colorful lights on illuminated street in evening
Advent, Gospel, Mass Reflection

A Canticle for the End of Advent

December 24

Luke 1:67-79

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”


“Lord open my lips, and my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Ps 51:17). You might recognize this sentence from the Divine Office or other prayers. This is the verse that comes to mind today. Zechariah was rendered mute by the angel Gabriel when he did not believe the angel’s message, but today, in today’s Gospel reading, his speech is restored.

Why? Maybe because he learned his lesson.

When the angel announced John’s birth, Zechariah was directed to name his son John, but when John was born, people objected to the name. Zechariah, still mute, scrawled on a tablet, “John is his name.” God blessed Zechariah’s obedience and restored his speech.

Zechariah’s canticle contains his first spoken words after a long period of silence. Of all the things he could have said, look at what he chooses to say.  Zechariah praises God and speaks truth to the people around him.

Advent gave us time to be quiet, avail ourselves of the sacrament of penance, and spend time in the Word. As Advent dusk sets and Christmas dawns, are you ready to sing your own canticle of praise?

                                    Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

If you could sing a canticle, what would it contain?

wood light fashion man
Advent, Gospel, Motherhood, Parenting

When Your Hopes and Dreams for Your Child Don’t Turn Out the Way You Planned

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Luke 1:57-66

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” But they answered her, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.


Parents have great hopes and dreams more often than not when they bring a child into the world. What will he or she become? We pray for health and for happiness, surely. But many pray that the gifts God bestows on them will be used well and appreciated by the child, that the gifts will be used to glorify God. Whatever the hopes and prayers, things don’t always turn out the way we expect.

At some point, when expectations are dashed, parents need to pray new prayers for their children, especially our young-adult children,: “Lord, give them the grace they need to overcome the struggles. Give them peace. Heal them. Comfort them. Be with them. Keep them safe from harm. Shield them from pain, from evil. Help them to know You’re with them always, that we’re here for them. Let them know we love them unconditionally just like You do, Lord. We may not love them as much as You do, but we love them as much as is humanly possible.”

Even Elizabeth and Zechariah were probably initially disappointed or confused, certainly, by John the Baptist’s life choices. He was living in the desert, wearing nothing but camel’s hair clothing and a leather belt, and eating honey and wild locusts. He spoke truth to power. He spoke of the Truth that is Jesus, the Lamb of God. Not so long after, Jesus would mourn his death.

What we envision for the future of our children or ourselves is rarely what occurs. God’s has a plan, and it is for our salvation. We have to trust Him and what he wants for us and our children which is, ultimately, eternal life with him. Life here isn’t always what we planned.

Lynda MacFarland

Meditation

Let’s ask God, recalling the mercy he shows us through the passion, death, and resurrection of his Son, to help our unbelief.


lighted holiday tree in front of building
Advent, Gospel

God Looks Upon our Lowliness

Tuesday 22 December

Luke 1:46-56

Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.


To be seen through the eyes of God, even in our lowliness, is a true blessing. As women we know we can be our own worst enemies. We do not need others to put us down because no one does that better that we do. Unfortunately, we often see ourselves as if we were looking at a fun house mirror full of distortion. We see every perceived imperfection and we focus on those. Can you imagine how sad God must be with how we look upon his creation this way?

I was looking through my closet one day, pulling out clothes and complaining that nothing looked good on me. I called myself fat and ugly and bemoaned the fact that I could not make any of those clothes look good. What I thought I was saying in my head I was obviously saying out loud, and my husband heard me. Before I knew what was happening my husband grabbed me by the shoulders, turned me around, and said “I don’t care how you are feeling.  I won’t allow anyone to speak about the woman I love that way! You are hurting her, and you are hurting me as well. Stop it now!”  I was hurting him by speaking badly about me. Can I tell you that I have never felt more loved by him than I did in that exact minute?

God looks upon us in our lowliness and he calls us blessed. When we do not love ourselves (who have been created in his image and likeness) we hurt him. I can imagine God doing what my husband did, holding us and telling us to “Stop it now!” I love you!

Lisa Miklos

Meditation

God is captivated by you, and that includes the imperfections that you may see in the mirror.

Advent, Blessed Mother, Gospel, Mass Reflection

The Visitation Gospel Reflection for Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

Monday 21 December

Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”


As we draw nearer to the birth of our Lord and prepare for his arrival, today’s Gospel perfectly illustrates how we should prepare to receive him.  The forthright love, humility, and pure joy between Mary and Elizabeth proves that when our trust in God is at the center of our lives, perfect love is born.

Before the reunion witnessed in today’s Gospel, our Blessed Mother proclaimed her fiat, “May it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38).  In doing so, Mary was fully accepting God’s plan for her – to become the mother of our Savior.  She did this without fully knowing what it would entail, giving us the true definition of trust. Additionally, she was told her cousin Elizabeth was with child, so Mary went with haste to see Elizabeth, knowing how she longed for a child her entire life. Elizabeth accepted God’s will. She did not lose faith or hope when her own desires had not become reality in her youth.

Mary and Elizabeth reunite with immense joy, “Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out . . . and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’” (LK1:41-43). 

The image of these two women, embracing with such warmth, love, and joy, is how we should interact with one another. In receiving your neighbor, you are receiving Christ himself.  As women, let us strive to mirror Mary and Elizabeth’s relationship with the women in our lives.  Let us embrace each other with joy-filled hearts, humble ourselves so we can see Christ in each other, and allow Christ’s perfect love to radiate through our interactions.

Amanda Costello

Meditation

How are you a good friend to the women in your life?

Advent, Blessed Mother, Gospel, Mary, Theology, Uncategorized, Women's Ministry

The Immaculate Conception – Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

Sunday 20 December

Luke 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


If you’ve been keeping up with the readings this Advent, you’ll notice that today’s Gospel is the same Scripture that we read on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In her reflection for that day, Amanda Alley wrote about how God gives us sufficient grace for each thing he asks of us. 

Today, I want to talk about Mary and her Immaculate Conception. Some people struggle to understand how we can claim that Mary was conceived without original sin.

Where is this in the Bible? 

Today’s reading tells us that the Angel approached Mary and said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” (Lk 1:28). As articulated by Pope Piux IX, our Church understands “full of grace” to mean that “the Most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.” (Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus). 

If you read this passage next to Gabriel telling Zechariah about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, you’ll notice that the stories are very similar, but how Gabriel addresses each person is quite different.  The angel appears to Zechariah and simply calls him by his name, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah” (Lk 1:13). In contrast, the angel greets Mary, “Hail, full of grace” (Lk 1:28) and later uses Mary’s name only later. This initial greeting — “Hail, full of grace” — is unique.

Archbishop Timothy Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, spoke at the MidAtlantic Congress in 2019 and noted that the Roman Catholic Church has a carefully articulated theology about the Eucharist, in part, because the Church had to defend her beliefs from attack. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodoxy has a well-developed theology of praying with icons because iconography was attacked as idolatry. (View minutes 17-20 of this recording for the specific remarks).

Sometimes external pressure moves us to declare or reaffirm truths that we already know. Like the Eucharist and iconography, the Catholic Church articulated the Immaculate Conception as “dogma” in 1854, not because Mary’s Conception without original sin was a new concept, but because the belief was under attack. 

If Mary’s Immaculate Conception makes sense to you, that is a grace. If this teaching is hard for you to understand, I recommend the book A Biblical Walk with Mary by Dr. Edward Sri as a good starting point.

If you’re struggling with a teaching of the Church, find a friend to help you learn. We’re all students. Ask for God’s grace to understand.

Elizabeth Tomlin

Meditation

Have you ever struggled to understand a teaching of the Faith? What helped you to get through it?


shallow focus photography of religious figurines
Advent, Gospel, Mass Reflection

Whose Will be Done? Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

By Aly Tugaoen

Have you ever prayed “God’s will be done” for a specific intention, but you’re secretly praying that God will answer the intention in the way you have decided is best? 

I recently had an experience like this. I prayed hard to know God’s will for a work situation and when his will was (partially, in this case) made known to me, I was crushed. God did not answer my prayer in a way that saved me from suffering.  I wanted to curl up in a ball, cry, and disappear from my colleagues until they forgot my name. 

However, in his infinite mercy, God revealed the remaining part of his intentions for me a few months later — but not before I shed a lot of tears, recited many more prayers, and begged for a glaring sign from him that would help me understand how it was all supposed to work out.  I had a hard time recognizing how he was blessing me in the middle of my despair. 

I see a similar situation in Zechariah. He and Elizabeth wife prayed for so many years in anticipation of a child, that when God chose to answer their prayer despite being considered “advanced in years and baron,” Zechariah simply couldn’t believe it. Unlike Mary, who also asks the angel Gabriel how she would come to be with child, out of bewilderment and acceptance, Zechariah asked the angel Gabriel how the miraculous pregnancy of his wife could come to be because he couldn’t see the gift among the boxes. 

Advent is much like that. It’s waiting and anticipating. Today in the year 2020, we know that Advent is a four week season that points us to the birth of Jesus, but this historical knowledge is a luxury that Zechariah and Elizabeth did not have. It can be hard to stay faithful to the anticipation and the waiting aspects that accompany the season of Advent, especially given our get-it-now culture, but what a gift we are given if we take the time to humble ourselves and look for the good that Advent brings. Pray that it does not take us being put on “mute” as Zechariah was, to see it.    

Meditation

Think of a time when your prayers were not answered the way you expected. In hindsight, do you see God’s hand the whole time? Give thanks for that.