St. Stephen’s Martyrdom

After celebrating the glorious day of Christ’s birth, the liturgical calendar remembers Saint Stephen, one of the first converts to the Catholic faith and first of many to give their lives in the name of Christ. It’s a sudden and stark contrast between the two feasts, but in that, we see the divine power of Christ and his ability to transform even the hardest of hearts. In the narrative of St. Stephen’s martyrdom, we are introduced to Saul, a ruthless persecutor on a mission to destroy the young church.

However, a few chapters later, we see Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damasus, which was a launching point for him to eventually become one of the most influential saints in all of Christianity. There is no question that Saint Stephen’s Martyrdom had a profound impact on Paul, not only in the fact that he witnessed his death first hand but because of the grace and forgiveness that Stephen asked of God for his executioners.

Saint Stephen is a perfect imitation of Christ. He, like Christ, died praying for his executioners. He did not compromise his faith out of fear of being rebuked and killed. He stood firm in his faith and shared the gospel until his last breath. He didn’t do it because he knew that Saul’s heart would change; he didn’t do it because he knew that his name would forever be known by generations of Christians after him. He did it because he had a profound and deep love for Christ and understood in the depths of his soul that Christ is where salvation is found.

We are fortunate to live in a time and place where we are not killed for proclaiming the name of Christ, but how often are we hesitant to even mention his name for fear of social martyrdom? How often do we fear our family and friends turning their backs towards us because we spoke the truth of the gospel and our culture’s failure to live it?

We know the church’s teaching on marriage, sexuality, life, immigration, and more, but we avoid telling those we interact with about the truth of these issues for fear of being called “intolerant” and “judgmental.” Little do we know that even when we stand firm in our beliefs, God could be working in the hearts of our persecutors just like he worked in the heart of Saul.

Pray today for the intercession of Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Let him be your guide as we approach the new year to stand firm and true to the teaching of Christ and the Church and remember to continually pray for those who persecute you because you stood firm in the name of the Lord.

Saints Stephen and Paul, pray for us.

Hannah Crites is a native to Denver Colorado and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She has written for numerous publications and blogs including the Chastity Project, Washington Times, Faith & Culture: The Journal of the Augustine Institute, and Franciscan Magazine. She is currently working in content and digital marketing for a small web development and digital marketing agency. Connect with her through Twitter (@hannah_crites) and Facebook. Check out more of what she has written at

The Unprecedented God

My oldest son, Simon, turned six earlier this month. I remember the afternoon we were getting ready to take him home from the hospital. I stood there holding him, absolutely terrified that the nurses would actually let us leave the hospital with this baby. My wife and I had no idea what we were doing. Simon was so helpless, so vulnerable, so dependent on us for everything, and they trusted us to take care of him!?

Christmas was especially meaningful for me that year. The God who made space and time became as helpless as my baby son. He had to learn to walk and talk and feed himself. He got hungry and tired. God became that vulnerable.

In the Garden of Eden, right after they sinned, Adam and Eve saw that they were naked and then made clothes for themselves. They looked at each other’s vulnerable bodies and realized that the other person could be used, and as they thought this they realized that the other person could use them. So they protected their vulnerability.

Our God so humiliated himself that he allowed himself to be beaten, flogged, stripped naked and hung on a cross. All of the crucifixes we have depict Jesus in a nice loincloth, but that is for our own sense of modesty. The God who made the entire universe died with a vulnerable, naked body.

And this prompts the question, why would God do that? Why did God take on our humanity and die for us? The Catechism says, “The Word became flesh for us in order to save us by reconciling us with God” (Catechism 457). Jesus entered into our suffering, sin, and death – and defeated them. He undid all the effects of Adam’s sin. But that’s not the only reason that God became man.

God doesn’t intend to just simply restore us back to the Garden of Eden. He intends to give us far more. “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (Catechism 460). God’s original plan was to make us like himself. God made us so that we may participate in his divine nature. Jesus wasn’t God’s “Plan B.” God becoming man wasn’t simply a response to Adam and Eve’s sin, he always planned on becoming one of us in order to make us like himself.

