First Sunday of Advent, A Prophet’s Challenge Some of life’s patterns are comforting and assuring, like the rising and setting of the sun, while others can be disconcerting, like a powerful storm. The latter explains this passage from Isaiah in reference to some of the disturbing things we regularly witness in life. Isaiah challenges us to imagine an end to violence and division; to consider working toward a more perfect world. It’s a reminder of the fulfilled promise we anticipate during Advent and celebrate at Christmas, when God entered the world as one of us to show us that what we imagine is possible. Isaiah 2:4

Monday, New Beginnings The centurion in Matthew 8 is a kindred spirit with those who have stopped going to Mass or participating in the sacramental life of the Church because they feel unworthy to do so. He rejects Jesus, in practice if not by intention, to save Jesus the trouble of rejecting him. In response, Jesus assures him that nothing, not even his own sense of limitedness and sin, can separate him from God’s grace. Advent is a perfect time for new beginnings—a time of preparation, renewal, and celebrating the reality that no one is worthy to receive God’s gifts, particularly God’s gift of self at Christmas. The only barrier we face in inviting Jesus into our lives is our own fear or shame that keeps us from extending the invitation. Matthew 8:8

Tuesday, With Open Eyes Jesus’ words to his disciples in Luke’s Gospel affirm that many experience doubt or are unable to recognize God is at work before them. Their eyes are blessed because they see what has long been expected. Still, even the disciples deny, betray, and abandon Jesus. In Advent we await the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation for the whole world. Pray for the courage to see with open eyes the faith tradition that has been handed down. Christ remains present in our midst. How can we overcome our fear and doubt so we recognize Emmanuel, God with us? Luke 10:23-24

Wednesday, Be More Like Jesus When we change the subject in a difficult conversation, intentionally ignore a homeless beggar, or disregard the pain or suffering of another person as not our problem, we lack the pity that moved Jesus to feed the hungry crowds. Pity—though perhaps not the best descriptor of Christ’s heartfelt sympathy—helps us better understand Jesus’ actions. Jesus, fully divine and fully human, lives up to the divine relationship by maintaining a concern for the lived realities of all people. May this Advent be a time for us to strive to be more like Christ in every encounter we have and with every person we meet. Matthew 15:32

Thursday, Embracing Patience If you struggle with being patient, your prayers can feel rushed or demanding, your thoughts unwilling to focus on God, and your ears unwilling to open and hear the Spirit. To heed the admonition of James and patiently await the Prince of Peace is to embrace a countercultural stance. It requires us to stand up to the hustle and bustle by deliberately dropping out of the fray. Doing so helps us prepare our hearts and ready our lives for the Savior. This Advent, may we focus on what’s most important in life and adopt the freedom of God’s grace in our busy, impatient world. James 5:8

Friday, Unpacking Obstacles Pope Francis invites us to consider how we prevent the Spirit’s action in our hearts and lives. The first obstacle he unpacks is “empty words.” We close ourselves off to genuine conversion when we offer empty words but neglect the least among us (Matthew 25). “Words that justify” relate to the second hidden obstacle. By making excuses and self-satisfying reasons for not fully investing in the life of Christian discipleship, we foreclose the possibility of God inviting us to a deeper commitment. The third obstacle is “accusatory words.” We blame others in order to justify the status quo or evade an examination of our consciences. What can we do this Advent to unpack our personal obstacles that we may ignore but still need to overcome? Luke 18:11

Saturday, Giving Freely Our modern, consumer-driven culture suggests that everything has a price. Yet, God’s gift of love and life is absolutely free. Perhaps we convince ourselves that there’s more that we must pay to obtain such a gift because we’re wary of accepting the responsibility that comes with it. Jesus says: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (John 15:12). We’re often willing to love one another, but we tend to qualify and quantify our love. The greatest sign of God’s overflowing generosity and love is what we’re preparing to celebrate. How can we more generously share the gift we have freely received—God’s love? Matthew 10:8

© Copyright Catholic Update, Celebrating Advent God is With Us Already…and Not Yet, by Fr. Daniel P. Horan, OFM, permission to publish.