DECEMBER 18 Thursday of the Third Week

JEREMIAH 23:5-8; MATTHEW 1:18-25
Living the O Antiphons

Living the O Antiphons
Come to rescue us with your mighty power! ALLELUIA VERSE

Yesterday, we began a “season within a season,” often referred to as the “Great Advent.” Since the seventh century, the O Antiphons have been sung in monasteries throughout the world during Vespers on the last seven days of Advent.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the O Antiphons have been adapted for the Alleluia verse before each day’s gospel reading on these days. These antiphons are also kept alive for us in the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

Each Antiphon begins with a biblical title and closes with a specific petition related to the title, and the cry for him to “Come.” The titles for Jesus are Wisdom, Leader of the House of Israel, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Rising Dawn, King of Nations, and Emmanuel. In Latin the initials of the titles make an acrostic, which, when read backwards, means: “Tomorrow I will be there” (“Ero cras”).

A custom in the monasteries was for different monks to provide treats on these days to the community. The gardener might share his finest fruits when they prayed: “O Root of Jesse ….”The wine steward might unlock the best wine for “O Key of David ….”

DAILY PRACTICE: In these “Great Advent” days, give a simple gift related to the theme of one of the O Antiphons to someone who is not expecting a gift from you.

ADVENT PRAYER: O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush: Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 17 Wednesday of the Third Week

GENESIS 49:2, 8-10; MATTHEW 1:1-17

All about relationships
Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born
Jesus who is called the Christ
. MATTHEW 1:16

My niece asked her six-year-old: Owen, why do you think God made people?” After a moment Owen answered, “So we could name the animals.”

Michelle said, “Thats true; I wonder if theres anything else.” Immediately Owen replied, “Oh, yes. It’s all about relationships.”

Today we hear the long passage of the genealogy of Jesus. Matthew includes this story for various reasons. Perhaps, one is to reinforce for us the wonder, the necessity, of the gift of relationships in our lives-all relationships: our relationship with God and our relationships with others, now and throughout the ages.

As we listen to todays hard-to-pronounce reading, we become aware that Jesus did not come out of the blue. Jesus lived (as we do) connected to various relationships: ordinary people and extraordinary people, people of anonymity and people of renown.

As Matthews gospel continues, telling of Jesusintimate relationship with God, another reminder of who we are becomes obvious- we are a community created to be in a profound relationship with our God of connections.

DAILY PRACTICE: Write a grateful Christmas note to someone who has influenced you: a person (living or deceased) or to God.

ADVENT PRAYER: God of Relationships, in your wisdom you createus interrelated to one another and always united with you. Deepein me an awareness of this gift of living life in relationship.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 16 Tuesday of the Third Week

ZEPHANIAH 3:1-2, 9-13; MATTHEW 21:2832

No complaining
For then I will change and purify the lips of the peoples. ZEPHANIAH 3:9

Samuel Johnson (English poet, essayist) cautioned: When any fit of gloominess, or perversion of mind, lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints.” Rhonda Byrne (Australian television writer) observed: “Remember, if you are criticizing, you are not being grateful. If you are blaming, you are not being grateful. If you are complaining, you are not being grateful.”

In Zephaniah, we hear of the many ways Jerusalem will be restored and what God will do for those who are faithful; the promise of virtuous, holy speech is given by God.

Have you ever been conscious of the types of speech that often surround us, the comments and conversation that quickly come to our minds-and our lips? Will Bowen wrote A Complaint Free

World to highlight the challenge he took on and encouraged others to try: stop complaining, gossiping, and criticizing for twenty-one days. (Scientists/psychologists believe that after twenty-one days, a new habit is formed.)

We will soon celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace, realizing anew God’s promises in Zephaniah. Our speech is certainly one of the ways we build peace: words of gratitude (not complaint), words of praise (not criticizing), words of blessing (not gossip).

DAILY PRACTICE: Do not complain, gossip, or criticize today. Can you extend it to tomorrow, the next day, and ?

ADVENT PRAYER: God of Praise and Blessing, you direct our speech. Guide me today as my words proclaim gratitude and admiration.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 15 Monday of the Third Week

NUMBERS 24:2-7, 15-17A; MATTHEW 21:23-27
Remembering & thanking

Remembering and thanking
Remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. PSALM 25:7

During a recent retreat I asked the retreatants: what is one of the most meaningful gifts you have ever received?

One man immediately responded: “Several months ago I received a phone call from some boys (now men, of course) whom I coached on a high school basketball team in 1984. They were at a

reunion. They called to tell me how much I had meant to them, the influence I had on their lives.” With tears in his eyes, he continued,“That just might be the nicest gift I’ve ever received.”

