GN 49:2, 8-10; Psalm 72; MT 1:1-17
Have you ever researched your family tree? Genealogy can tell you where your roots are in the world. For many Catholics, their family name is a source of great pride and personal identity, especially if it connects them with immigrants who sought religious freedom in a new world many years ago. Today’s Gospel consists of the first 17 verses of the Gospel of Matthew, which contains the genealogy of Jesus. It demonstrates his lineage leads back to King David and Abraham.
Did you see your name in that genealogy? Well, of course not. You appear after Jesus. But the family tree in Matthew is yours as well. You and I are adopted sons and daughters of God. When we live out our lives as disciples, we bring with us our family identity. Your stewardship connects to the stewardship of many generations before you; generations filled with men and women cultivating and giving back the good gifts God has given. The next time you find yourself offering yourself in God’s service, remember that you do not stand-alone. Your entire family tree stands with you.
Daily Advent Challenge
Take 10 minutes to learn about the life of a saint that is unfamiliar to you. You can use the Internet or a book. How can their life serve as an example to you in your own stewardship way of life?
An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
The name Emmanuel means, “God is with us.” This is a title we use for Jesus frequently during the Advent and Christmas season, but it’s impact should stay with us throughout the year. The Incarnation, God becoming human in the person of Jesus Christ, broke into our world in a profound manner that means that God is not only with us, God is us. The relationship offered to you and I by God is now more intimate and meaningful because of the birth of Jesus Christ.
God is truly with us and our goal is to be truly present to him at all times. To be prayerful is an important characteristic of an Everyday Steward. It means more than reciting prayers and setting aside 10 minutes a day. Our goal is to experience the presence of God throughout the day in the ordinary and extraordinary moments of living. Offering all the actions and moments of the day to God as we awake, and then examining our day before we go to sleep at night, help lead us closer toward that goal.
When we begin to sense God’s presence at all times, and we realize that being with God does not mean one of us has to be talking all the time, than we can truly attest to our reality in a quiet voice at any time, “Emmanuel, God is with us.”
IS 56:1-3a, 6-8; Psalm 67; JN 5:33-36
We should always seek to “observe what is right” and “do what is just,” but the Advent season seems a particularly good time to focus on these words from Isaiah. While the world seems focused on buying presents and reveling in holiday cheer, there is much injustice all around.
Striving to be good stewards doesn’t mean we don’t take the time to buy gifts for loved ones or celebrate life with each other, but it does mean that we can’t lose sight of what is going on all around us.
Do you have a cause that is particularly meaningful to you? Maybe it is respect for life, the struggle of the poor, inequality among races or economic class, or care for the environment. All of these should be a concern of all Christians, but each of us has been created by God to be different, and not all of us have the gifts and talents to make equal contributions in all areas. Where can you make a difference in observing what is right and doing what is just?
Advent Daily Challenge
Choose a cause for justice that means a lot to you and research the causes of the injustice. Can you see yourself doing something to make a difference? Even a little action can yield a big result. Make a resolution to act upon your research and reflection in the coming new year.
IS 54:1-10; Psalm 30; LK 7:24-30
What do you own and what owns you? Do you seek to be judged by your wealth, your style of dress, the size of your house, or your status in the community?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the crowds that there is no one greater than John the Baptist among them. This man who lived a hermit lifestyle in the desert did not seek to impress anyone with material wealth and fine dress. His life and how he lived that life was for God alone. He belonged to God and was tied to nothing here on earth.
At times when all is quiet and I am at home alone, I look around and question if I could leave it all behind tomorrow. I think I could, but I also thank God that I have never been asked for such a sacrifice. If the call came today, to leave it all behind and live like John the Baptist, could you?
Like me, you will probably answer in the affirmative quickly, but after more introspection and reflection, you may realize that the choice is not so easy. After all, there is a reason why the entire world knows the name of St. Teresa of Kolkata. Like John the Baptist before her, it didn’t take the bigger house or the most expensive car to get people to notice.
Daily Advent Challenge
Find one material item that means something to you and give it away. It shouldn’t be something you need, but instead something you want but has no significant bearing on your life.
IS 45;6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Psalm 85; LK 7:18B-23
When the private letters of St. Teresa of Kolkata were released, many people could not grasp why she attested to going through periods of time where she felt alone and abandoned by God. But for those familiar with the writings of St. John of the Cross, the experience of the “dark night of the soul” was very familiar. Some describe the experience as God working in our souls to draw us ever closer to his heart.
The dark night of the soul is not to be confused with depression, that which is brought on by a chemical imbalance in the brain or a traumatic life event. This Advent, many are suffering through profound sadness and depression. This may even be your reality. Christmastime is so very hard, for so many, for so many reasons. But know this: there is a God who loves you and a community here on earth that cares, named the Body of Christ.
So either you have been given gifts by God that can help someone in their darkness, or by being open to the reception of someone’s gifts you might be able to see some light. Either way, God has placed on call on all our lives today. No one should be alone.
Daily Advent Challenge
Find a person you know that is having a particularly hard time this season and resolve to help them in some way. If you do not know someone, turn to your church or civic community. At this time of year, there are outreach programs to help make life easier or brighter for others, even if it is caroling at a nursing home or homeless shelter.
