Advent day 14

Wow, still not feeling so well. This illness has modified my Advent plans a bit. I haven’t been able to sit in front of the Blessed Sacrament since Wednesday. Perhaps I’ll be able to get back to doing that on Monday. Instead, I’ve been able to offer the annoyances of illness up to God, particularly for a priest-friend who is struggling right now.

I’ve been reading transcripts of retreat videos on occasion. One was about St. Therese and her Little Way. Now, I know about St. Therese and the Little Way, but for some reason, she and I have never clicked. I have never felt I could relate to her. This video, though, made me desire to try her Little Way. I’m trying to remember to offer up my mundane jobs throughout the day–when I’m sweeping or putting laundry in the wash or cooking dinner. Just a simple prayer, “Lord, I offer this to you.” I hope I can make this a habit and thereby sanctify and give more purpose to my daily duties.

 

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The Four Words of Advent

On the First Friday of this month, the children and I attended a local parish that has a school attached to it. Now, I typically avoid “school masses” like the plague. I’m pretty sure I’d rather go to the dentist (yes, it’s pride. God’s working on it). Anyway, this school mass was not the horror that I anticipated. It was, in fact, the best school mass I have ever attended. Firstly, because of the priest’s homily and secondly, because it was followed by a period of adoration in which the entire school participated. Wow!

The priest in his homily spoke of the four words of Advent. Four weeks, four words. Do you know them? I didn’t. Well, I knew one.

The first week’s word is watch.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”
[Gospel reading from first Sunday in Advent: Mark 13.33-37]

Help me, O Lord, to watch, to prepare myself for your coming, your adventus. 

The second word is repent.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way.
A voice of one crying out in the desert:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.”

John the Baptist appeared in the desert
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
People of the whole Judean countryside
and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
John was clothed in camel’s hair,
with a leather belt around his waist.
He fed on locusts and wild honey.
And this is what he proclaimed:
“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

[Gospel reading from second Sunday in Advent: Mark 1.1-8]

Grant me light, O Lord, to know myself, that I may see my failings, repent of them and confess. Cleanse me and heal me, O Lord. Prepare me for your coming.

The third word is rejoice! Unlike the other three words, this one is taken from the first two readings and the psalm.

I rejoice heartily in the LORD,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.
[Is. 61. 10-11]

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.
[Lk. 1 46-49]

Brothers and sisters:
Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing.
In all circumstances give thanks,
for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not despise prophetic utterances.
Test everything; retain what is good.
Refrain from every kind of evil.
[1 Thess. 5.16-22]

Even in this time of watching and repentance, grant, O Lord, that I may rejoice in the anticipation and fulfillment of your coming.

The fourth and final word is fiat. To find this word, you have to go back to Latin. Mary’s response to God’s request is “Fiat voluntas tua.”  In English, “May it be done according to your Will.”

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.
[Lk. 1. 26-38]

May I, like Mary, O Lord, say always and to everything, Fiat voluntas tua. 

Misericordia mea


confessionalMiserere mei Deus secundum magnam misericordiam tuam
. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy (Ps. 51.3).

I just recently went to confession after, what was for me, too long a hiatus. I try to take advantage of the sacrament often, because of the abundance of graces poured out on me when I meet my Lord in the Sacrament of Mercy. I never understand why people wouldn’t want to go to confession. After I confess, I feel like a new person, like all things are possible. That God has given me a clean slate (though I still have to deal with the consequences of my sins). Like a dear priest has said to me many times in the confessional, “In confession, we start again. Not at the bottom of the mountain, but at the top.”

Maybe a person is scared that God could never forgive his sins. That somehow, his sins are “too much” for God. Jesus says to St. Faustina, “There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted, it increases” (Diary #1273). St. Paul also speaks of God’s fathomless mercy: “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom. 5:20). Not, of course, to mean that we should go on sinning, but that God’s mercy and grace are boundless for those who come to ask it of Him.

I have heard priests speak before on the limits of God’s forgiveness. Now, I’m not a priest or a theologian (Thanks be to God!), but I’m of the mind that we cannot out-do God’s mercy. We can shun His mercy; we can harden our hearts through repeated unrepentant sin, but each time we come to Him truly sorry, truly seeking repentance, mercy and grace, He gives it to us without a moment’s hesitation. He loves us. Prodigally. Extravagantly. Recklessly. St. Paul says: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8.38).

Because His love never fails. His mercy never ceases. He wants, desires, longs to lavish His love on us. From the time of Israel until now, He has kept His covenant, kept His promises. After telling the allotments the tribes of Israel received in the Promised Land, the author goes on to state, “Not one of all the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed: all came to pass” (Joshua 21.45).

And so it is with us today, under the New Covenant. Not one of God’s promises has failed, nor will they ever. Because He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13.8).

He stands waiting, watching for His dear children to return to Him. To fall at His feet and say, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.” He will pull us to our feet, embrace us and say, “My child, my dear, dear child. How I have longed to welcome you home.”