To respond to a call is one thing, to come prepared with one’s best effort is another. As we follow the Lord’s call we renew our hearts to give God our very best.
Tag Archives: Preparation
Study: Where do you find joy in your life? How can you foster joy in your heart?
Pray: Is there something in your heart that is suffering? Ask the Lord to touch and bless your concerns.
Serve: How can you bring joy to others? How can you share Christ’s love with someone in need?
The encounter between two pregnant women – Mary & Elizabeth – reveals the Good News of Jesus Christ even while he was still in the womb. Elizabeth carries her son John, a child blessed to her and her husband Zechariah in their old age. The infant “leaped for joy” in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when Mary (and Jesus) drew near.
I like the phrase “leaped for joy” on many levels:
- It flows directly from our notion of the Good News of Christ.
- It speaks to a deep longing in our hearts.
- It wakes us up to the power and beauty of life right here and now.
- It challenges us to reconnect with joy, especially when we feel joyless.
Friends, Christmas is just around the corner…are we ready? I’m not talking about shopping, travel plans, or food preparation – I’m talking about our hearts. Are we ready to welcome Jesus Christ into our hearts…with JOY?
It is easy to get caught up in the distractions and stresses of life. Life carries its own challenges, and if we are struggling with added pressure, worry, anxiety and fear it can seem overwhelming. Sometimes we can empathize with Ebenezer Scrooge!
Yet the Gospel message transforms the listener. Christ comes into our world to bridge the gap caused by sin. We have the promise of new life! Thus, in the remaining days to Christmas, I suggest the following:
- Cultivate gratitude for the blessings of your life.
- Take time for daily prayer, and offer your deepest needs to the Lord.
- Give yourself permission to savor the beauty and delight of the season.
- Make an effort to connect with loved ones…and possibly seek reconciliation with enemies.
When Christmas comes will be able to welcome the Christ child with joy? May this last week of Advent give us the time and opportunity we need to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord.
Making a highway requires removing obstacles and adding quality materials…same is true for the highway in our hearts!
A beginning is always a crucial time – how we start often defines the outcome of a project or task, as well as our attitude as we work. We are reminded today to be vigilant: constantly prepared; swift to act; and disciplined in our effort. May the start of our Advent season prepare us for a glorious Christmas!
Study: Name a time when you had to be vigilant. What gave you strength to remain alert, disciplined, and prepared?
Pray: Is there something in your life that requires vigilance right now? Pray for the strength to remain focused.
Serve: Does someone in your life need support to remain vigilant? How can you help them?
The Gospel reading paints a dark picture – filled with worry, anxiety, dismay, and fright. It warns that some might foolishly respond with drunkenness, others by getting drowsy and paying no attention. Here’s the proper approach:
“Be vigilant at all times
and pray that you have the strength” – Luke 21:36
Be vigilant. But what does that mean? Here are some key points:
- Alert: focused, paying attention, aware
- Disciplined: steadfast, consistent
- Prepared: ready, able to act instantly
The idea is that we are actively engaged in the present moment – watching and waiting – so that when the situation requires our effort we can swiftly give our best. It takes a lot of energy, effort, and concentration…but then again, at stake is our preparation for the savior of the world.
So as we step into this Advent – where do you see the need for vigilance in your life? Are there situations or relationships that require attention? Are there details that need to be addressed? If the Lord came today are we ready to greet him, or would we be caught unprepared?
This holy season provides us with the gift of time to become vigilant – alert, disciplined, and prepared for the Lord’s return.
The image is from The Passion of the Christ – The Resurrection of Jesus – Easter Day. May we all have that expression on our faces as we wait for the Lord!
Study: Looking back in my life, are there any activities, people, or situations that have helped me to grow?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the wisdom to recognize the Fruits of the Spirit and the courage to embrace them.
Serve: Look for an opportunity this Lent to offer a part of your life to helping another – especially someone who has no way to pay you back.
The season of Lent offers a powerful opportunity for conversion, spiritual growth, and developing our relationships with the Lord and one another. However, I also know that this season has a way of sneaking up on us. Life moves fast, and we can get caught up in any number of tasks – missing the necessary preparation and perspective to get the most out of these 40 Days.
As a guide, I suggest starting with the “Fruits of the Spirit” that St. Paul writes about in his letter to the Galatians (5:22-23). They are:
First, do we see these in our lives? Are there people, situations, interactions, locations (home, work, school, community) where we see consistent evidence of their presence? If so, then how can we help them flourish and grow? How can we create more opportunities to allow the Spirit to work in our lives?
Second, are these absent in our lives? Or worse, are their opposites present? Is hatred, despair, turmoil, and the like alive in our hearts? If so, how can we make the necessary changes to allow the Spirit into our lives?