For Sunday, December 18, 2016, 4th Sunday of Advent
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Looking at the American landscape as the year draws to a close, you may wonder how we got here. The intense divisions, the harsh rhetoric, and the damaged relationships brought about by politics, racial tensions, and the news media can seem to be all too much. We made it through the Thanksgiving holiday, yet some of us apparently needed to call a special hotline set up to assist in the maneuvering through dinner conversations. (more…)
ZEP 3:1-2, 9-13; Psalm 34; MT 21:28-32
If you have ever seen Catholic School students dress up as their favorite saints for All Saints Day, St. Lucy is always a big hit. It is her frequent depiction holding her eyeballs on a plate that seems to make her a popular choice.
Tradition tells us that her eyes where removed with swords after repeated attempts to defile or kill her by the Roman Governor, Paschasius. Her bravery and resolve was no match for her persecutors, and even when she was to be buried, witnesses saw that her eyes had been miraculously restored. Because of this, she is the patron saint of the blind.
The commitment St. Lucy had to her faith was amazing. It was that commitment that allowed her to see the truth and not be swayed. We all suffer from bouts of blindness during our lives as stewards. But we need to stay committed to our decision to follow Jesus and live this life. Commitment is another key characteristic of an Everyday Steward. The example of St. Lucy and other saints help us to be strong when it seems life is hard. But almost more importantly, reflecting on their lives can help us truly see the ways God moves in our lives and the gifts he has given us to use for his glory.
Daily Advent Challenge
Reflect on how courageous you are in your faith. Could you stand up for Jesus in the face of hate? Would you be willing to lose everything for God? Try to identify a time when you took the easy road and were not courageous. What could help you be brave the next time around?
ZEC 2:14-17 or REV 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10; Judith 13; LK 1:26-38
On December 9, 1531, Our Lady appeared to a simple Aztec Indian who had converted to the Catholic faith, Juan Diego. Three days later, at Juan Diego’s request, Mary provided a sign so the local Bishop would believe that she actually had appeared. Roses grew out of the cold winter soil, and when Juan Diego opened his cloak to show the Bishop what he had found, an image of Our Lady appeared on the fabric. These occurrences led to the conversion of most of Mexico and remain today a strong sign of Our Lady’s concern and love for us.
Church-approved Marian apparitions always point to her son, Jesus. For many of us with a strong Marian devotion, Mary is a pathway into a stronger relationship with our Lord. Her generosity shown to Juan Diego is the same generosity shown to each of us that choose to ask her intercession. Families pray for one another and she is a very prominent member of our family. May the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe be a sign of warmth for you in the cold of winter and of Advent hope for a Christ-child that has redeemed the world.
Daily Advent Challenge
If you do not already do so, begin to carry a rosary with you daily. It serves as a reminder that miracles continue to happen all around us. We are never alone.
SIR 48:1-4, 9-11, Psalm 80, MT 17:9a, 10-13
Psalm 80, from today’s Lectionary, has a great refrain: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” First, the use of the word “make” admits that we cannot fully turn to God on our own. Without God’s help, we destined to wander this earth, trying to make our way alone. Secondly, the psalmist implies that simply seeing the face of God is enough for our salvation. If we truly see God for whom God is, how could we ever turn away.
During these weeks of Advent, there are many images everywhere: Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas trees, etc. There is no doubt that they help increase our expectation for the coming feast. But, it is a feast, and one that truly is all about Jesus Christ. Make sure that your Advent journey is filled with images of the reason for the season: Jesus. It will enrich your journey and help you focus on the main thing. For who could look upon the Savior’s face and not be changed?
Daily Advent Challenge
Do you have a crucifix hung in your house that can easily be seen? If not, find one that speaks to you and hang it where you can readily see it. Spend 5 minutes looking at it and reflecting on the reality that the baby born in a manger is the same one who was crucified. God became man to die for you. He rose from the dead so you would believe. He lives now and calls to you so that you may come to know him more each day.
John the Baptist is truly an intriguing figure of history. He was a cousin of Jesus and literally prepared all those who would listen for this new way of life ushered in by a Messiah. Besides the key role he plays in the Gospel story, his depiction in Scripture, and then in literature, movies, and other media, gives us an image of a pretty unique person.
How about locusts and wild honey for dinner? Can you imagine camel’s hair as a staple in your wardrobe? He lived differently, and he stood out among the status quo. Of course, his look and cuisine didn’t stand out nearly as much as his message.
How do you stand out? What separates you from the crowd? God has created each of us completely different and with a combination of gifts like no one else. How can you uncover and understand your unique gifts?
First, reflect on what makes you happiest in life. We are happiest when we are using the talents God gave us. Next, think about what comes naturally to you, whether it is a skill, task, or emotion. Recurring patterns in our behavior and experiences provide clues to our giftedness.
Finally, what do other people see in you? The communities we live in, whether it is our family, parish, school, or workplace are filled with people who can provide clues to us by their observations. After these steps, can you say what makes you special? Now, let’s start to grow that, lean on it, and stand out in a way that brings glory to God.