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DECEMBER 22 Fourth Sunday of Advent

The wonder of humanity

  “They shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” Matthew 1:23

I'm Human copy

On a worksheet, the youngsters were invited to finish this sentence: “I am a star because …” One young child wrote: “I just am.”

Being human is a magnificent thing; it’s how God made us. Believing in Christmas, in the incarnation, we proclaim that there is one thing that each of us has in common with God: humanity.

But do we ever negate our humanity?

When someone dies, especially a young person, people tend to say there is another angel in heaven. Not really; we are human; we remain human; we become saints, not angels.

Do we ever say ”I’m only human” and use it to describe our failings, our negative attitudes and responses? Could we say instead, “I listened today to someone who was lonely and needed a friend”? Why? “Because I’m only human.” “I worked at the homeless shelter last weekend.”Why? “Because I’m only human.”

Jesus came among us to teach us the generosity, the selflessness, and the glory of being human.

DAILY PRACTICE: Watch how you use the sentence ”I’m only human.” Use it to describe how you compassionately and attentively respond to life, to people, and to the needs of our world, as Jesus did.

ADVENT PRAYER: Ever-Present God, you chose to be one of us. As I live the challenge-and privilege-of being human, strengthen me to live it with all the intensity and faithfulness of Jesus.


From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications


DECEMBER 15 Third Sunday of Advent

Joy-filled contentment

  The ransomed of the Lord shall … enter Zion singing crowned with everlasting joy …Isaiah 35:10


One of my favorite books to read with my great-nieces and great-nephews is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. But my great-nephew Tyler wouldn’t let me read it to him. He would emphatically say, “It’s not a bad day; it’s a very good day. Look at all the great things we have and can do.”

I was struck by how he interpreted it. He was content with what he had, with whatever was happening. He saw it all as good – and enough. As we celebrate Gaudete Sunday, reflecting on joy, it becomes obvious that one prerequisite for being joyful is to be content, easily pleased with all I have, all that is happening.

The wise among us and the children (unless they’re tainted by commercials) are easily pleased with what each day brings. For those who know that God is everywhere, delight is experienced both in the front row as well as in the bleachers; God is found in our backyards as well as in exotic far-away places.

DAILY PRACTICE: Review your Christmas plans. Are you content with the simple, the unpretentious, the enough, or do you think everything has to be bigger and better than last year?

ADVENT PRAYER: God Who Calls Us to Contented Joy, give me a deepened appreciation for all that is, and for wherever I find myself. Increase joyful contentment in me, especially during this season in which we celebrate the simplicity of your extraordinary love.


From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications


DECEMBER 8 Second Sunday of Advent

Preparing caring paths

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Matthew 3:3


A mom overheard her 4-year-old and 8-year-old sons talking. The boys had just heard a story about how poor Jesus was at his birth. The younger son asked, “Why didn’t his mommy just ask Santa Claus to give Jesus what he needed?”

The 8-year-old replied, “Santa wasn’t around then, and besides, he doesn’t even help all the poor kids in the world now.”

Hidden in that question and answer is a deep connection to Isaiah’s words used in the message of John the Baptist in today’s gospel. Advent’s agenda – our call to discipleship all year long-is to prepare the way of the Lord who seeks to create a new destination, a new world. The challenge of “making straight his paths” is a call to clear away all the obstacles to a new place where “all the poor in the world now” are given comfort, care, and the riches of God.

We are called not just to prepare the lights, tree, and gifts; we are called to create a path of compassionate justice, lasting peace, and selfless giving. Advent is not just for waiting, but for doing.

DAILY PRACTICE: Decide on one way you can “make straight the paths” this Advent for: an older person, a struggling family member, a co-worker carrying a burden, the poor, those treated unjustly, etc.

ADVENT PRAYER: God Who Generously Comes, you call us to prepare our world for your comings – in all places, with all people. Guide me to be a disciple of action, making straight the roads so all will experience your gracious gifts.

From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications


DECEMBER 1 First Sunday of Advent

Profitably busy

“Stay awake.” Matthew 24:42

For most of us, Advent is a busy season. Today’s readings call us not to be busy, but to be profitably busy. Our busyness must count for something. It must make a difference.

Why are we called to be profitably busy each day? Often these readings lead us to think about the Second Coming of Jesus-and they should! Yet, if we mean by the “second coming” that Jesus isn’t really with us now, that he is an outsider to our world and just drops in once in a while, then we are missing something really important.

Every day of our lives, we encounter Jesus in some person, in some situation. We need to “stay awake” to all the ways we meet him. That means that we are called to be profitably busy.

