DAILY ADVENT MEDITATIONS FOR 2016

Each 24 hour day has 1,440 minutes.

You can pray these meditations each day using five minutes per day.  Prayer works best when you do it at a set time each day.  The main thing is to make it part of your schedule, not something that you try to squeeze in whenever.  Set aside 5 minutes of your day and give yourself a gift - pray each day of Advent. 

Each day (except Sundays) will walk through the first part of Luke's Gospel a bit at a time.  Praying this way is called lectio divina - sacred reading.  People are often surprised at how deep such prayer can be.  It can change your day and change your life. St.  Luke is known as the 'joyful evangelist,' joy will be the theme of many of the meditations.

 

December 19, 2016 - Monday, Fourth Week of Advent

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.  (Lk 1:80)

Consider John the Baptist:  He was a fiery preacher who drew great crowds...  and then everything fell apart.

Jesus, whom John had hoped would be the promised Messiah, seemed to be moving in a different direction from what John anticipated.  Jesus seemed to be "wasting" his time curing people who were crippled and blind and deaf.

John was arrested and thrown into jail.  If Jesus was the Messaih, something wasn't working.  The Romans were still in control and there had been no great shift in power.

Then there was John's death, as senseless as a drive-by shooting:  killed for the price of a dance, because of a king who got drunk at a party and made a promise to a teenage girl...  killed by some guard who grumbled about having to get up late and go chop off the head of someone he didn't even know.

This does not appear to be the stuff of greatness.  But Jesus said that John was one of the greatest who ever lived. 

Where did this greatness come from?

John the Baptist tried to do what was given him to do, and do it for God, and do it with God.

And when my efforts, insignificant as they may seem to be, are connected with God, I am involved in something colossal, something great.     

 

December 18, 2016 - Fourth Sunday of Advent

Luke's "Farewell" Scenes - There are a lot of "farewells" in Luke's infancy narrative.  Most of the scenes end with a departure.

After Zechariah receives the vision of the angel in the Temple, he went home with his wife Elizabeth.

After Mary visits Elizabeth, she "returned to her home."

When the shepherds go to Bethlehem to visit the newborn King, they return to the fields.

After Mary and Joseph bring their child to be presented in the Temple, they returned to their own town of Nazareth.

In every departure we leave something behind and move toward something new.  And the Lord travels with us.

Our five minutes on this Fourth Sunday of Advent could be well spent asking ourselves two questions:

What do I want to be new in my life?

What do I need to leave behind?

I can take to heart the famous words of the great English writer Cardinal John Newman:  "To be human is to change.  To be perfect is to have changed often."  

 

December 17, 2016 - Saturday, Third Week of Advent

"And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give his people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God by which the daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow, to guide our feet into the path of peace."  (Lk 1:76-79)

After praising God, Zechariah now sings of his newborn son.  He is to prepare the way of the Lord.

Now that is something - to prepare the way of the Lord.  But that's what I am also called to do.   I'm not the Messiah, but I know who is.  So, I let the Lord act through me in the events and people on the agenda of my life today.

Through me, Jesus is to be "born" into the things that I'm doing today.

No wonder this is part of the Chruch's morning prayer every single day.  It's the "job description" of every Christian:  to point to Christ's presence in the world and to let him work through me.

All of that, through me.

I wonder how I have been doing my job?  

 

December 16, 2016 - Friday, Third Week of Advent

"The Lord has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David his servant, even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:  salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to show mercy to our Fathers and to be mindful of his holy covenant and of the oath he swore to Abraham our Father, and to grant us that, rescued from the hand of enemies, without fear we might worship him in holiness and righteousness before him all our days."  (Lk 1:69-75)

Today's reflection continues the Benedictus spoken by Zechariah. 

Many Scripture scholars believe that Luke has put on the lips of Zechariah a hymn to God that was sung in the early Christian community.  Though spoken here on the occasion of the John the Baptist's birth, the focus is really on Jesus.  Zechariah praises God for at long last sending the Messiah into the world.

This prayer expresses the feelings of the early Christian community.  They were small and persecuted, but they thanked God for being a faithful covenant partner and giving them "salvation from our enemies" and from "all who hate us."

God has made a covenant with me too, and I with God - expressed through baptism, confirmation, Eucharist.  What kind of covenant partner am I? 

