ADVENT is the time of year when the church invites us to go into the wilderness to prepare a highway for our God.
Like Abraham, we are called to leave the security of everything we know and journey into uncharted territory.We do this with the promise that God will be with us on our adventure, and we know that what we experience along the way depends on our choices and on our relationship with him. In this journey into the wilderness, we can learn about life in a way that would not be possible if we did not venture forth.
Like Abraham, we will hear the words of God’s messengers telling us that nothing is impossible with God-the same message given by Gabriel to Mary, the virgin of Nazareth. The promise of God was accomplished in Mary when she said yes to being the mother of God. She said yes to leaving the security of everything she knew, and she believed that with God nothing is impossible. Advent is for us, as it was for Mary, a season to leave the security of what we know and prepare in our time a place for our God. –Fr. Gagné
First Week of Advent:
Monday: Matthew 8:5-11
Before a game is played or a project started, there must be trust and confidence among the players or the workers. We begin this week of Advent with Jesus looking for faith. He is amazed to find it in the Roman centurion who wants a cure for his servant. No such faith could be found in all of Israel! Jesus needs our faith and trust in order to work miracles in us and in our community. Lord, increase my faith.
Tuesday: Luke 10:21-24
As we have heard so often, seeing is believing and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Jesus tells us that the childlike can see things that are hidden from the wise and learned. What prevents us from seeing the presence of God in our lives and in the people around us? Lord, let me see that your way is love of enemies, love of the unborn child, love of the angry teenager, love of the homeless person, love of the death-row inmate, love of all people not like me. Prepare a way for the Lord that I might see him and hear his word.
Wednesday: Matthew 15:29-37
There are two kinds of people: those who can, do; those who can't, complain. The disciples' response to Jesus when he asks them to feed the people is, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?" It has never been done before, so it can't be done; nothing can ever change. Do I believe that Jesus can take what little I have and multiply it to serve many? Am I a doer or a complainer?
Thursday: Matthew 7:21, 24-27
We are no strangers to storms and floods. These forces of nature can sometimes destroy our buildings no matter how strong we build them. And if we build on sand rather than rock, we face certain devastation. Jesus, recalling the words of Isaiah, "for the Lord is an eternal rock," tells us to trust in God and act with humility and justice. in that way, we will build a strong city. Do I trust in the Lord to bring peace and security to my life? The Lord is my rock and my salvation; who shall frighten me?
Friday: Matthew 9:27-31
Not being able to see the beauties of nature and the faces of those we love is a painful reality for those who are blind. Yet a greater blindness is not being able to see the presence of god in our lives and in other people. It is easy for Jesus to open the eyes of the two who cry out to him, but we know that physical sight is only one way of seeing. What are the things I can't see? What are the things I need to see? Lord Jesus; you who seem hidden, reveal yourself so that I may see you today.
Saturday: Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8
For Matthew, Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy that someone will come to provide for all the needs of God's people. Jesus, unlike so many who came before, is moved with pity for the crowds because they were troubled and abandoned. Jesus is able to see into the hearts of people and feel their pain. Once again he commands his disciples to respond to these needs. Earlier in the week the need was for physical bread; now it is for the Kingdom of God with its power to cure the sick and cast out demons. It has been a busy week, with no time to sit back and relax. Attention must be paid and we must be ready to do it. " Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." What moves my heart with pity? How is Jesus calling me to prepare a way for him in my life and in my world?
Second Week of Advent
Monday: Luke 5:17-26
We have seen in the past few years the incredible ability of human beings to respond to and rise above all kinds of terrible tragedies. With God's help; we can even rise above our sins, our failures, our human weaknesses. When the stretcher-bears could not take the paralytic through the door, they looked for another way. Life is always about looking for other ways to arise and walk when the path is blocked. When I face an insurmountable obstacle, do I look for another way? Seeing their faith, Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven."
Tuesday: Matthew 18:12-14
In a zero-tolerance world, the words of Jesus cause us to ask, "Did he really mean for me to waste my valuable time searching for those who have gone astray? Isn't that their fault and their problem?" The words of Jesus are even more extraordinary than in yesterday's Gospel. This reading is short and to the point: this is the way it is with God, and this is the way it needs to be with his people." There is no room to get around this difficult message. Have I ever been lost and wanted someone to look for me? Can I accept the words of Jesus?
Wednesday: Matthew 11:28-30
Again the message is clear and concise. The only condition for coming to Jesus is that we are burdened by life. In a world with so many conditions, this invitation is refreshing, but it may sound too good to be true. It is hard for us to admit that we are heavy burdened and that we do not have to labor alone. We may be afraid to trust and risk making fools out of ourselves. But Jesus is standing at the door and knocking; he waits for our response. Keep me, Lord, from crossing the street to avoid meeting you. Pull me into your way of loving, even when I am afraid. Break through my defenses; come over my walls.
Thursday: Matthew 11:11-15
Isaiah sets a sobering tone for the brief message that Jesus delivers in this gospel. The message of God is that he is the one who will make us right again. Even after calling Israel a worm and a maggot, God promises to transform the land and make it into a place filled with water and life for those who are afflicted. Jesus tells us, "Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear. " Why am I afraid to let God grasp my hand and help me?
Friday: Matthew 11:16-19
You can't please everybody. No matter what you say or do, it won't be universally accepted as the right thing. In today's Gospel we learn that many disapproved of the behavior of Jesus and John the Baptist. John, they said, was possessed by demons and Jesus was a drunkard and a glutton. And in our world there is always someone who knows exactly what we are doing wrong, and too often we are willing to listen. Decide today to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, no matter what others may say. I can not control how other people will react, but I can choose not to let them control me.
Saturday: Matthew 17:9a, 1-13
Preparing the way of the Lord can be a tricky business, as Jesus points out when he speaks of John the Baptist; "They did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased." Don't be surprised when you have done everything right, and people still don't recognize or approve your efforts. You cannot live your life according to public opinion polls. Do not be afraid of the cost of discipleship; love sometimes hurts. Advent reminds us that God has a plan to redeem the world by love, and his plan will be fulfilled. Let me prepare for the coming of the Redeemer. "Lift high, you gates, lift high your arches; let the King of Glory come."
Third Week of Advent
Monday: Matthew 21:23-27
There is a tension to the season of Advent, and the reason lies in the person of Jesus. Who is he? On what authority does he say and do the things he does? Matthew's Gospel, addressed to the religious establishment, illustrates this tension between Jesus and the chief priests by a series of questions and answers. They often lead to discussion and the use of examples by Jesus to explain who he is. What are my questions about Jesus? Does my faith in Jesus cause tensions in my life and my relationships with others?
Tuesday: Matthew 21:28-32
The chief priests and the elders correctly answer Jesus' question about which son did his father's will. Yet even knowing the right answer, they fail to accept John's call to conversion. This leads Jesus to say, "Tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you." How those words must have stung them! Do they sting us, too? After all, we go to church, make contributions, practice our religion. Doesn't that count for something? Lord, help me to change my mind and my heart and truly believe in Jesus.
Wednesday: Luke 7:18b-23
The identity of Jesus reveals itself in his words and actions. Luke's is the Gospel to the Gentiles, and it is filled with mercy and compassion for the lowly of the world. It is, for example, the Gospel of the shepherds, who were the first to see the new-born Jesus. What do people see and hear from me? When people come to our faith community asking "Is he the one who is to come, or should we look for another?" what will my answer be?
Thursday: Luke 7:24-30
Our expectations define who we are. we become what we value; and what we look for, we usually find. Jesus asks, "What did you go out to the desert to see?" How we respond to this question tells who we are. Many times we don't see Jesus before us because we have decided how he is to look and dress and talk and act. There is so much of life that we miss because we just refuse to see it. What am I missing these days? "Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you. He will prepare your way before you."
Friday: John 5:33-36
Jesus tells the people that he does not accept human testimony. He defines himself in terms of his relationship with his Father. We are children of God, made in his image and destined to live forever in his kingdom. Rather than redefining ourselves according to what others say or following the ever-changing trends of society, we would do well to consider the words of Jesus. Whose testimony do I accept? "John the Baptist is the burning and shining light."