Jesus has two natures, his divine nature and his human nature. God partakes of human nature completely so that you and I might partake of the divine nature. This means that the cross, Jesus’ sacrifice, was a means to a greater end. God didn’t become man just to die for our sins. Rather, Jesus saves us from our sins, restores our relationship with God, so that he can make us like God.

In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul recites a hymn that captures the humility of a God who would become one of us:

“Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).”

This is how good God is. This is how much God loves us. This is how desperately God wants to reconcile us back to himself. Why? So that we can share in his divine nature. So that he can transform us and make us like himself. Today at Mass, the Church gives us this beautiful Collect prayer:


O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature
and still more wonderfully restored it,
grant, we pray,
that we may share in the divinity of Christ,
who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

Christmas, as Pope Francis said last week, means celebrating the “unprecedented things of God,” or rather, “the unprecedented God.” The pope continued, “Take some time, stand in front of the manger and be silent.” Take some time today to contemplate the mystery of our God who only desire is to make our mind like his mind and our heart like his heart, to make us like himself.

Paul Fahey is a husband, father, and a parish director of religious education. He can be found at his website, Rejoice and be Glad: Catholicism in the Pope Francis Generation.


Have you ever been to a concert of your favorite band?

You stand in a mass of people waiting for the band to come out. Everyone just wants to get to the front, to be closer. Some are chanting the band’s name while others are quiet in anticipation.

The buzz of excited conversations about where they first heard the band, how much they love this band, and all the facts they know about them. You overhear, “I can’t believe I’m finally going to see them,” as you squeeze through the crowd to get closer to the front.

You put this day on your calendar and count down the days to this monumental event. Some people, maybe even you, drove hours to be here, listening to the band’s music the whole way in order to get into the spirit.

When the band finally comes out, everyone screams excitedly and claps. Everyone sings their songs together as they play and for a couple of minutes everyone is unified and smiling. “I love this band.”

Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way about concerts, but I think this is how we should behave as we await the birth of Christ. Yes, that was thousands of years ago, but each year we are asked to ground ourselves in our faith in order to await the birth of our Lord.

We prepare our hearts and countdown the days until Jesus arrives. We sing Advent songs as we wait and celebrate with a Mass, yet… Where is our excitement?

Everyone is excited about the gifts, but when it comes to the actual celebration of Christ’s birth in Mass, we are disinterested. In Christmas Eve Mass, everyone is yawning, falling asleep, or just plain bored. The majority is half listening and half planning when they’ll have time to wrap the Christmas gifts.

Where is the joy? Where is the love? Where is the glorious realization that God gave up his only son to make him human, to go through our mundane struggles so that he could be sacrificed to pay for our sins? Where is our priority?

On this last day of preparation, ask yourself these questions. Prepare your heart. Remember your God. Remember just exactly what the birth of Christ means.

Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.

The Joy of Simplicity

They say that little babies sense a lot in the womb. Studies have even been done to try to determine just how much babies are aware of and at what age they start to hear sound and feel movement. The human person is incredible, aren’t we? Before we are even able to live on our own we are able to respond to sound, movement, touch, and light.

This is where we find ourselves in the Gospel for today, but John was not responding to any physical stimulus, he was responding to pure grace. We know from scripture that Mary was full of grace and that she was carrying God himself, and because of this truth John could not help but leap for joy. He knew even before he was born of the immense role this other baby would play in his salvation and his response is nothing less than complete gratitude.

When was the last time I truly allowed myself to become weak, dependent, small, and defenseless in the midst of the very same grace that Jesus offers me every day? When was the last time I lept for joy from knowing what Jesus will do and has done in my life? When was the last time I allowed myself to have childlike faith?

I truly ask myself this question as Christmas fast approaches and I hope you genuinely ask yourself this question as well. It is easy to get bogged down with the rules and expectations of faith. It is easy to get swept up in the negative talk and publicity circling around the Church Christ founded. It is easy to make prayer into a chore instead of a conversation with a lover.

But the faith is beautiful in its simplicity. If we ever find ourselves overcomplicating things, it helps to focus on this Gospel from today. God is pure grace, pure gift, and our response to that free gift should be a childlike leap for joy. Not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it, but because Christ bought it for us.

