and preached about was not the same as what they saw in reality. Jesus’ attitude turns out to be less severe than John’s. Part of our experience of and growth in the knowledge of God is that we have to be ready to let go of our image of God in order to know God better. If we are stuck in only one image of God, we will not be able to be surprised by God anymore, and we will not grow in the intimacy which he calls us. It is not in the extraordinary actions but in the ordinary gestures of love and compassion that God’s life breaks into our world and in the lives of our sisters and brothers through us.
How do I recognise God intervening in my life and the lives of others?
Thursday 16th December
“Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who shall prepare your way before you.” (Excerpt from Luke 7:24-30)
The ordinary people considered John a great personality because of his message. He invited them to come back to God. The time that John had announced makes the mission of Jesus greater than that of John. It is like the light of a flash light in broad day light. Although great in the darkness, it is now overwhelmed by the sunlight. Those who welcome Jesus’ message enter into this greater light. It is not that they are greater than John because of some merit but because of their participation in the New Life offered by God in and through Jesus.
How do I respect those simple people whose faith helped me grow in my faith in God?
Friday 17th December
All the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.(Excerpt from Matthew 1:1-17)
Matthew organises his genealogy story in three groups of fourteen generations thus showing that, in spite of human weakness, God was at work all along. It is precisely these high and low points of the history of humanity and of Israel that God comes to share by becoming one of us in order to lead us forth to the fullness of life through Jesus. Jesus is presented from the beginning as a descendant of the great King David to whom God had made the promise of the Messiah. He is also son of Abraham, the great believer and Father of the Jewish nation. Matthew affirms the Messianic character of Jesus alongside his Jewish identity. History leads to Jesus and is further enlightened by him.
Which aspect(s) of my family background do I hide? Speak to God about it for healing?
Saturday 18th December
When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. (Excerpt from Matthew 1:18-24)
Joseph never speaks in the Gospel story. However, he plays an important role and teaches an important lesson to the readers. Although Mary is the bearer of the child of God, Joseph, her spouse, has his role as the one who welcomes and protects both mother and child. His obedience to the Law is a discerning obedience which comes from a heart that listens to God. The promise that God is Emmanuel (God with us), will accompany Joseph and Mary in a particular way through the person of Jesus. It will also accompany the missionary disciples who go forth in Jesus’ name to share with others the joy of being a disciple.
How can Joseph inspire me in the way I listen to God when I am perplexed?
Monday 20th December – FOURTH WEEK OF ADVENT
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Excerpt from Luke 1:26-38)
Luke’s story shows the contrast between Mary’s answer and that of Zachariah. Whereas Zachariah’s question is interpreted as showing doubt, Mary’s question is interpreted as seeking to understand further what that means. This supposes that she believes and is already on the way to seek to see how to live God’s word. By implication, this comparison shows there is the beginning of a new type of relationship. As in the time of Mary, God still needs our yes in order to carry out his plan in the world today. God speaks in the ordinary events of our life and calls us to collaborate with him in bringing Jesus to others.
When God intervenes in my life or in circumstances that I deem unimportant, how do I react?
Tuesday 21st December
“Why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Excerpt from Luke 1:39-45)
Mary journeyed joyfully to her cousin Elizabeth in order to share the Good News that God was intervening in the lives of his people in the most unexpected of ways. That Mary takes the time (three months) to live with her elderly cousin shows that it was not just a passing enthusiasm or resolution but a serious commitment. In the last days of Advent, we are invited to meditate on the examples of faith and joyful service of Mary and Elizabeth, and to make each encounter of ours an opportunity to recognise the presence and action of God’s Spirit in the life of the other. Joy is the best antidote against jealousy.
When have I recognised and celebrated God’s presence and action in another person’s life?
Wednesday 22nd December
“He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Excerpt from Luke 1:46-56)
Mary recognises that she does not deserve the special privileges God is showing her. However, through her, God showers his blessing on the whole human race. It is God who is at work and she is God’s chosen instrument. God is powerful and defends the cause of the poor and the oppressed but he is also merciful to those who treasure their relationship of trust with him. The closer we draw to Christmas, the more it should dawn on us that it is God who is coming and that we prepare to welcome him whole heartedly. As we can claim no merit ourselves, we are invited to open and prepare our hearts to receive Jesus.
