Ethan, Frank and Fr Gildea bring us together in prayer for the 4th Sunday of Advent.
4th Sunday of Advent
Today is the fourth, and last, Sunday of Advent. We are so close to Christmas Day now. So close to the birth of the baby Jesus. So it’s fitting that this week’s Gospel is the story of the Annunciation.
Picture the scene: A young woman receives a mysterious visitor, who tells her something that initially disturbs her. Frightening isn’t it? Yet frightened isn’t a word that would describe Mary’s reaction to the news that the angel Gabriel brought to her. She was initially disturbed by the possible meaning of the words, but was soon reassured by the angel Gabriel that this was wonderful news that he brings from God. She listened to him, asked one question, then there was total acceptance by her before the angel left her. It is hard to imagine the affect this visitation had on her, but her total and unconditional acceptance of God’s will, demonstrates to us just how special a person Mary was. I think we sometimes forget just how wondrous the annunciation was, yet it lies at the core of our faith. There have been plenty of people throughout time who have questioned the whole concept of the annunciation, and yet here was a woman who accepted it without fear.
Would you are I be so accepting of someone’s word? It would be easy to say, yes I would, but is that just because we know what happened next? Are we really that willing to agree to something that we can’t control? Are we really that willing to accept someone’s word that what they are asking us to do will be okay? If you think your answer would be yes, well then, that shows an amazing amount of trust and faith in others. I’m not sure I would say yes.
I read a story recently of an acrobat who amazed his audiences by walking the high wire without the security of a safety net. On one occasion he stretched the wire across a deep gorge, and as the crowd pressed close and looked on, he walked to the other side and back again. The people applauded. “Now,” he announced, “I will push this wheelbarrow across.” Again the people applauded. Then he turned to a man nearby and said, “Do you believe I can do it?” “Yes,” said the man, “I am certain you can do it.” At that, the acrobat said, “Then get in the wheelbarrow and go with me.” The man declined, and I don’t blame him. So would I, but the story makes a valid point. The ultimate test of faith is laying our life on the line. It would be foolish to do that just to entertain a crowd, but when it comes to putting our trust in God, it’s the only safe thing to do with our lives.
Mary said to the angel Gabriel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” Let us then ask ourselves this: Would I, Could I, have done and said what Mary did? By her readiness and willingness to accept the message sent by God, she has shown us that she was ready for the coming of our saviour. At the end of our four week advent, are we?
Mary’s “Yes” made Christmas possible. Let our ‘Yes’ to welcoming the birth of the baby Jesus, show our trust and faith in God too. To help us with this, let us use the first verse of the Canticle of Mary, The Magnificat….
My soul glorifies the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God, my saviour.
He looks on his servant in her lowliness;
henceforth all ages will call me blessed.
Deacon Jim Mc
Neeav, Frank and Fr Gildea bring us together in prayer for the 3rd Sunday of Advent.
3rd Sunday of Advent
We have now reached the third week of Advent, and today we light the pink candle, to emphasise our joy that Christmas is near. The flame from today’s candle is no brighter than any of the others, but the colour of the candle, a light colour amidst the darker ones, helps to lift us and lighten us during, what can sometimes feel like an intense time of Advent. This third Sunday of Advent is also known as ‘Guadete’ Sunday. The word ‘Guadete’ means ‘rejoice’. This day reminds us of the joy that is to come, and serves, amid a season of penance, as a kind of ‘break’. This ‘break’, allows us to take some ‘time out’ and think of the hope we have because of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Messiah. We rejoice in the salvation that is drawing near to us, and whose first fruits we will soon taste.
That hope of salvation is possible because of the ‘preparation work’, the ‘foundation work’, carried out by John the Baptist. It would be a big mistake to think about John the Baptist as some sort of ‘warm up act’ for Jesus, that would be doing him a great disservice. John, the last of the Old Testament prophets, was a man who believed he had a mission. His mission, was to baptise with water and preach the message of repentance for the forgiveness of our sins. People would walk for miles just to hear him preach. It’s not surprising for such a man to have confidence in himself. He knew who he was and what he had been sent to do. This is how he was able to answer the questions from the priests and Levites, whom the Pharisees had sent; in such a firm and authoritative way.
To make ourselves ready, we need to heed John the Baptist’s message and be prepared to repent our sins. To examine our consciences, to accept and understand our faults and failings, and to ask for God’s forgiveness. So, with those thoughts in our minds, let us take time to reflect on the following few questions, but also on all the questions in our hearts.
Have I...neglected my faith, my belief in you Lord?...Lord, forgive me.
Have I...been selfish in how I have treated my family, my friends?...Lord, forgive me.
Have I...lost sight of our true Catholic values in the way I live my life?...Lord, forgive me.
During the difficult times of this pandemic, has my behaviour and attitudes towards others become more intolerant?...Lord, forgive me.
Lord, I humbly ask you to accept my remorse for my failings, forgive my sins and strengthen me in your love.
D J Mcgraw
Izzy, Frank and Fr Gildea bring us together in prayer for the 2nd Sunday of Advent.
