Mary, Teach Me How to Wait
Jacqueline St. Clare
An Advent Journey Beside Mary: Mary, Teach Me How to Wait
We are all waiting for something.
Maybe you’re waiting for your baby to be born. Maybe you’re waiting to finish your schooling. Maybe you’re waiting to enter the seminary or religious life. You could be waiting on God to tell you which career path you should take or if you should stick with your job or college major, or completely change it around.
Maybe you’re waiting for the right man or woman to come into your life. Maybe you have found that possible spouse, but you’re going through relationship struggles and need to wait and see if that relationship is truly of God. Perhaps you’re waiting for your child’s conversion. You may be waiting for God to save you from your financial debt.
Maybe you are waiting for the grace to forgive; to love; to serve. Maybe you’re waiting for the pains of an illness to pass. You could be waiting for a sick loved one to feel better. You may even be waiting for death. We’re all waiting for that glorious day when we’ll enter eternal happiness.
No matter what it is, we all have to wait.
Even if you are just waiting for Christmas, now is the time to learn what exactly waiting is and how to wait. And we aren’t just going to read an essay about what waiting and patience are. Rather, we are going to embark on a journey beside Mary, the Mother of God, as she waits for the birth of Jesus. This December of 2021, stay tuned to https://catholicstand.com/ for daily devotional postings from December 1st to December 25th.
An Introduction to a Journey with Mary
This December, a series of daily Advent, devotional postings will run from December 1st to December 25th. Journey beside Mary, the Mother of God, as she waits for the birth of Jesus. let’s learn to wait with Mary.
Nuns, nuns, nuns. I was obsessed. Nuns! That was all I could think about. I was filled with eagerness, anticipation, and zeal. In my free time, I would spend hours looking up different orders of religious women, waiting for one to stand out to me. I prayed fervently, begging God to reveal my vocation to me.
This was my freshmen year in college. A couple of years previous, I had already discerned with one religious order known as the Poor Clares. Though I discerned that I was not called to be with the Poor Clares, I was still fascinated by every aspect of religious life when I got to college. To some, this fascination may have sounded like an obvious call from the Lord.
Perhaps but the problem was that I was not finding peace, joy, or clarity during my extensive research and multiple discernment retreats. Instead, things were cloudy, confusing and I felt anxious. Another thing that I felt was urgency. I needed my answers immediately so that I could act on them immediately!
Now, another factor that played into all of this obsessive nun research was that I have Scrupulosity OCD. Scrupulosity OCD is like a religious/moral form of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Those with this mental illness have a series of obsessive thoughts that result in compulsory behavior. Usually driven by guilt, scrupulosity can cause one to believe that one’s thoughts, words, and actions must be perfect! Of course, only Jesus is perfect, but OCD doesn’t care. Instead, it insists that if everything is not done with 100% effort, then it is not worth anything at all.
Anyway, for this nun obsession of mine, the obsessive thoughts revolved around needing to find the perfect religious order that would make me 100% happy and holy. The compulsions included excessive research, extensive prayer, and unreasonable discernment activities.
As you can see, OCD sure demands a lot. But that’s the thing: it’s OCD’s demands and not God’s.
I brought up my vocation troubles with a nun (on one of my discernment retreats…). I told her about my desperation to find the right religious order and the need to know what I was called to do.
She then suggested to me, “What if you just learned to wait? You know, Mary, the Mother of God had to wait for her son to be born. Ask her to help you wait.”
I stared at her and blinked. Wait. Did she just say “wait?”
Learn to Wait with Mary
“Or maybe…” she continued, thoughtfulness rising in her expression, “Since Advent is coming up, you could make it your special task this Advent to learn to wait with Mary.”
With this suggestion and the nudging of the Holy Spirit, it became clear to me that I indeed needed a “discernment break.” Yes, discerning one’s vocation in life is good and necessary, but I was overdoing it. My spiritual director agreed: it’s possible to overdo discernment. Another mentor of mine said, “You don’t want to make any big decisions when things feel cloudy and confusing. If you’re called to be a religious, you want to do it with a clear, resound ‘yes!’ Not an anxious, desperate, ‘I think so.’”
Then, with the help of my spiritual mentors, I began my discernment break. I stopped researching religious orders, stopped planning my future in my head (tried to, at least), and stopped demanding that Jesus give me my answer right away. I stopped.
And I waited.
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I have OCD. We OCD people really like to go full out with tasks that we are given. Remember the 100% effort that I mentioned? Well, I quickly decided that for my Advent discernment break, I was going to make it a whole retreat; a written journey that I could record and look back at; an interactive journey beside Mary as she waited for the birth of Christ. I felt eager and inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down my thoughts during my Advent retreat and to note my meditations and prayers that I made beside Mary.
I completed my first Advent journey beside Mary in December of 2016.
I journeyed again with the same writings, renewing my journey and going deeper during the Advent of 2017.
For my third Advent journey, waiting with Mary for 2018, I started sharing my updated and revised manuscript so others could go on this awesome journey too!
I now go on this journey every year. Embark on it with me for 2021!
You may be thinking, “I don’t have OCD,” or “I’m not obsessed with nuns. I don’t need to take a discernment break.”
Perhaps your mental health is in great condition. Perhaps you are already married or you’re a priest or consecrated, and therefore know what your vocation is. Nevertheless, more waiting comes for each and every one of us. In our world of instant gratification, patience is rare. Yet, patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Mary is the perfect one to help us attain patience. After all, she is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Mother of Jesus, and the daughter of the King.
This retreat begins on December 1st and ends on December 25th. Though the first Sunday of Advent may begin before or after December 1st, (this year it begins on December 2nd), the date changes every year. For my convenience of going on this journey for multiple years, I am keeping it an easy cut 25 days for December.
Now, so you know what to expect from this journey:
The greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30; emphasis added). Each day of this journey, we will be focusing on these four aspects of our love for God, as noted in Scripture:
Strength: Nourishment for the soul. This is our inspiration and food to give us the ability to love with our heart, mind, and soul. Our spiritual food can be found in Sacred Scripture, the writings of the saints, reflective songs, and reflection questions. During your daily reflections, feel free to omit any parts that you don’t want to do or don’t have time for, such as skipping the reflective song suggestions!
Mind: Meditation. We use the gift of our mind, senses, and imagination as we place ourselves in the same disposition of Mary. Disclaimer: all meditations found in this manuscript are inspired by historical and biblical events, but are in no way factual! These are works of creative fiction!
Heart: We connect what we discover about Mary to our own daily lives and our own personal journey of waiting. This is our application and concrete method for loving the Lord as we wait.
Soul: We have to pray if we are imitating Mary. This is our time to converse with God, uniting our souls to Him.
Alright, then! Are you ready to wait? Mark your calendars as your journey begins December 1st. Don’t worry, we’ll have some fun with it. We can do this! Remember who we are journeying with…
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 1: Lay it Down with the Trinity
I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep…This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again (John 10:14-15, 18).
Quote of the Day: “Hold your eyes on God and leave the doing to Him. That is all the doing you have to worry about” (St. Jeanne de Chantal).
Questions: What am I attached to? Work? School? Projects? Myself? Money? Food? Alcohol? Technology or media? My reputation, family, house, or dreams? My future or vocation? Appearance, success, or opinion? My relationship? My plans?
Let’s pull out the wonderful gift of imagination. We are traveling to the Kingdom of Heaven. Though it is outside of time and space, let’s visualize ourselves traveling up above the sky. Imagine you are there with God and His millions of angels are praising Him at the foot of His throne. God is Triune and you get to see each Person of the Trinity. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are sitting together on one great golden throne. You look up at the dazzling Trinitarian God, discussing the state of the world below. Now, remember that God is outside of time and space, but for the sake of our human selves to begin understanding heavenly things, we must begin with the earthly terms that we know.
So, let’s imagine a conversation the Trinity has, but in an earthly language.
“It is almost time,” The Father says to the Son and Spirit. “Look at how My chosen daughter, Mary, waits for Me in Nazareth. She prays to Me daily, awaiting any of Your movements, Spirit. She does not yet know that Spirit’s greatest movement will be the incarnation of My Son. Yet,” The Father says as He lifts up a finger, “she waits and listens, and Spirit will come to her in the great act of love.”
The Father then turns to His only Son, looking upon Him with love. “Son, will You lay down Your life for the people? Will You take on the form of man so that whoever believes in You will have eternal life?”
“Yes,” the Son says, “For I love the world.”
The Holy Spirit now speaks, “Father, are You willing to send Your only Son? So that the world may know You and see the image of the invisible God?”
“Yes,” the Father says, “For I love the world.”
“Spirit,” The Son says, “Will you go to Mary so that I, the Word, may become flesh and dwell among humanity? So that I may lay down My life for them and take it up again?”
“Yes, for I love the world.”
“And when My life has been taken, only to be taken up again,” the Son says, “I will prepare a place for them Here. And You, Spirit, will be sent to them and teach them everything and remind them of what I will tell them.”
“That You are coming soon,” the Spirit says, “bringing with You the recompense You will give to each according to his deeds.”
You look up at the Trinity, overwhelmed by God’s Word. Light emanates from the Trinity—so brightly that you can no longer see Them. You still hear the voice of God, but it now sounds like rolls of thunder.
(Scriptural Inspiration and Reference: Genesis 3:15; John 1:1-14; John 3:16; John 10:14-18; John 14:2-3, 26; Revelation 22:12)
Though you can’t comprehend it, you understand that each Person of the Trinity is laying down His life. Our Father lays down the life of His Son because He loves us. The Son lays down His life of His own free will because He loves us. This Love is the Holy Spirit. And Love is about to come upon Mary.
Mary isn’t even in the picture yet—she isn’t doing anything important–but the Trinity is already discussing Their plan to save the world. With our eyes set on heaven, let’s cast all of our cares upon God (1 Peter 5:7). He has plans for our welfare and salvation (Jer 29:11). As we begin this Advent journey beside Mary, let us trust that the Lord is in control and relish the knowledge that He lays down His life for us. And let’s get ready! The Lord is about to work marvels before our very eyes (1 Sam 12:16).
My hopes and dreams: I lay it down.
My desires and yearnings: I lay it down.
My pain and troubles: I lay it down.
The largest problems: I lay it down
The petty annoyances: I lay it down.
The trivial frustrations: I lay it down.
My attachment to earthly things: I lay it down.
My daily anxieties: I lay it down.
My schedule: I lay it down.
My work: I lay it down.
My plans: I lay it down.
My friends and family: I lay it down.
My life: I lay it down.
My will: I lay it down.
All that I am: I lay it down.
Mary, as I begin this retreat, help me to lay all things down. I have plans and I want them followed through right now, but instead, I lay it down for God to take up.
Come, Lord Jesus.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 2: Waiting for the Sun and the Son
Scripture: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and I hope for his word (Psalm 130:5).
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Quote of the Day:
Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles
and in the right way (Fulton J. Sheen).
“While I’m Waiting,” by John Waller
Questions: What do I do when I wait? How do I do it? Do I wait with hope?
Remember how yesterday, we traveled to Heaven and saw what the Trinity was discussing? Well now, let’s take a look at Mary’s point of view.
Traveling back in time to the first century BC, let’s go to a little village in Palestine called Nazareth. We’ll look more into the village itself tomorrow, but today, we will focus on the state of Mary as she waited.
Imagine a girl of about fourteen years. Her youthful face and gentleness are evident. She is a simple girl of average height. Perhaps her hair is a dark brown color and her tanned skin has hints of olive tones.
She rises from sleep before dawn with an eagerness to go on top of the roof of her father’s little house in Nazareth. Mary quickly takes her cream veil and sets it securely on her head. Taking her pale blue mantle, she wraps it around her shoulders. Careful not to awaken her mother and father, she walks out of the house barefoot and shivers as the cool air sweeps over her. The sun will be rising soon, and she doesn’t want to miss it.
Mary quickly makes her way to the wooden ladder that leads to the roof as she hears the roosters crow throughout the village. Mary climbs the ladder and reaches the top of the roof. Arranging herself, Mary sits on her heels and looks off to the east expectantly. Her gaze takes in the rolling hills that look nearly black beneath the sky. The bottom of the dark sky is already lined with a lighter shade of blue as the stars are slowly getting harder to see.
What does Mary do up here? She waits for the sun to rise. She knows it will come. She has every day of her life to attest to that fact. The sun will rise just as the moon sets.
This is just like us as we wait for the Lord. We know that the Lord is coming. We know that He comes daily into our hearts and that He will come to this virgin’s womb. We know He will come for us at death and that the second coming will eventually arrive. We don’t know how; we don’t usually know why. We don’t even know when. We just know that He is coming.
This is what we must do while we wait: we must trust that the sun will rise. God will answer our prayers. He will reveal Himself to us if we seek Him with our whole hearts (Jeremiah 29:13). Mary didn’t know that the angel Gabriel was coming to her. She didn’t know that she would be the Mother of our Savior. She didn’t even know what the coming day had in store for her. But she knew God, and she knew that He has a plan.
Remember yesterday, how the Holy Trinity was discussing Their plan of redemption? Mary was still down in Nazareth waiting for God. Trust that in whatever situation you are currently in, God is doing the same. He is waiting for the perfect moment, and He will not fail.