Saturday: Matthew 1:1-17
Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He establishes for his Jewish audience the legitimate ancestry of the Messiah beginning with Abraham and ending with Joseph and Mary. Matthew tells the story of god’s people and how at the appointed time God fulfilled his promises to save and redeem them. Notice that not all the people mentioned here are high born or socially acceptable. Yet God chose them to make it clear that he can do all things. Matthew carefully establishes that Jacob is the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. It was of Mary that Jesus, who is called the Christ, was born. Joseph, however, is not called the father of Jesus. (Matthew will explain this in later verses.) Do I see the plan of god unfolding in the ordinary moments of my life? Do I hear him calling me to be part of his plan? “O Wisdom of our God most high come to teach us the path of knowledge!”
Fourth Week of Advent
Monday: Luke 1:5-25
Luke’s Gospel now recalls all that preceded the birth of Jesus, beginning with the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth. God blesses their old age with the birth of a son, whom they are told to name john. He is the one to prepare the way for Jesus. God also prepares us for the virgin birth of his Son by the miracle of John’s birth. Remember that his parents were barren and advanced in age, yet see what God can do! We are called, as the people of god, to reveal his plan to all. What role do I play in revealing the presence of God through my life? “O root of Jesse’s stem, come to save us without delay!”
Tuesday: Luke 1:26-38
This is Luke at his most inspiring, revealing the angel’s message to Mary and explaining how God waits for her response. How God trusts Mary! It is as though the entire world stands still and waits for this young girl’s response. God is patient with her questions and allows the angel to explain how this amazing birth will take place. He tells her that for God nothing is impossible. Mary responds, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” The defining moment in salvation history has come to pass. God is asking me to say “yes” to his plan to save his people. Lord, give me the courage to answer as Mary did. “O key of David, come and free the prisoners of darkness.”
Wednesday: Luke 1:39-45
Luke’s Gospel, addressed to the Gentile world, is filled with mercy and compassion, explaining how God chooses the small and insignificant people of this world, like the shepherds on Christmas, to reveal his glory. Today’s passage is a tender story of two women who meet and share the wonderful things God has done for them. Together they echo the compassion of our God for his people. The child in Elizabeth’s womb jumps for joy at the presence of Jesus. What a beautiful and intimate moment! I will look for God in the human and intimate moments of my life. “O Emmanuel, our king and giver of law, come to save us, Lord our God!”
Thursday: Luke 1:46-56
The beauty of Mary’s “Magnificat” fills our souls and reaches deep into our very being. Repeating what is written in the Hebrew scriptures, Mary proclaims God’s greatness and power from the depths of her soul . This canticle is said every night in the Church’s evening prayer, and it is the prayer of every Christian. As I read the “Magnificat” again slowly, I will make these words my own proclamation of faith. “O King of all the nations and keystone of the church: come and save man whom you formed from dust!”
Friday: Luke 1:57-66
The birth of John the Baptist brought joy to his parents. “From the hill country of Judea, “ however, “fear came upon all their neighbors, who took these matters to heart. They began to question, “What then will this child be?” As Christmas draws near, I also ask, “Who is this Jesus for me? Is he a gift or a threat?” How I answer this question will determine my future.
Saturday: Luke 1:67-79
The season of Advent ends with the Canticle of Zechariah, said every day in the Church’s morning prayer. This canticle blesses god for what he promises to do for his people. Zechariah and Elizabeth learned that nothing is impossible with God: advanced in age and barren, Elizabeth conceived and bore a child. And now the greatest miracle of all is about to take place. Advent and Christmas meet at the winter solstice. Darkness gives way to light as the days begin to lengthen. In the night a baby is heard to cry. Following the message of an angel, shepherds hurry to see the child who is sleeping in a manger. The night sky is brightened by a star, while the heavenly host sings, “Glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” This Christmas I will believe “that with God nothing will be impossible.” “O radiant dawn, come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
© (2013) / Reverend Roger C. Gagné