Here in this Advent season, let’s practice jumping. Let’s practice leaping for joy in the midst of grace. When the overcomplication and juridical controversies start to swirl, remember the simplicity of the Gospel. Jesus came so that we might have grace, and that should give us more joy than anything. From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

“Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair.”
~ G. K. Chesterton

Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at

Arise My Beloved

For my young friends, the personal and living God is unknown, someone else’s friend they hear about from time to time from some especially religious person, but someone with whom they have had no personal encounter.

Into this unfortunate and heart-breaking sense of isolation and distance bursts the “lover”:

“Here he comes
Springing across the mountains,
Leaping across the hills.”

Christmas is our celebration of absolute wonder at the awesomely amazing mystery that the Almighty God has stooped down to our creaturely level and reality and become the weakest member of the human race: a baby.

Though for many, their Christmas amazement may end with comments on how beautiful are the manger set and the Christmas decorations, today’s first reading confronts us with the startling words:

“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!”

Jesus wants a personal relationship with us on his terms, which are utterly beyond anything we could propose on our own. The other day I sat in a coffee shop and the two women next to me sounded like they were using one of those lists of 20 questions to start conversations with someone new so you really get to know each other. It was a bit comical, and I’m sure since they were carrying on this exchange for a couple of hours or more, they most likely, in the end, did know a lot of details about each other’s lives.

But Christmas is the invitation for us to “arise,” because we are “beautiful” to God, and he wants us to come with him into the Father’s embrace, the Trinity’s life, and eternal joy.

Today’s readings show us that Christmas is a human and very personal event. In the Gospel, Mary sets out in haste to visit Elizabeth, to bring the Christmas message of joy to her elderly relative. We too, when our Christmas celebrations are over, or maybe before we enjoy the holidays, are called to personally reach out to another human being and share Jesus with them. For Jesus depends on you and me to reach others personally so that they too will hear the amazingly wondrous invitation: “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!”

Kathryn James Hermes, FSP, is the author of the newly released title: Reclaim Regret: How God Heals Life’s Disappointments, by Pauline Books and Media. An author and spiritual mentor, she offers spiritual accompaniment for the contemporary Christian’s journey towards spiritual growth and inner healing. She draws from the spiritual tradition and her own lived experience to lead seekers deep within themselves and through their personal history to deepen their intimacy with and trust in God; live with greater joy, peace, and interior freedom; and encounter the Lord in their past and present life experiences to find healing, grace, and newness of life. She is the director of My Sisters, where people can find spiritual accompaniment from the Daughters of St. Paul on their journey.

The Unsung Hero of Advent

My eyes lit up when I saw today’s Gospel reading: the Annunciation. I could talk about Mary forever. For the sake of your attention span (and mine as I sit here and write), I won’t. Or, at least, I’ll try not to.

For the longest time, I didn’t know that having a relationship with Mary was even possible. Yes, I knew that she is the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, Queen of Heaven and Earth and all that good stuff. What I was really focused on, however, was cultivating a relationship with God. I didn’t realize that the two could go hand-in-hand until I got to college.

While attending Franciscan University of Steubenville, I joined a Marian household, started praying the rosary at least once a week, did Marian consecration twice, took a Mariology class for one of my electives and so much more. Basically, Mary “stalked” me all throughout college and I couldn’t have been more grateful. She became the perfect model for me in being the ultimate beloved of the Father, in spiritual motherhood and true womanhood, in purity and in obedience to God’s will. I strove for her constant intercession and my faith life as a whole hit a new peak.

Growth didn’t just stop in college, however, as my relationship with Mary actually reached an all-time high this past October. In personal preparation for teaching a youth group lesson on the Blessed Virgin, I felt called to pray a daily rosary. Fitting since October is the month of the rosary, right? During that four-week span, I experienced such indescribable joy and consolation as I grew closer to the Lord through His mother.

What goes up must come down, though, and I fell into a period of spiritual desolation shortly after. Since I was in the midst of such a spiritual high, the desolation felt much deeper, prayer was nonexistent and the Lord seemed so far away.

I knew I wasn’t going to get out of this funk without some help so I went to go see my spiritual director. In the middle of our most recent session, he stopped to ask if I minded praying a decade of the rosary with him, right then and there. After we prayed together, we sat in silence for a few minutes until he asked what the Lord had put on my heart. I told him that those few Hail Marys ended up being the most meaningful prayer I had offered since, well, my daily rosaries and I had no explanation as to why. Looking back on that afternoon, now I know. The peace and the small stirring I felt in my heart was all because of you, Mary. It hasn’t been easy to climb out of desolation but I know I can do it with the help of my mother, your mother, our mother.

Now, you might be thinking, “All of that is great, but what does Mary have to do with the season of Advent?” Everything, really.

Think about it. We celebrate two Marian feast days during this liturgical season – Immaculate Conception (December 8, Holy Day of Obligation) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12). We hear the Annunciation passage today on December 20th and, if we are in Cycle B, we hear it again on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. If you look into the Christmas season, we also celebrate the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, on January 1. Another Holy Day of Obligation. None of these feast days, solemnities and readings, etc. are coincidences.

Mary embodies so much of what the Advent season is about – that waiting and hoping and longing. From the moment of original sin in the Garden of Eden, God prepared for the coming of the Messiah starting with Mary’s Immaculate Conception. She would be preserved from the original sin that her Son would save us all from. All throughout her life, she pondered what was in her heart, the heart united to her Son, patiently endured His sufferings and obeyed the will of God to the fullest.

If you need help preparing for the coming of Jesus during these final few days of Advent, I urge you to fly unto Mary. Entrust your heart to her this season and every season. We can learn a lot from her.

Come Holy Spirit, living in Mary.

Erin is a Parma Heights, Ohio, native and a 2016 graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. She uses her communication arts degree in a couple of different ways: first, as an Athletic Communications Assistant at Baldwin Wallace University and, secondly, as a youth minister at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Although both of her jobs are on complete opposite spectrums, she truly enjoys being able to span the realm of communications. You can follow her on multiple Twitter accounts – @erinmadden2016 (personal), @bwathletics (work) and @HFVision (youth ministry).

Miraculous Through the Ordinary

When we receive our writing assignments, we “sign up” by putting our names by the dates for which we want to reflect and respond to the readings. I’d love to be able to say that I thoughtfully and prayerfully choose the readings I will write about, but the reality is that the spreadsheet for signing up usually arrives in the midst of a myriad of other tasks which are all demanding my attention and so I usually send up a quick prayer and try to choose two readings about 2 weeks apart, simply to make it easier to hit the deadlines.

But today, I have hit the reading lottery jackpot! This is one of my favorite, favorite stories in the Bible! I love Zechariah and Elizabeth because they remind me that God works amazing things through perfectly ordinary people. And I love the reminder that God is funny, I mean God is really funny.

Zechariah and Elizabeth are a devout Jewish couple, just going through life trying to do their best. Unfortunately for them, they are not blessed with children. For those of us who have lived through a multitude of people pressing you to have children, asking (what you thought were private and intimate) details of why you don’t have children, and explaining how their third cousin once removed finally got pregnant, we have some small insight into the deep disappointment with which Zechariah and Elizabeth lived. Childless women of Elizabeth’s time were not just interrogated, they were mocked and ridiculed. So it is at this late stage in the game, that we meet Zach and Liz, ‘righteous in God’s sight’ living outside of Jerusalem in the hill country. Not only are they childless, but they are also country folk! My people!

Zechariah is a priest and it is time for his division to head into Jerusalem to perform their regular duty in the Temple-liturgy, he is just doing his job. Zechariah draws “the lot” and is appointed to go into the inner sanctuary to offer incense while the others remain praying outside. Zechariah’s regular duty provides the setting for something extraordinary.

Gabriel shows up. There, standing to the right of the altar of incense is not just an angel, but one of the archangels. Zechariah gets scared.

Just as with Mary, Gabriel tells Zechariah not to be afraid, that his prayers have been heard and a child will be born. However, Zechariah takes a different approach than Mary. Zechariah argues with the angel. How can this be? I’m old and have you met my wife? (How many times do I argue when I should probably just be quiet!?!)

Can’t you just picture Gabriel sighing and taking a deep breath before answering? (I wonder if angels when appearing to us can roll their eyes?) “Listen, Zach, I stand before God and HE sent me to give you this good news, but since you have decided to just give me wordy arguments, you will now be without words until the child is born.” (I’ve taken the liberty of paraphrasing but, see, I told you God was funny!)

One thinks immediately of Abraham and Sarah, and how when Sarah laughed at the news she would have a child in her old age, God named the baby, Isaac which means laughter. Again, pretty funny, God.

From today’s first reading, we think of Manoah and his wife, who though childless, also conceived after a visit from an angel. Their child, Samson was consecrated to God, just as Zechariah and Elizabeth’s child would be. Having a child long after child-bearing years is not a stretch for God, nor is it even something new. In this way, the story of their child, John, takes its place in a long-standing sequence of events all for God’s purposes; the fulfillment of God’s promises.

The stories of these sons; Isaac, Samson, and John all prepare us for the coming of The Son. It also reminds us, that in the midst of the big things, and one could argue that the Incarnation was the biggest of the big, God responds to the smallest of hopes and desires as well. It is in the midst of ordinary people, doing their best to live out their faith on a day to day basis, that God resides and moves. Ahhh, that means there is hope for me yet.

See why I love this story?

Sheryl O’Connor is happiest in her role as wife to Tom. Together, they are discerning Tom’s call to the Diaconate and he is in his Aspirancy year with the Diocese of Kalamazoo. She is the Director of Youth Evangelization at her parish collaborative. 

Worth the Wait

Sometimes being a good person means not saying anything at all. As counterintuitive as this sounds, there are certain scenarios where silence is the loudest response. When something good happens to me, the first thing I think of is “I need to tell someone about this!” When something terrible happens to me, the first thing I think of is “I need to tell someone about this!” The desire to share is built into us and this is a very good thing. I think singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran summarizes it nicely when he sings “Success is nothing unless you have someone to share it with.” There’s a lot of sharing that goes on around us. Almost too much sharing. People share their stories, their pictures, and their opinions on Social Media. The moment something occurs, we can share it and people clear across the globe can have access to it instantaneously. But sometimes, being a good
person means waiting and subsequently not saying anything at all.

Joseph learns of Mary’s pregnancy and his first reaction is to protect her from shame. He waits. He neither speaks nor acts rashly. Not thinking of himself, Joseph protects Mary even in an hour where he could rightfully feel betrayed, not yet knowing the truth of the situation. But Joseph waits and as a result of his prudence, God reveals to him the meaning of all of this. Could there be a better example of manhood and fatherhood than St. Joseph?

As if patience wasn’t hard enough, we almost exclusively find ourselves in situations where we wait for things that will never actualize. This is a direct result of waiting for the wrong thing. That’s why we feel this everlasting ache that fluctuates in intensity from time to time but nevertheless remains. During Advent, we wait. However, this time we know exactly what we’re waiting for, but it is, in fact, something that we already have. You see, Christmas isn’t precisely about people being kind to one another and communal generosity. Think of what Tiny Tim says in A Christmas Carol… that he wanted to be noticed as a cripple, so people would remember who
made “… lame beggars walk, and blind men see” (Dickens). Christmas is about a Person who, instead of talking about good deeds, performed them, and instructed all who witnessed to tell no one what they had seen. It is the example Christ gave two thousand years ago that in 2018 motivates people who have never even heard of Jesus to be kind and giving during the Christmas and Advent season.

I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with the virtue of patience. But every Advent we get the chance to train ourselves to wait for what comes at the end of the four weeks. As we slowly develop this great virtue, we become stronger. Despite the naturally passive connotation of the word “waiting” we are encouraged to be active in the purification and preparation of ourselves as a way of inviting Christ into our lives, someone who is truly worth the wait, at this year’s celebration of his birth and at our eternal destination.

Benjamin serves as the Music Minister at Our Lady Queen of Peace in Branchville, NJ. He teaches Children’s Theatre at the Paper Mill Playhouse and is a Catholic songwriter that has given talks on Confirmation, How to Keep the Faith in College, and The Courage to Choose Life. He can be reached at

Jesus, The Fulfillment of the Old

Good morning, and praise the Lord for another day. As you sit down, pour a cup of coffee, and get ready to reflect on today’s readings, I am pleased to present to you the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. At first glance, perhaps the most boring bible verse out of all of them, one that makes you wonder why Matthew would spend so much time talking about generation after generation of impossible to pronounce names.

If you are tempted to read only the first line and then give up and read something better like a dictionary or car manual, I implore you to take another look. There is a reason that Matthew is so specific about the generations before Jesus.

We have a set of three groups, with fourteen generations in each. Perhaps the important number here is not fourteen, but instead the number seven. Seven is seen throughout scripture as the number of perfection or fulfillment. As we all know, Jesus came to fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. Do the math, when you add up all the groups you have six groups of seven generations each until we finally see the last group, the generation of the Messiah. This final group completes seven groups and symbolizes that Christ came to fulfill all that came before.

We see a similar symbolism at the Wedding at Cana. Six jars of overflowing wine (a biblical symbol for God’s love) appeared as the first of Jesus’ miracles, with himself being the seventh and never-ending outpouring of love. We see it again with the woman who had six husbands and Jesus came and invited her into his love as the seventh.

Numbers are important in the bible. This seemingly boring Gospel passage shows us that Jesus became a man to restore, to fulfill, to give his perfect love, and to reunite us to the Father. Numbers don’t lie, and neither does our Lord. He fulfills his promise in our lives every day, all we have to do is accept this gift of perfect and limitless love. When was the last time you did? From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!

Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at

Our Humble Hidden God

Let’s put the conversation in today’s Gospel in context to understand it: “they were coming down from the mountain” where the Transfiguration had just occurred. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus shining like the sun, with Moses and Elijah talking with him, and the voice of the Father announcing that this is his beloved Son. They had just fallen on their faces in awe and now they are probably dazed, with Jesus instructing them not to tell anyone what they had just seen (how could they even describe this?!) “until the Son of man is raised from the dead” (how could they understand these words?!). These three disciples could not have grasped the depth of what Jesus was communicating.

It seems they reach for what they DO know: Elijah. They had just seen Elijah, and the Scribes taught that Elijah was the herald of the Messiah, referencing Malachi. So they ask him why the scribes say Elijah must come first (clearly, the Messiah is already here, and this recent appearance of Elijah seems to have done nothing to forward his mission).

The Lord’s answer reframes the question. He says that Elijah will come and restore all things, but that the spirit of Elijah has already come to prepare the way, in the person of John the Baptist. We heard this when Jesus said, “if you are willing to accept it, (John) is Elijah who is to come” (Matt 11:15). Luke says that the Baptist will come “in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17). So the spirit of Elijah in the person of John the Baptist prepared for the Messiah’s first coming. It is not clear whether, as some of the Patristics believed, Elijah will indeed come again to prepare for the Final Coming of Christ.

Jesus does not explicate that here. He DOES, however, use this inquiry to help them see that John the Baptist was a precursor in more ways than one: he came and prepared the way for the Messiah, preaching repentance; he also suffered death for witnessing to the Truth. Jesus points out that the Son of Man will also suffer. He is preparing the disciples to see that, in some way, the great Elijah is the martyred Baptist; similarly, the glorious Messiah will be the crucified Son of Man. Our God is a hidden, humbled, self-sacrificing God.

As we prepare for Christmas, we consider Jesus’ first coming, consider whether we are living for his final coming, and open our hearts more fully to his coming to us every day. Like the disciples, we must see that our mighty God comes to us in the most improbable ways: veiled in the smallest particle of the Eucharist, hidden in the interruptions and duties of each day, and quietly entering the world as a helpless Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes. The King of endless glory conquers our hearts by giving Himself to us, every moment of every day so that we can live in union with him.

Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at or on Facebook @summapax.