These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-38)
The Annunciation to Mary is the second annunciation story in Luke’s gospel—the first being to Zechariah about the coming birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:5-25). And the gospel writer wants us to compare and contrast the two annunciations. Zechariah, an aged priest, has his annunciation take place in the Temple in Jerusalem, but of course, he doubts and is struck mute until John is born. The Annunciation to the young Mary, on the other hand, takes place in the backwater town of Nazareth, and Mary responds with faith: “May it be done to me according to your word.” Today’s Christmas Carol is the very Colombian carol Zagalillos (Little Shepherds Come).
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!
Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said,
“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? (Lk 1:39-45)
This final Sunday of Advent turns our attention to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord, through whom we received the Author of all life, Jesus Christ. Come, Lord Jesus, come, do not delay! Today we have another popular Christmas Carol from Colombia, Salve Reina y Madre (Hail, Queen and Mother).
O Lord, Shepherd of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!
The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. (Mt 1:18-25)
In Matthew’s gospel, Saint Joseph takes an important role in the Infancy Narrative. Perhaps for all of us, Saint Joseph is a good example of doing what the Lord asks of us. Today we have a popular Christmas Carol in Colombia, Las Barbas de San José (Saint Joseph's Whiskers).
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ,
the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Today we begin the final period of Advent, the time of the O Antiphons. Each day we will read through the Infancy Narratives (Chapters 1-2) of first Matthew’s gospel and then Luke’s which will take us all the way to Christmas Eve. The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew’s gospel invites us all into the story of Salvation. Here we contemplate the Second Coming of Christ through the lens of his First Coming among us.
Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never leave you nor my covenant of peace be shaken,
says the LORD, who has mercy on you. (Is 54:1-10)
What a promise from God . . . My love shall never leave you. Even if the world as we know it should cease to exist . . . God’s covenant of love will endure. The first part of Advent comes to an end today. Tomorrow, the second and last part of Advent invites us to “Prepare the way of the Lord” as we view His Second Coming through the lens of His First Coming among us.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this. (Is 45:6c-8, 21c-25)
At this time of year, thanks to the Angel Tree at the entrance to our churches, many of us are moved to acts of charity. But Advent calls us to the next step beyond charity, to work for justice. The One whose coming we await is the Just One . . . even as Advent calls us to pray: Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior (Is 45:8).
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 34)
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted;
and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.
The LORD redeems the lives of his servants;
no one incurs guilt who takes refuge in him.
R. The Lord hears the cry of the poor.
The scriptures of Advent remind us that God is close to us. Saint John of the Cross, like his friend, Saint Teresa of Avila, teach the church the difference between saying prayers and prayer itself. Today's picture is a drawing of the Crucifixion by Saint John of the Cross.