The Gospel reading from the Mass for Thursday of the  2nd Week of Advent is Matthew 11:11-15.

Responding to the disciples of the imprisoned John the Baptist (imprisoned by King Herod because John denounced Herod’s adulterous “marriage”), Christ quotes the prophesies of Isaiah that confirm He is the Messiah. Christ now exalts John the Baptist as the new Elijah to the crowds and publicly confirms that He (Christ) is the anticipated Messiah.

Christ begins by revealing that John the Baptist, the fierce and bold prophet who lived an austere life in the wilderness, is the greatest man (none greater) who has ever lived; this means that John is on par with all the Old Testament prophets (Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Daniel, Elijah). John’s greatness is because he is honored to announce Christ and to be among the first to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (John will be murdered by Herod shortly). Christ puts human greatness in perspective; as great as John is on earth, the lowliest saint in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.

Though obscure, Christ seems to refer to the beginning of a new era of Spiritual Combat which men will wage in the age of the Messiah; men will do violent battle with evil and sin to make their way into the Christ’s Kingdom. Christ reveals that John the Baptist is the long-anticipated return of the combative Old Testament prophet Elijah, the one who will announce the Messiah; this is a stunning, for Christ is confirming that He is, indeed, the Messiah.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ has a sweeping view of all Salvation History, knowing the impact and relative importance of all the prophets; He confirms the Kingdom of Heaven.  Divine Prophet, Christ reveals that all Old Testament prophecies are being fulfilled through John the Baptist and His Incarnation. The Messiah, Christ confirms that He is the one long revealed in Scripture.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Christ, who’s birth is accompanied by a heavenly “host” (Greek: stratia, meaning “army”), awes John the Baptist, the exceptionally manly and combative greatest of men. During Advent, reflect upon our powerful and manly King.

2) Today’s Gospel reading is a special reminder to men, who are naturally endowed by God to fight to protect and defend, to recognize the violent reality of the Spiritual Combat against evil. During Advent, renew your understanding of the Spiritual Combat (CCC 405-409, 1426, 1707, 2015, 2516) and pray for Christ to enlist you in His “host” and strengthen you against the relentless attacks of Satan.

3) Men who enter the Spiritual Combat need brothers in arms, for no man can battle against Satan and the demon horde alone. During Advent, reflect about the power of the Communion of the Saints (CCC 946-962, 2683) and pray for Christ to lead you to saints, like John the Baptist, who can strengthen you in the Spiritual Combat.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Luminous Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Holy Eucharist

Virtue of the Day – Fortitude

Corporal Work of Mercy – To shelter the homeless

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To bear wrongs patiently

The Gospel reading from the Mass for Monday of the  2nd Week of Advent is Luke 5:17-26.

As news of Christ’s power begins to spread, Pharisees and teachers of the law come from as far as Jerusalem to encounter Christ. Surrounded by a large crowd, some men with great faith carry a paralyzed man on a bed to Christ, hoping for a miraculous physical healing. Seeing their faith, Christ stuns the crowd by first focusing on the paralyzed man’s spiritual ills by forgiving his sins; this prefigures the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Pharisees and teachers, experts in Jewish law, unaware that Christ is God, quietly condemn Him of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death; the Old Covenant dictated that sins could only be forgiven through the sacrificial system of the Temple.

Able to read men’s souls, Christ bluntly rebukes the scribes for their evil thoughts and murmuring. To prove He indeed has the authority to forgive sins, Christ publicly proclaims to be the Son of Man (the long-awaited Messiah) and miraculously heals the paralytic, who rises, picks up his bed and goes home.

Shocked into holy fear, the crowds spontaneously glorify God and marvel that Christ has been given authority by God to forgive sins and miraculously cure the incurable.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of Man, Christ boldly and courageously proclaims His identity and forgives sins, knowing He will be accused of blasphemy and eventually be killed. Divine Priest, Christ lays the foundation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Divine Physician, Christ has the knowledge and power to know the inner thoughts of men and to miraculously heal devastating illness.  Divine King, Christ publicly rebukes the evil and erroneous thoughts of the well-educated Pharisees and teachers of the law.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Despite trillions of dollars spent on modern medical technology, it is unusual for the paralyzed to be healed. Reread today’s Gospel, imaging that you are present when Christ, in His Divine Mercy, miraculously heals the paralytic. Be awed by the Divine Physician (CCC 1503-1505).

2) Today, sin is ignored, explained away, accepted with cowardly false mercy, or even celebrated with pride. Christ does none of the above; Christ first identifies sin (“Your sins…”) and then forgives it (“…are forgiven.”). During Advent, review the Catechism’s primer on Sin (CCC 1846-1876) and ask Christ to help you confront your own sins in a thorough Examination of Conscience.

