Advent Reflections 2019

Prepare your heart for Christmas by receiving a weekly Gospel reflection written by seminarians from the Mundelein community. Take a few moments each Sunday of Advent to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Reflection for the First Week of Advent

I am truly amazed at how quickly time passes, as once again Advent is upon us!  It marks the beginning of the Church’s new liturgical year. Liturgical colors switch from green (a symbol of the church’s mission to share the hope and life of Christ with the world) to violet (whose bluish tint calls to mind Mary’s essential role in salvation history).  As a lifelong Catholic, I have always found Advent to be the perfect time to reset my spiritual clock because with Jesus’s arrival, time really begins anew.

Starting anew means having a renewed hope.  It means not holding onto our past or being dragged along, or crippled by it.  This newness implies that there is something so much better to come.  It gives us a refreshed vigor and strength to face each day.  We can start by wiping the slate clean through the Sacrament of Penance.  Advent emphasizes what good things we need to add to our lives.  It involves erasing any darkness we might have from our soul.  It means seeking God, living with Him, and conforming to the image of Christ.  There are areas in our lives, personal or societal, in which we need to renew this sense of hope.

With God’s holy presence, we are given the confidence to partner with Him in the work of peace and justice, with the goal toward healing wherever it is most needed.  Amidst the conflicts and challenges in our world, hope lives.  We need Advent to teach us the virtue of patience and to encourage us to invite Christ — the Light of the World — into our present lives while anticipating His second coming in glory at the end of time.

As we live in anticipation of Jesus’s coming, we must share peace with one another and take time to reflect and pray on God’s gift of hope, where we need to bring it most into our hearts. Pray that we see Christ’s Light upon the horizon, guiding our path forward to a kinder, gentler, and more joyful world.  I wish all of you a Blessed Advent Season!

Deacon Larry Basbas
Archdiocese of Chicago

Reflection for the Second Week of Advent

John the Baptist is the precursor to Christ, “the voice crying out in the wilderness; preparing the way of the Lord.”  The coming of Christ was imminent, and John the Baptist was busy at work.  Large crowds, even curious Pharisees and Sadducees ventured out to hear him.  Through all this, there was an overwhelming character trait that made him incredibly effective.  John the Baptist was successful because of his humility.

John the Baptist was humble, never once puffing up his chest or proclaiming his own importance.  He was a man who always pointed toward and prepared the way of the Lord.  He was merely a messenger for the great One who was to come.  His voice and life were a simple unadorned envelope carrying forth a great message.  John knew, and possibly hoped, that the envelope would be forgotten, because the real treasure was in the message.

‘Tis the season… and many of us are preparing to (or already have) sent Christmas cards.  I have just sent a bunch myself.  But before sending, I explored shelf after shelf of cards to be sent.  There were many cards decorated with images of the Nativity, the flight into Egypt, and the Presentation.  Inside the cards, I found wonderful words of scripture and poetry that remind us that Jesus Christ humbled Himself to become man for our sake.  The cards were filled with words of faith, words of hope, and words of love.

Beyond a cursory glance, the accompanying envelope typically goes unnoticed.  The best wishes, poetic message and prayers inside are what’s important.  In searching out this year’s card to send, I not once considered the importance of the envelope.  You see, that which sends the message is unimportant, the content is; especially so when the message is Jesus Christ.  John understood this and humbly sent his own disciples to follow Jesus when the time had come.  Jesus was the Message, the Word.  John and the Apostles were humble enough to be sent forth as messenger – Apostle being Greek for apostolos – messenger.  They were simply adorned and happy to be the overlooked envelopes that protect and share the message.  Humility is the mark of the Apostle.  Humility marked the life and ministry of John and the first Apostles.  Regardless of our vocation in life, we too are called to be apostolic.

Each of us are called to be apostolic, to be messengers.  We are all called forth to humbly bring people to Jesus Christ.  Because we too, like John, are precursors.  We are messengers of the hope that resides in Jesus Christ.  Our mission won’t be easy.  Those who proclaim the Gospel in the 21st Century are men and women crying out in the wilderness.  If we are faithful to our mission like John and the Apostles, we become simple, unadorned envelopes who protect and carry the Christmas message.  The content of the message, Jesus – the Good News – which is most important.