What will that mean for this Advent? Perhaps it will mean slowing down for prayer, paying closer attention to the people in our lives, building an awareness of those in our world who are lonely and suffering, or taking action to reach out to someone whom we might know.

DAILY PRACTICE: Make a resolution that will enable you to be profitably busy during this Advent season.

ADVENT PRAYER: God of the Here and Now, nudge me to notice your Son in the hundreds of ways he is with me. Urge me to ways of being prayerfully, profitably busy.

From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications


Fourth Sunday of Advent 2010

What’s in a name?

“She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins. “


Some of us carry the names of our mothers or fathers forward into a new generation. Others were named in honor of a great leader, a friend of the family, an admirable person, even a saint. Naming a child is a big responsibility, and not only because the kid is going to have to face that first day of school with whatever he or she has been saddled. A thoughtful, well-considered name bears the hopes of the parents into the future, written in large letters across the life of their child.

Jesus, we might say, was named for his Father. His name is the Greek version of Joshua, which literally means “Yahweh, help!” God is in the saving business; it’s no wonder the divine Son would wind up in the same line of work. We can be glad that Jesus carried his Father’s dreams into the future, since our need for rescue is relentless. God accompanied a nation through a parted sea, across a desert, into a brave new land and destiny. Jesus walks with us through life, shielding us from the effects of sin and leading us all the way through the door of death itself. When it’s time to choose a name, think carefully: What do you want the future to look like?

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION How have the names of family members played a role in who they each became? How does your name for a situation-bleak, hopeful- change the nature of its possibility?

TIME TO ACT Respect the power of naming. Choose words thoughtfully, especially when speaking about the potential of a person or a circumstance.

OFFER A PRAYER Lord of all possibility, you called a world of hope into being. Sometimes we choose the route of destruction and despair. Restore to this generation the virtue of hope.

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications


Third Sunday of Advent 2010

The next great teacher

“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”

I fell in love with the saints in grade school. Catherine of Siena and Teresa of Avila set my imagination on fire. How do you get to be a friend of God? I yearned to know. Spiritual writer Henri Nouwen became my mentor in college. I couldn’t read enough of his tender, beautiful words. Does this guy know the heart of God or what?

Most of us can trace a path through our lives populated by people whose presence, words, or example made us who we are-or challenged us to become who we’d like to be. If you’re in the pursuit of holiness, you’re happy to change lanes anytime you catch the scent of the real deal. It’s not hat I’ve abandoned any of the teachers I’ve had so far. It’s just that there’s always so much more to learn.

Some disciples of John the Baptist slammed on the brakes when they encountered Jesus. At first, they had imagined that John was The One. But John himself pointed to Jesus: He’s the Lamb of God! For those of us who believe that, every earthly teacher has to demonstrate his allegiance to Jesus first.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION Name the teachers and mentors whose ideas and example have inspired your faith. What lessons have they taught that have shaped who you are today?

TIME TO ACT Reflect on those who may look to you for your example: children, your spouse, friends, fellow parishioners. Consider the merits of what you demonstrate about what you believe.

OFFER A PRAYER Holy God, the path of holiness is the way to you. Shine your light on our way so that we might find the mentor we need to help us in the pursuit of goodness and truth.

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications


Second Sunday of Advent 2010


“Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees”

The shirt is full of holes. The collar’s frayed, the original color is anybody’s guess, and if laundered, it will disintegrate. So why not give it up already? Sometimes parting really is such sweet sorrow that we delay the moment beyond all reason. So the favorite shirt gets another reprieve. The crumbling flower stays pressed in the book. The relationship has been in death throes for ages but we pretend not to notice. Whatever the unworkable situation is, we’re too tired or in such deep denial that we’re going to keep on moving in the same direction and hope for different results. You may have heard: that’s
one definition of insanity.

We think of Advent season as flowing gently into Nativity. It’s also hurtling toward Apocalypse, but that’s the part we’re not very comfortable with. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux spoke of three “comings” of Christ: as the child of Bethlehem and the final Lord of history, as well as the quiet daily arrivals of grace in which we recognize the face of Jesus. We’re pleased to make room for the baby and for the footprints of Jesus in friendly sand. But that cosmic Lord of history? Carrying the ax that will cut down every fruitless enterprise? Howe do we fit that fellow under the Christmas tree?

How do you observe a season of hope and apocalypse? How do you incorporate the need for “creative destruction” in your spiritual life?

TIME TO ACT Make a list of the behaviors that characterize you. Mark those that are keepers and those that need to be changed or abandoned. Ax-wielding optional.

OFFER A PRAYER Lord, yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory. Yours is also the prerogative to wield the ax on fruitless things. May this awareness keep me honest!

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications