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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.

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.


father and son lighting candles
Advent, Bible, Gospel, Liturgical Living, Mass Reflection

Sacred Heart Enthronement: A Reflection for Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Friday 18 December

Matthew 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.


The simple and humble birth of our Lord is the most remarkable moment in history. God became man and liberated us from the bondage of sin. He came to “bring glad tidings to the poor, and to proclaim liberty to captives” (see Lk 4:14-19). Christ our Savior was born and we are invited to live with him, and the Father and the Holy Spirit, for all of eternity.

Jesus is the “who” in all of history. We are invited every Advent to grow closer to the Third Person of the Trinity and not make Christmas “one more thing to do.” We have a growing trend in our culture where religion fits into our schedule versus scheduling our life around our Faith. More and more our sporting events, activities, and even family time, trump our time for Mass. Without receiving Christ in the Eucharist, we cannot experience His peace, grace, and the invitation to follow him. 

This invitation is also present in the Sacred Heart Enthronement devotion. In this devotion, families are invited to welcome Jesus into their home each and every day. It helps us to see that Jesus is the solution to our difficulties, both ordinary and significant. He helps us carry our crosses, discover new solutions and see the good in everyone. Our journey through Advent is about growing closer to Jesus and learning to love with Divine Love. Even though we are imperfect, when we allow the Spirit of Jesus to burn through our weaknesses, we give Him honor for His humble birth. No matter where we celebrate Christmas, with friends and family or NOT, let us turn to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to be our guide.

As St. Matthew tells us, in quoting Isaiah, “the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.” What more could we ask for?

Emily Jaminet

Meditation

Most holy Heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore You, I love You, and with a lively sorrow for my sins, I offer You this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure, and wholly obedient to Your will. Grant, good Jesus, that I may live in You and for You. Protect me in the midst of danger; comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, Your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.[1]


[1] This prayer was originally published in the book “Enthronement to the Sacred Heart”, by Fr. Francis Larkin. To Request copies of this prayer card go to http://www.WelcomeHisHeart.com.

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Advent, Family Life, Gospel, Mass Reflection, Motherhood, Women's Ministry

What you Focus on Gets Bigger. Reflection for Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Luke 7:18B-23

At that time, John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” When the men came to the Lord, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’” At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. And Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”


In our family we play a variation of Slug Bug called “Yellow Car.” The thought was to make the game harder because there are not that many yellow cars. That is, until you look for them… then they are everywhere!

That which you focus on, gets bigger. (Tip: Don’t focus on your backside!) When questioned by John’s disciples, Jesus asks them what they have seen and heard. The list of wonders grows and grows as they pay attention and look.  And then Jesus tells these disciples to go back and report what have found.

What wonders are you seeing? Are you even looking for the wonders? Many times, we must be intentional in our seeking, because like the proverbial snowball, once we get going our experience keeps expanding. Make note. Be grateful.

And then, Share! Tell what you are seeing and hearing.  You have a circle of influence and it starts in your domestic church, your home. Open the eyes of those you interact with to beauty. Witness to the work of God that is happening in and around you. Your joy, love and amazement at the goodness of God is contagious! Like a pebble dropped into a pond, the change in you will create change in those around you.

See. Hear. Go. Tell.

Jackie Henderson

Meditation

Your circle of influence starts in your domestic church, your home. How are you a witness to the work of God in your domestic church?

photo of child reading holy bible
Advent, Family Life, Gospel, Motherhood, Women's Ministry

Living our Faith with Courage. Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Tuesday 15 December

Matthew 21:28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “What is your opinion? A man had two sons. He came to the first and said, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ 
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’ but afterwards he changed his mind and went. The man came to the other son and gave the same order. He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did his father’s will?” They answered, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you. When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did. Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe him.”


When my daughter was just starting to talk, I remember wanting to make sure we always said grace before meals. Growing up, my family knew how to say grace, but we didn’t do it regularly, and especially not in public. As I’m teaching my daughter to say grace, sometimes I’m tempted to skip public prayer if we’re dining at a restaurant. But let me tell you, my four year old never skips grace!

Saying that we’ll live our faith is easy.  Actually living our faith takes courage.  

In today’s world it can be so easy to post about doing the right things. We can tell people we pray before meals or post about attending Mass online when really we slept in. But we were made for more than easy. We were made to do the work not just talk about doing the work.

We were made to do hard things and sometimes praying in front of friends or family who are not Catholic is hard. Sometimes getting up to go to Mass, even Mass on TV, is hard, but doing that work is so important because it gives us encounters with the Lord. 

What’s more, we are called to be an example to others and a witness to Christ. People have their eyes on us. From our kids, to our friends, to our social media following, what we say we are going to do is far less important than what we actually do. God calls us not just to say what we mean but to do what we say we will do. He calls us to be an example of his love and while that may be easier said than done, I encourage you never to stop trying.

Rebecca Lockhart

Meditation

What does it mean to you to be courageous in your faith?