 

December 15, 2016 - Thursday, Third Week of Advent

Then Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying:  "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and brought redemption to his people."  (Lk 1:67-68)

This is the beginning of Zechariah's Benedictus (from the Latin for the first word "Blessed").  It is part of the morning prayer of the Church (called "Lauds") every single day of the year, just as Mary's Magnificat is part of every evening prayer (called "vespers").

Before there was early morning TV and late night TV, there was morning prayer and evening prayer.  In the days before electricity, there was a certain rhythm to life - light and darkness - and life was quieter then.

The first light of dawn is a symbol of God greeting his children, as a kind father or mother greets them.  God is there not as a taskmaster, but as someone who wishes only to gladden hearts, brighten eyes, and get me ready for whatever the day brings.

The late evening is a reflective time - if I make space for it.  Television and the Internet can make this difficult.  I spend evenings trapped in someone else's world, and never reflect on daily events in my own world.

Advent is a good time to take a look at whether I tune in to the Lord at the beginning and end of a day, or whether I only tune into the TV and computer.    

 

December 14, 2016 - Wednesday, Third Week of Advent

Zechariah 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.  (Lk 1:63-66)

After nine months of being deaf and mute, the first words from Zechariah's lips are words blessing God.

The people had supposed that this long-awaited child, born to aged parents, would be named after his father.  He was to be "little Zachary."

But the angel that appeared to Zechariah nine months earlier had said, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him John."

"John" is a Hebrew word that means, "Yahweh has shown favor."  This is a graced child who is called to express in his life God's love and favor not ony to Zechariah and Elizabeth, but to all God's people.

I too am a graced child, called to express in my life God's love and favor, not only to me, but to all people.

There's a lot to think about in this passage.  Perhaps I should simply think about my own name...  how and why it was given, how it sounded when spoken over me as a child.

And...  how it sounds now when God speaks it. 

 

December 13, 2016 - Tuesday, Third Week of Advent

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.  (Lk 1:57-62)

In a way, Elizabeth and Zechariah get left out when I think about the birth of Jesus.  They're never in Christmas pageants or crib scenes.

But there they are, throughout Luke's account, fulfilling their role in God's plan.  They're not the "main event," but I can bet that the birth of this longed-for child was a main event in their lives.

This quiet, holy couple represents all of us, whatever age we are.  I may not be the main event.  But the things that happen in my life are main events for me.  And they're main events for God too.

God, unlike the world, has room at center stage for everyone.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were center stage for God.  So am I.  

Today - for a few minutes right now and all day - I should enjoy the fact that I'm center stage with God.

Because I am.  

 

December 12, 2016 - Monday, Third Week of Advent

"The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.  His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.  He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.  He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.  The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.  He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."  Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.  (Lk 1:49-56)

The Greek word used here for "blessed" means "inner happiness."  Being happy has a lot to do with being peaceful - being able to say "yes" to the life I have, and not the life I wish I had.  Mary is happy because she said "yes" to God, and trusted that this was the path to peace.

There are some things in my life that I can change for the better, and that is fine. But much of life is learning how to say "yes" to things I can't change.  Life will not always do my bidding.  It just won't.  I need to accept it with a "yes" that is more than reluctant resignation.  How do I do that?

I start by recognizing that the Spirit of God is at my side, on my side.  And then I say "yes" as Mary did, trusting that God will see me through all of it.

 

December 11, 2016 - Third Sunday of Advent

Gaudete Sunday - The Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been called "Gaudete Sunday" (the Latin word gaudete means "rejoice"). 

"Rejoice" is the first word of the entrance antiphone for today's Mass:  "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, Rejoice."  This text is taken from the Letter to the Philippians, chapter four, verse four.

This call to rejoice is the reason why the candle to be lit on this Sunday is rose colored.

St. Luke the Evangelist - Second-century tradition identified Luke as the author of the Gospel that now bears his name, and also author of the Acts of the Apostles.  These two books make up over one-fourth of the content of the 27 books of the New Testament.

An analysis of the text indicates that Luke was a skilled writer whose native language was Greek.  He appears not to have been Jewish, but a Gentile. 

Luke, who wrote his Gospel about 80 A.D., was not a eye-witness to Jesus' ministry, but carefully drew upon the Gospel oF Mark and other sources - some of which the other three evangelists do not seem to have had

Becuase his writings have discrepancies about the geography and other details relating to Palestine, he is thought to have lived elsewhere, perhaps Antioch in Syria - about 200 mlies north of Palestine.

