Meditations - Third Week of Advent

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Monday, Week 3: Day 1

Numbers 24:2-7,15-17; Psalm 24; Matthew 21:23-27


There are a variety of meditation techniques that claim to help free the mind for deeper thought. When we allow our mind to wander freely, when we think in a different way, ideas come to us that might never otherwise have seen the light of day. In dreams, too, we think the unthinkable, allowing our thoughts to roam free, leaving our imagination unfettered. Of course, when our imagination runs free, we are equally likely to entertain irrational fears and prejudices, as we are to have profound thoughts. Our prayer is that however we think or dream, wherever we are, whatever our thoughts are like, we will meet God through them.

The Gospel says:

Unable to cope with Jesus, the chief priests and elders try to trap Him with a question. Knowing what they are about, Jesus exposes their game, revealing that they are more concerned with maintaining their own position than with establishing the truth. This loose relationship with the truth is not just practiced by individuals or by religious-groups; it is to be found at every level of society and government. Jesus exposes it for what it is -- self-serving and hypocritical. Consequently, the Gospel of Christ demands that we are careful to reverence the truth, prizing it above any personal or collective gain.

Moment of Prayer

Can you think of situations when you have been less than totally honest with someone? Why do people find it so difficult to tell the truth sometimes? Pray to God that the Holy Spirit of truth will guide you and always lead you into truth. Pray for those in positions of authority that they will value the truth and speak it at all times.

Lord Jesus, the truth of the Father, come soon.


Tuesday, Week 3: Day 2

Zephaniah 3:1-2,9-13; Psalm 33; Matthew 21:28-32

All will be well

It is almost a cliché to say that the young lack the wisdom of age, and the old lack the vigor of youth. If only one could be wise whilst one was still young. Growing up means making mistakes and maturing means learning from them. We learn partly by listening to those older and wiser than ourselves, and partly from our own experience. It can be difficult for a parent to allow their offspring to make mistakes so they can learn. We would rather protect our child from disappointment, hurt and sadness. But we will not always be there to shield and to protect, and it is better to teach a child how to get up after a fall than to put all our energy into preventing the fall. God's relationship with people resembles the parent's relationship with the child; the same desire to guard and protect; the same realization that the child must grow and mature by learning for itself.

The Gospel says:

Jesus takes the question of obedience a stage further, illustrating the difference between nominal obedience and active co-operation. The son who says he will help in the vineyard but does not, is contrasted with the son who says he will not work in the vineyard, but does. It is clear that Jesus looks for obedience to God's Will that is more than just lip-service. To drive His message home forcefully, Jesus observes that tax-collectors and prostitutes are making their way into the Kingdom of God before the priests and the elders. Clearly, Jesus is teaching something new, and teaching it with vigor. So the challenge is there for us all. Our children will learn more from what we do, rather than what we say.

Moment of Prayer

Pray a practical prayer - do something for someone else, or some work you have been postponing for some time. While you are working, pray that you will know and do God's Will. Pray today's Psalm, knowing that God will not demand of you more than you are able to give.


Wednesday, Week 3: Day 3

Isaiah 45:6-8, 18-26; Psalm 84; Luke 7:19-23

A run of bad luck

Sometimes it feels as if events are outside our control and that whatever we might do, things will happen as they are going to happen. It can seem like this when we are having a run of bad luck. These times lead some people into superstition; they believe that they can ward off the bad luck or change the way things happen by observing simple rituals such as touching wood. Even as religious people, we can be prone to superstition. Today's reading from Isaiah is a clear assertion of who God is and what God is like: 'Apart from Me, all is nothing. I am the Lord, unrivalled...' There is no room for superstition or a fatalistic resignation to events when we have a God Who created the world and is active in the world. We can change what happens around us, knowing that when we work for God we have God's help and strength.

The Gospel says:

Speculation can breed uncertainty, but Jesus is certain. When asked if He was the One Who was to come, His reply was unambiguous and eminently practical, 'Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed...' So we can say, when we are asked if we are Christians, or someone asks us about our Church, our belief in God can be seen by what we do, by the difference we make, by the hope we bring. We are living proof that Jesus is the One Who was to come, and the world is not waiting for another.

Moment of Prayer

Looking at your own life, what are the signs that Jesus is the One Who has come to save the world? Looking at the life of your Church, locally and internationally, what are the signs that the Messiah has come? Would these signs be convincing to other people? How could you make your life better, announce the Messiah? How could your Church better announce the Kingdom? Pray for yourself, your family and your Church.

Lord Jesus, come soon.