What are some of the great things that God has done for me? For our community?
Thursday 23rd December
All who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. (Excerpt from Luke 1:57-66)
But rather than giving the name of Zechariah, as his neighbours were proposing in continuity with the family tradition, Zechariah fulfils the Angel Gabriel’s command. Without hearing what his wife had said to the neighbours, he calls their son John, a new name which means God has shown favour. Zechariah immediately recovers his speech and can hear again. This break with the tradition and his mute and dumb state show that a new time is beginning and thus heightens the fact that the child is a gift of God. The closer we come to celebrating the birth of Jesus, the more clearly we see the role of the different people God puts along our way to help us welcome his Son.
How has God shown me/us his grace in a recent event?
Friday 24th December
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” (Excerpt from Luke 1:67-79)
God’s intervention in human history is intended to lead them to serve him in holiness and justice. God is to take first place in human life and relationship and this, according to the constant reminder of the prophets, is to be shown in the love of the poor and those most in need. John has a challenging mission: to lead people to conversion, to change their value system, to care more for each other, and re-enter into the relationship of love with God and with each other. The end result will be that those who accept it will be led from darkness of death to the light of God himself in order to live peace, and fullness of life that the Messiah brings. At the end of this Advent Season, it is good to ask:
What are some of the events in my life that help me recall that God has faithfully journeyed with me? How can my life better reflect that?
Monday 27th December – Feast of Saint John, Apostle and evangelist
Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. (Excerpt from John 20:1a and 2-8)
O God, who through the blessed Apostle John have unlocked for us the secrets of your Word, grant, we pray, that we may grasp with proper understanding what he has so marvelously brought to our ears. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. (Collect Prayer)
Tuesday 28th December – Feast of the Holy Innocents, martyrs
When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi, he became furious. He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.(Excerpt from Matthew 2:13-18)
O God, whom the Holy Innocents confessed and proclaimed on this day, not by speaking but by dying, grant, we pray, that the faith in your which we confess with our lips may also speak through our manner of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.(Collect Prayer)
Wednesday 29th December – The Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas
Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also). (Excerpt from Luke 2:22-35)
This is the light that all have been waiting for. It is so great and so little at the same time that Simeon can now foretell to Mary and Joseph that this sign will not be welcomed by all. Jesus, in his simplicity and complete dependence on God and on human beings will be joyously welcomed by some as the light, and yet brutally rejected by others and thus suffer a violent end. As a mother, Mary will not remain indifferent to this. She will suffer with her son as when a sword pierces the heart.
How seriously do I listen to those elders God places on my route to inform me that he has come into my life?
Thursday 30th December – The Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas
She gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Excerpt from Luke 2:36-40)
After the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist to Zachariah (a man), the announcement of the birth of Jesus is to Mary (a woman). Now, after an elderly prophet Simeon (a man) had welcomed Jesus and presented him, it is the turn of an elderly prophetess, Anna (a woman), to present him. This shows that God works in all of humanity, and we need each other in order to hear fully what God is saying to us. The only condition for both men and women to listen to God and to be his instruments for us, Simeon and Anna tell us, is to be poor at heart, acknowledge our dependence on God, and to truly long for him with our whole hearts and to lead lives under the guidance of his Spirit.
Who are the elderly women who have been God’s messengers to me on my spiritual journey?
Friday 31st December – The Seventh Day in the Octave of Christmas
He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (Excerpt from John 1:1-18)
The Liturgy’s way of re-reading the calendar year that is about to end is to take us back to God, the origin of all that was, all that is and all that is to come. When God reaches out to us in his love, he creates us and all things in an orderly manner. Nothing is the product of pure chance or is self-created. Therefore, we have the responsibility to be accountable for how we use the creation that is entrusted to our care. We are servants of creation and of each other, not its masters. The end of the year invites us to return to God, the source and origin of all, ourselves included, and re-read what has happened in that light.
How have I been a steward of God’s creation in the year that is about to end? How can I improve this?