In the letter to the Colosians, there is mention of "Luke, the beloved physician," which naturally gave rise to the belief that this is the same Luke who wrote the Gospel.  Some have felt that traces of medical terminology in his Gospel confirm this, but others say that any educated person would have known the terms that he used, so it remains uncertain.

Another tradition identifies him as an artist, but this is  of much later origin and is thought to be more legend than fact.

Luke's is the longest Gospel - about 23, 000 words, divided into 24 chapters.  His first two chapters make up his infancy narrative - about 2,600 words.        

 

December 10, 2016 - Saturday, Second Week of Advent

And Mary said, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness:  behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed."  (Lk 1:46-48)

Joy runs through Luke's story of the birth of Jesus. 

Mary sets the tone here as she begins her Magnificat:  "My spirit rejoices in God my savior."

Think of a time when you rejoiced in what someone else had done - a son or daughter, a close friend, or someone you hold as a "hero" in your life. 

That's the kind of rejoicing Mary is talking about.  She rejoices in the "greatness of the Lord,"  in "God my svior."  Mary loved God.  And when she realized firsthand how really good God is, she sang for joy.  Her heart was lifted.  It was delight - pure joy, not at all self-conscious.

When I think about it, my greatest rejoicing is often this kind.  Not in what I have accomplished, but in what someone I love has done.  It brings tears of joy.

The best prayer of all is the kind I experience when I suddently and simply realize just how good God is.  What a blessing to have a God like that.

I have the same God as Mary.   I can take those first words of the Magnificat and make them my own.  It's as fine a prayer as there is.  

 

December 9, 2016 - Friday, Second Week of Advent


During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."  (Lk 1:39-45)

Elizabeth speaks the very first beatitude in Luke's Gospel:  "Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."

The visitation of Mary and her cousin Elizabeth is their great joyfulness.  Elizabeth has said, "Blest are you amont women...  the baby leapt for joy..."  And Mary is saying,  "My spirit finds joy..."

The presence of the Lord brings about that kind of joy.  Mary and Elizabeth were very conscience of the Lord just being there, and they were happy. 

Even though they didn't know how things were going to work out.     

 

December 8, 2016 - Thursday, Feast of the Immaculate Conception

"And behond, 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 1:36-38)

Mary speaks in only two of the four Gospels:  Twice in Luke (both times in the infancy narrative), and twice in John (both times at the Cana miracle).

The words that Mary speaks in today's passage are among the best known words in all the Gospels:  "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word."

These are words of total acceptance of God's will.

These are words I could say at the beginning of every day.  It takes just four seconds.

Mary wasn't saying, "This is wonderful.  Of course, I'll do it."  Instead she was saying, "This isn't what I had planned, and I'm not sure I understand, but I'll do my best to do what the Lord wants."

What is is like to say words to that effect on any given day?  Or at the beginning of every day?

Try it.

 

 

December 7, 2016 - Wednesday, Second Week of Advent

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."  (Lk 1:34-35)

If, through an angel, I were told what God planned to accomplish through me in the days ahead, I'd probably ask, as Mary did, "How can this be?"

Yes, indeed.  I'd have a whole list of things past and present that would raise questions about my suitability.

How can this be?...  given my marriage, or formaer marriange...  or my health...  or the consequences of my mistakes...  or my obligations...  or my lack of power and influence...  or my weaknesses...  on and on the list goes.

But it's the Lord who works through me.  I'm not the one who achieves whatever good comes through me.  Mary wasn't the one who achieved what God did through her. 

The same Holy Spirit that came upon Mary has come upon me.  I am given things to accomplish that are part of God's plan, not mine. 

It's not fantasy.  It's true.

To whom should I speak about this?

Why, God, of course. 

 

December 6, 2016 - Tuesday, Second Week of Advent

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 kingdome there will be no end."  (Lk 1:30-33)

Imagine what it must have been like for Mary to hear those words:  "You have found favor with God."  Then to hear that she would conceive in her womb the Son of God.

This was the promise, adn it was fulfilled.  B ut the details of its working-out were something else again.  Mary did have a son, and from the beginning and on into manhood he led what, to all ourward appearances, was an ordinary life.  But then, when the extraordinary emerged, in less than three years he was executed by the Roman government as a criminal. 

Each of us has a similar promise spoken upon us:  "You have found favor with God... and you have been given an important role in God's plan."  It's true.  But the up-close working-out-of-it may not seem that spectacular.

I can identify with the apparent ordinariness of Mary's life.  But I also need to identify with her faith.  She believed, stayed the course, and lived well the seemingly obscure and sometimes confusing and sometimes painful role that was given to her.  

O Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief.

  

December 5, 2016 - Monday, Second Week of Advent

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was set from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin bethrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you."  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  (Lk 1:26-29)

Five months have passed since Luke's previous scene (with Zechariah).  The site now shifts to the northern town of Nazareth, where the angel Gabriel appears to Mary.

Mary's reaction is much like Zechariah's - she is troubled, afraid.  In Scripture, fear is a standard reaction to divine visitations.

That can be my reaction too.  There are moments when I sense God's presence.  It can happen at unexpected times adn places - at home, at work, waiting in line, driving, doing anything, anywhere.  Trouble is, I'm not so sure I want God as part of my regular life.  Not that my life is that bad, but I'd like to clean it up a bit, or meet God at a special spot (like maybe a church, or off in the woods).

The Lord reached out to Peter and Andrew while they were fishing, Zaccheus when he was up a tree, Matthew when he was working at his customs post, the criminal when he was hanging next to him on the cross.

This is Advent, which means a "coming."  I celebrate not only the coming of Jesus at Bethlehem, but the Lord coming into my life...  my real life.

Lord, remind me that you are with me, all day, everywhere, today. 

 

December 4, 2016 - Second Sunday of Advent

Finding Joy at Christmas

We often feel Christmas shoudl be a "sugar plum" day with no touch of sadness.  We feel we mustn't let the sad parts of our lives into this special day.  Suffering spoils it.  Let only gladness fill the air.

But consider another approach:  instead of avoiding all the sadness and trying to create a Hallmark Christmas, savor the richness of a savior born into a broken world, for broken hearts, to bring healing.

This is the feast of a God who so loved to world - my world - with its better and worse.  Let the love of this feast touch the better and the worse, and I'll find a deep down joy that can bring tears to my eyes.  This mixture fits the feast.  The event at Bethlehem wasn't a Disney World experience.  It was a time of both bliss and sorrow. 

The joy of Christmas is that light overcomes darkness.  It's the good news of the angel to the shepherds:  Today a savior has been born to you... for all that is happy in you, and all that is sad in you.  Don't hide the sad feelings.  For some, it is the first Christmas with a newborn child or a grandchild.  For others, it is the first Christmas without their mother, father, husband, wife, child, close friend.  For all of us it is Christmas celebrated in imperfect lives in an imperfect world.

When we remember who Jesus was and why he came, we can let him come into our real life, and then experience what it means to have a merry Christmas.   

 

December 3, 2016 - Saturday, First Week of Advent

Meanwhile the people were waiting for Zechariah and were amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary.  But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary.  He was gesturing to them but remained mute.  Then, when his days of ministry were completed, he went home.

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months saying, "So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others."  (Lk 1:21-25)

Zechariah and Elizabeth go home.  I'm not told where this is but later, when Mary visits theri home, I learn that it was "a  town of Judah" (the same part of the land as Jerusalem) in the "hill country."

Elizabeth soon learns that she is pregnant, as the angel had promised, and she expresses her joy at what God has done for her.  (Mary will do the same in the Magnificat.)

Prayers of thanksgiving are the easiest to say.  Every day, even on bad days, I come across all sorts of things  that can remind me of God's goodness - trees, little children, warm water in the shower, the sound of birds, a good burger, the sun, moon, stars, a kindness someone does for me. 

If I keep my eyes open for them, I can catch lots of things I never really notices as "gifts" before - things that deserve a simple word of thanks to God. 

If I haven't done it often enough this week, right now might be a good time for a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  

 

December 2, 2016 - Friday, First Week of Advent

Then Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years."

And the angel said to him in reply, "I am Gabriel who stands before God.  I was sent to speak to you and announce to you this good news.  But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things taks place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time."  (Lk 1:18-20)

I now know the angel's name - Gabriel.

Zechariah asks for a sign and received one - he is struck mute because he doubted.  (Apparetnly he will also be deaf.  I'll see later, when it's time to name the chiled, that he communicates to the others in sign language, and they communicate that way to him.)

Ever ask for a sign from God?  Sure I have.  We all do.

But, generally, it's simply not God's way to give dramatic signs in advance.