Perhaps we should try just sitting in silence for a few minutes to simply reflect and be in the disposition of Mary, waiting for the sun to rise.
After we have done this, let us pray:
Come, Lord Jesus, come. Fill my heart. Yesterday, I laid everything down before You, and now, the waiting begins. Help me to wait as Mary did.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 3: Welcome to Nazareth
For thus said the Lord God,
the Holy One of Israel:
By waiting and by calm you shall be saved,
in quiet and in trust shall be your strength (Isaiah 30:15).
Quote of the Day: “Nazareth is wherever you work with Jesus in humility, poverty, and silence” (Blessed Charles de Foucauld).
Question: What is the state of my heart? Am I peaceful? Am I humble? Am I in a state of simplicity?
Let’s travel back to Nazareth. One of the smallest and poorest villages in Palestine, it is surrounded by rolling hills that are a patchwork of browns, greens, and yellows. Nazareth is so small that you can stand on one end of the village and clearly see the other end. There are probably only a few hundred inhabitants in this village at the time of Mary. The people live in simple homes—some that are attached to caves. The village is overshadowed by neighboring cities like the large capital of Galilee, Sepphoris.
Picture the daily scene of the village: In the morning, the women go to the spring to get water, just outside of the village. The men quickly begin their work, whatever their trade may be. Many are farmers and go to the fields to plow. Perhaps one man in Nazareth is a potter and another a tanner. We know that there certainly is a carpenter: Joseph. We’ll get into who Joseph is a bit later. The men in Nazareth travel to larger cities like Sepphoris to do their business since their own village is too meager to find work or sell their goods.
The children are awake with their parents, right when the cock crows, helping them with work. The older ones join their fathers in the fields or are apprentices—perhaps at the pottery shop, learning the trade. The smaller children assist their mothers with baking the day’s bread. A few are assigned to the grain mill, to grind their wheat and prepare it for baking. Others are preparing dinner—maybe collecting figs or pomegranates depending on the season. Some are spinning wool to create clothing.
Travelers pass by Nazareth on a major Roman road, hardly giving the little cluster of houses a second glance. These farmers are all poor peasants. They will have to give most of their crops away to taxes. They pray daily that they can feed their families and keep the roof over their heads.
(Inspiration for Nazareth comes from, The Nazareth Jesus Knew, by Joel Kauffmann; provided and produced by Nazareth Village in Nazareth, Israel, 2005. Check out the website: www.nazarethvillage.com)
Pretty simple stuff.
Nazareth doesn’t sound like a very spectacular place, and it wasn’t. But that is where God placed Mary, and later, God placed His own Son. Why not an important city like Jerusalem? Even the apostle Nathanial questioned when hearing that Jesus was from that village, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
Well, in this village of poverty, there was also great simplicity and beauty. God is found in humility and poverty because the simple is not distracted by material, temporal things, but by God, Who is everlasting. For it is in quietness and trust that we draw strength (Isaiah 30:15). Simplicity and poverty remind us that we can do nothing without our Creator.
There was a man who based his whole spirituality off of the village of Nazareth. His name was Charles de Foucauld. He’s currently a “Blessed” in the eyes of the Catholic Church and is on his way to becoming a saint. Living in the 19th century, he spent some of his time in Nazareth, devoting himself to the simple life that the Holy Family lived.
Charles de Foucauld, perhaps like few others, grasped the import of the spirituality which radiates from Nazareth. This great explorer hastily abandoned his military career, attracted by the mystery of the Holy Family, the mystery of Jesus’ daily relationship with his parents and neighbors, his quiet labor, his humble prayer. Contemplating the Family of Nazareth, Brother Charles realized how empty the desire for wealth and power really is. Through his apostolate of charity, he became everything to everyone (Address of Pope Francis, St. Peter’s Square, 3 October 2015).
Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Fill me Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Yours is a spirit of simplicity and humility.
Mother Mary, you lived in Nazareth. Help me to make my own life—my own heart, a Nazareth. It is there that you lived in a state of waiting and expectation for the Lord.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 4: Prophecies for St. Anne, Mary, and You
Scripture: “Then you shall know that I am the LORD. I have spoken; I will do it—oracle of the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:14b).
Quote of the day: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry” (Padre Pio).
Questions: Do I believe that God will fulfill everything? Do I trust in His will? Do I rely on my own efforts?
From the moment she left her mother’s womb, her parents told her all the prophecies of the Old Testament, which to her were the Hebrew Scriptures. She would have known Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, Ezekiel, Hosea, and so forth very well.
Let’s imagine a conversation that fourteen-year-old Mary could have had with her mother, Anne.
It is evening and Mary’s father, Joachim is out giving his dues to the regional tax collector.
Anne sighs as she sits on a short wooden stool, trying to see her sewing beneath the dim light. She just needs to thread the needle in order to mend her husband’s inner tunic! If only they had the necessities to buy some more oil for their lamps.
Mary looks up from her own work of spinning wool. She is an expert at spinning and continues rolling the spindle, creating thread without looking at it. She examines her mother’s distress before saying, “Would you like me to thread it, Mother?”
Anne lets out a huff as she surrenders her work to Mary, who leaves her own work so that she may kneel beside Anne.
“We have hardly enough light to see,” Anne explains stiffly.
Now Mary attempts to thread the needle.
Anne’s eyes thin in the pitiful light as she stares at Mary’s working hands. “I hope your father returns soon. He didn’t want to tell you, but he’s worried we will go into debt after today’s collection.”
Mary glances up at her mother, sympathy in her eyes, and then returns to her work. Anne knows well that even if her daughter is not speaking, she is always listening.
It is easy to confide in such a listener. “I am…afraid,” Anne finds herself admitting to her daughter.
Mary stops her work and gently touches her mother’s clasped hands. “Do you know what one of my favorite passages from the prophet Isaiah is?”
Anne knows that when her daughter does speak, it is with wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Mary’s counsel has always astonished Anne. The fortitude with which Mary speaks is bold and fearless. Yet, she still has an unusual piety and fear of the Lord.
“Tell me, child,” Anne says.
Mary smiles, the passage already playing in her mind. She has many favorite passages from Isaiah, but this one, in particular, stands out to her. “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; He has sent me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted. To proclaim liberty to the captives.”
Anne tenderly touches her daughter’s tan cheek. Anne herself was the one who taught Mary that passage.
Mary returns to threading the needle, but continues, “Mother, we must wait for the Lord and take courage, as the psalmist says! For His love is even greater than a bridegroom’s love for his bride.” She squints her eyes as she tries to slide the thin slippery thread through the eye of the needle. “The spirit of the Lord will be upon the Messiah,” Mary continues, “as the spirit of the Lord was upon our father, David. He has proclaimed that He will aid us in all things—heal us and bind us up, and set us free! I believe that it shall be done for us according to His word.”
“And look, Mother!” Mary exclaims, giving the needle and thread back to Anne. “The needle is now threaded. In every little thing, the Lord provides.”
(Scriptural Inspiration and Reference: Psalm 27:14; Isaiah 61:1; Isaiah 62:4-5: Luke 4:18-19)
Yes, Mary would have clung to the promises of Isaiah and the other prophets. She did not know that she was the virgin Isaiah spoke of (7:14). She didn’t know that salvation would be brought through her. She knew though that God had promised it, and therefore, God would fulfill it.
Remember how we laid everything down for God to take? Let’s also remember that God keeps His promises.
Jesus fulfills every covenant—every promise of God—that we read about in the Old Testament. Now, the prophesies certainly spoke to the present time period that the prophets were in. For example, Ezekiel spoke of a vision he had in which dry bones became flesh and alive. This was to represent God breathing life back into the dry, exiled Israel (Ezekiel 37:14). But this prophesy is later and ultimately fulfilled by Jesus as He conquers death itself and offers all of us resurrection. The Old Testament is packed with foreshadowing, prophecy, symbolism, and reality. Many Bibles include in the footnotes, passages from the New Testament that correlate with the Old Testament and vice versa.
Now we need to trust that as the Lord kept all of these promises of salvation for Israel, He will continue to do so in our own personal lives.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). Let us have faith that this will occur.
When Jesus says to take courage, for He has conquered the world, let us believe that! Let us have faith in Him (John 16:33).
Oh God, sometimes the burdens of life wear down on me. They make me wonder if You actually do have a plan for me. Even more so, they make me wonder if Your plan for me is good. Help me to remember though that Your plans are to prosper me and not to harm me; plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Just as Jesus fulfills the Old Testament, I believe that You continue to fulfill Your promise to me. Jesus has promised He will answer my prayers. He promised that He will come again. He promised that He is with me always, even till the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
Mother of Jesus, teach me to be like you. Ask the Lord to send me your faith and your trust.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 5: How Can This Be, Since…
Scripture: “You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty,” (Psalm 91:1).
Quote of the Day: The scene of the Annunciation merits consideration for another reason, too: it is not only wholly Christological; it is wholly trinitarian as well…The angel’s initial salutation…brings her the greeting of the ‘Lord,’ Yahweh, the Father…she will give birth to the ‘Son of the Most High’…the Holy Spirit will overshadow her… (Hans Urs Von Balthasar).
Questions: What are your questions for God? What are you wondering? Are there any contradictions in your life?
Imagine Mary who has recently been betrothed to Nazareth’s carpenter, Joseph. It is a normal day as Mary sits atop the roof of her parents’ house grinding grain at the stone grain mill. With a wooden peg in hand, she presses against the grain and puts the freshly ground flour in a tightly woven wicker basket.
For a moment, everything is totally silent.
Mary’s hand stills from her work. The sound of Nazarenes going about their daily work has stopped. She does not hear the morning doves and she does not hear the sound of animals in their stables, or travelers passing by the village.
She senses something. Someone. In the silence, she feels as if this someone is calling her name though she does not hear a sound.
Her face feels warm. Her whole body feels warm. Light shines brightly in her vision. Slowly, she lifts her eyes, her lashes fluttering.
Mary drops the wooden peg with a gasp and almost falls backward.
“Hail favored one!” A man steps toward her; a man who is so brightly arrayed in white garments, she can hardly make out any definitive features. “The Lord is with you.”
Mary’s eyes dance around, unsure of where to look. Surely this is a messenger from God! Mary quickly rises and then stumbles to her knees. How is she to act before God’s own heavenly servant?
Favored one. She ponders the strange greeting. It makes her terribly uncomfortable and troubled, but she holds the words of address in her heart and focuses on the angel so that he may say whatever he has come for.
Knowing what Mary is thinking, the angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.”
Mary’s stomach lurches forward in nervous excitement. Her cheeks warm with the awareness that God’s eyes are upon her.
“Behold,” the angel continues smoothly. He speaks as if precious ointment drips from his lips. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son.”
Mary’s muscles tense, her mind attempting to grasp such a declaration.
“And you shall name him Jesus.”
Jesus. Mary thinks. God saves!
“He will be great and will be called the 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 kingdom, there will be no end.”
Mary’s lips begin to tremble as she ponders the angel’s words. She will conceive a son Who will take the throne of David! The Messiah! But Mary is fully virgin. This is not possible. “How can this be,” she finds the courage to ask, “since I have no relations with a man?”
The angel speaks in a melodious tone that washes over every increment of Mary’s being. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The angel comes nearer, lowering himself to Mary’s level. “Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
(Scripture inspired by Luke 1:26-35)
How can this be? Isn’t that a question we all ask?
Go ahead and fill in the blank: How can______________________since___________________?
How can I forgive him since he hurt my child?
How can I speak Your word to them since they might be offended?
How can I follow this vocational path since I have always planned on another?
How can I love Your people since I have social anxiety?
How can I give up sweets since I am addicted?
How can I suffer since I am afraid?
How can I be kind and loving since I am sick and in pain?
Ask the Lord these questions. Ask Him as many as you can think of. What God asks of us is indeed contrary to our world! Reflect on the response that the angel gives to Mary:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”
Lord God, be with me. Come, Son of the Most High. Overshadow me. Holy Spirit, come upon me.
I ask You, “How can this be?”
I know You hear me and are beside me in my confusion. Under the shelter of Your wings, I take courage. I savor the knowledge that every contradiction is made correct with Your power.
Mother of my Savior, I stand beside you in wonder and I stand beside you in faith.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 6: The Impossible!
Scripture: “For nothing will be impossible for God” (Luke 1:37).
Quote of the Day: “Let nothing perturb you, nothing frighten you. All things pass. God does not change. Patience achieves everything” (St. Teresa of Avila).
Questions: Will you say “yes” to what God asks of you? Do you currently say, “yes?” Do you believe that nothing will be impossible for God?
Let’s go back to yesterday’s scene of Mary on the rooftop with the angel. This is the Annunciation; the angel announcing the coming of Jesus!
Okay, the angel has just told Mary that the power of the Most High will overshadow her and the child will be the Son of God.
Mary gazes at the angel in awe, her lips slightly parted. The Son of God. In her womb?
The angel continues, surprising Mary with more wonders. “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren.”
Mary’s lips part even more. Elizabeth? Elizabeth! Her cousin is far over twice her age! Probably three times her age. People call Elizabeth as barren as a desert, without the honor of a child. It is believed by some that this is a sign that God has turned His face from her.
“For nothing will be impossible for God,” the angel finishes and gazes at Mary kindly, allowing the mysteries to sink into her mind.
Such mysteries will be contemplated for all eternity! Mary thinks. She knows how to wait for the Lord so that when He comes, she may welcome Him!
“Behold,” Mary says without hesitation, a slight smile dawning on her lips, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
(Scriptural Reference and Inspiration: Luke 1:36-38)
Mary’s “yes” is called fiat. As Eve disobeyed God when eating the forbidden fruit, Mary obeyed God, so that the fruit of her womb could be the Son of God.
Father Federico Suarez, the author of the book, Mary of Nazareth, puts fiat very nicely when he says,
In the pronouncing of the word fiat, ‘be it done unto me’; the Virgin’s answer is definite and final; its force impresses us. It is more than a simple ‘yes.’ Once the request was answered, there could be no subsequent changes of heart; it demanded a complete submission of the will; an abandonment of herself, not to do some specific thing, but to do all the things that God had planned for her in exactly the way that He intended that they should be done; she was asked to renounce completely the right to plan her own life.
Let us give our own fiat to God. And let us remember that Mary did not know all that bearing the Son of God would entail. She hardly knew anything! How to tell Joseph, what her life would be like with a Divine Child, and how to be the Mother to God Himself!
We don’t know everything either! We may hardly know anything! Without hesitation or delay, let’s dive right in with Mary and say, “yes.” For nothing will be impossible for God.
Oh, Lord! I wait and wait for You. Sometimes it feels like I’m waiting forever. But when You finally come, I can hesitate to say “yes” to You. Help me to say, “yes” when You ask something of me. Help me to say “yes,” daily, and “yes,” every moment of my life to loving You. Help me to give a fiat like Mary’s.
I say this to you now, oh Lord: Behold, I am the handmaid (servant) of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.
Mary, let me accompany you on this journey. I am scared but trusting! Send graces to me, Full of Grace, that the Lord may be with me.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 7: Treasuring the Word
Scripture: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” (John 1:14a).
Quote of the day: “The Word of God entered with ‘patience’ in the moment of the Incarnation and thus unto death on the Cross. Patience and perseverance” (Pope Francis).
Questions: What is God asking you to do today? Do you recognize the presence of God within you right now?
She has conceived by the Holy Spirit! Imagine Mary’s joy after she says “yes” to God. The angel departs from her, but Mary is not left alone.
Instead, the very flesh of God dwells within her.
How Mary must contemplate this! Perhaps she stays on the top of her parents’ roof, a hand gently resting over her womb. She may be in a sort of daze as she relishes the mystery that is taking place within her. Her cream veil gently flaps in the Galilean breeze and her pale blue mantle falls loosely over one shoulder.
She cannot formulate any words, but she contemplates the Son of God. In her own womb.
Closing her eyes, she forgets her surroundings. Her heart, her mind, her soul, and her strength is filled with the delightful awareness of the entirety of God within her. God made human. Not simply His Soul and Divinity, but His Body and Blood.
How Mary loves the Scriptures. She loves the Word of God. She thinks of the first spoken statement in the Jewish Torah, “Let there be light.”
The Word, which she listens to and ponders; the Word that promises her hope and the redemption of all people; the Word that leads her to the Father.
The Word is now flesh. God has taken on human nature so that He may dwell with humanity.
Thanksgiving lunges from Mary’s heart. Here He is! Jesus!
(Scriptural Inspiration and Reference: Genesis 1:3; John 1:1-18)
Did Mary just say that Jesus is here? He hasn’t even been born yet! Indeed, Jesus has not been born, but that doesn’t mean that He doesn’t dwell in Mary.
Look at your own life. You are waiting for something, somehow, someone, someway.
Now, look at Mary. She is waiting for her Son to be born. Yet, she is rejoicing that her Son is with her in the present moment! It is the “almost, but not yet,” mentality that is explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
Though already present in his Church, Christ’s reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled “with power and great glory” by the King’s return to earth…That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ’s return by saying to him: Maranatha! Our Lord, come! (CCC 671).
Basically, God truly is with us. However, we are not with Him in the heavenly divine union that we eventually will be. In other words, when the “veil” is lifted, we will see Him in fullness (CCC 1404). So, on one hand, we already have Christ in His full presence, but on the other, we still wait for the fulfillment of His reign.
Challenge yourself today to treasure the presence of Christ with you this moment. He may be veiled, or He may be hidden in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, but He is present. No matter what you are waiting for, welcome Jesus into your heart, mind, soul, and strength today!
How do we welcome Jesus?
1. Receive Jesus in the beautiful act of Holy Communion. The Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. Let us receive Him as often as possible. How can we pass up witnessing the Word made flesh on the altar during Holy Mass? And that same Word gets to dwell in us as the Word dwells in Mary at the Annunciation.
2. If you can’t make it to daily Mass or you are in a state of mortal sin, you can still receive Jesus in Spiritual Communion. In Spiritual Communion, we receive all the graces of actual Holy Communion. The act of Spiritual Communion will be provided below in the “Soul” section for today.
So, go receive Jesus! And treasure Him!
My Jesus, I believe that You
are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.
(“An Act of Spiritual Communion.” EWTN. https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/blsac4.htm)
As You entered the womb of the Blessed Virgin, come into my heart.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 8: The Active Waiter
Scripture: “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some
Quote of the Day: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Our Lady of Lourdes
Questions: What is your image of Mary? Do you think she is passive or active?
We are going to zoom out of Nazareth for the day and go back to the “heavenly” viewpoint of Day 1. Since in the heavenly view, we are outside of time and space, things might be a bit odd. That also means it might be a bit cool. And instead of looking specifically at the Trinity, we will specifically look at Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Mary is a busy woman. From the moment of her Immaculate Conception in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, to her conception of Jesus, to Jesus’ birth, death, ascension, and Mary’s own assumption into heaven, and all the way till our present age, Mary has been at hard work.
As the top intercessor of the Church, she is continuously praying for the conversion of sinners, giving graces to those who ask of them, making saints, going wherever her Son asks her to go, comforting the needy, being Mother to the parent-less, accompanying and healing, listening to the people, and adoring the Lord Jesus.
For example, in the 1800s, Mary is sent by God the Father to the village of Lourdes, France. Mary appears to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous.
Bernadette sees the apparition of Our Lady and describes it:
A golden cloud came out of the cave and flooded the niche with radiance. Then a lady, young and beautiful, exceedingly beautiful, the like of whom I had never seen, stood on the edge of the niche. She smiled and smiled at me, beckoning me to come closer as though she were my mother, and she gave me to understand in my soul that I was not mistaken.
The Lady was dressed in white, with a white veil on her head, and a blue sash at her waist. A Rosary of white beads on a golden chain was on her right arm. On that cold winter’s day, her feet were bare, but on each foot was a golden rose radiant with the warmth of summer. (Excerpt from the Webpage, “St. Bernadette.” EWTN www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/BERNLIFE.HTMEWTN.)
After many more apparitions to little Bernadette, God wills it time for Mary to reveal her identity to the young girl. “I am the Immaculate Conception,” she tells Bernadette. This means that Mary was immaculately conceived (without sin) in the womb of her mother, St. Anne.
Today, Lourdes, France is a holy pilgrimage site, place of miraculous healings, site of answered prayers, place of conversions to Christ, a spot for the afflicted to be comforted, a center for the spiritual renewal of the Church, and a means for others to understand with more clarity the mysteries of God.
Mary is at Lourdes, France right now, still doing all sorts of motherly, queenly, and heavenly tasks that give glory to her Son.
Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception! We get to celebrate Mary’s freedom from original sin so that she can carry the Son of God. For this feast day, we get to contemplate Mary’s role in the first century, the 1800s, and today!
Mary is our example of patience and waiting. But is she sitting around all day, just staring at her Son and nothing else? Does she sit back and watch God do everything? Does she watch us from a distance?
Waiting is anything but being passive. Mary teaches us that we must act as we wait. Think of it! A mother does not sit back as her child does all of the work. While a mother waits for her child to be born, she often takes pregnancy classes, buys materials and goods, and makes a room ready for the child. She also calls upon the help of others—that of her husband, relatives, doctors, and friends.
In the same way, while Mary waits for the Second Coming of her Son, she is appearing to her children, pointing to Jesus, and praying unceasingly. The Father has given her a very active role in salvation.
You too, though you wait, are called to action. Don’t think you have to drop everything and go to Lourdes, or become a missionary overseas, or start a new organization or religious order. Each smile you give, each time your heart turns to the Lord, and each time you resist temptation, you are acting. And if you think that praying is passive, think again. Do not underestimate the role you have in the salvation of souls by your prayer. Do not underestimate the multitudes of souls who are praying for you as you journey through life. Do not forget the busy role of Mary in your life as you wait. Join her. Prepare yourself and prepare the world around you for the coming of Jesus.
Come, Holy Spirit, the way you come to your chosen vessel, Mary of Nazareth. Spirit, make me pure and holy for Jesus.
Mary, I unite myself to you on your feast day today, the Immaculate Conception. Let me join you as you wait but let me also join you as you work. O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you!
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 9: The Suspicion Theory
Scripture: “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
Quote of the Day: “People hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is they love more than the truth. They love truth when it shines warmly upon them and hate it when it rebukes them”
(St. Augustine of Hippo).
Questions: Do I acknowledge God in my life? Do I ignore Him? Do I trust Him even when others disappoint me?
First of all, as a quick explanation and some historical context, betrothal, and marriage at the time of Mary and Joseph was very different than it is today. Betrothal was a period in which a man and woman did not live under the same roof, but they were already promised to each other and bound—in their context, they were “married.” The bride would enter the groom’s home about a year after their betrothal, thus officiating the marriage.
In this meditation, we are witnessing Mary and Joseph’s interaction in Nazareth during their betrothal period. Mary “belongs” to Joseph as his wife, but she has not yet entered his house. Furthermore, early Church tradition claims that Mary was always intended to be a virgin and that even when married to Joseph, she was not intended to have relations with him. Now, remember this is just an imaginary meditation and there are no concrete facts here—just the inspiration of Scripture and what we can gather historically and traditionally.
So, let’s go back to Nazareth. The Lord’s will has clearly been revealed to Mary. She, a virgin, is to be the mother of the Savior of the world. Mary is pregnant with Jesus! But she is betrothed to a man named Joseph, and in a few months will move into his home as his wife. Mary, as an honest woman, tells Joseph the truth. What is Joseph’s reaction? Biblical scholars suggest many different motives for Joseph’s wish to “divorce” Mary. Let us imagine one possible conversation Mary could have had with Joseph. We will base it off of what Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch call the “Suspicion Theory” (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament; Second Catholic Editions RSV Notes pg. 8).
“You are telling me you are with child?” Joseph throws his hands in the air, staring at Mary. Thin as usual, Mary does not appear pregnant.
Mary nods her head calmly. “Yes, but as I said, I have had no relations with a man. I have conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Joseph gives a humorless laugh. He rubs his jaw and shakes his head. “Mary…” he groans, “What am I to do? I thought I was marrying a pure, chaste virgin!”
“You are betrothed to one. I tell you, in the name of the Lord, I am a virgin.” Mary speaks distinctly and sincerely. Her voice is soft but clear and confident.
“A virgin cannot be with child!” Joseph raises his voice. He does not mean to frighten her, but he is a righteous man! Has this woman truly committed adultery? He never would have suspected such a thing from her!
“I too have questioned this,” Mary says, taking a step forward, “but the angel told me nothing shall be impossible for God.”
Joseph puts both of his hands on his head. “Angels…you are seeing visions of angels, Mary? How can you claim such a thing? That your sin is actually a miracle from God?”
“I tell you, it is true, Joseph.” Mary’s eyes plead with sincerity. “We have been chosen by God and must not be afraid. We are to be the parents of Emmanuel.”
“We?” Joseph’s eyes narrow. “No! You may go and…and have this…child—whoever’s it is.” He backs away from Mary. “But this…this marriage…is finished.”
(Scripture Inspiration and Reference: Matthew 1:18-19; Luke 1:26-38)
Just think of Mary’s great sorrow and confusion. She knew that the Lord spoke to her, yet Joseph in this scenario does not believe her. Mary knows that the Holy God dwells in her, but Joseph suspects that she has committed a grievous sin against holiness.
Does this not happen to us as well? When God speaks to us and reveals a part of His will to us, we may be filled with joy and eagerly tell others about God’s work. Yet, the response we get from others can be disheartening. Though we see the amazing work of God, others may brush it off or find our joy annoying. They may not take us seriously or assume the opposite of what we claim. Yet, just because Joseph tells her that she has sinned, does not mean Mary takes that to heart and believes it as well. Let us stand firm with Mary and hold what God reveals to us in prayer. Do not let a disbelief or lack of encouragement from others hold us back from doing the Lord’s will.
Now, does it not also happen when we are like Joseph? When the Lord speaks to us and we suspect it is not God? In our meditation, God spoke to Joseph through Mary, but Joseph did not recognize God’s voice. In our own lives, we also can suspect that God’s voice is not actually His voice. We can doubt what the Scriptures say because it makes us uneasy. We can ignore a friend’s advice because we don’t like the sound of it or it’s hard to do. We can self-sabotage ourselves when good things happen to us and say, “this can’t be real,” or “this is too good to be true. I don’t deserve it.”
