Daily Reflections 1st Week of Advent (Year B)

Thursday 3rd December  –  St Francis Xavier

Introduction

Today we celebrate the feast-day of St Francis Xavier a man of tremendous faith who like St Paul was filled with zeal to go out to the whole world and make disciples of all nations. Known for his kindness and charity, he won countless people for the faith.

We gather on this special feast-day and ask for the loving mercy and forgiveness of God.

Reflection

St Francis Xavier is known as the Apostle of the Indies. This amazing and dynamic man, is one of the founder members of the Jesuit Order along with St Ignatius Loyola, and like Ignatius, he was a Basque Spaniard. Francis was born at the castle of Xavier, in Navarre in 1506. Educated at the University of Paris, where he met Ignatius and became a Jesuit. Francis embarked on his great missionary journey in 1541. In the next ten years, until his death in 1552, Francis was to achieve outstanding results in his work of preaching the gospel to the pagans.

Arriving in Goa, he spent some months there, renewing the spiritual and moral life of the Portuguese Christians. Then he went to the south of India, and spent seven years living as a poor man among the Parava people of India, in Sri Lanka, Malacca, the Molucca islands, and the Malay peninsula. He made many converts among the poor people, and left behind him strong, well organised communities.

In 1549 Francis went to Japan, and in this new culture he planted the seeds of the faith, which in years to come, would prove brave and resilient under persecution. After a return to base in Goa, Francis set out again in 1551, this time for China, but he took ill on the way and died on the island of Shangchwan, worn out by his apostolic labours. His body was brought back to Goa where it is enshrined to this day.

Francis had a tremendous love for Jesus which was expressed in his wonderful love for people. May we follow his example in reaching out to God in the way we reach out to our brothers and sisters.


Wednesday 2nd December  

Introduction

In the Gospel today, we encounter the awesome power and amazing compassion of Jesus. People are flocking to Jesus on the hills near the Sea of Galilee, and seek healing in so many different ways. Today over 2000 years later, just as those people did on those hills by the Sea of Galilee, so do we, come to our Lord Jesus and seek His healing in our own lives; healing again, in so many different ways.

And just as Jesus had compassion on those people with Him on the hills, we can trust that He will have the same compassion upon us that we too may feel His presence and power in our lives.

Reflection

In the psalm today, we have possibly one of the best known passages from the whole Bible, Psalm 22, the Lord is my shepherd. This was written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. We can imagine a young shepherd boy lying out in the fields among the hills with His sheep looking up into the stars at night contemplating the awesomeness of God. And just as he will do anything to look after His sheep to make sure they are safe, so too he sees and image of God. He is able to say, “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”

We too can re-echo these words and trust that God is our shepherd; and remember the words of the prophet Isaiah today, “The God will wipe away the tears from every cheek and will take away people’s shame, He will destroy death forever.”

God is reaching out His hand towards us, this Advent is our chance to reach out to Him.


Tuesday 1st December  

Introduction

In the Gospel today we hear Jesus full of emotion, ‘Filled with joy by the Holy Spirit…’ and this joy leads Jesus to straight away to pray to the father, “I Bless you father Lord of Heaven and Earth.”

In this Season of Advent, we await patiently to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. May we too be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit and in turn may it lead us to prayer and praise.

We first pause and place ourselves in the presence of Jesus and ask for God’s loving mercy and forgiveness.

Reflection

In the first reading today we hear very wise words from the prophet Isaiah. Moved by the power of the Spirit, Isaiah is able to foretell the coming of Jesus. And although Isaiah will not have know the name of Jesus, of Him he says, “He does not judge by appearances, he gives no verdict on hearsay, but judges with integrity.”

As Christians we are called to follow the way of Jesus, a way lived out in the gospels. But also we learn something of Jesus from the words of the prophets who foretold the coming of Jesus. May we this Advent listen carefully to the words of the prophets and like them look forward with hope to the birthday of the Son of God in our lives, in our world and in our parish this coming Christmas.


Monday 30th November  –  Feast of St Andrew

Introduction

Today we celebrate the feast day of St Andrew, younger brother of Simon Peter and now Patron Saint of Scotland. One of the first to be called by Jesus and the one who brought Simon Peter to Jesus.

Tradition has it that after the resurrection he preached the gospel far and wide and was martyred for his faith in Greece.

We gather on this special feast day and ask for the loving mercy and forgiveness of God.

Reflection

Robert Burns, Scotland’s justly famous bard, writer of tender love songs, was also a keen observer of the Church and society of his day. He hated hypocrisy, wanted justice to prevail, and reminded us to prize honesty. The issues of religion and society, which tax all people in every age, can be seen in the life of Saint Andrew, whose memory we honour today. Born into a fishing family in Galilee, younger brother of his more outspoken brother, Simon Peter, Andrew was initially a keen follower of John the Baptist.

