Fourth Friday of Advent

Posted on December 23, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

ML 3:1-4, 23-24; Psalm 25; LK 1:57-66

Daily Advent Challenge 12-23The Responsorial Psalm for today has a wonderful refrain for the last days of the Advent season: “Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand.”

As Christmas draws near, we have a tendency to race to the finish. We put our heads down and plough straight ahead getting that last thing at work done, shopping for that last item, or putting out that final decoration. But this is the time to actually spend more time in prayer, reflection, and doing works of charity.

Too often in stewardship we lose sight of the reason why we are called to be good stewards in the first place. Our actions can begin to ring hollow if we don’t remember the reason we are doing something. All our actions in the name of stewardship are to give glory to God and to lead others to Jesus Christ. More money in the collection and more hands to do the work of the Church are often fruits of a parish community living a stewardship way of life, but it is never the primary reason we do anything. So, when trying to do the best you can in walking this way of life, lift up you head and see. He is coming again. He will come when we least expect it. And He is the reason for it all! Yes, your redemption is near at hand!

Daily Advent Challenge

There are just a couple days until Christmas. Who do you know that needs some encouragement during this season? Call them today to see how they are doing. Help them lift their heads to see.

Fourth Thursday of Advent

Posted on December 22, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

1 SAM 1:24-28; 1 Samuel 2: 1-8; LK 1:46-56

Daily Advent Challenge 12-22Two days ago our Daily Advent Challenge was to read Mary’s Magnificat and reflect on maturity of faith. The Magnificat is today’s Gospel reading and it comes to us paired with the reading from 1 Samuel, where Hannah offers Samuel to the Lord. In one reading, a mother accepts the will of God in the form of a son, and in the other, a woman offers her gift back to God. Both show a great maturity of faith. Our children are only entrusted to us for a time, but in the end, they belong to the One who created them.

If you are a parent, let’s face it: Christmas can be a stressful time. Can you find this year’s special present in time? Will you be up all night wrapping or putting together toys? But let’s put this all in right perspective: The greatest gift you can give your child this year is an understanding of who created them and to whom they still belong.

The love I have for my three children is great, but it will always pale in comparison to the love God has for them. And because of that, I have an awesome responsibility to care for these gifts, help them to grow, and then offer them back to God like Hannah.

Don’t let the chaos of the season get in the way of what really matters in this life. And if you are not a parent, pray for the children you encounter in your life, that they may come to know in a profound and meaningful way the child born in a manager over 2000 years ago.

Daily Advent Challenge

PAUSE! Christmas is just three days from now! Your challenge is to slow down, take some time to relax, pray, and offer yourself to God.

Fourth Wednesday of Advent

Posted on December 21, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

SG 2:8-14 or ZEP 3:14-18a; Psalm 33; LK 1:39-45

Daily Advent Challenge 12-21In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth receives Mary at her home. When the Holy Spirit moves Elizabeth, she testifies to the reality of the Messiah being the child in Mary’s womb. It will then be Elizabeth’s son, John the Baptist, who will prepare the way for his cousin’s public ministry.

It is Elizabeth’s graciousness both in her hospitality and her remarks that provide the setting for this story. When we are gracious, we open ourselves up to become an instrument of God’s peace and love.

Graciousness, another characteristic of an Everyday Steward, allows others to see the effect God has had on our lives. It is not always enough to just share our gifts with others. It is how we share them that can make all the difference. The good steward finds joy in generosity and that joy can become contagious.

Daily Advent Challenge

If you bake or cook, make something for someone else as a gesture of hospitality. If you don’t do either, invite someone out to lunch or dinner. It does not have to be expensive. Graciousness lies in the gesture, not the amount spent or the culinary skill achieved.

Fourth Tuesday of Advent

Posted on December 20, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 7:10-14; Psalm 24; LK 1:26-38

Daily Advent Challenge 12-20Today’s Gospel tells the cornerstone story for Advent, the Visitation. The angel Gabriel visits a young unwed girl and tells of God’s plan for her to bear the child of God. Her answer then sets into motion a chain of events that changes all of human history. Her “yes” is why you are even reading this or why any of this matters. It is her example of true stewardship that leads to God crashing into humanity as the Incarnation.

The US Bishops’ pastoral, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, has as a primary conviction that we are called to be mature disciples that answer the call of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost. When God called Mary, she could have spent many days and weeks contemplating her answer. Who would blame her? However, even though she was young in years, she was mature in faith. The cost to a young unwed girl at this time of history and in this part of the world could be quite high. But her faith in God was her strength. To be strong enough to answer as Mary did is the goal. It would be great if we could all just be that wise and mature, but that is not how humanity always works. But like the angel Gabriel said, “Nothing will be impossible for God.”

Daily Advent Challenge

Read Mary’s Magnificat contained in Luke 1:46-55. Read it slowly and reflect on each line. Ask God to give you the maturity of Our Lady.

Fourth Monday of Advent

Posted on December 19, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

JGS 13:2-7, 24-25a; Psalm 71; LK 1:5-25

Daily Advent Challenge 12-19Today’s readings tell us the stories of Manoah’s wife and Elizabeth, both of whom were barren, but with the power of God, they became pregnant with child. The children born to these women weren’t just “average Joe’s” either. They were Samson and John the Baptist, two important figures in salvation history.

In stewardship, sometimes it can feel that our fields are dry and bearing no fruit. We can feel that even though we keep trying to cultivate our gifts and offer them back to God for his glory, nothing around us changes. The poor are still among us. Hearts are still hardened. The community we live in still appears to be fractioned.

But our gifts are not our own. We cannot will certain things to happen that are not in God’s plan. We are called to simply grow that which we have been given the best we can and offer it back to the God who created all things. We are stewards, not owners. But here is the hope we hold in our hearts: God will bring forth a rich harvest from the field that appears dry and hardened. Stay faithful to God for he is always faithful to his own.

Daily Advent Challenge

Can you identify a struggle you are having in living out your stewardship way of life? Name it and place it completely in God’s hands. You might be surprised what God can create out of our hardships and chaos.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Posted on December 18, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 7:10-14; Psalm 24; ROM 1:1-7; MT 1:18-24

Daily Advent Challenge 12-18The name Emmanuel means, “God is with us.” This is a title we use for Jesus frequently during the Advent and Christmas season, but its 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 throughout our day. To be prayerful, another characteristic of an Everyday Steward, 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. 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.”

Daily Advent Challenge

Take a day and setup reminders on your phone or other device to alert you hourly. At each hour, try to feel the presence of God. Spend a minute or two in prayer if needed to calm your spirit enough to be open to his presence.

Third Saturday of Advent

Posted on December 16, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

GN 49:2, 8-10; Psalm 72; MT 1:1-17

Daily Advent Challenge 12-17Have 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?

Third Friday of Advent

Posted on December 16, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 56:1-3a, 6-8; Psalm 67; JN 5:33-36

Daily Advent Challenge 12-16We 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.

Third Thursday of Advent

Posted on December 15, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 54:1-10; Psalm 30; LK 7:24-30

Daily Advent Challenge 12-15What 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.

Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Posted on December 14, 2016 by - Advent Reflections

Readings

IS 45;6c-8, 18, 21c-25; Psalm 85; LK 7:18B-23

Daily Advent Challenge 12-14When 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.