As we wait, let us take Mary’s disposition of heart. Let us be ready and acknowledge that God’s methods may not be accepted by all people. Let us also be ready and acknowledge where we ourselves are not accepting God’s methods. When we wait, we do not want to “miss” the Lord passing us by. Contrary to Joseph in this scenario, we must be ready for the Lord to come to us, no matter how or when He comes. It is one thing to wait, and another to totally miss what we are waiting for.
Come, Lord Jesus, come. Lord, help me to believe and persevere in Your way, even when I am believing the ridiculous and the impossible. When doubtful thoughts or other people’s negative reactions come, please help me to hold true to You and Your Word. Yet, also grant me the humility and meekness to recognize Your voice, even if I am suspicious. Grant me discernment to hold true to Truth, flee from falsehood, and encounter You where and when I least expect it.
Mother, model of patience, trust, discernment, wisdom, humility, and understanding, grant me the grace to recognize the Lord’s voice and to cling to Him when He comes to me.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 10: The Perplexity Theory
Scripture: “My soul clings fast to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:9).
Quote of the Day: “Cling to His most sweet Mother who carried a Son whom the heavens could not contain; and yet she carried Him in the little enclosure of her holy womb and held Him on her virginal lap (St. Clare of Assisi).
“Run to You,” by Third Day
“Glorious,” by the Newsboys
Questions: Do I run toward God or away from him? Does fear or perplexity keep me from doing His will? What obstacles are in the way of me encountering Jesus?
Yesterday, we imagined Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s news with the “Suspicion Theory” as our basis. Today, we will imagine Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s news with what Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch call the “Perplexity Theory” (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament; Second Catholic Editions RSV Notes pg. 8).
Joseph’s mouth drops as he looks at Mary. She does not look pregnant! But this angel she speaks of came to her just yesterday to announce this.
Strange sounds come from Joseph’s mouth. “Eh…” he starts, “Uh…” he continues, “Ahh…” he searches, “Hooowww…”
“How can this be?” Mary finishes for him, her eyebrows knotted in concern for him.
Joseph nods, not even looking at her. He tries to gulp but is having trouble swallowing.
“I also asked the angel how this can be since I have never been with a man. But he told me that nothing would be impossible for God.” Mary smiles as she remembers that splendid moment. She places a hand over her womb.
Joseph’s head is spinning. He has known this woman for years. She is a peaceful, kind, holy Nazarene woman. His betrothal to her was the most blessed occurrence in his life! Or, so he thought! That such a pure, chaste virgin would be his wife!
Ah, but she still must be a pure, chaste virgin! Joseph cannot believe otherwise! Mary is a virgin! Perhaps she did not actually see an angel and it was all in her head. Or, if for some miraculous reason, she did see an angel, then she must have misinterpreted his message! She cannot seriously be pregnant. She must think she is…unless some man was with her….or forced himself upon her…
Joseph’s vision blurs. He has to divorce this woman. That is his only choice. Such things are beyond him!
Fearful and puzzled, Joseph turns from Mary and runs away.
(Scripture Inspiration and Reference: Matthew 1:18-19; Luke 1:26-38)
In today’s scenario, Joseph is not suspicious of Mary committing adultery. Rather, he is just confounded. Logically, a virgin conceiving makes no sense. Joseph does not understand these things and his reaction is to run away from Mary and divorce her.
Let us look at our own spiritual lives. When we see something that is confusing or perplexing, we often run away from it. Maybe there is a part of the Catholic faith that makes us uneasy. Maybe the big “Why does God allow suffering?” question really makes us panic. Perhaps we question why someone supposedly holy, like a priest, would preach incorrect theology or commit crimes of sexual abuse. We may also wonder why we should give any attention to Mary if Jesus is the One Who is God.
We can also be perplexed about more personal things. Why was I born here? Why do I have this family? Why do I look the way I do? Why do I act the way I do? Why do I have to go to school? Why do I have to go to work? Why do I have to die? Why does eternity sound scary to me?
When we are frightened by such marvels and questions, we are often tempted to just run away and hide. Just think of the crucifix. Pain and suffering are super scary and we may not want to look straight at Jesus. But if we turn away and run away from the cross, we are going to miss Him!
Think of the women and the apostles during Jesus’ passion. All of the apostles but John ran away while all of the women, including Mary, followed Jesus and waited vigilantly by the cross.
By the time of the crucifixion, Mary had a lot of practice at waiting. She stood by Jesus when He was in her womb by impossible means. And she would remain beside Jesus on the cross as He died.
Jesus, I run to You and cling to You. I am puzzled and confused about many things, but I stand with Your Mother. Instead of running from You, I choose to wait with You.
Mary, I don’t understand a lot of things. May I accompany you as you hold Jesus in your womb? May I stand beside you at the cross?
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 11: The Reverence Theory
Scripture: “Who gives one person speech? Who makes another mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (Exodus 4:11).
Quote of the Day: “A humble soul does not trust itself, but places all its confidence in God” (St. Faustina Kowalska).
Questions: Does knowledge of my unworthiness keep me from encountering Jesus?
Today, we look at one final scenario as to why Joseph intended to divorce Mary. This time, we will meditate on what Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch call the “Reverence Theory” (Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament, Second Catholic Edition RSV Notes pg. 8).
Joseph looks at Mary. Thin as usual, she does not appear to be pregnant. Yet, Joseph knows that what Mary says is true. He knows the holiness of Mary and he recognizes the holiness within her.
“Joseph?” Mary’s soft voice calls to him.
Joseph blinks several times, taking in Mary’s pale blue mantle that wraps around her head and falls down her shoulders. How can such a young woman hold the Messiah within her?
“I believe you, Mary,” Joseph tells her. “I know that nothing is impossible for God.”
Mary’s face lights up with a smile as she takes a step toward her intended. “We shall be the parents of Emmanuel! We shall care for the Savior of our people!”
Joseph’s gut drops and his chest tightens. He takes a step away from Mary. Am I afraid of a woman? A virgin with child is one thing to be afraid of. A virgin carrying his Messiah is totally another thing to be afraid of.
Eyes widening, Joseph tries to gulp. “I cannot…”
“You yourself have agreed that nothing will be impossible for God,” Mary tells him simply.
Joseph groans inwardly. Her eyes are so full of trust and confidence. So much innocence and purity! So much sacredness that he will never have.
“Indeed, nothing is impossible for God,” Joseph says. “But it is impossible for me! A sinful man like myself cannot be the caretaker of the One Who is the Caretaker of the earth!”
“Behold, the Son of God!” Joseph cries, waving his hand at Mary’s stomach. “I am not worthy that He should even enter under my roof!”
(Scripture Reference and Inspiration: Matthew 1:18-19; Matthew 8:8; Luke 1:26-38)
Let’s just think of Joseph who has been waiting to take Mary into his home at the close of their betrothal period. Furthermore, think of Joseph who has been waiting for the Messiah, the chosen King of Israel to come and save his people.
Now, let us think of ourselves as we wait; the big things we wait for and the small things. We wait for Christmas this year. We wait for eternal life as well.
Back to Joseph. What does he do in this scenario? The One he has been waiting for is before him. He knows that Mary holds the Son of God in her womb. Yet, he cannot stand being in the presence of her and her child, as he is all too aware of his unworthiness.
Reverence, piety, humility, and fear of the Lord are gifts. They are what ground us as we remember that we are nothing and God is everything.
But they also remind us that God takes our nothingness and makes us something wonderful. This Advent, let’s not let fear of our inabilities dissuade us from encountering Jesus. Let us indeed praise and worship God with reverence, but let us embrace our nothingness so that God can totally fill us. While we wait, remember that unnecessary reverence may cause us to miss the Lord.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come. Jesus, I know that I am not worthy of You. But I also know that You wish to heal me. I thank You for the gift of reverence and awe of You. I ask that You keep me from wallowing in my littleness so that I may marvel at Your greatness.
Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed (Matthew 8:8).
Patient Mary, I resolve to stand beside you as you wait. With you, I turn from my own imperfections and shortcomings and embrace the goodwill of God in my life.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 12: Meet the Aztec Princess
Scripture: “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there…His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (John 2:1, 5).
Quote of the Day: “Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms?” (Our Lady of Guadalupe).
Questions: Where are you going? Is Mary asking something of you?
Time to get out of Nazareth and look at the “heavenly” view again.
Imagine this image of Mary: Her dark brown hair is hidden beneath an enormous teal mantle. The mantle is dotted with stars and trimmed with gold. She wears a soft cream tunic, embroidered with precious flowers. With hands merged in prayer, Mary tilts her head to look tenderly at you.
This is Our Lady of Guadalupe. Dressed as an Aztec princess, Mary reveals herself to a lowly farmer named Juan Diego in Mexico, 1531. Today, December 12th is her feast day.
For your meditation today, we are going to put you in the place of little Juan Diego. Now, Juan is a poor peasant, but God destined for Mary to appear to him. Taking direct words from the record of the apparition, we are going to issue them to you. All we need to do is replace the word, “son,” with “child,” and you are all set. If you prefer “son,” or “daughter,” that is also fine. For the purpose of all-inclusion, we will stick with child.
Our Lady says to you with a tender smile,
“Know, know for sure, my dearest, littlest, and youngest child, that I am the perfect and ever Virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the God of truth through Whom everything lives, the Lord of all things near us, the Lord of heaven and earth…”
“…Listen to me, my youngest and dearest child, know for sure that I do not lack servants and messengers to whom I can give the task of carrying out my words, who will carry out my will. But it is very necessary that you plead my cause and, with your help and through your mediation, that my will be fulfilled…”
What do you think Mary is asking you to do? She asks Juan Diego to plead with the Bishop of Mexico to create a church in her honor. Mary has all sorts of servants and messengers; angels and people; but there is only one you. You might be trying to figure that out right now. You may be frightened and unsure. You may want to avoid Mary because that is easier. Juan Diego knows what Our Lady asks of him, and he purposefully avoids her out of fear. Yet, this is what Our Lady says:
“What is happening, dearest and youngest of my children? Where are you going? Where are you headed?”
“Listen, put it into your heart, my youngest and dearest child, that the thing that disturbs you, the thing that afflicts you, is nothing. Do not let your countenance, your heart be disturbed. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.”
If she is asking you to act, go do so. You have been waiting for days and when the Lord comes, we are to embrace Him.
If she is asking you to wait, be patient. This is why you are on this journey, so that you may learn what it is to wait and find joy and value in it.
If she is asking you to do a task while you wait, do it with her. She had to travel across Palestine as she waited for Jesus to be born.
If you do not know what she is asking of you, be not afraid. You are under the shadow of her protection. As you go about your day, do whatever gives the most glory to God. That is sufficient, and it pleases your Mother very much.
Dear Lady of Guadalupe, who holds the precious Savior in your womb, wrap me in your heavenly mantel and hold me in your embrace. Comfort me and assist me as my mother.
I ask for clarity, understanding, peace, and patience.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 13: Persevering with Mary
Scripture: “I kept faith, even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted!’” (Psalm 116:10).
Questions: Do I trust God even when the waves around me get high? Do I let trials and adversities stop me from loving the Lord? Do I despair when it seems like God will never give me answers and clarity?
And we are traveling back to Nazareth.
Mary sits on the roof of her parent’s house, again grinding grain. When she told Joseph yesterday about the angel’s announcement, it did not seem to go very well. Joseph was greatly disturbed. Not only this, but he said he is going to divorce her!
Mary blows out a breath and rolls up her sleeves, the early morning air already warming up. She had felt so peaceful and joyful when the angel first came to her. She is still joyful that little Jesus is inside of her. But what is she to do now that Joseph is leaving her? Surely God will not leave her as well!
A variety of doubtful thoughts are thrown at Mary. Maybe I imagined the angel. There can’t really be a child in me. I must have done something wrong. God has abandoned me. All people abandon me. I should forget that the Lord even came to me and just carry on with my life as it was. Instead of fighting these temptations herself, Mary trusts in the infant in her womb. Joseph said that he will divorce her quietly so as not to cause suspicion in Nazareth. Yet, Mary still hopes in God that Joseph will see the truth and act on it.
Mary’s lips move in prayer. She will remain faithful to the Lord. She will count on His word.
Mary jolts, startled. Looking down, she sees Joseph running into the courtyard of her parent’s home.
Rising, Mary drops the stone in her hand and watches Joseph practically fly up the wooden ladder and onto the roof. The man is sweating and gasping as if he had just run for his life.
“Mary! Listen to me!” Joseph exclaims. His eyes are intense and full of light. He laughs to himself and then makes a straight face. “I am not afraid! I am not afraid!”
Mary waits patiently for Joseph to explain.
“An angel appeared to me. An angel came to me in a dream. He told me not to be afraid. I am not afraid! Not anymore! I am not afraid. Be not afraid!” Joseph laughs and Mary smiles with him, sharing in his fearless joy. “You will bear a son and we will call Him Jesus. He will save us and He is indeed with us!” Joseph gestures toward Mary with both of his hands and falls to his knees.
Mary looks down at the man who is adoring Jesus within her.
“Hail Mary,” Joseph breathes, “Full of grace. The Lord is with you!”
(Scripture Reference and Inspiration: Psalm 130:5; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:28)
Notice what Mary does while she waits. First, she goes about her usual routine of work. Every morning she grinds the day’s grain. This will make the daily bread (Give us this day our daily bread; Matthew 6:11). Let us do the same as we wait. The whole world does not need to stop and the whole world does not need to suddenly spin twice as fast as we wait.
Second, Mary ponders in her heart. She thinks of the events that have been happening over the past few days. The angel, the announcement of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit, Joseph choosing to divorce her. She ponders these events with the Lord. They do not all make sense. In fact, some of the things greatly disturb her, but she rejoices nonetheless with little Jesus in her womb. Let us do the same. Let us keep all that occurs around us in our minds and hearts. We can ponder them, but let us ponder them with the Lord so that we can sort out what is from Him and what is not. Even if something disturbs us, let us choose to rejoice in Jesus Who is with us.
Third, Mary turns to God when temptations come. She does not get rid of the thoughts and temptations by her own strength, but she relies on Jesus. Let us do the same as we wait. Many thoughts and temptations arise in us daily. Thoughts about leaving the faith, about sinning, seeking immoral pleasure, etc. Let us imitate Mary by relying totally on Jesus to keep us faithful in temptation.
Fourth, Mary prays. With hope and confidence in the Lord that He will fulfill all that he commanded, Mary prays consistently. Let us also pray consistently as we wait. Even amidst doubt and turmoil and confusion, let us wait and hope in the Lord.
Fifth, the fruit of Mary’s waiting becomes ripe. Joseph comes and all that made no sense suddenly makes perfect sense. Mary recognizes the work of God in Joseph and rejoices with him. Together now, they will worship the Lord Jesus in her womb. Let us do the same. No doubt, the Lord will make our fruit of waiting become ripe. The most obvious example is the way the disciples despaired at the death of Jesus and then rejoiced at His resurrection.
Lord, in Your presence, I renew my resolve to wait patiently and hopefully. Bless all of my work so that I may do it for Your glory. Accompany me as I reflect on events that are around my day and strengthen me in temptation. I have hope in You, Jesus. I pray that Your will be done perfectly. In confidence, I thank you for all of the fruits that have come and will come from my waiting.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 14: Spiritual Companions
Scripture: “Now the body is not a single part, but many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).
Quote of the Day: “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Questions: Do I have any spiritual companions? Have I asked God for friendships centered around Him?
Now that all is well between Joseph and Mary, Mary explains to her betrothed that her cousin Elizabeth is also with child. With Joseph’s blessing, and only a few months till Mary enters Joseph’s house, Mary hastens on a journey to visit Elizabeth.
Mary sets out with a small caravan from Nazareth, a village in the northern region of Galilee, to the southern desert region of Judea, where the priest, Zechariah, lives. Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth is Zechariah’s wife.
Mary walks through the pale desert hill country amid a couple dozen travelers. Most of them are families heading toward Jerusalem and the surrounding towns and villages.
Usually, Mary only sees Elizabeth once a year when Mary travels to Jerusalem for the Jewish Feast of Passover. Yet, these circumstances are different. Oh, how Mary longs to share the Presence that resides within her. Silently, she speaks to little Jesus in her womb—a habit she has formed.
Elizabeth is a dear relative of Mary’s. She is indeed several years older than Mary but the bond of friendship is strong between them. Surely Elizabeth will believe her when Mary tells of her encounter with the angel, for Elizabeth’s pregnancy is also miraculous!
Mary picks up her pace, walking toward the front of the caravan. Behind her are a variety of elders, mothers, and fathers, children, and donkeys and mules packed with supplies.
It won’t be long now.
Whenever Mary and Elizabeth meet, they speak of the heavenly. Spiritual matters are on their tongues as they recount the presence of the Lord in their lives. Mary fondly remembers a time when she herself was a little child visiting the house of Zechariah with her parents for the feast of Passover. At that time, Elizabeth had been married to Zechariah for at least a decade.
“Little Mary,” Elizabeth called in greeting as she briskly walked across the courtyard of her husband’s house, toward the young girl who had just arrived.
Smiling, Mary matched the pace of Elizabeth to meet her in the center of the yard. Evening sunlight trickled through the opening of the limestone court. The two women met in a tender embrace. At this time, young Mary only reached a few inches above Elizabeth’s waist.
“Elizabeth,” Mary looked up at her cousin. She noted the stress lines on Elizabeth’s forehead and the corners of her eyes.
“Dear one,” Elizabeth said, putting her arm around Mary’s shoulders. “Tell me how you are.”
Mary’s young, round eyes opened widely, glowing like stars. “We visit the Temple tomorrow for the feast! I can hardly stand being so close to its proximity without actually entering God’s House.”
“Wait for the Lord, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the Lord,” Elizabeth quoted the Scriptures in encouragement, squeezing Mary’s shoulder.
“We will wait for Him together,” Mary decided, scanning the courtyard filled with servants, relatives, and other visitors.
“I forget my privilege living here in Judea. The Holy City of Jerusalem is so close to me.” Elizabeth sighed deeply, her eyes lowering. “I have been waiting ten years for the Lord.”
Mary touched Elizabeth’s hand that rested on her shoulder. “And the Lord will not forsake you.”
“Yet I am as barren as this desert land.” Elizabeth frowned. Who was she to encourage others to be patient, when she herself was filled with the turmoil of delay?
“The Lord willed you to marry Zechariah.” Mary softly stroked Elizabeth’s hand. “One of God’s own priests! He may still give you a child.”
Elizabeth gave a bitter chuckle. “At least I have you to pray for me.”
Mary’s memory of her time with Elizabeth is interrupted as a friend from the caravan speaks to her. “We’ll be there by sundown,” The friend says. “You will be a joyous surprise for Elizabeth and her household.”
Indeed. Mary thinks. They have no idea she is coming, let alone that she comes with the Savior of the world!
(Scripture Reference and Inspiration: Psalm 27:9-10, 14; Luke 1:39)
Let us also go with eagerness and haste to our spiritual companions. Maybe we have companions at a bible study. Perhaps we have a spiritual director. Maybe we can share our faith with our friends and families. We know we can relate to people at our parishes because they are also believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you do not have spiritual companions, I pray with you that the Lord will lead you to them. Be not afraid to actively search for companions—not just for this Advent journey—but for the journey to Heaven.
For it is not good that man should be alone (Gen 2:18). You were made for community. That is why you are a part of the Body of Christ; why we were created together. Perhaps you are the knee for the body, but the knee is nothing without the legs! Perhaps you are the hands of the body, but what are the hands if there are no arms? As these body parts connect, so must you connect with your fellow humans.
Companions can aid us as we wait for the Lord. Think of today’s meditation. Elizabeth encouraged Mary to wait and Mary encouraged Elizabeth to wait. We know they waited together for the birth of John and Jesus as well. They waited together in prayer, trust, and thanksgiving.
Come, Lord Jesus, come. Mary went with haste to visit Elizabeth. Likewise, I make haste to You and I ask that you give me all that I need for the journey. Give me companionship and friendship. Heal my broken relationships and inspire me to create new ones. I offer my friends to You as I offer all parts of the Body to You, the Head.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 15: It’s Ridiculous, But I Believe
Scripture: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:29a)
Quote of the day: “Unless you are willing to do the ridiculous, God will not do the miraculous” (Mother Angelica).
“We Believe,” by the Newsboys
“Do You Believe?” from The Cross and the Light Soundtrack
Questions: Do I believe in the Father, Son, and Spirit? Do I believe in the death and resurrection of Christ? Do I believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church?
Today, we are going to enter the town of Beth Haccherem. This is the traditional town of Judah where Zechariah and Elizabeth resided. In our current day, Beth Haccherem is called Ein Karem and is a neighborhood in modern Jerusalem. Yet, in the time of Mary, Beth Haccherem was a town just west of Jerusalem.
A servant has welcomed Mary into Zechariah’s house and Mary now stands waiting in the enormous, familiar courtyard, lined with limestone pillars. The servant is off in search of his mistress, Elizabeth.
Mary’s eyebrows furrow as she walks about the greenery in the court. What is taking Elizabeth so long? Mary wonders if all is well with the pregnancy. Yet, she is quick to put her faith in the Child Who rests within her.
For a moment, Mary thinks she hears Elizabeth’s voice. Perhaps she was just imagining it.
“Elizabeth!” Mary calls out, leaning toward a doorway, in search of her cousin.
A loud cry echoed from behind her. Startled, Mary turns around.
“Most blessed are you among women,” Elizabeth cries, bounding toward Mary with outstretched arms, “and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Mary laughs from pure joy and clasps Elizabeth’s outstretched hands.
“And how does this happen to me,” Elizabeth exclaims, her face as youthful as Mary has ever remembered, “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Mary’s mouth drops in surprise. She instinctively looks down at her own womb, which hardly has a bump to it. Looking to Elizabeth, she examines her cousin’s bulging stomach beneath a loose linen tunic.
“For at the moment, the sound of your greeting reached my ears,” Elizabeth continues, “the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” She laughs, keeping hold of one of Mary’s hands while the other rests on her own womb. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
(Scriptural Reference and Inspiration: Luke 1:39-45)
Blessed are you who believed…
Sometimes, the presence of God is so real in our lives. Sometimes, God’s truth seems so marvelous that we don’t have the slightest doubt that He exists. Even more, we don’t doubt His goodness. Then, sometimes if we take a step back and look at things from a human perspective, God’s ways appear ridiculous! To think that God chooses to come to us in the form of bread and wine! And that Jesus has said to eat His Body and Blood! Furthermore, God chooses to bring salvation through a lowly woman! Mary. God chooses little human Mary to be the vessel of His graces.
“Say what?” We might ask.
To add further complexity, this life is filled with suffering. Jesus says that suffering will bring us joy; that only in death are we brought to eternal life; that only in choosing the lowest place will we be placed in the highest.
Yet, God’s ways are not our ways, are they (Isaiah 55:8)? That is where the gift of faith comes in. That is when we must respond to that gift of faith and belief.
Go ahead and make an act of faith today. You can do this by praying with the Apostles Creed. See the prayer below!
Lord, Your ways make no sense to me. I wonder why You Yourself don’t just send the angel Gabriel to tell me what path to take in life.
Lord, I make an act of faith in You now. With Mary, I say that I believe!
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and of earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
I believe He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
I believe that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died, and was buried.
I believe He descended into hell and on the third day, He rose again from the dead.
I believe He is seated at the right hand of God the Father, Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit.
I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.
I believe in the communion of saints
I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
I believe in the resurrection of the body.
I believe in life everlasting. Amen.
Oh, perfect, Heavenly Father, I have faith in You. I pray for those who do not have faith in You, that they may come to know You.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 16: Joy is a Fruit, Not a Feeling
Scripture: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
Quote of the Day:
The Devil exults most when he can steal a man’s joy of spirit from him. He carries a powder with him to throw into any smallest possible chinks of our conscience, to soil the spotlessness of our mind and the purity of our life.
But when spiritual joy fills our hearts, the Serpent pours out his deadly poison in vain (St. Francis of Assisi).
Questions: Do I know what joy is? Have I asked the Holy Spirit for joy? Am I joyful as I wait?
Imagine Mary and Elizabeth from yesterday’s meditation. Let’s recap:
“For at the moment, the sound of your greeting reached my ears,” Elizabeth continues, “the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” She laughs, keeping hold of one of Mary’s hands while the other rests on her own womb. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
One thing swells in Mary’s womb and shoots through the entirety of her being: joy.
And it bubbles out of her.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Mary opens her hands in exultation. “For He has looked upon His handmaid’s lowliness!” Mary’s eyes raise at the word “lowliness” as she tries to comprehend it!
Warmth exudes from Mary’s cheeks as she looks at Elizabeth. Mary says with no trace of pride but with pure honesty and humility, “Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me.” Placing both hands on her womb, she looks down. “And holy is His Name!”
Mary’s eyes dance back to Elizabeth, her lips curving like a baby’s first smile. “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.”
A laugh emerges from her mouth as she thinks of how little she truly is and how great the Son of God Himself is to come to her; to come to the world! “He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the lowly.” Mary’s eyelashes sweep over her cheeks as she marvels. “The hungry He has filled with good things; the rich He has sent away empty.”
Her own people and nation become a prominent focus of her mind. The One they have been waiting for is coming. “He has helped Israel His servant, remembering His mercy, according to His promise to our fathers!” Her whole life, Mary has heard and been taught the Scriptures!
Now that Word is flesh! “To Abraham and to his descendants forever!”
(Scripture Reference and Inspiration: Lk 1:46-55)
There are a total of four people rejoicing in this scene. Mary, of course. Elizabeth is another given. But also, John and Jesus! John himself leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting.
We know that the Holy Spirit is with Mary. It makes sense that the Spirit produces the fruit of joy in Mary. When the Holy Spirit comes to us, He also produces fruit in us, such as joy. Basically, a way for us to recognize the movement of God is the fruit that God produces.
St. Paul actually mentions the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit includes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
As you wait, are you lacking joy?
It is entirely possible and probable as we are all human. What do we do to fix this? We praise God. It works as a cycle. We are joyful because we praise God. Then, we continue praising God because we are joyful. Praise is our way of expressing joy.
Still not feeling joyful after you praise God? That is normal too because joy is not a feeling. It is a fruit of the Spirit. Joy is an act of the will. Joy is the reception of love. Joy is the giving of thanks and praise. Joy is the acknowledgment of God’s goodness, which is always present. Joy is the delight in seeing God in others and the delight in seeing God in your lowly self.
Come, Lord Jesus, come. With Mary, I praise you:
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
For He has looked upon His servant’s lowliness!
Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
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 has 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, teach me how to wait.
Day 17: John the Baptist Mission
Scripture: “A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3).
Quote of the day: “Evangelization is, very simply, proclaiming the good news of Jesus to those around us” (Archbishop Allen Vigneron, Unleash the Gospel).
Questions: How do I prepare the way for Jesus? Do I know what evangelization is?
Today, we return to the house of Zechariah in Beth Haccerem, Judea. Zechariah and Elizabeth have had a son! This is the eighth day since the child’s birth, whom they named John.
At the close of the day, Zechariah and Elizabeth are exhausted and have gone to rest in their wealthy limestone home. Mary, in one of the inner rooms, gets the pleasure of holding baby John. Mary delights in the soft warmth and life against her breast, also aware of the holy life in her womb. John and Jesus. Cousins!
Mary thinks of earlier today. As a sign of the covenant and as ritual custom, John was circumcised and named. Zechariah had been mute, as he had been since before his wife’s pregnancy. It was said that the Lord silenced his tongue after Zechariah experienced a vision.
When at the Temple for the ceremony, Elizabeth declared that the child’s name was to be John. All who gathered were surprised and told Elizbeth that the child should be named Zechariah after his father. If Zechariah could speak, surely, he would agree.
Yet, when they asked Zechariah, Zechariah wrote on a tablet, “John is his name.” In that instant, God opened Zechariah’s mouth and he was able to speak. He blessed God. Mary blessed God with him in her heart.
All present wondered what this little child would be, as the hand of the Lord was clearly upon him.
Mary smiles to herself, gently rocking John back and forth.
Cradling John in one arm, Mary puts her spare hand over her womb and speaks to both of the children, repeating the words that Zechariah spoke earlier that day.
“You, child,” Mary says, looking at John, “will be called the prophet of the Most High.” Her fingers gently tap her womb. “For you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.”
Mary is not entirely sure what John will do to prepare the way for her son, but in trust, she says to her relative, “Make the paths straight, little John. You must testify to my Son. He is coming into the world and you must prepare the way for the King of Kings.” Mary removes the hand from her womb to stroke John’s soft head. “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.”
(Scripture Reference and Inspiration: Luke 1:57-79)
John was destined to prepare the way of the Lord. We too, as followers of Jesus are to prepare the way of the Lord. For His daily coming into our lives, the end of time, and whatever else we may be awaiting Him for.
This mission of John’s was not only relevant in the time of Jesus. It is still relevant today. We must tell people that Jesus is here—most especially in the Eucharist! It is our responsibility to proclaim that Jesus is alive and living among us.
You’ve been given a gift—you can’t keep it to yourself. You can’t hide the light; you must put it on a hill for all to see (John 3:34).
Now, this doesn’t mean we literally have to go into the streets and start yelling at the top of our lungs that Jesus is coming.
Instead, we must enter the new evangelization, that is, the proclamation of the Gospel in our modern era. As waiting involves preparation, evangelization is our means of preparing the way for Jesus.
Here are some ideas to join John the Baptist in his mission:
· Thank and praise God when conversing with others.
· Let people know that you are praying for them and even ask to pray with them.
· When necessary, tell people why you are joyful…the kingdom of heaven!
· When you sin or do wrong, repent and apologize to God and others.
· Compliment and encourage others. Bless them and recognize the gift of God in them.
· Pray, pray, and pray! Mary shows us just how effective prayer is.
· Perhaps you know the birthday feeling when everyone around you wishes you a happy birthday, makes you feel loved, and wants you to have an awesome day. Perhaps you have experienced something similar at a wedding or graduation party. Every day, treat all people you come in contact with as if this is their birthday/wedding day/special day for love and attention. Every day is their day to encounter God!
“O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come show your people the way to salvation.” (December 17th Vespers Antiphon)
Star of the new evangelization,
Help us to bear radiant witness to communion,
Service, ardent and generous faith,
Justice and love of the poor,
That the joy of the Gospel
May reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world.
Mother of the living Gospel,
Wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,
Pray for us.
Amen. Alleluia!” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium)
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 18: The Word, the Lamb, or the Bridegroom?
Scripture: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:5).
Quote of the Day: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” [St. John the Baptist (John 1:29)]
Questions: How do I relate to God? As Father, Friend, or Brother? As Master? Can I relate to God in several ways?
Today, we are traveling to A.D. 30. We are going to continue to look at John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, but he is going to be all grown up. As foretold, John is preaching in the desert, preparing the way for Jesus. He has gained many followers. Let’s imagine a conversation that John the Baptist is having with one of his disciples, Andrew (the brother of Simon Peter—a future disciple of Jesus).
“Why are you here, Andrew?” The Baptist rustles his sand filled hair as he looks at Andrew.
“You speak loudly.” Andrew shrugs not looking John in the eye.
“Ha!” John exclaims. “Is that it?”
“I do not simply mean your voice. It is your words and the meaning behind them.”
“Ah, the fisherman is wiser than most Pharisees. You see those Pharisees, eh?” John puts a sweaty hand on Andrew’s shoulder and roughly pushes him forward. They look out at the people gathered at the bottom of the hill, waiting to hear the Baptist preach. The Pharisees have elaborate long garments and striking blue tassels.
“They do not know why they are here,” John continues. “They think they know.” John pokes the side of his head. “But they do not know.”
“What do they think they know?” Andrew asks, staring at the Pharisees.
“They think there is something to hear in my voice. But really it is my words. They are hungry for the Word. And you know what the Word is, do you not, Andrew?”
John makes a sour face. “Yes,” he relents, “but the Word is not only from God. It is God!”
“The word is sacred. It is our light and guide.”
“The Word is sacredness itself!”
“What are you trying to say?”
“Eh…Andrew! Make straight the way of the Lord! That is what the Word says. If the Lord is coming and the Lord is the Word, then the Word is coming!”
Andrew’s nose wrinkles as he tries to comprehend John’s strange riddles.
“This is exceptional, eh?” the Baptist throws his hands in the air, smiling like a child.
“I thought we were preparing the way for the Lamb of God.” Andrew scratches his shoulder.
“You just said we are preparing the way for…for the Word!”
“Yet, I also hear you say that we are preparing the way for the Bridegroom.”
“We are,” the Baptist says simply. “We are the groomsmen.”
“This…Word…or Lamb…or whatever you call it…” Andrew muses.
“Him. It is a ‘Him!’” the Baptist exclaims.
“The Lamb is a ‘him?’” Andrew’s face contorts.
“A bridegroom must be a ‘him,’ eh?”
“Yes, but a bridegroom cannot also be a lamb!”
“Andrew, Andrew. Can God not be both the Creator of fire and bushes, but also come to Moses as the burning bush?”
“Yes…” Andrew answers slowly.
“And can God, who righteously strikes the city of Sodom and Gomorrah also be the same God who mercifully saves the repentant city of Nineveh?”
“Yes,” Andrew answers with a sigh. These things are too great for me!
(Scriptural Reference and Inspiration: Genesis 19; Exodus 3:2-3; John 1:1-40; John 3:29)
As we wait and search for the Lord in our lives, let us remember Who God is. Meditate on His attributes. Think of the different ways He comes to us. God is not two dimensional and does not have one side. He is round as the world He created is round. He has an infinite number of angles and edges.
The most concrete example is the Holy Trinity. We have three Persons but one God. Father, Son, and Spirit.
Think of all of the titles for God. Think of all of the names for God. When we wait for the Lord, set aside a one-sided expectation. We must be alert, ready, and aware that Jesus may come to us as a little child. We must be ready to receive the true presence of Jesus, the Eucharist. We must be ready to recognize the movement of the Holy Spirit in the fruits and gifts that the Spirit produces.
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” (December 18th Vespers Antiphon)
Father, Son, and Spirit, come.
Child Jesus, living in Mary, come.
My crucified Lord, come.
My risen Jesus, come.
Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, come.
Omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, eternal God, come.
Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, come.
Maker, Creator, Yahweh, I AM, come.
Word made flesh, come.
God of mercy and God of justice, come.
Holy Spirit living in Mary, come.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, come.
Heavenly Bridegroom, come.
Knowledge, wisdom, piety, awe, understanding, counsel, fortitude, come.
Peace, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, self-control, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, love, come.
Faith, hope, love, come.
Alpha and Omega, come.
Good Shepherd and Light of the World, come.
Resurrection and the Life, come.
The Way, Truth, and Life, come.
The Gate and the Vine, come.
The Bread of Life, come.
Lord of hosts, come.
Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace, come.
O Wisdom, O Lord, O Flower of Jesse, come.
O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, come.
O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel, come.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 19: Just Sitting With Jesus
Scripture: “The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him” (Luke 22:63).
Quote of the Day: “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset” (Saint Francis de Sales).
“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” by Fernando Ortega
“All Things New,” by the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi
Questions: Do I assume the worst of others? Do I judge others? What do I do when others judge me? Do I know how to just sit with Jesus?
After several months in Judea, Mary has returned to Nazareth. The betrothal period is finished and it is time for Joseph to take Mary into his own home. After a quiet marriage, Mary and Joseph go about daily life. Joseph, to his carpentry and Mary, keeps house and assists Joseph.
Mary and Joseph have been married for a month now and Mary is starting to show. It is obvious to the villagers in Nazareth that she is pregnant.
One morning, Mary walks out of Joseph’s house with a large jug on her head. Typically, she and the other women go to the spring together twice a day. It is a natural spring just outside of Nazareth. Yet, when Mary emerges from the house today, her eyebrows knit in confusion. Where are all of the women? They usually gather in the center of the village before departing for the spring.
Mary walks between the tightly packed mudbrick homes till she reaches the center of the village. She stands near the synagogue, the largest building in Nazareth. As usual for this time of day, the farmers have already left for the fields. The children are at work on the rooftops, in the courtyards, or are in the stables feeding the animals. One elderly woman is in the doorway of a house, shaking out a mat.
Mary smiles at the elderly woman. The woman scowls at her and then goes back into the house.
An ache pulls at Mary’s heart. She looks down at her nicely rounded stomach. Clearly, the young women have left for the spring without her.
Setting off by herself, Mary walks out of the village and up the hilly path to the spring. She prays to God and thanks him for the purple and yellow wildflowers that line her path. Galilean mountains spread before her. In the distance, she sees one of the major Roman roads, occupied by travelers who could be from Syria to the other side of the Jordan.
Mary reaches the spring, the water filling a handmade stone trough. All of the young women—about a dozen of them—are gathered around it, fetching their water for the day.
As Mary approaches, she hears one woman say, “Shush! She is coming!”
A couple of women giggle and as Mary steps toward the spring, the women all turn their heads to look at her.
Their faces become straight and serious. Warmth spreads to Mary’s cheeks as she knows they are all looking at her stomach. Mary focuses on little Jesus within her. She relishes His presence.
Smiling kindly at the women, Mary goes over to kneel at the trough and collect water. Just as she does so, each woman rises, lifts her heavy water jug onto her head, and leaves. One woman bumps Mary roughly and Mary almost falls over. Surely that was an accident.
The Nazarene women leave in whispers and grunts, glancing back at Mary as they walk away.
“Joseph….before they were married…harlot…virgin…Mary should not…she is pregnant already…I wonder…”
Mary wonders if she is only assuming and imagining their conversation, but her head feels dizzy and hot with embarrassment.
It is now just Mary at the spring. Just her and Jesus.
Historically, we cannot be certain that Mary and Joseph were scorned for Mary’s pregnancy. However, we can suppose and wonder what other villagers may have thought of Mary who may have been several months pregnant after just a few weeks of marriage.
Remember how when Joseph came to Mary after his dream, all suddenly seemed right? And when Mary was with Elizabeth, all were happy and peaceful? Now Mary is left again in hurt and confusion as her friends and relatives assume the worst of her. Again, Mary is left in a place where she wonders what God is doing. She has to choose to trust that His will is still good.
Let us do the same as we wait. Often when we are in a period of waiting or discernment, we go through cycles of ups and downs. Sometimes God’s will is clear and wonderful and sometimes God’s will seems cloudy and confusing. During the cycles of life and the circles of feelings that come with our humanity, let us imitate Mary. Let us wait patiently with Jesus.
What Mary is teaching us today is to sit with the Lord. To just be with Him despite unfortunate circumstances. Let’s just “be” with Him today in our greatest joys and most painful failures.
Today for prayer, take a few minutes to be alone with just Jesus. Close the door to your bedroom, go for a walk alone, or go to a chapel—wherever you would like. Just sit with Jesus for a few (or walk with Him if that works best). No matter what you are feeling or thinking, share it with Him. If you are sad, sit with Him. If you are happy and peaceful, sit with Him. Just be in His presence and don’t be afraid—Jesus knows very well what it is to be at peace, just as He knows very well what it is to be scorned and afflicted.
O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid (December 19th Vespers Antiphon).
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 20: The Virtue of Obedience
Scripture: “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account” Hebrews 13:17a
Quote of the Day: “He who is his own master is a scholar under a fool” (St. Bernard of Clairvaux).
Questions: Am I obedient? To whom should I be obedient? What exactly is obedience?
Let’s say that Mary is now in her eighth month of pregnancy. She and Joseph continue to be scorned by their fellow Nazarenes.
Now, Caesar Augustus has just decreed a census of all the people. All must return to their native town to be enrolled, that is, they likely have to document their oath of loyalty to Caesar (See Ignatius Catholic Study Bible New Testament; Second Catholic Edition RSV. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. “The Census of Quirinius” pg. 109).
Joseph puts his hands to his head inside of his humble mud-brick home. “My native town is down in Bethlehem, Mary.” Joseph’s face is shadowed in the dim light from a couple of small oil lamps. “My family migrated up here to build up Galilee.”
Mary rests her hands over her protruding stomach. “Then we must go to Bethlehem.”
“It’s a five-day journey. At least. You’re in no condition for traveling.”
Mary relaxes her shoulders. “Obedience to Caesar is our means of obedience to God.”
“Caesar thinks he’s God!”
Mary shakes her head slightly. “We submit ourselves to the Roman government,” Mary adds, “under God.” Clearly resolved and ready, Mary’s lips curve in confidence. “Our Son is to be born under Caesar Augustus and we will pledge our allegiance to Caesar. But even Caesar is subject to our little Jesus.”
Joseph sniffs. “At least Caesar is not requiring us to burn incense to him.” He gives a nervous laugh. “We will give to Caesar what is due to Caesar. And,” Joseph sighs and then looks at Mary’s belly with a gulp, “to God, what is due to God.”
Mary strokes her stomach, anticipation filling her brown eyes. “But you Bethlehem, Ephrathath, too small to be among the clans of Judah. From you shall come forth for me One Who is to be ruler in Israel,” Mary quotes the prophet Micah.
“Whose origin is from of old,” Joseph says, tilting his head to the side in wonder, “from ancient times.”
(Scripture Reference and Inspiration: Micah 5:1; Mark 12:17; Luke 2:1-5)
See that if an authority does not call for us to defy God and His commandments, obedience to that authority is a means of obedience to God. Mary and Joseph must have known this as they would travel all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem at Caesar’s decree. However, when others were simply obeying Caesar, Mary and Joseph saw themselves as obeying God.
Let us think of our own times and situations. One example is a teenager who wants to stay out past ten-o-clock one night, but her parents have given a ten-o-clock curfew. Though God Himself does not give the direct command, the teenager can be obedient to God by being obedient to her parents.
Another example is when at work, your boss asks you to do something that you don’t want to do. Not because it is immoral, but you just don’t want to do it. God may not have sent a message to you from the sky telling you to start this new task, but as work is a part of making a living, obeying your boss is a means of obeying God.
Another example is if a religious order denies your application to join them. Of course, there are several circumstances and situations you could be in, but generally speaking, a rejection can be a form of God closing that door for you. Likewise, an acceptance to a religious order can be a form of God opening the door for you.
Obedience is good because it is pure free-will. Obedience is not the same as being forced to do something. Obedience is humbly choosing to do or not do what is asked of you. Furthermore, obedience is a beautiful virtue. It does not submit to injustice and it does not make us doormats. Rather, it is a humble openness to the will of God and a practical means of following it.
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom (December 20th Vespers Antiphon).
God, grant me the grace to see your will in righteous superiors and authorities. As I wait, give me the gift of obedience and the wisdom to embrace it when the opportunity comes to practice it.
Mother Mary and St. Joseph, please pray for me that I obey God as you both so lovingly obeyed Him. Pray that I obey the Lord. Pray that I have a childlike trust in His goodness.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 21: The Journey Toward the Star
Scripture: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).
Quote of the Day:
The Magi set out because of a deep desire which prompted them to leave everything and begin a journey. It was as though they had always been waiting for that star. It was as if the journey had always been a part of their destiny, and was finally about to begin. Dear friends, this is the mystery of God’s call, the mystery of vocation (Pope Benedict XVI).
Questions: Are there any signs or wonders in my life? Do I feel like God isn’t working any signs or wonders in my life?
Joseph and Mary have set off for Bethlehem. It is a dusty journey of several days through the desert.
On the second day of their journey, early in the morning, Joseph walks while leading the donkey that Mary sits upon.
Joseph looks back at his wife and smiles. “We will reach Bethlehem in three days!” He exclaims.
Mary smiles at him. “You are in a pleasant mood,” she observes.
“We know what awaits us there!” Joseph explains with a joyful laugh, “The Son of God!”
At the same time, hundreds of miles away to the east, a group of magi are riding on their camels toward Bethlehem as well. Traditionally, there are three magi, and also traditionally, their names are Casper, Melchior, and Balthazar. Let’s stick with the traditions today.
These are wise astrologers and they know a monumental moment is at hand!
“Do you really think Bethlehem is the city?” Casper asks his companions in anticipation. He pats the neck of his camel, Esta.
“I was certain it would be a city in Palestine,” Melchior explains, gazing up at the sky to see the faint star. He sighs as his head jostles with the bumpy movement of his camel. His neck is starting to ache from constantly looking upward. “But I wonder if the star will actually lead us as far as Egypt.”
“Egypt!” Balthazar belts, displeased with the idea of an even longer journey.
“Do you want to see this new king or not?” Melchior snaps, looking at his friends. “Besides, we know the prophecy of the Jewish scriptures. He will be a Judean from the line of David!”
“I do not care where the star leads us,” Casper decides in his typical enthusiasm, petting Esta. “A great king will be there and I am not going to miss him.”
“He’s said that every day for the past two months,” Balthazar says to Melchior in a perturbed murmur.
(Scriptural Inspiration and Reference: Matthew 2:1-2; Luke 2:1-5)
Let’s pull apart these two different perspectives. First, we have Joseph and Mary who do not realize that a new star is rising. They are not aware of the great sign and wonder in the sky, but they do know where they are going. They are going to Bethlehem, and there, they expect Jesus to be born.
On the other hand, we have three magi who do see the sign in the sky. They are following the star though they aren’t certain what they will find. They have the sign and wonder, but they don’t know Who Jesus is and what His purpose is.
Let us think of our own journey of waiting. As we journey, we may know exactly what we are doing and what we are supposed to do. However, we might not know what the fruits and wonders of it are. For example, if you are called to pray, you know that you are interceding for others, but you don’t necessarily see the signs and wonders that come from it. Another example is that you are loving your child who has fallen from the faith. You are an example for them, but you have not yet seen the fruit of your example, your child’s conversion.
Oppositely, let’s think of when we don’t know what we are doing or where we are going, but we see the sign. For example, you just had an awesome experience with God, where he blessed you and filled you with joy. It’s wonderful, but you’re not sure what you are supposed to do with that yet or where exactly He is leading you. Another example is having a baby. You are pregnant and you know God has given you a beautiful child—what a wonderful sign! But you don’t even know yet if the child will be a boy or girl, what he/she will look like, or what God has destined him/her to be and do.
Whether we know where we are going or we just see the star in the sky, it’s okay. Let’s step forward on our journey, even if we are missing a piece. Let us remember that just because we don’t see God at work doesn’t t mean He isn’t working. Likewise, just because we don’t know where we are going, does not mean God isn’t leading us.
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Savior did come here to die.
For poor ornery people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky (“I Wonder as I Wander,” lyrics)
“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” (December 21st Vespers Antiphon)
Mary, Teach Me How to Wait.
Day 22: Show God Your Pessimism Too
Scripture: “How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:2).
Quote of the Day: St. Teresa of Avila said to God, “If this is the way you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few!”
Questions: Am I honest with God? Do I tell Him how I really feel?
Today, we will get a closer look at the three magi.
“We’ve been wandering for months!” Balthazar shifts his weight on the camel. His bottom aches no matter how much padding and cushions he adds on the back of his camel to soften his travels. “I tire of waiting and wondering!”
Casper and Melchior glance at each other knowingly as their weight shifts back and forth on their camels. Balthazar has always been the complainer.
“What is wrong with waiting and wondering?” Casper glances behind him at Balthazar’s pouting face. “Are they not both good things?”
“They are both wise things to do, but that doesn’t mean they are pleasant!” Balthazar pulls at his violet and scarlet cloak, coated in dust. “I have been waiting for months and that blasted star is still thousands of years away! I cannot take it!”
“You must if you want to see the king,” Melchior states matter-of-factly. He has always been one for short plain sentences.
Balthazar holds in a growl.
“I say we have only a month longer!” Casper declares, ever the optimist. He pats his camel, Esta. “Soon we will be in Palestine!” He adds to his camel, “Won’t we, Esta?”
“I hear Palestine is a dreary land with a mad king. Suppose we aren’t welcomed there?” Balthazar blows out a long breath.
“King Herod will welcome us,” Melchior concludes, assuming Herod is the mad king Balthazar speaks of. “We are rich foreigners bearing gifts and wisdom.”
“I would gift Herod with some of the gold, then.” Balthazar looks at Melchior’s saddle, packed with bundles of the most exquisite riches in the world. “Otherwise, Herod might interpret the myrrh as an insult.”
“Myrrh is costly!” Melchior exclaims.
“But it’s for burying the dead,” Balthazar explains. “It symbolizes death.”
“Death and kingship,” Melchior corrects.
“I say we save all the myrrh for the new king. A child will not be insulted by myrrh,” Casper says, patting Esta. “A true king understands that death is real and that it cannot be avoided. A true king embraces death because he knows the value of life. He does not see death as an enemy! They even say the God of the Jews can raise the dead.”
Balthazar gives a low growl. “These months spent with these two will be the death of me,” he mumbles. “Or the death of them,” He adds thoughtfully, tilting his head.
You may be in the same waiting stage as the magi. One in which the star is visible, but still seems so far away. Perhaps in the meditation, you caught onto the different dispositions each of the three magi has. As Balthazar waits, he complains. As Casper waits, he is ever positive and optimistic. As Melchior waits, he states facts and reality.
This is the classic pessimist, optimist, and realist. Take a moment to think of your own personal journey of waiting. Are you pessimistic? Do you complain? Do you have a positive viewpoint? Are you simply noticing your journey as it really is?
Our journey of waiting is likely a combination of all three dispositions. Often, we go through a cycle of optimism to dreary complaining.
Take the time to write down or at least list your complaints about the journey you are on. Go ahead and list all of your fears and negative assumptions. Then, list plainly what your current situation is. If it is awesome, write it down. If it is truly horrible, write it down. The main thing is, to be honest with God, our Friend. He doesn’t want to hear what we think we ought to say. Rather, He wants to hear what is really on our hearts and minds. And if you are honestly pessimistic, give it to Him as you give honest praise.
You will find that this honest cycle of praise and lament is a reflection of the Psalms. That’s why our prayer today includes Psalm 42 because it expresses both hurt and longing; fear and confusion; praise and blessing.
Like the deer that yearns
for running streams,
so my soul is yearning
for you, my God.
My tears have become my bread,
by night, by day,
as I hear it said all the days long:
“Where is your God?” (2-4)
My soul is cast down within me
as I think of you
from the country of Jordan and Mount Hermon,
From the Hill of Mizar.
Deep is calling on deep,
In the roar of waters:
your torrents and all your waves
swept over me.
By day the Lord will send
his loving kindness;
by night I will sing to him,
praise the God of my life.
I will say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?”
Why do I go mourning,
oppressed by the foe?”
With cries that pierce me to the heart,
my enemies revile me,
saying to me all the day long:
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, my soul,
why groan within me?
Hope in God; I will praise him still,
my savior and my God. (7-12)
“O King of the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” (December 22nd Vespers Antiphon)
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 23: Go to Joseph
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed who was with child (Luke 2:4-5).
Quote of the day:
Go, then to Joseph, and do all that he shall say to you;
Go to Joseph, and obey him as Jesus and Mary obeyed him;
Go to Joseph, and speak to him as they spoke to him;
Go to Joseph, and consult him as they consulted him;
Go to Joseph, and honor him as they honored him;
Go to Joseph, and be grateful to him as they were grateful to him;
Go to Joseph, and love him, as they love him still (St. Alphonsus Liguori).
“Courageous,” by Casting Crowns
“Mighty to Save,” by Laura Story
Questions: Do I ever turn to St. Joseph? Do I imitate St. Joseph?
Tomorrow, Joseph and Mary will reach Bethlehem.
Joseph’s thoughts are all over the place as he walks forward. He and Mary prayed together this morning. Then, they set out again, enjoying the sunrise in silence as they passed through a major trade route in the Judean desert. They passed through Jericho this afternoon and rested briefly there before setting off toward Jerusalem. Bethlehem is just a couple miles past Jerusalem, the Holy City.
Now, as Joseph walks, he sees an array of travelers walk in different directions. Some toward or away from Jerusalem. Some head east toward the Jordan River. Others are headed northwest toward Samaria—wherever their hometown may be so they can register for the census.