Ryan Brady
Archdiocese of Chicago

Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

In this third week of Advent, we hear about a conversation between John the Baptist and Jesus. John waited intently for the coming of the Messiah, just as we are doing during this season of Advent. Preparing for the Christ, John and his followers lived humbly and proclaimed repentance to all. John’s actions provide a beautiful example for each of us as we joyfully await the birth of Christ.

Imitating the example of humility shown to us by the Baptist is a beautiful way to prepare for Christmas. John was acutely aware that we should regard God with the highest respect. It is for that reason that John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Throughout Advent, God invites each of us to reflect on how we might decrease. Through this reflection, we can give God the place of primacy in our lives. No one else can decide to give God that place of importance in our lives. The Lord loves us enough to provide us with the choice, and he will not force himself into areas of our lives where we do not allow.

Our Lord does not come as a king, dressed in fine clothes and giving commands. Instead, he is born as a child in humble circumstances and acts as a servant. In today’s Gospel, while Jesus addresses the crowd, he teaches that neither he nor John the Baptist came as a king. For no one looks for a king in the wilderness. We know that the Kings of this temporal world live in places of grandeur.  Rather than going to a palace, the crowd in the Gospel travels to the desert to encounter Christ. There, far from the distractions of the world, they learn about who God is.

As we continue into this third week of Advent, we, like the crowd in the Gospel, strive to leave behind the things which distract us from God so that we might know him better. There are many ways in which we can do that. Added time spent in prayer is especially appropriate as we await the coming of our heavenly king. The sacrament of reconciliation is also an excellent way to remove whatever obstacles might make it hard to see God. Then, having prepared ourselves for the coming of Christ, we can await him with joy.

Nick Zummo
Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau

Reflection for the Fourth Week of Advent

Not long after the reign of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was divided into two: the Northern kingdom, referred to as Israel or Ephraim, and the Southern kingdom, referred to as Judah. In the days of Ahaz (king of Judah from 735 to 715 B.C), the king of the Northern kingdom and the king of Aram (Syria) joined forces to attack Jerusalem—the capital of Judah, the Southern kingdom – because of Ahaz’s refusal to join them in order to form an alliance against Assyria.  (cf. 2 Kgs 16.)

When word spread to Judah about the plotted attack against Jerusalem, Ahaz and the people of Judah panicked. The Scripture says that “the heart of the king and heart of the people trembled, as the trees of the forest tremble in the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2)

God saw their fear and turmoil, and decided to send His prophet Isaiah to reassure Ahaz and give him words of comfort. However, God required steadfast faith of Ahaz. He said to Ahaz that unless his faith is firm, he shall not be firm. (Isaiah 7:9) In other words, Ahaz, and indeed all of Judah, will be able to overcome their enemies only by trusting and putting their faith completely in the Lord. God gave Ahaz a sign that  Israel and Aram would not prevail against Judah if they have faith in God. The Lord said, through the mouth of His prophet Isaiah, that “the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) Emmanuel means “God is with us.” God promised to be with Ahaz in the face of the invading armies of Syria and Ephraim.

We too may be facing serious battles in our lives right now. Perhaps our spiritual or physical health is deteriorating; perhaps our finances are not going well and we are facing the fear of bankruptcy; perhaps we are living in the uncertainty of maintaining our job or paying the mortgage on our home in the near future; or perhaps we are facing a crisis in our vocation, whether it be religious life, priesthood, or marriage. In all of these challenging circumstances, we need not be afraid. God is with us.

Though He was God Himself, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus arrived humbly, as a child, to gently and joyfully remind us that we are not and we will never be alone as we face all these battles and challenges of life. God (Emmanuel) is with us every single step of the way. The Incarnation is a reminder of God’s generous gift and willingness to be with us always. Let us lighten our burden by entrusting our lives completely to God who is saying to each and every one of us “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28) Let us also not be afraid to receive the Blessed Virgin Mary into our lives as the angel tells us in today’s gospel.  Mary is our Mother, the Mother of all Christians, our Lady of Perpetual Help. Let us ask her to draw us closer to her beloved Son.

Deacon Robain Lamba
Diocese of San Jose