Hearing Jesus described as the “lamb of God” by John, Andrew became a disciple of the Lord. Invited by Jesus to accompany him, Andrew is justly named the “protoklete” meaning, the first called. Listening to Jesus, Andrew learned the true teaching of life that we now know as the gospel. When some Greeks came along, wanting to meet Jesus and to hear this gospel, it was Andrew they approached as intermediary. In years to come, Andrew would find himself in their country, and it was there, we are told, at Patras, that Andrew was martyred for the faith.

Andrew, the young fisherman and younger brother, whose heart yearned for justice in his land, became the Lord’s true friend and disciple, and a preacher of the greatest truth and love that the world has ever known. It is not surprising that many countries claim his gentle patronage, Greece, Russia and Scotland among them. Andrew would gladly intercede for them all. Andrew’s own search had brought him to Jesus, who spoke of a tender and merciful God. “We have found the Messiah,” Andrew told his brother. His mind was convinced, his heart claimed by Jesus. Our search for God, our search for justice and love, begins and ends in Jesus Christ.


Sunday 29th November  –  First Sunday of Advent

Introduction

My dear friends in Christ, today we begin the holy season ofAdvent. A time of watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord.

The Advent Wreath which we have prepared, speaks to us of our yearning for God. It is a reminder to us of God’s loving mercy.

The evergreen branches show us, how it is God’s desire that we should live forever with Him. 

The candles remind us that time is moving onwards towards the return of Christ, and that our task as we wait, is to hasten his return by transforming the world into his kingdom.

This is a time of grace and a time of joy. On this first Sunday of Advent, our minds are filled with the longing for Christ’s return. So let us heed the words of the gospel: “Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.”

As we light the first candle, may it’s flame bid us to be always ready for the return of the Lord.

Penitential Rite

Lord Jesus, you desire that we act with integrity and keep your ways in mind. Lord, have mercy…

Christ Jesus, you keep us steady and without blame until the last day. Christ, have mercy…

Lord Jesus, you ask us to stay awake, because you never know when the time will come.     Lord have mercy…

May almighty God have mercy on us,

Forgive us our sins,

And bring us to everlasting life.

Sermon

I don’t know about you, but I find the world can be a confusing place. It is hard to know what is true, who or what can be relied upon. There is an increase of so called ‘fake news’ and conspiracy theories. And so called leaders who are happy to not tell the truth or at least ignore the truth when it is right before our eyes.

On top of this, for the last 9 months we have been dealing with a global pandemic which has changed our lives in so many ways  –  job & financial worries, health worries, loneliness and our churches closed for long periods of time.

This 1st Sunday of Advent, the start of a new liturgical year, has come at just the right time. We need a fresh start, a reset button, a chance to begin a new way of living.

I’ve heard many people say how they long for things to return back to normal, to how they were before the virus. Whilst I understand what people are saying, my own thoughts are, I want things to be better than they were before. I want the world to be a better place that it was before. I want to be a better person than I was before.

It starts today, on this 1st Sunday of Advent. The readings call upon us to wake up and act with integrity.

Isaiah reminds us very clearly in the first reading that God guides those who act with integrity and keep God’s ways in mind. Although life can be difficult, we are God’s children, we are the work of God’s hands, God will not abandon us.

Mark’s Gospel which we will read this coming year, is meant to be a jolt for us on this first day of the new liturgical year. Mark is telling us to look carefully at our lives;

            To be genuine people

            To base our lives on what is real

            To get rid of anything that is false within us

            To let go of whatever is holding us back

So many people are trying to find fulfilment in what is often superficial  –  a quick happiness which at the end of the day only leaves us feeling empty. We are bombarded by adverts telling us what we must have, what we really need  –  sometimes even justified by saying it will stop us feeling envious. If you look carefully at most adverts, you will see and hear how superficial they really are.

This Advent, is calling upon us to go deeper  –  to get to the root of our lives  –  what do we really want? Our faith tells us that our true happiness, our true fulfilment can only be found in God and our faith in God  –  because God is the very source of our existence. But often we are so busy chasing other things, wanting other things, filling our lives with other things that we think we need or will make us happy, that we scarcely notice God in our daily lives. 

Advent is our chance to get rid of all the layers of rubbish which we collect, which try to drown out the voice of God and stop of from experiencing God’s presence in our lives. Let us allow God to break through into our lives and allow God’s grace and compassion to touch us and to mould our hearts that we can be the genuine people we are called to be. There is a big difference between feeling good and actually being good.

In a world where fake news is all around us, may we as Christians be a light of truth which shines through the way we live. We do not have to join the darkness of this world, or even live in the darkness of this world  –  our faith is in Jesus, the Light of the World. This Advent, let us allow the Light of Christ to shine through our lives bringing light and hope to those around us.

This 1st Sunday of Advent, let us not be fake news by being fake people, but rather, genuine honest Christians, following Jesus and through our faith and living our faith, bringing Jesus into our world today. I cannot think of a better way to truly prepare for Christmas.