Joseph shakes his head to himself as he contemplates what he is actually doing. This was never a part of his plan! Ever. Leading a pregnant wife through the desert toward Bethlehem. Not to mention a pregnant virgin wife who was carrying Emmanuel! He is leading Emmanuel! Strange how his ancestors passed through this same route, carrying the Ark of the Covenant through the desert, with the sign of the covenant, the commandments inside of it. It is frightening how connected he feels to his ancient Israelite fathers. Here he is, crossing Judea, leading a woman—not a manmade ark—but a woman, who holds the greatest sign of the covenant inside of her. Jesus.
What is happening, Lord? Perhaps the oddest thing about what Joseph is doing is that no one even knows what is happening! Here he is passing travelers from Egypt to Damascus to who knows where else; passing the holy cities his people hold dear, and they have no idea that the Lord of hosts, whom they worship at the Temple in Jerusalem, is passing them inside of a virgin woman, on the back of a bony donkey, and led by a poor Nazarene carpenter.
Perhaps the second oddest thing is that Joseph is the provider and protector of the virgin and child. Yet, Joseph feels like he has hardly done anything at all. Sure, he is leading their journey to Bethlehem, caring for and feeding their little family, but he knows that every little thing he does is not his own strength. It was not him who brought God into the world. It was not him who gave Mary a child. It was not him who decided that Jesus was going to be born in Bethlehem, the place prophesized. It was not him who chose a carpenter to carry the Ark of the Covenant through Judea!
And I don’t even know what will happen when I reach Bethlehem. Joseph thinks. Where we’ll stay, what I’ll do when her time comes…I don’t even know!
But God is the One issuing these odd events. So, Joseph supposes God will continue to do so.
Joseph doesn’t have one line in the Bible. So, in some senses, it is hard to piece together what he was like. On the other hand, Joseph is a prime example of how actions speak louder than words.
Note that Joseph is “leading” the journey to Bethlehem. Mary sits on the donkey with Jesus in her womb as Joseph leads them. However, Joseph does not even consider himself to be the leader. We get to see that God acts and moves, while Joseph in a sense, is along for the ride. He lets the Spirit move and by God’s power, he moves mountains. He so rids himself of his own will that God’s miraculous will is done.
Now, Joseph still has to work very hard. But he realizes that even his ability to work hard is given by God.
There are two things for us to learn here. The first is that St. Joseph is an awesome saint and though he is silent, he is a leading figure in the Gospels. Let us turn to St. Joseph as Mary and Jesus surely turned to him on their journey to Bethlehem. As we journey beside Mary, let’s give the leading over to St. Joseph.
Second, let us have Joseph’s disposition. That is, let us allow God to work through us. As we lead others, let us remember that God is our lead and Head. We can do nothing without Him. Furthermore, let’s recognize the presence of Jesus living in Mary. Joseph may not have understood all the ins and outs of the incarnation, with Mary as the chosen vessel, but he certainly contemplated and meditated upon it, placing further reliance on God.
“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” (December 23rd Vespers Antiphon)
Good St. Joseph, pray for me. Work is hard and doing God’s will is hard. Yet, give me your trust and perseverance to follow your foster son. Furthermore, ask God that my eyes be open to His movement and that I recognize it, not as my own power, but His.
Mother Mary, I ask that with Joseph as our guide, I ride this journey beside you and Jesus.
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 24: Is This It?
Scripture: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
Quote of the Day:
Rejoice and be glad that so great and good a Lord, on coming into the Virgin’s womb, willed to appear despised, needy, and poor in this world, so that men who were in dire poverty and suffering great need of heavenly food might be made rich to him (St. Clare of Assisi).
“Of All the Places,” by John Waller
“O Holy Night,” by Josh Groban
Questions: Do foul circumstances keep me from encountering Jesus? Do I recognize Jesus in the poor and lowly?
Imagine Mary and Joseph who have just arrived in Bethlehem. Mary’s time is near and Joseph needs to find a place for them to stay.
Joseph’s eyes fall on a modest, but comfortable-looking inn. With a lamp on each side of the wooden door, it should be a fitting place. A man walks past the door, carrying a bucket of animal food or something of the like.
“Excuse me!” Joseph calls out, holding the rope to his donkey behind him. “Sir, I need a place to stay. My wife—”
“There’s no room here.”
“We are full. We’ve got travelers from every corner of the earth staying here.” The man disappears behind the corner of the house.
Joseph glances back at Mary. He shrugs, trying to appear nonchalant. “We will simply go somewhere else,” he assures her.
Joseph pulls the donkey down the thin street. This is alright. Joseph tells himself. Perhaps a household will be willing to host them. Joseph’s eyes fall on the largest house on the street; two stories with a door of fine wood. The windows have nice shutters. Obviously, these people are able to afford fine carpentry.
Joseph knocks on the door. After a few more persistent knocks, a woman opens the door.
“I humbly beg you, my wife is close to her time and we are in need of housing. I ask that you kindly house us.” Joseph’s eyes are pleading. He didn’t imagine he would have to beg. “I will certainly pay you for your hospitality.”
“And if she gives birth under my roof? What do you expect me to do with a ritually unclean mother? Birth is messy business…”
“I understand,” Joseph starts, “But the inn down the street is full. If by the mercy of God—”
“No! Forgive me, but no.”
Joseph walks away. He needs a roof over their heads! “Pray,” he breaths to Mary as she sits uncomfortably on the donkey.
Joseph starts going to every home and shop, seeking shelter.
“You’ll have to stay in a cave or something of the like.” One man twists his lips, hidden beneath a bushy beard.
“A cave,” Joseph sighs, looking back again at Mary.
“Joseph,” she says, “Let’s listen to the man. Let’s go to a cave. It will be sufficient.”
“There are several of them just outside Bethlehem,” the bearded man says.
Joseph gulps and pulls the donkey as quickly as possible, through the streets of Bethlehem. The night is already heavily upon them. Mary needs her rest. He pulls the beast up a rocky, steep path at the top of a hill, where the black opening of a cave is in view.
“Almost there,” Joseph breaths, looking nervously at Mary. She gives him a serene look of confidence.
“Hello,” Joseph calls as they reach the entrance of the cave, aglow by a small fire. A poor man in raggedy clothes and dirt on his face is inside of it, surrounded by a variety of animals.
The foul smell of the animals and hay fills Mary and Joseph’s nostrils.
“My wife and I need a place to stay for the night,” Joseph says. “We were denied by all in town. Is there any chance you would permit us to stay here?”
The poor man looks up at them, pondering how he should answer.
“She is close to her time,” Joseph tells him honestly.
“Bring her in,” the poor man decides. “You can set her by the fire right here.
Joseph sighs in relief. “Thank you.” He helps Mary get off the donkey. The poor man comes to take the ass as Joseph leads Mary inside. “What is your name?” Joseph looks back at the poor man who guides the donkey inside the warm, dry enclosure.
“Eleazar,” the poor man says. “I tend the animals for my master.”
“And your master will not mind?”
“As long as the animals are cared for, I see no reason why not.”
“Eleazar, you are the first man to show us kindness this night,” Joseph tells him as he helps Mary sit down by the fire. Eleazar pulls their donkey toward the back of the cave and ties the rope on a wooden post, by the pen of other animals.
Joseph and Mary look around the cave. It is fairly large with a high, curved ceiling, giving plenty of room for moving around. There are surely many critters above and below them that they cannot see. However, the shadows that come from the firelight create a comforting feel for them. A few flies dance about. Joseph sweeps one off his shoulder. It flies away toward the goats in the pen behind them. One goat has its head stuck in a manger full of hay while another looks at Joseph and Mary as if wishing for something better to eat.
It is Christmas Eve and we are at the close of our journey. We know what happens next. Jesus is born this night and of all places, in a poor cave or stable.
When we reach the end of our journey, we might be disappointed. After waiting and waiting, we may look around us and say, “Is this it?” After all, we have been through joys and trials; wonders and puzzles; excitements and worries. Now, all we have is this poor little cave. And later, some poor shepherds will come and visit?
As we seek Jesus in our life, we need to recognize that our circumstances can be foul, smelly and dirty like that cave. Let us not allow our foul circumstances and surroundings to keep us from encountering Jesus.
If you are waiting for a child to be born, giving birth is painful. If you are waiting to finish schooling, studying is hard and time-consuming. If you are waiting for the pains of an illness to pass, even a cure or recovery will not stop other pains in life. If you are waiting for death, dying is painful.
Now, let’s not get so focused on the cave here, that we forget about dear Eleazar (who is a made-up character, but can represent any poor person—spiritually or physically). Eleazar is a Christ-figure here. Mary and Joseph recognize that the poor man is generous; the lowly one is loving. Though not God Himself, the poor Eleazar is a reflection of the poor baby Jesus—an encounter before the encounter.
As we seek Jesus in all circumstances, we need to recognize Him in the poor, downtrodden, and oppressed. We need to find Him in the foul, the smelly, and the dirty. Let us not allow unappealing appearances or actions keep us from encountering Jesus.
If you are waiting for your child to be born, encounter Jesus in God’s children around you; friends, family, and strangers. If you are waiting to finish schooling, recognize Jesus in the bullied, the lonely, the drunks, the awkward, the smelly, the obnoxious, the lazy, and the drug dealers. If you are waiting for the pains of an illness to pass, find Jesus in the sick, disabled, wounded, and homebound. If you are waiting for death, encounter Jesus in those dying physically, those dying spiritually, those dying mentally, and your own dying to self.
At the end of our journey, we might be disappointed with what we see. Our encounter with Jesus may be so lowly compared to the high awesome way we desired. But Mary herself tells us that the lowly become blessed, holy fear merits mercy, the lowly are lifted high, the hungry are filled with good things, the servant is helped, and the children of God live forever (See Mary’s Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55).
Lord, you have looked upon my lowliness, and have blessed me (“For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness, behold from now on will all ages call me blessed” Luke 1:48).
Mighty One, have mercy on me, who reverently fears You
(“His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him” Luke 1:50).
God, throw me from my throne so that you may lift me up (“He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly” Luke 1:52).
Savior, I am hungry for You and am starved for Your Love. Fill me with good things. (“The hungry he has filled with good things” Luke 1:53).
Master, you have helped me, your servant. (“He has helped Israel his servant” Luke 1:54).
Jesus, according to your promise to my fathers, to Abraham, the Church, and her children forever. (“According to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever” Luke 1:55).
Mary, teach me how to wait.
Day 25: Your Lady in Waiting
A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feat, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth (Revelation 12:1-2).
Quote of the Day: “Mary is the shortest, quickest, and easiest path to Jesus” (St. Louis de Montfort).
“What Child is This?” by Martina McBride
“Mary, Did You Know?” by Rascal Flatts
Questions: Will I rest with Mary at the end of my Advent journey? Will I rely on her for my journey to heaven?
Yesterday was a tiring day for Mary and Joseph. Jesus was born late at night, and they were filled with joy. Shepherds came and worshiped Him. It was a beautiful, holy night.
Today, Mary and Joseph fall back into the hay and sleep. Baby Jesus is pretty tired too, and He rests in His Mother’s arms. Mother and Son sleep soundly. They had quite a journey here and they deserve to rest and simply dwell in each other’s presence.
Their journey of waiting for Jesus’ birth is over. He is here. Mary has a soft smile on her lips as she sleeps deeply, her arms encircling her Beloved God. Jesus’ head settles on her breast.
They will remain here until God calls them to set off again.
(Scriptural Reference and Inspiration: Luke 2)
Dearest and littlest of my children,
You have made yourself ready for the coming of my Son (Rev 19:7). I see that you look back on your journey. You see it as hard and imperfect. Fear not. When you faithfully journey beside me, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:5), each of your imperfections is made perfect (Hebrews 10:14-18).
You may wonder what it is you are supposed to do now. I tell you, I thought the same thing when Jesus was born. A whole other journey awaited us—a flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15). Then, a new life in Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23). Then, the passion and resurrection of my Son (Matthew 26-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24; John 18-21). Next, living without my Son, but with the Holy Spirit, the Advocate (John 16:7; Acts 1:2-5; Acts 2:1-4). Finally, my journey to Heaven (Rev 12:1-2). And now, I accompany my many children on their journeys.
Know, dearest and littlest of my children, that there is an end to your journeying. A pilgrimage has a destination (1 Cor 9:24-25). You will certainly weary of journeying and that is because you crave the fulfillment of being Home with me and my Son. I will not rest until I see you before the Throne of my Son (John 14:2-4).
I adjure you to ask for graces. I have a surplus of graces available. They are yours if you but ask of them (Ephesians 2:8).
I adjure you to rest when I give you the opportunity. This is for you to rebuild your strength and receive many graces (Matthew 11:28-30).
When your times of trial and suffering come, I adjure you to call upon me and the graces I have already stored for you (2 Cor 12:8-10).
When the hour of your death arrives, I adjure you to be at peace, for you rest in my arms (John 14:27).
When you stand before the Judgment Throne of my Son (2 Cor 5:10), I adjure you to turn to me, so I may beseech Him on your behalf, as a mother does so for her child.
When you come home, I tell you, I will kneel beside you at the Throne of the Blessed Trinity (Rev 20:11-12). Together, we will be a part of an infinite exchange of Love (1 John 4:13-19).
My Son is here. Go out to welcome Him (Matthew 25:6).
Your Lady in Waiting,
Mary, Mother of God
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Mary, teach me how to wait.