Now here’s how this gets practical. It is often customary during Lent to “do” something or “give up” something for these 40 days. How about this…
- “Do” something that fosters the Fruits of the Spirit in my life.
- “Give up” something that is in conflict with the Fruits of the Spirit.
Where do we look? Try this for starters…
- WHAT we do – the Activity
- WHO we do it with – the People
- WHERE we do it – the Location
“Doing” can include any number of things:
- Helping a neighbor, family member or friend – in a spirit of kindness and gentleness
- Drawing near to people who are spiritually good – who make us more loving and peaceful
- Spending time on activities that help us use God’s talents in a good and holy way
- Concentrating our efforts on opportunities where we know that God is present
- Being in locations and situations that foster a strong and healthy life
“Giving up” can look like this:
- Is there anything destructive, harmful, unholy, or evil that needs to be removed?
- Are there people who are leading us to harm or destruction?
- Are there locations, situations, or circumstances that are unholy for us?
Using the “Fruits of the Spirit” as a measurement, we can quickly reveal the pattern of our lives. If it is spiritually fruitful, then we can strengthen this. If it is spiritually destructive, then perhaps this season of Lent gives us an opportunity to give it up and start directing our lives in better ways.
Furthermore, Lent has classic opportunities for Study, Prayer, and Service:
Study: Scripture, the Catechism, a Devotional, Spiritual Reading
Prayer: Mass, Confession, Rosary, Scripture, Devotions, Stations of the Cross
Service: at home, the neighborhood, the community, the Church
God keeps inviting, keeps forgiving, and keeps extending grace and mercy to all who seek it. Now is the time to get ready for a powerful Lent – where we turn to Jesus and allow His grace to transform our hearts. Give serious thought to what you can do to make this season special, and open your to heart to Jesus Christ.
What will you do? What will you give up? Make it a great Lent!
Study: Is there anything in my life that is not ready for the coming of Christ? Do I have any unfinished or unresolved issues that I can address?
Pray: Ask the Lord for the help and strength to be truly present in the next few days. Gatherings can be challenging – what do we need from the Lord to help us live as followers of Jesus?
Serve: Is there someone who you can help who is not ready? Is there a way that you can support another who is perhaps struggling to prepare? What good work or kind word can you offer?
This weekend we make the final turn in our Advent season and prepare for Christmas this coming week. Here are some thoughts to consider as we make our final preparations.
1. What are my priorities this week?
– Is it things? (shopping, gifts, etc.)
– Is it safe travel?
– Is it people? (family and friends)
– Is it prayer? (or even the Lord?)
I mention this first because there are many things we WANT to be our top priorities, but we often find that situations and events can be forced upon us. We sometimes find ourselves reacting to expectations and lose our focus and perspective.
Perhaps a few moments in our own reflection (alone or with others) will help us remember why we are taking the time and effort to celebrate this coming week. The danger happens when we do not choose our values, but instead let someone else tell us what we are suppose to make important.
2. How will I spend my time this holiday?
– with people
– with the Lord in prayer
– at work (I fall in this category!)
Many of us must respond to events outside our control over the next few days: work, travel, and sometimes awkward situations with other people (a.k.a. – someone you desperately want to avoid). Time remains our most precious possession; how are we living the gift God gives to us?
3. What will be my attitude?
In then end there are very few things which remain entirely in our control. The weather can change in a matter of hours, roads and travel conditions can become treacherous, and situations can become tense, frustrating, and unhappy.
When we find ourselves less than jolly, how do we express it? Do we take our stress out on others, or do we take a deep breath and put our faith into practice (you know: patience, mercy, kindness, forgiveness, love, trust, etc…..)? Are we constantly reacting to life, or do we proactively choose how we will proclaim the Good News of Christ in our words and actions?
May this holiday be a time of rich blessings to us all!
Study: What are some of the special things we do to prepare for Christmas? How can we apply this preparation to our own hearts?
Pray: Pray for the spiritual vision to truly “see” God at work in our lives this Advent. Bring to prayer any special moments or experiences which touched your heart.
Serve: How might we help others prepare for the coming of Christ? How might our service bring others closer to God and one another?
They were located in the storage space under the stairs in my parents’ house. Each year several boxes of varying sizes would get pulled out from this space on the day after Thanksgiving. The contained:
* Christmas tree
* Ornaments & Tinsel
* Christmas figurines
* Advent Wreath
* Nativity Set
Furniture would be moved to make space for the tree, items would be packed up or rearranged to accommodate the Christmas decorations, and other items (wreaths & candles) would be purchased. The preparations would often take several hours to set up, but when finished, the house would be transformed.
Many homes have similar (or even more elaborate) traditions in their preparations for the coming of Jesus. Decorations, inside and out, completely change the appearance of a home – often at the cost of hours (or even days) of hard work.
These decorations can often change the appearance of a building in a variety of ways. Beauty and light are the intended result, and the added attention of decorations reveals the power of the season. Simply put, we decorate to show that something special is happening in our world.
What is true for decorations is true for us. Just as decorations can transform a building, so to we are called to look at our hearts to discern what needs to be changed, improved, or cleaned up. We have the opportunity to see how our lives affect others.
We adorn a building with decorations to make it beautiful, but do we take the time to decorate our hearts? Do we pause and look at our values or priorities, our hopes, needs, or fears? Do we examine what is not of God in our life and change it?
The Scriptures remind us that when Jesus comes he will be our judge. He will rule the nations and govern with justice. In preparation John the Baptist urges the people to repent – to make a change in their hearts – and adorn their lives with the beauty and goodness that arise from this season. Let us do the same, and decorate both our homes and our hearts, so the Lord will find us ready when he returns.
Study: Looking back on my life, where have I seen examples where preparation and planning have made a real difference? How can I apply these example to my current situation?
Pray: What special circumstances are you facing right now that would benefit from planning? Take this to prayer and ask the Lord for guidance and strength.
Serve: How can I help someone with their planning and preparation? How can I help them reach their goals?
It seems that in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, cooks everywhere are in their element. Baking, planning, shopping for ingredients and (of course) eating are some of the principal activities during the holiday season.
I love it!
Those who delight in feeding people begin planning their Christmas menus as soon as the Thanksgiving crowd has moved away from the table. Christmas cookie bakers are checking carefully to make certain that they have all their spices and supplies on hand. Furthermore, those who have elaborate or time consuming recipes to prepare will even set aside blocks of time – some as much as days – to insure that all will be ready for the feast.
Food is a basic need for human life. We can take it for granted, especially when we have such an abundance before our eyes. Yet we dedicate special moments to gather and feast, grateful for the people in our lives and the times we can share together.
Preparing the food, often through labor intensive and consuming effort, points out the importance of the season. We dedicate time, energy, planning, and special care to show that what we are doing is precious and sacred.
These preparations remind us that hard work and thought are sometimes necessary so that all will be in order when the celebration begins. We want to be ready, and we want to make certain that those things we can control are in order.
What’s true for food also applies to the heart. Just as time and effort are necessary preparations for a feast, so to they are crucial in our dealings with others. We know when life is going smoothly – with God, ourselves, and others; we also know when something is not right, and listening to our conscience through reason and prayer usually shows us exactly what we need to do.
Advent offers us an opportunity to examine our lives and discover how we are preparing for the coming of Jesus into our world. Such preparation includes prayer, relationships, and an examination of our thoughts, words, and actions. May we look closely and make the necessary changes to be prepared when the Lord arrives.
Study: What do you do to prepare for an upcoming event? What steps do you take to be ready?
Pray: What challenges do you face right now? What do you need to ask from the Lord to be prepared?
Serve: Is there anyone in your life who could use support at this time? Perhaps you are being called to be a companion on their journey…
The readings this week offer insight regarding life as a pilgrimage. As we journey through this life, with its challenges and blessings, we can look to these readings for guidance:
* The courage to trust in God’s promises [1st]
* God calls us to be his own people [psalm]
* Abraham’s example of faith [2nd]
* Be prepared! Stay alert and awake! [gospel]
The first reading reminds us that our ancestors put their trust in God’s promises. As they were led out of Egypt to the Promised Land, the Lord guided and directed them through faith.
The Psalm expresses thanksgiving for the Lord who chooses us to be his own people. Here it is God who delivers us from death and protects us in times of great danger and crisis.
In the Letter to the Hebrews we see how Abraham’s example of faith is a model for us. He did not know where God would lead him, nor was he aware that the Lord would raise up a vast number of descendants who claim him as their father in faith. Indeed, even his son, Isaac, would be a test!
Finally, the Gospel surfaces the themes of preparation and readiness. The parable of the good servant is a reminder of some basic expectations we carry in this life:
1. What is my purpose? (Values & Priorities)
2. What are my gifts? (Skill, Resources, etc.)
3. Do I use what I have been given?
It is crucial to note that until we know what is important in life, we cannot adequately prepare for it. Until we know what are the resources, talents, and gifts we possess, we cannot properly use them with purpose.
If life is indeed a journey, then like Abraham we must travel through times of uncertainty and difficulty – but always with the hope that God is with us. Our conviction that God will strengthen us for the journey is no guarantee that life will be easy, but it does remind us that we will be given what we need to continue.
The challenge occurs when we reflect on what we truly have been given. When we recognize just how blessed we are, we are humbled by the expectation of our faith. For much will be required of the person entrusted with much.