Often, gratitude bubbles up about the people currently in our lives and those in our lives in the past. Letting them know can make all the difference in their world.

Today, the psalmist asks God to remember him. We know that God always does; that is God’s very nature. By remembering us, God saves and redeems us. As we are called to be God-like, our grateful remembering of others might also save them: from discouragement, from low self-confidence, from worry, or from pessimism.

DAILY PRACTICE: What phone call might you make? It could be to someone you see every day or to a person whom you haven’t seen in years. It’s easy to find someone via the web; don’t hesitate.

ADVENT PRAYER: Remembering God, I am aware of your support, your encouragement, your saving grace. Make me to be more like you. Help me to always be conscious of ways to remember others through gratitude and praise.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 14 Third Sunday of Advent

ISAIAH 61:1-2A, 10-11; 1 THESSALONIANS 5:16-24; JOHN 1:6-8, 19-28
TheBody of Christ

The Body of Christ
The Lord has anointed me … to bring glad tidings to the lowly, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,and release to the prisoners. ISAIAH 61:1

When we hear Isaiah’s description of himself, which we easily apply to Jesus, we’re glad that Jesus’ mission was to heal those with broken hearts, to free captives, and to release prisoners.

But one of Advent’s messages is that whatever we apply to Jesus, we must apply to ourselves, for we too are the body of Christ in this world. The Church has always used “Body of Christ” in three ways: the physical body of Christ that walked our earth 2,000 years ago, the Eucharist, and we, the community of believers. 

Jesuspresence and action-his bringing of the good news-in the world today is very dependent upon each of us. Isaiah is describing our role as well as his. How do we live Isaiah’s description?

As you look at your families, neighborhoods, workplaces, is someone afflicted by feelings of worthlessness? Are there people whose hearts have been broken, perhaps even by those they love the most? Do you know someone who is held captive by unemployment, by haunting memories, by worry? Are people imprisoned by financial troubles, addictions, fear, or illness?

DAILY PRACTICE: Make a resolution to act today as the body of Christ: bringing good news to someone who is afflicted, brokenhearted, captive, or imprisoned.

ADVENT PRAYER: God of Anointing, in sending your Son to be one of us, you have called us, too, to be the body of Christ. Strengthen me as I live this anointing, this privilege, this responsibility.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 13 Saturday of the Second Week

SIRACH 48:1-4, 9-11; MATTHEW 17:9A, 10-13
We're One

We’re one
Then we will no more withdraw from you; give us new life,
and we will call on your name.
PSALM 80:19

Desmond Tutu relates that in Africa when you ask “How are you?” the reply is in the plural even when speaking to one person. A man would say “We are well” or “We are not well.”He himself might be quite well but his grandmother is not well; so he is not well either.

The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. In todays psalm-and in most of Scripture and liturgy-we pray as “we;” “us,” and “our,” rather than “I,” “me,” and “mine.”

Often we use the phrase “We’re number one” to talk about the United States. Jesus’ message, the Christian motto, is slightly different in wording, but drastically different in meaning: “Were one.”

As Catholics we are called to look for the “us” in everything. Virtually all the books of Scripture were intended to be heard and read by an entire community at prayer. Almost every time the word you” occurs, it’s actually plural and probably should be translated “you all.”

The Advent-Christmas message calls us to live more deeply the reality of our connectedness. God came among us as a human, living within and reaching out to all humanity. Emmanuel, God-with-us, we pray during Advent. God with all of us, God calling us to be one.

DAILY PRACTICE: During your Advent prayer, reflect: where is your focus: me and mine or we and ours?

ADVENT PRAYER: Connecting God, you call us as one people. Increase in me the awareness of this privilege and challenge.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 12 Friday of the Second Week

ZECHARIAH 2:14-17 OR REVELATION 11:19A, 12:1-6A, 10AB; LUKE 1:26-38 OR LUKE 1:39-47
United We Bear Christ

United, we bear Christ
Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day. ZECHARIAH 2:15

Mary told Juan Diego to ask that a church be built on the spot of her visit. The bishop hesitated at the request, asking for a sign.

Mary told Juan to pick some flowers. Juan found roses not native to Mexico or normally in bloom in December. Mary arranged them in his cloak. When Juan Diego opened it for the bishop, the flowers fell to the floor, revealing an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The events of Guadalupe remind us that-no matter our age, gender, race, or background-we are called to be bearers of Christ. Just as Mary summoned Juan Diego, a poor Aztec who was deemed irrelevant by those in authority, she beckons each of us to bring Christ into our world.