2nd Sunday of Advent
At this time of year we ask ourselves all sorts of questions relating to Christmas. The list is long…how many cards to buy / who to send them to / who to buy presents for / who to invite…well, perhaps this year, that last question will be replaced by...who to form a Christmas Bubble with, and the list goes on and on. Perhaps the most important questions are: Have I lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas? Shouldn’t we be giving some thought to the most important type of preparation we should be doing…spiritual preparation, preparing for the coming of Jesus our saviour?
The four Sundays in advent all have Gospels about preparation, hardly surprising, I know. These four Gospels reiterate the true meaning of advent as a time of preparation, the right kind of preparation. The clear message is in the first reading, and the Gospel of today, it’s all about the preparation for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, if you were to ask most children what advent means to them, they may say that it means that Christmas is getting nearer and their thoughts are all on what presents they will get this year. I say ‘most’ children, not ‘all’ children. I say that because I want to pay tribute to parents and catechists, who, under ‘normal’ circumstances, in our parish would have been preparing them in children’s liturgy each week. They would have been preparing for the coming of Jesus, by the symbols that they would be placing on the Jesse tree, the lighting of the advent candles, and of course, on Christmas eve, placing the baby Jesus in the crib. Through their efforts, the children would be showing us the true meaning of advent as a time of preparation; and how we should all be thinking of the events leading up to the birth of Our Lord, and not just the commercialised side of Christmas. But sadly, these are not ‘normal’ times, and we will all miss seeing our children doing these things at our masses during this advent.
Advent is also of course a time of hope and joyfulness. We should be able to recognise that it is a joy to see the children being creative in the way they are helping us to get the true message of advent. It should give us hope for their future, that they will develop in such a way, that Christmas means so much more to them than just getting the latest toy or gadget, computer game or mobile ‘phone, trainers etc...They will learn the true meaning of the greatness of the events on December 25th.
A favourite Beatles song of mine is “The Long And Winding Road”, and life can seem like that at times, and certainly in these times, a very long and winding road, but what if that road was straight. What if we followed the words of the prophet Isaiah “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight”. That would certainly be a start, but how do we go about doing that.
Well, perhaps we could do so by returning to mass when our church re-opens for public worship this weekend. By doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to enter into our time of preparation together, as Christians, as parish, as family. Let’s also remember some other words from that Beatles song:
‘The long and winding road, that leads to your door. Will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It always leads me here, lead me to your door’.
If you’re not familiar with this song, I highly recommend that you listen to it. I’ve just listened to it again, and it helped me realise that the Lord’s door will always be open to us. We just have to be prepared to put in ‘the hard miles’ along that road, to make the path straight. It will take time, effort and preparation, but isn’t it the case that everything that is worthwhile in life, especially welcoming the baby Jesus into this world, is worth the effort. After all, it’s all in the preparation.
Emma, Frank and Fr Gildea bring us together in prayer for the 1st Sunday of Advent.
1st Sunday of Advent
I suppose the obvious thing to do, would be to use the words that Jesus said to his disciples, “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come”, and again, “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!”. Those words would give me the perfect springboard from which to dive into a message about Advent being a time of preparation, preparing for the coming of the Christ. And it is. We all know and understand this. For us, we use Advent to prepare for the coming of the baby Jesus. We do this every year, so you might start to wonder why we need to prepare, when we know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and why it’s going to happen. It’s the same every year. Well, yes it is, but it happens afresh for us every year, so we should be prepared, to be on our guard, to stay awake.
This year, Christmas will be just the same as every other year in that sense, but of course, it will be a Christmas like no other because of the current restrictions we are living with. The restrictions will cause all of us problems, frustrations and sadness. Maybe though, instead of being downhearted by the current situation, we can look at turning it to our advantage. Think of it this way:
Joseph and Mary were homeless and Mary had to give birth to her child in a stable. No family, no friends, no support bubble for them. We may not be able to spend time with our families as we would normally this year, but we do still have the means of keeping in touch. They’re only a ‘phone call / video call / zoom call away.
Joseph and Mary had no food, no spare clothes, no bed for themselves on that winter night. We have more food than we need in our cupboards and more than enough spare clothes in our wardrobes, and a comfy bed with a duvet and possibly an electric blanket to sleep on.
Joseph and Mary had wild farm animals around them in an environment that would have been cold, draughty and probably smelly. We have a warm and cosy environment possibly with animals, but domesticated ones, cats and dogs around us.
I know this may all sound a little flippant, but lets just take stock and look at all the good things we have in our lives and compare that to others, not just Joseph and Mary. When we do that, we will realise that we are truly blessed. It won’t prevent the harsh realities of the restrictions imposed on us by this pandemic, from affecting our lives, but those lives are as blessed as they are because of the graces that our Lord bestows upon us.
I feel that our lives have been blessed by our two grandsons. Joshua is four and a half and Callum will be two in a few days time. What wonderful ages for children to be at Christmas, so I will be on my guard, that I don’t say anything that may spoil any surprises coming their way, and, as far as ‘stay awake’ is concerned, I’m sure they will stay awake looking out for Santa Claus. We are blessed with them because they are a gift that keeps on giving.
God’s gift to us, the baby Jesus, is truly the gift that keeps on giving, as we get to celebrate His coming every year. Advent is our opportunity to prepare for the experience of the joy we have each year in welcoming the baby Jesus into our lives.