Thursday, Week 3: Day 4

Isaiah 54:1-10; Psalm 29; Luke 7:24-30

Me and my shadow

Wherever we go, and wherever there is light, our shadow will go too. Sometimes long, sometimes short; sometimes ahead, sometimes behind. We could never banish or exorcise our shadow - it is part of us. It seems from today's reading from Isaiah that the Lord shadows us; that the Lord's love follows us around, behind, before, above and below. We can never lose the Lord's love, and even when it appears to have gone, it is there all along. If human love was as reliable as the love of God; if we could be as faithful to each other as God is to us; if those in need could be as certain of our care, as we are of the presence of our own shadow, the world would be a different place. The history of the world is a history of God loving the world and wanting the world to be saved.

The Gospel says:

It is possible to work against God, and thwart God's purpose for us. When we do this through weakness or lack of vision or knowledge, we can rely on the Lord to call us back. When we work against God, willfully and deliberately, we sin. The Lord will call us back, but we must respond to that call, repent, be willing to change the way we think and act, and accept God's forgiveness and help. So if God's love shadows us, it is for us to acknowledge that love, to respond to it, to shape ourselves according to its demands. Only by doing this can we truly live with ourselves and live with others in peace.

Moment of Prayer

Close your eyes and imagine you are floating freely in space. Feel the pull of people and of places that are important to you. Feel, like the whisper of a gentle breeze, the pull of God's Will. Allow yourself to be drawn where the Will of God draws you. God's call will always be a gentle call, a call of love. Pray that you will always be able to recognize it and respond.

Lord God, let me know Your call, and let me respond to Your Will with my whole life. Lord, come soon.


Friday, Week 3: Day 5

Isaiah 56:1-3.6-8; Psalm 66; John 5:33-36

A welcome for all

Immigrants often have an ambivalent relationship with their country of residence. They are either constantly nostalgic for the home they have left, wishing they were able to return; or fiercely proud of their new home, willing to defend it by word and deed. Both feelings may live side by side. Similarly with the religious or political convert. Having chosen a new party or faith, they look back fondly at what they have left behind, or are keen defenders of what they have found. Often, however, the immigrant and the convert are trusted neither by those they have left behind, nor by those they have joined. They can remain a little on the outside, having to work doubly hard for acceptance and integration. Christians have little excuse for not welcoming the stranger or convert; the most noted convert of all, Saul of Tarsus, vigorously insisted that in Christ there was no Jew or Gentile, no male or female -- all were equal before God. When all are truly equal, God is glorified.

The Gospel says:

John the Baptist preached in the wilderness, a stranger and an outcast who proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the coming of the Messiah. Only someone outside the religious establishment could so clearly have pronounced judgment on it, calling people to leave behind their old ways and recognize the Messiah. John ended his life in prison, an outcast to the end, pronouncing the judgment of God. The outcasts in our midst bring judgment on us: how do we treat the homeless, the immigrant, the mentally or physically disabled, the person with HIV/AIDS, the lonely person, the uneducated person, the invincibly materialist person? How we regard them and treat them reflects on our faith.

Moment of Prayer

Do you ever feel rejected by others? Have you ever felt unwelcome? Imagine how devastating it can feel to face the hostility of others, and to lack acceptance and security. Say today's Psalm as a prayer for all outcasts. Pray that all people will be united in God.

Lord Jesus, you came to save us all. Come again in glory.


Saturday, Week 3: Day 6

Genesis 49:2.8-10; Psalm 71; Matthew 1:1-17

The King's good servant

St Thomas More was the King's good servant, but God's first. The King took this as a sign of disobedience, even treason. Thomas could be the King's good servant precisely because he was God's servant first; his obedience to God is what formed his character and made him such a man of integrity. Had he been able to say he was the King's servant foremost, the King would have lost a good servant and gained an unprincipled ambition-seeker. Who or what we obey is what shapes us as human beings, as sinners and as saints. Seldom is it clear whether we are serving the interest of another, ourselves, or God. Often we struggle to discern what is really going on. Sometimes, however, it does become clear. We call this moment a 'moment of truth'. We see the consequences of our obedience and realize the choice we have made. This moment of truth is a challenge to persevere or to change.

The Gospel says:

The Gospel reading today traces the genealogy of Jesus, demonstrating His descent from King David. On this descent rests Jesus' claim to be the Messiah long promised to the Jews. Physical descent apart, Jesus was raised up to glory because of His obedience to His Father's Will: He was God's good servant first. Today, each day, our obedience to the good Will of God shapes who we are, and how well we serve each other.

Moment of Prayer

Think of all the decisions you have made so far today: small decisions such as what to wear, what to eat. Think of more significant decisions: how you have spoken to people, what you have done. Pray that you will see God's Will, and allow it to shape what you do. Pray that you will serve your neighbor, and serve God first.