The story of the Virgin reminds us, too, of our unity-no matter our age, gender, race, or background. At one time Our Lady of Guadalupe was patroness of Latin America; in 1946 Pope Pius XII declared her the patroness of all the Americas.

DAILY PRACTICE: Reflecting upon our unity, where are you called to bring Christ today? To the poor? Someone usually deemed irrelevant by our culture? The immigrant? Someone of another race?

ADVENT PRAYER: God of All Nations, just as the image of Mary was imprinted on Juan’s cloak, so you empower us to be the image of yourSon today. Intensify my desire to image Jesus to all I meet and to recognize Jesus in everyone, especially those I’d rather ignore.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 11 Thursday of the Second Week

ISAIAH 41:13-20; MATTHEW 11:11-15

Here and now
The afflicted and the needy seek water in vain, their tongues are parched with thirst.
I, the Lord, will answer them. ISAIAH 41:17

An enthusiastic college graduate wrote to Mother Teresa, requesting to come to work with her. “I won’t be a burden. I can pay myway to get there; I can pay my expenses there. I admire what you’re doing and want to be a part of that, to make a difference.”

Finally a return letter arrived. Nervously but excitedly, he opened it; he had already begun packing his bags.

Mother Teresas answer was short: “Find your own Calcutta.”

Today, Isaiah reminds us that God desires to answer the needs of the suffering. God does that through each of us. Mother Teresa’s response reminds us that the needs are everywhere.

The poet Hafiz wrote: “The place you are right now God circled on a map for you.” Especially during this season of the year, we receive requests from organizations throughout the world (we do need to be concerned beyond our own circle). At the same time, there are needs right in front of us. How are we responding?

DAILY PRACTICE: Draw or find a map of your area. Use it as a screensaver or place it on your refrigerator. Watch today for needs in your area, in your Calcutta. Jot them on the map. How will you respond?

ADVENT PRAYER: God of the Here and Now, because of your care for everyone, you call us to be your compassion in our world. Open my eyes and my heart and my hands to the needs surrounding me.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 10 Wednesday of the Second Week

ISAIAH 40:25-31; MATTHEW 11:28-30
Comfort Of Simplicity

Comfort of simplicity
“I will give you rest.” MATTHEW 11:28

During one Advent, the community in which I lived decided not to give “wrapped” gifts to each other. Instead, we gathered on Christmas and told each other what gift (if there were no barrier) we would want to give them: for example, contact with a distanced family member; an awareness of how many people they had touched with their compassion; healing for a chronic illness; etc.

Todays readings speak about rest from weariness and relief from burdens. Jesus guides us to remember that we will always receive rest from him. Perhaps, too, we have a part. At times, especially during this season, might the weariness and burdens come from our busyness, from our need to want and do more?

Simplicity can lift burdens and provide peace. Simplicity enables us to bypass the periphery and the many-sometimes unnecessary-details to go to the core of life, as we did with moving from wrapped gifts to presents that spoke to each person’s essence, each person’s desires.

Living a more simple life will be different for each person: eliminating something on our schedule, having fewer possessions, reducing the noise around us, changing the way we shop, caring for the earth, taking Sabbath time, reducing clutter, changing the way we eat, doing one thing at a time, taking more time for prayer.

DAILY PRACTICE: Choose one way you will be able to lead a more simple life.

ADVENT PRAYER: God of Simplicity, thank you for providing us restful peace. Guide me in the calm of living simply.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.


DECEMBER 9 Tuesday of the Second Week

ISAIAH 40:1-11; MATTHEW 18:12-14

Affirming the good
“Will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” MATTHEW 18:12

In a certain tribe, when someone acts against the tribal codes or norms or against appropriate moral behavior, the elders form a circle, shoulder to shoulder, with the person in the center of the circle. For three days, the elders tell the person about all of the light and goodness they see in him or her. For these three days the person is not allowed out of the circle. He or she must hear, over and over again, about the goodness that is inherent in them. 

Perhaps this is a living out of the question Jesus poses today about the one who goes astray.

This tribe’s practice is a challenge to us, as Jesus’ parable is a message to and about us, not only about the Good Shepherd. We are reassured that the Good Shepherd cares for each of us, but there’s also an invitation for us here. We are called to search for those who have separated themselves, and to discover and affirm their goodness.

DAILY PRACTICE: Who has separated himself or herself from your family, your circle of friends, your parish, your workplace, etc.? In some way today, “go after them,”telling them of their goodness.

ADVENT PRAYER: Affirming God, you who see what you have created- the goodness in each of us-you go to all lengths to nurture that light in us, keeping us connected to you. Help me to be a person of affirmation and nurture for all those in my life.

From: ADVENT 2014. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Marvels and Mysteries of Advent. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications.