inviting Christ

First Sunday of Advent: Inviting Christ Into Our Lives

Sunday, December 3, 2017, marks the first Sunday of Advent, and the first Sunday of the new liturgical year. Advent is the time when we prepare for the coming of Christ. We remember the historical event of the birth of Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, yet we also look forward to Christ’s return. The Gospel for this Sunday, from Matthew, reminds us to be alert to this event.

How exactly do we prepare for Christ? How do we invite Him in? Do we even really want to invite Him in? It’s all well and good to meet Jesus on Sundays – sort of like a weekly coffee date with a friend. But you don’t invite your friend to move in with you! No, it’s really far easier to just keep Jesus “contained,” in church, on Sundays.

In the book, With Burning Hearts: A Meditation on the Eucharistic Life, priest-contemplative Henri Nouwen says that the moment of Eucharist is THE single most important decision of our lives: Are we going to allow Christ in? It is a decision to make Christ part of your life, every moment of every day, to remove the walls you have placed around Him.

Jesus is a very interesting person; his words are full of wisdom. His presence is heart-warming. His gentleness and kindness are deeply moving. His message is very challenging. But do we invite him into our home? Do we want him to come to know us behind the walls of our most intimate life? Do we want to introduce him to all the people we live with? Do we want him to see us in our everyday lives? Do we want him to touch us where we are most vulnerable? Do we want him to enter into the back rooms of our homes, rooms that we ourselves prefer to keep safely locked? Do we truly want him to stay with us when it is nearly evening and the day is almost over?

Christ, you see, is not meant to be contained. He is not meant to be a weekly visitor or a standing coffee date which one can easily cancel if something comes up. He is not even meant to be a boarder in our home; a person who rents a room but is seldom seen or heard.

There is a reason that we encounter Christ around the table, the altar. The act of gathering around a table to share a meal is an act of intimacy. Even strangers become friends when they gather together to not simply eat, but to enjoy the food, the company, the joy of elevating basic human nourishment to an occasion of joy.

Yet no hostess in the world would think of handing out coats to the guests just as the last mouthful has been consumed: “Oh! Out to you go! Been lovely to see you, but time to get!” We would be shocked – and rightly so. No, part of the invitation to the table is the chance to linger and further enjoy the company of those gathered. And if the weather has turned bad while the meal was being enjoyed, the host and hostess would find blankets and pillows and places for everyone to rest their heads.

So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come. – Mt. 24:44

As we prepare for the holy season of Advent, let us begin by asking ourselves: Do I REALLY want Christ to be part of my entire life? Am I only giving Him a sliver of my time? Where do I deliberately keep Christ from entering? Why? Is Christ truly a guest in my home, my life?

lift up your head

Advent: Lift Up Your Heads!


Working on a college campus is inspiring. You are surrounded by young, energetic students who are here to learn and grow. But I have an interesting observation about these same students. I am amazed at their uncanny ability to walk between classes with their heads down, staring at their ever-present smartphones, a mere eight to 10 inches away.

These students seem to have developed a sort of “forward peripheral vision” that allows them to avoid collision with like-minded students; even with both in their heads-down-walk, they each veer slightly off course, without even looking up.

But not to just pick on the students, the next time you are at an airport waiting for your flight, take a look at how many people have their eyes firmly affixed to their smartphones, oblivious to what is going on around them.

The response for today’s responsorial song, Lift up your heads and see; your redemption is near at hand, seems to prophetically address this very phenomena, even to the last words, at hand.

While it is easy to judge those who are transfixed in what I call the “eight-inch stare” and conclude, “they need to get a life, to interact with those who are around them or to just put the darn thing in their pocket and enjoy God’s creation and the wonderful world around them,” where do we have our heads? What is our focus? What are we looking at? What path are we on?

This Advent season, have we been immersed in the online and print ads for the must-have Christmas presents, or are we taking the time to look at the path the Lord has laid out for us to follow each and every day?

Are we open to God’s constant presence around us and his desire to guide our each and every step, mindful that “paths of the LORD are kindness and constancy toward those who keep his covenant and his decrees?”

So just what should we do?

For starters, the obvious.

We can take time to unplug ourselves from the computer and smartphone. Then, as we practice the Daily Examen, reflect on God’s presence in our lives and, more specifically, the path we are walking and where we are headed. Realize that God’s presence with you is not just at Mass or while you are reading this reflection, but with each and every step we  take on our journey called life. We can be grateful for the gifts which we have received and will receive today, be it the kind word from a co-worker or friend, or the love we receive from members of our family. Thank God for His steady, guiding hand as we walk our chosen path.

Our Advent season is about to end and the wait for the Christ child will soon be over, but that does not mean that we should stop finding time to quietly and humbly serve those in need, or neglect to always seek justice. To the contrary, the celebration of His birth should focus us and cause us to recommit our efforts to follow the path God has set before us and wants us to follow, each and every day.

Maybe all we need to do is lift up our heads.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Steve Schler, senior philanthropic advisor at Creighton University. He says, “I do not participate in social media websites so posting my personal interpretation about what the readings mean to me is a novel experience for me. However, being required to put pen to paper forced me to become more reflective about what God is really trying to say to me and this has helped me in my daily prayer life – to slow down and let the Word of God dwell within me instead of racing through the daily devotions.” Today’s reading can be found here.]

birth Christ

Advent: Born That Man No More May Die


He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross.—1 Peter 2:24

I arrived at a car accident the other day before the police did. As I walked past the wreckage I fully expected to see someone dead, or nearly. The side of the car was split open, its parts spilled everywhere, the axle exposed and wheel far from the wreck, a pool of gasoline forming on the ground.

Thankfully (and maybe miraculously) the passengers looked like they’d be okay. The driver, a young man, was sitting beside the car bleeding heavily from the head, but he was stable. The girl who had been in the passenger’s seat was okay, too, aside from minor lacerations and obvious shock.

Witnesses said he had been going 80 in a 45, and had almost killed someone in the oncoming lane before he swerved into a wall.

As cops, ambulances, and firemen arrived at the scene, I wondered what caused such recklessness? That kind of driving is usually an expression of something wrong in the heart.

Was he driving like a maniac to impress a girl? Was he in a fight with her? I wondered if he was willing to risk his life that day because he’s angry, or places a cheap price tag on his own life. Maybe because he’s angry at his dad. Maybe he’s angry at his dad because his dad was distant, perhaps because his grandpa was abusive to his dad, perhaps because his great-grandpa was an alcoholic, and maybe that’s because . . .

And it struck me: the generational impact of sin, the web of pain we all weave through our self-centeredness, is staggering. Maybe in two hundred years some young man will end up swerving into oncoming traffic because I yell at my kids too much. No sin is committed in isolation. And anyone who flaunts the fact that they have “no regrets” is either ignorant of their connectedness with humanity or doesn’t care if they hurt others.

So how do we look straight on at the weight of sin, humanity’s sin and our own, and not crumble?

When Jesus was crucified we saw all that is worst about the human condition converging on one man. Political factions, shirking of responsibility, good ol’-fashioned bloodlust, manipulation in the name of religion.

“Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”

Look closer. Look into the center of the wreckage. In midst of the dust and the blood there are open arms. The tenderness of Bethlehem completed in the self-giving love of the cross. The antidote for sin: Mercy. And more, we see the example for how we’re to embrace the brokenness in others, and in ourselves.

Chris Stefanick - Guest AuthorChris Stefanick  is an internationally acclaimed author and speaker, who has devoted his life to inspiring people to live a bold, contagious faith. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap calls Chris, “one of the most engaging young defenders of the Christian faith on the scene today.”  Chris is also the founder of Real Life Catholic, a Denver-based non-profit which operates as the headquarters for Chris’s various initiatives. Above all, Chris is proud to be the husband to his wife Natalie and father to their six children. To learn more about Chris’s work, please visit:

jesus king

Advent: We Are Going To Meet The King!


The end of the year is filled with hustle and bustle.  Classes are nearing the end of the semester, concerts are held to present our work, decorations are set in anticipation of Christmas.  The sales, the crowds, the shopping, the bills, the traffic, the taxes – all coming to a climax for the year.  There is a lot to deflect the most wonderful time of the year.

The Gospel, thankfully, focuses my attention to Mary.  It must have been an exciting time for her sensing the final days of carrying Jesus.  I recall those final days just before my children were born.  All the preparations were complete, we were just waiting in anticipation.  But that was a personal experience.

Well, my neighbors are expecting soon, and we are excited!  My colleagues are waiting for adoption, and we are excited!  That’s what a baby does to us.  In four days we will celebrate the birth of Jesus…and it is exciting!  Soon, and very soon, we are going to meet the King.  The final days before Christmas are a chance to reflect on the blessings of the year so that we can be more attentive to the reason for our Christmas celebration.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Fred Hanna, professor of music at Creighton University. He conducts the Symphonic Band and Symphony Orchestra, and teaches Foundations of Music, advanced Music Theory and Conducting.]

ancient antiphons

Advent: Ancient Antiphons Bring Us Hope


Imagine a world without email and the internet, without cameras and books.  How did the early missionaries teach about the Incarnation?

To teach about Christ to many who were illiterate would be a challenge for us in the 21st century, but for those early missionaries who spread the GOOD NEWS, they used stories, visuals such as icons and taught prayers that could be memorized and repeated like the rosary and litanies. The story of Jesus’ birth and life did come to life in ways that stimulated imaginations and the story got passed on from one generation to another. 

In the Liturgy these days before Christmas, we have a treasure, the O Antiphons, which are  images dating back to the 5th century, which look deep into the gift of the Incarnation, Jesus was born and lived fully as a human person, walking this earth and living among a community of disciples.

We are in the midst of praying the O Antiphons in the daily Liturgy of the Hours, which are prayed from the 17th to the 23rd of December.  This tradition began in monasteries in about the 5th century. Each antiphon contains a biblical image drawn from the Messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of the ancient hopes of salvation.

Today, December 20th, we look to Christ as the KEY to our salvation.  We pray with hope in the coming of Jesus to unlock the doors that imprison us.  We pray to be freed from all those things that bind us.

We pray:  O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal realm, come and free the prisoners of darkness!  Free us from fear, Free all held captive, free us from selfishness and open us to believe that nothing is impossible for God. 

This image of a KEY, provides us with the visual of a door being unlocked by Christ.  What is in the need of unlocking on our lives?  What is “locked off” from our attention or “locked off” from our love? In this prayer, let us be mindful of those who are imprisoned and held captive throughout the world.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Lucianne Siers, OP, currently serving as Councilor on the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids. Born in Saginaw, Mich. prior to her election as Councilor, she served as director of the Partnership for Global Justice which is an NGO at the United Nations in New York City. She has served in a number of leadership roles, including six years working in Eastern Europe on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops based in Washington, D.C.]

blessed broken

Advent: Blessed And Broken


Today’s readings have a theme: brokenness and blessing. In the first reading, from Judges, the wife of Manoah is barren. Barrenness (infertility) during this time was often seen as a punishment from God for a transgression. This transgression need not be the woman’s; it could be a family member. However, Manoah’s wife has a vision from an angel and is told she will have a son. The son is Samson, who becomes the last of the judges of the Jewish people.

Then, in the Gospel, we have the priest Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. They are known to be holy and upright people, but have never conceived a child. They have grown old waiting and hoping. Then, Zechariah is chosen to enter the sanctuary of the temple (something only priests could do.) He too has a vision of an angel and is told his wife will bear a child. Zechariah gets a little feisty over this, and questions the angel: “We are old! How in the world will we have a baby??” Well, it happens, and the child is conceived. Unfortunately for Zechariah, his questioning is received poorly by God and Zechariah is struck mute.

For anyone who has struggled with infertility, the brokenness of the situation is harsh. It seems as if everyone you know is having a baby. People ask, “When are you going to start a family?” It hurts to walk through a store and see moms and dads pushing carts with babies, cooing and laughing as they do their shopping. And after a while, you start asking God, “Why me? Why us? We are good people! We’d make good parents! Why are you doing this to us??”

Then there is poor Zechariah. He’s been a good servant to God his entire life, but when a profound vision and blessing are given to him, his first reaction is not to believe. Who can blame him? Most of us would likely react in the same way. His disbelief costs him his voice (which returns when his son is born.)

We all are broken. We sin. We suffer. Sometimes, it seems as if all we do is suffer: the roof is leaking, the car is out of commission, bills upon bills pour in. Or maybe the suffering is physical: the effects of chemotherapy or a diagnosis of a chronic illness. Many families suffer because of the addiction of one of their members: a son or daughter, sister or brother who is an alcoholic or drug addict. The readings today beg the question, “Hey, God! Where are  you???”

The Japanese have a term called wabi sabi. The Japanese believe that things that are broken not only have value, but beauty. A vase that is cracked has the cracks sealed, perhaps with a gold sealant. A kimono that is torn is patched with a bit of gorgeous fabric. The brokenness becomes not a  distraction but an enhancement, making what was broken lovelier and pleasing.

Yes, we are all broken. We suffer and sin. We muddle our way through days limping and coughing. We are burdened with bills and blindness. We wonder where God is in all this mess.

In both the readings today, we have couples who are broken. They are devoted to God, but wonder where He is. What they don’t know is that God is preparing them for huge blessings. How were Zechariah and Elizabeth to know that God was preparing them for a son who would be the precursor to Jesus? How were they to know that their brokenness would give birth to the man who acclaimed, “There is the Lamb of God!”?

Today, spend some time looking at the brokenness you have in your life. Keep in mind that idea of wabi sabi. Where has God mended the brokenness in ways you could not have imagined? Where are the blessings you might never have had if not for the brokenness? Yes, our lives are filled with brokenness, but God always provides blessings as well.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]

o antiphons

Advent: The O Antiphons


Most of us are quite familiar with the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It is likely the most well-known of the Advent hymns. The basis of this hymn are the O Antiphons, which many of us are not familiar with. The O Antiphons, however, are a beautiful and ancient tradition of the Church. They are prayed/sung the last 7 days of Advent as part of Vespers, of evening prayer. Author Jennifer Gregory Miller:

The Antiphons sum up all the longing for our Savior. They recall the Old Testament waiting for the Messiah, but they also reflect our waiting for His Second Coming at the Parousia. Throughout Advent the readings and prayers have been focused on preparation for Christ’s coming in history and in the future. The “Os” are beautiful antiphons which summarize so many prophecies and typologies in the Old Testament while waiting for the Messiah.

The longing of Advent reaches its peak these last few days. We yearn even more for the coming of the Lord because we can see and taste and hear how close He is. Much like we anticipate the doorbell ringing and the rush of guests on Christmas Day, we listen for the Lord.

The Antiphon for today is “O Adonai:”

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

The O Antiphons mingle the Old Testament promise of God to bring forth a Savior, and the New Testament knowledge that Christ entered the world to save us from our sins. Just as Advent remembers the past (the historical birth of Jesus) and looks to the future (the Second Coming of the Lord), the O Antiphons remind us that we are a people rooted in history and yearning for the time to come.

If you are looking for a prayerful way to finish Advent, why not take a few minutes each day to pray and meditate upon the O Antiphons?

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]

path of knowledge

Advent: The Path of Knowledge


At first glance, today’s readings may leave us wanting something else to reflect on.  I know that was my first thought when I read them.  But then I remembered when I studied the Old Testament and how God works through the most unlikely people sometimes.  God works through the second born, not the first, through those who manipulate and scheme as well as those that walk the straight and narrow.  I began to wonder if that is not some of the wisdom available to us when we reflect on the genealogy of Jesus.  His family, like our own, has it’s characters and yet God found a way, actually chose, to be incarnated in spite of humanity’s imperfection.

As I continued to reflect on whether this was too much of a reach, I noticed the Gospel Acclamation and realized that we are beginning the time of reflection on the O Antiphons, the last seven days of Advent.  Today “O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!”  It struck me that the path of knowledge paired with power and love becomes not just a head knowledge of facts or dogmas but the heart knowledge of deep experiential, relational knowing.  I hear and feel the longing and anticipation in this antiphon, the longing and anticipation of this season of Advent.

As I held both of these ideas, the imperfect family being the place God chose to become a part of and my own desire and waiting for deeper knowing, I felt invited to recognize my own imperfections, wounds and darkness.  At the same time, I heard God say to me, “It’s ok, I can work with that.”

So as we enter this last week of waiting and longing and anticipation, I am reminded that we are all called to carry Christ.  We are all invited into a deeper path of knowledge guided by power and love.  And, if we are feeling a little worried or concerned that we are unworthy, remember Jesus’ family tree and hear God say “It’s ok, I can work with that.”  Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is . She teaches writing at Grand Valley State University. Today’s blogger is Amy Hoover, Director of Creighton University Retreat Center. The reflection here is based on the readings for Saturday, December 17, 2016.]

keeping sabbath

Advent: Keeping the Sabbath


Here we are in the third week of Advent.  I like the focus of the Isaiah reading on “keep the Sabbath free from profanation” – what does that mean in 2016?  I recall growing up at a time when the civil “encouragement” of respecting Sunday as the Lord’s Day was the norm rather than the exception.  So-called blue laws (which found their inception in colonial and earlier times) prevented commercial activity on Sundays, regardless of the merchant’s faith tradition (or absence thereof).  I think I might have been 8 – 10 years old before we could regularly buy groceries on Sundays, or cars, or even clothing.

What I also remember from those years was a strong sense of family-ness on Sundays.  We would always go to 9:00 a.m. morning mass, almost always have a large early afternoon roast beef meal, and then visit grandparents (and aunts and uncles and cousins) on the other side of town.  When we returned home we ate leftover hot roast beef sandwiches and watched Walt Disney or Bonanza on television.  As society changed and those blue laws were repealed, as the Church created the option to “anticipate” our Sunday mass time, as we aged, much of the weekly family time on Sundays and its “specialness” diminished.  But I do miss my hot roast beef sandwiches and the warmth and safety of those times!

A good friend of mine is a very conservative Jewish man who scrupulously keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath.  Ed’s preparations amaze me.  He travels internationally a great deal for his job and on vacations, and has children and grandchildren living in Israel that he frequently visits.  He seems to effortlessly meet his Sabbath and kosher obligations regardless of the other demands on his life.  I know that he will not be available for a phone conversation, or an email response, from sundown to sundown on Friday/Saturday.  I know that if we share a meal he will have a more difficult time than I in selecting food choices.  Ed patiently explains some of the kosher and Sabbath restrictions as we discuss his faithfulness, and I am always impressed by his quiet commitments.  He clearly is someone who “keeps the Sabbath free from profanation.”

What is the difference between how Ed observes the Sabbath and our Sunday sabbaths from my youth in the fifties?  I think when Ed keeps kosher and observes the Sabbath, he is connecting the actions of his sacrifices with his core faith and spirituality.  His choices make sense to him because they are consistent with what he believes.  He “holds to the covenant” by how he lives his daily life.  His Sabbath is a special day, not just one of relaxing for its own sake, but one that is not like the other days of the week, one where he can relax in and with the Lord.  He is not merely fulfilling an obligation, but is acting on his commitment.

And what of us?  Do our sabbaths, however we characterize them, connect to our core beliefs?  Do we follow the spirit of “Sabbath” by retreating for a brief period from the distractions of the world to be restfully quiet in God’s presence?  Do we consciously deny ourselves of some legitimate good so we can feel more clearly detachment from worldly concerns and connection to the divine within us?

Keeping the Sabbath free from profanation, and keeping the covenant of the Lord, is hard, intentional work.  There is preparation, and action, and reflection, and then changes in how we act in the future.  It is a way of life, not merely a weekend day.  It is a sacred manifestation of gratitude to the Lord from whom all comes to us.

And so my prayer today is for the grace to keep and nourish the gift of the Sabbath and the covenant of the Lord.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is . She teaches writing at Grand Valley State University. Today’s blogger is Tom Purcell, professor of accounting at Creighton University. Purcell has taught at Creighton since 1967, and says the school’s Jesuit history has had a deep influence on his own faith. Today’s reflection is based on the readings for Friday, December 16, 2016.]

st. joseph

Advent: Kissing St. Joseph


When my mother’s cousin, Mary, was twelve, she and her friend went to church every day after school during Lent to pray for the souls in Purgatory in front of the statue of St. Joseph. One day, in an excess of zeal, Mary decided that a kiss would encourage the saint to intercede more effectively. She had to stand on tiptoe to reach his lips, but she kissed him. As she let go, however, St. Joseph began to lean precipitously toward her. She called to her friend, but the church was empty. In a panic, she gently lowered the statue to the ground, and running to the rectory next door, rang for the housekeeper. “St. Joseph is on the ground,” she reported earnestly, ”and he needs help.”

Nearly every Catholic church in the world has an image of Joseph, son of Heli, somewhere near the altar. The beloved saint, a sincere and prudent man, who was the protector of Christ and Mary, belongs there because he was chosen by God to be the foster-father of Jesus, and because he is a model of genuine authority.

We know that Joseph exerted familial influence in ways that discharged legal, personal, and religious responsibility: he accompanied Mary to Bethlehem to register for the census as required by law (Matt. 2:4); he oversaw Christ’s birth (Luke 2:7), named him (Matt. 1:25), took Mary and the child to Egypt (Matt. 2:14), and brought them back to Israel (Matt. 2:21); he presented the child to be circumsized (Luke 2:22), and, when Jesus was twelve, brought his family on pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the religious feast of Passover (Luke 2:42). His fatherly care was shared by Mary, who said, “Your father and I have been looking for you,” and recognized by Jesus, who “lived under their authority” (Luke 2: 48-51). And it is certain, we are reminded by Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Custos, that his professional direction as a master carpenter was honored in the house at Nazareth.

Joseph’s authority finds its prototype in the Trinity. God the Father holds authority for the three persons. We know this because Jesus refers to the Father on several occasions where we see him submitting his will: discovered in the temple, he says, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49); in the garden of Gethsemane, he prays, “‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it’” (Matt. 26:39); and appearing to the disciples in Galilee, he explains, “All authority in heaven and on the earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The authority that the Father shared with the Son is mirrored in the Holy Family and in the Church.

Like Joseph, head of the family, Peter was the head of the Church, an analogic reality recognized by Dante in Paradiso XXXII, when he placed al maggior padre di famiglia (136), “the greatest father of a family,” contr’ a Pietro (133), “opposite Peter.” Neither Joseph nor Peter ever affected grinding dominance, because authentic authority is not oppressive: it is open, loving, creative, and sacrificial, and like cousin Mary, knows that it “needs help.”

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Sister Lucia Treanor, FSE, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist. She teaches writing at Grand Valley State University. She is the author of Symmetrical Patterning in Franciscan Writing of the Late Middle Ages (Mellen Press, 2011) and the editor of Broken Mary: A Journey of Hope (Beacon Press, 2016).]

Are you the one

Advent: ‘Are You The One Who Is To Come?’


[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Fr. Michael Denk. He was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer. His reflection today is based on the readings for the Third Sunday of Lent.]

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Advent: ‘How Can This Be?’


Today is especially joyful. We are celebrating the Third Week of Advent, which begins with Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. We celebrate that we are drawing closer and closer to the momentous celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is especially joyful today, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In today’s Gospel, we recall the Annunciation: the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary that God has found favor with her, and asks that she bear a son, Jesus. Her response is very human: “How can this be?!” She is a virgin. How can she possibly be pregnant, let alone with the Son of God, the Messiah?

In 1531, Mary appeared to a poor Aztec Indian, Juan Diego. Her message to him? That she wished for a church to be built on the hill where she appeared. Certainly, St. Juan Diego must have thought, “How can this be? How is it that my Mother appears to me? How can I, a poor man, build a church?”

When Juan Diego, ever obedient, went to the bishop and described what he had seen and what Mary asked, the bishop’s reaction was, “How can this be? How can the Mother of God appear to such a one as this?”

All three had legitimate questions. Mary was willing to accept what the angel told her – even though it was beyond human understanding. Over 1500 years later, Mary received the same question from Juan Diego. His obedience reflected hers however; Juan Diego believed his Heavenly Mother, despite the unbelievable task she set before him. And while we might scoff at the bishop for not believing Juan Diego, no bishop can lead his people astray by giving credence to what could possibly be the delusions or imaginings of a person, no matter how pious that person may seem to be. He truly needed his question answered.

In this season of Advent, we do well to reflect on the question, “How can this be?” How can it be that God – the Alpha and Omega, He Who was, Who is and is yet to come, the Creator of the Universe – can come to us in the beautiful but quite ordinary form of a baby? How can it be that this infant, as an adult,  could give us His very body and blood as food for our spiritual journey? We can even ask ourselves, how can it be that God has brought me to this spot, this place of belief, this place of darkness and light, this Advent?

How can this be?

How can a young unwed Jewish girl bring forth from her womb the Son of God? How can a poor Aztec man, who owned little more than the tilma on his back, see the Blessed Mother and obediently do as she asks? How can a learned bishop be brought to his knees by the mysterious image of the Blessed Mother on this poor man’s tilma? How can this be? These things can only be with faith, hope and love.

It is faith that allowed Mary to assent to the unbelievable request of God. It is faith that spurred Juan Diego to relay the Blessed Mother’s request to the bishop. And it was faith that brought the bishop to his knees. Mary’s hope was that God – regardless of the circumstances – was going to lead her. The Lady that appeared to Juan Diego and called him “dear son” filled him with hope that he could indeed deliver this Heavenly message. And it was hope that moved the bishop to preserve the tilma, with its image of the Blessed Mother, and begin the task of building the church she asked for. It was love that allowed Mary to say, “Be it done unto me according to Your will,” for she knew that God loved her first. Love of his Mother gave Juan Diego courage to return to the bishop’s residence again and again with his task. And love it was that allowed the bishop, with the evidence of Juan Diego’s message in front of him, to embrace His Mother, the same Mother as Juan Diego’s, and to follow her request.

How can this be? That is the question of the season of Advent, a season of anticipation and wonder, of questioning and of delight. How can this be? It all can be, because God gives us faith, stirs up in us hope, and loves us beyond all measure.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]