3) During Advent, give thanks that Christ gave the unique authority (no other “church” can forgive sins) to the Catholic Church to Forgive Sins (CCC 1461-1467) and make it an urgent priority receive Christ’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Souls in Purgatory

Virtue of the Day – Prudence

Corporal Work of Mercy – To give drink to the thirsty

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To instruct the ignorant

The Gospel reading from the Mass for Sunday Cycle B of the  2nd Week of Advent is Mark 1:1-8.

Isaiah, a martyred prophet who lived 700 years before the birth of Christ, inspired by the Holy Spirit, accurately foresees that the coming of the Messiah will be announced by one who is “crying in the wilderness” saying, “Prepare the way of the Lord…” From the moment of his miraculous conception to the barren Elizabeth and elderly Zechariah, John the Baptist, as foreseen by Isaiah, was chosen by God to announce the coming of Christ.

To announce Christ, John the Baptist attracted a large audience of Jews from Jerusalem and the surrounding area.  A fiery prophet, John the Baptist lived an austere and rugged exodus in the wilderness like the great prophet Elijah, preaching by the Jordan (2 Kings 2:6-11), wearing similar clothing (2 Kings1:8) and fasting (Mark 2:18). Christ confirms (Matt 11:14) that John the Baptist also fulfills the prophesied return of Elijah (Mal 4:5).

The last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist preached the need to repent from and confess sins, to bear good fruit and to receive the baptism of water for repentance. He announces the future coming and greatness of Christ, revealing that he is unworthy to untie Christ’s sandal (a task of the lowliest of slaves in ancient times). Though John the Baptist will die a martyr during the early stages of Christ’s public ministry, he foresees that Christ will baptize “with the Holy Spirit”, a remarkably accurate reference to the Pentecost (Acts 1:5, 2:4).

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of God, Christ’s coming is prophesied by Isaiah 700 years earlier and recognized and announced by John the Baptist. Son of Man, Christ is the perfection of manhood and awes the fierce and manly John.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) Marvel at Christ’s divine power and wisdom: He inspires Isaiah to predict John the Baptist’s birth and mission; He sends the Holy Spirit to the barren Elizabeth and Zechariah to conceive John the Baptist; He inspires the Baptist to live an austere life and preach of His coming.

2) From the failure of Adam in Eden, great prophets have been raised up to call and give hope to all those who long to be reunited with God. During Advent, reflect upon the great prophets Isaiah (CCC 497, 712, 714, 1502) and Elijah (CCC 523, 554-555, 696-697, 2582, 2595) and pray for Christ to give you a burning hunger to know, love and serve Him.

3) John the Baptist is the greatest of prophets who prepares the way for Christ. During Advent, be awed by John the Baptist (CCC 486, 523, 535, 608, 678, 696, 717-720,1223) and ask Christ to give you the courage to be a witness for Him like John the Baptist.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Glorious Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Trinity

Virtue of the Day – Charity

Corporal Work of Mercy – To feed the hungry

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To admonish the sinner

The Gospel reading from the Mass for Saturday of the 1st Week of Advent is Matthew 9:35-10:1,5a, 6-8.

Following His comprehensive Sermon on the Mount, Christ comes down from the mountain with His disciples and begins an arduous campaign to preach the coming of His Kingdom and to heal the multitudes. As He engages the travels to cities and villages and synagogues, Christ is struck with visceral compassion for the people are harassed and helpless. He shares His sorrow for the multitudes with His apostles and tells them to pray for the “Lord of the Harvest” to send workers (Matt 9:36).

Christ immediately sends them, commissioning them in His Missionary Sermon (Matt 10).  Having demonstrated His authority over Creation, Christ launches His first phase effort to evangelize all nations by delegating His authority to 12 hand-picked men; the Apostles (meaning “to be sent”) are granted authority and power to cast out demons and cure every disease and illness among the Israelites.

Christ charges the Apostles to announce “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” to reestablish the divine order that existed at Eden.  Demons, the followers of the Serpent of Eden, are to be cast out. Healing disease and illness among the “slain” (mistranslated as “lost”) alludes to the pain and death that started in Eden due to Original Sin. Christ gives the Apostles the mindset an evangelist must have. They are to offer Christ’s gifts of healing without cost.  They are to be completely reliant on Christ to provide for them in their mission work, taking no money or provisions.

Awed by Jesus ChristSon of Man, Christ has deep-felt compassion for His creation. Divine Physician, Christ heals every infirmity at will.  Son of God, Jesus has absolute dominion over Creation and grants both authority and power to His disciples. Divine Priest, Jesus establishes a new priesthood that continues in unbroken continuity 2000 years later.  Divine King and Greatest Leader, Jesus systematically develops His disciples by training them and testing them. He grants authority and the mission to His 12 Apostles to announce His Kingdom and to perform impossible acts; He gives precise and directive instructions as to the mindset and tactics the Apostles are to use.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) During Advent, marvel that Jesus Christ, the greatest leader in history, established His Kingdom through His Church that still endures 2000 years on; it is by far the longest-lasting institution on earth.

2) Christ’s first directive to the Apostles is to preach, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”; The Kingdom had arrived with Christ and remains a reality, often unrecognized, in the world today. Reflect on the Kingdom of God/Heaven (CCC 541-550, 763-764, 2816-2821) and during Advent, pray for Christ to make you a heroic Catholic man of His Kingdom.

3) Christ’s compassionate response to the suffering of men is for men to pray for God to send evangelists (“laborers for the harvest”).  During Advent, reaffirm the call for men to Evangelize (CCC 1-3) and make the commitment to enter into Christ’s mysterious coming and draw your family and friends into the Spirit of Christmas.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Joyful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Blessed Virgin Mary

Virtue of the Day – Hope

Corporal Work of Mercy – To bury the dead

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To pray for the living and the dead

 

The Gospel reading for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is Luke 1:26-38.

Having announced the miraculous conception of John the Baptist to the elderly Elizabeth and Zachariah, the Archangel Gabriel now appears to the young virgin Mary (a young teenager); a virgin is prophesized to bear the Messiah (Isa 7:14). Mary is betrothed (in Jewish tradition, married but still living separate and celibate) to Joseph (most likely in his late 30’s), who is of the kingly lineage of King David; the Messiah is prophesied to be born to a descendant of David (2 Sam 7). Both are from Nazareth, a disrespected backwater town in the rural Galilee; Nazareth is prophesied to be where the Messiah will live (Isa 11:1; Matt 2:23).

Gabriel, the magnificent angel who resides in the presence of God, stunningly and reverently addresses Mary, not by her name, but by a title, “Full of Grace”, meaning God has already graced Mary with Divine Life (she is the Immaculate Conception) and is a worthy vessel for God to Incarnate. Gabriel greets Mary with the phrase, “The Lord be with you”, the same greeting given to God’s great warriors (Moses, Gideon, Joshua) at the time of a great task. What is this great task? Gabriel tells Mary the Son of God will be conceived in her womb and she shall name the child, Jesus, meaning “God saves.” Jesus will establish the promised never-ending Kingdom of God.

Mary is greatly troubled, but consoled by the Archangel. Gabriel urges Mary not to be afraid and that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her, allowing her to conceive the Son of God. “Overshadow” is the same language used when God’s presence overshadows the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle in which God resides during the Exodus (Exod 40:35); Mary is the New Tabernacle in which the Son of God will reside in her womb. Mary, the Immaculate Conception, offers the perfect response in her fiat: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to Your word.”

Awed by Jesus ChristPerson of the Trinity, Christ instructs the Archangel to announce His coming birth to His Mother, who He created specifically to carry Him; the third person of the Trinity causes Mary to conceive. Divine Prophet, Christ inspires Old Testament prophets to speak of His future birth.

Being a Heroic Catholic Man

1) The mysterious and tremendous power of God is beyond human imagination. Marvel at Christ’s mind-bending acts: He creates and inspires Isaiah to prophesize of His Incarnation; He conceives Mary to be the Immaculate Conception, to carry Him in her womb; He sends the Holy Spirit to allow Mary to supernaturally conceive…Himself!

2) Because the Immaculate Conception was born without sin (CCC 490-493), the Blessed Virgin Mary is the only human who has ever perfectly heard and done the God’s will. Reflect on the perfection of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Perfect Obedience (CCC 144, 148-149, 490, 494, 2617) and pray for the Blessed Virgin to pray for your continual conversion and that you grow in obedience.

3) In Mary’s fiat, we learn that those who hear and do God’s will are “blessed.”  During Advent, reflect on God’s Will (CCC 51, 294-295, 541, 2059, 2822) and the Responsibility of Free Will (CCC 1730-1748) and ask for the Immaculate Conception’s prayers to help you more completely hear and do God’s Will.

Spiritual Practices – Include in Today’s Prayers

Sacred Mystery of Rosary – The Sorrowful Mysteries

Daily Devotion – The Passion and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ

Virtue of the Day – Faith

Corporal Work of Mercy – To visit the sick

Spiritual Work of Mercy – To forgive all injuries