It's different when I look to the past.  I can look back and see signs of the hand of God in my life, because I'm able to see a longer stretch and thus recognize certain patterns.  It's not so much individual extraordinary happenings, but a combination of various circumstances, each one individually explainable, but all of them combining to take me in a certain direction.  A pattern like that didn't happen simply by chance.

Take some time to look back on some of these patterns.  Where have i seen the hand of God in my life?

 

December 1, 2016 - Thursday, First Week of Advent

"He will drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb , and he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.  (Lk 1:15-17)

In the reference to drinking "neither wine nor strong drink," the angel is describing a "Nazarite."  This is not someone from Nazareth, but a word used to designate a person set aside for the Lord's special work.  (The legendary strong man Samson was a Nazarite.)  The angel also likens John to Elijah, one of Israel's greatest prophets who lived around 850 B.C.

There is no doubt about it.  This child is destines for greatness.

I, too, am destined for greatness.  God has created me and put me on earth for a purpose.  And God has sent the Spirit upon me to help me carry out the work for which I was created.

Now, honestly, do I believe that?

Do I really believe that God had something particular in mind in creating me?

Take some time to think about this...  and then some time to talk to the Lord about it. 

 

November 30, 2016 - Wednesday, First Week of Advent

Once when Zechariah was serving as priest in his division's turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense.  Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angle of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.  Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, adn fear came upon him.

But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall name him Jonn.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.:  (Lk 1:8-15)

The angel tells Zechariah that his prayer has been heard.  I hadn't been told what Zechariah was praying for, but now I know.  He was praying for Israel, of course, as a Jewish priest would do.  But he was also praying for a child.

Sometimes I'm afraid to pray for things that seem unrealistic.

Three times in the birth story I'll hear angels say, "Do not be afraid." - to Zecheriah here, to Mary at the Annunciation, and to the shepherds in the field.  And Jesus, in his public life, will say these same words five times. 

Anything in particular I'd really like to pray for?

"Do not be afraid."      

 

November 29, 2016 - Tuesday, First Week of Advent

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest names Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly.  But they had no child becuase Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years.  (Lk 1:5-7)

Zechariah and Elizabeth were childless, which in their culture was a great misfortune, even a disgrace (since there would be no heirs to carry on the memory of the family).  One can imagine their feelings of failure and inadequacy.

All of us feel barren in one way or another.   I haven't "produced" in my life what others (or I myself) had hoped I would.  My failure to live up to "what might have been" leaves me with a certain empty feeling. 

But God does things through me that I myself cannot do, or even measure.  And God does them often in ways I don't understand.

That's the secret.  Let God do what God wants to do through me.  That is the path to greatness - no matter what my age, no matter what my condition.

O Lord, le me let you do what you want to do through me today.     

 

November 28, 2016 - Monday, First Week of Advent

The beginning of the Gospel of Luke

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.  (Lk 1:1-4) 

Luke, writing some 50 years after the resurrection, did not witness the ministry of Jesus.  But he assures us that he has examined things "from the beginning" and made sure to do so "accurately."

The Church teaches that Luke and the other biblical authors were "inspired."  This does'nt mean that God dictated word for word, but rather that the Holy Spirit gave special guidance to the authors so that they (each with their own style and limitations) ultimately taught what God wanted taught.

The Church also teaches that this same Spirit is active in me when I read Scripture.

As I begin to walk day by day through the first part of Luke's Gospel, it might be a a good idea to begin with a prayer - something like:  "O God, as I begin spending my five minutes a day for these days of Advent, I ask that you open my mind and heart to your Spirit.  May all my thoughts have their origin in you."

That's a fine approach not only when praying the Scriptures, but when walking through each day of my life.  Like today.

   

November 27, 2016, First Sunday of Advent

Spend today's five munites with the Lord sketching some ideas on how you can spend these 28 days of Advent well.  Your plans can include items that are spiritual (deciding where and when you will pray each day)... practical (your gift list)... personal (sending a Christmas card to someone you've not spoken with in a while)... or charitable (doing something for the poor). 

Before you write anything, spend a few quiet moments with the Lord and ask for help.

"The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus." - Evangelii Gaudium

On November 24, 2013, Pope Francis issued a pastoral exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel") which urged a joyful proclamation of the Gospel to the world. 

"I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day," wrote Pope Francis in the exhortation, whose publication came at the conclusion of the Year of Faith.

Today the Church lights the first of four candles on the Advent wreath.  Perhaps you can light a candle too.