Daily Reflections for Advent from Sarah-Leah Pimental

During this first week of Advent Sarah-Leah Pimental invites us to reflect on our journey to wards Christ, that we may give him our hearts as a manger and our homes as a simple stable of welcome. (Thanks to Keith Stober from Cape Town for sending us a copy) Praying with Pope Francis we ask that this Christmas we may become more and more Apostles of his Joy drawing from the deep well of our Faith. The following are the first three days of Advent reflection.

 1 December – First Sunday of Advent

I rejoiced because they said to me: “We will go up to the house of the LORD.”

And now we have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. (Ps. 122:1-2)

Our hearts are also joyful because we’re on our physical and spiritual pilgrimage to the Original Shrine.  There, the Blessed Mother and the Christ-child are waiting to welcome us with open arms, pouring out their gifts of grace and love.

In my life: What joys have I experienced this year? Today, I will make a physical or spiritual pilgrimage to the shrine where I’ll give thanks for all the good things God prepared for me this year. What special joyful gift can I offer our MTA this Advent?

2 December – Monday of the First Week of Advent

For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection: shade from the parching heat of day, refuge and cover from storm and rain. (Is 4:6)

In the storms of our lives we find a home in the shrine.  It is our safe house and our resting place.  As we go on our pilgrimage to the Original Shrine, we take also with us the things that trouble us, the things that bring us sadness or anxiety.  We take these with us, trusting that God will give us the strength to overcome all adversity, the same strength that He gave to our Blessed Mother as she waited for the birth of the Saviour.

In my life: Which struggles have I not been able to overcome this year?  Do I trust that God’s grace will help me to face the fiercest storm?  Let me take some time today to speak to the Lord about the things that trouble me and go with Him in faith to see the way that He has prepared for me.

3 December – Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. (Lk 10:21)

As we look at the MTA picture in the shrine, we see the absolute trust of the Child Jesus as he lies in his mother’s arms.  Fr. Kentenich often spoke about childlike trust and through his life, gave us wonderful testimonies of what it means to trust in God’s Divine Providence, even in situations that to human eyes seemed hopelessly desperate.

In my life: My own life often seems a mystery and I find it so difficult to discern which way God wants me to go.  Very often I try to do things my own way because it seems easier than to trust.  Which impossible situation can I take with me on pilgrimage this Advent and throughout this Jubilee Year? Let my attitude today and everyday be one of childlike trust that God’s hand rests in every moment of my life.


The Marian “style” of Evangelization

On 24th November, the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and the conclusion of the Year of Faith, Pope Francis has written an Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” [Evangelii Gaudium]. The message is a “must read” for every Catholic. Here is a brief quote from the last part on Mary, the Star of Evangelisation. This is a beautiful meditation for the Saturdays of Advent.

With the Holy Spirit, Mary is always present in the midst of the people. She joined the disciples in praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14) and thus made possible the missionary outburst which took place at Pentecost. She is the Mother of the Church which evangelizes, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelization… The close connection between Mary, the Church and each member of the faithful, based on the fact that each in his or her own way brings forth Christ, has been beautifully expressed by Blessed Isaac of Stella: “In the inspired Scriptures, what is said in a universal sense of the virgin mother, the Church, is understood in an individual sense of the Virgin Mary… In a way, every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ, his daughter and sister, at once virginal and fruitful… Christ dwelt for nine months in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb. He dwells until the end of the ages in the tabernacle of the Church’s faith. He will dwell forever in the knowledge and love of each faithful soul”. Mary was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus, with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises. She is the friend who is ever concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives. She is the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword and who understands all our pain. As mother of all, she is a sign of hope for peoples suffering the birth pangs of justice. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love. Through her many titles, often linked to her shrines, Mary shares the history of each people which has received the Gospel and she becomes a part of their historic identity… We ask the Mother of the living Gospel to intercede that this invitation to a new phase of evangelization will be accepted by the entire ecclesial community… There is a Marian “style” to the Church’s work of evangelization. Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness… This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization… and to her we pray:

Mary, Virgin and Mother, you who, moved by the Holy Spirit, welcomed the word of life in the depths of your humble faith: as you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One, help us to say our own “yes” to the urgent call, as pressing as ever, to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Filled with Christ’s presence,  you brought joy to John the Baptist, making him exult in the womb of his mother. Brimming over with joy, you sang of the great things done by God. Standing at the foot of the cross with unyielding faith, you received the joyful comfort of the resurrection,  and joined the disciples in awaiting the Spirit so that the evangelizing Church might be born. Obtain for us now a new ardour born of the resurrection, that we may bring to all the Gospel of life which triumphs over death. Give us a holy courage to seek new paths, that the gift of unfading beauty may reach every man and woman. Virgin of listening and contemplation, Mother of love, Bride of the eternal wedding feast, pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,  that she may never be closed in on herself  or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom. Star of the new evangelisation, 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! [EG 284-288]


The Gold Wrapping Paper

Once upon a time, there was a man who worked very hard just to keep food on the table for his family. This particular year a few days before Christmas, he punished his little five-year-old daughter after learning that she had used up the family’s only roll of expensive gold wrapping paper. As money was tight, he became even more upset when on Christmas Eve he saw that the child had used all of the expensive gold paper to decorate one shoebox she had put under the Christmas tree. He also was concerned about where she had gotten money to buy what was in the shoebox. Neverthe-less, the next morning the little girl, filled with excitement, brought the gift box to her father and said, “This is for you, Daddy!” As he opened the box, the father was embarrassed by his earlier overreaction, now regretting how he had punished her. But when he opened the shoebox, he found it was empty and again his anger flared. “Don’t you know, young lady,” he said harshly, “when you give someone a present, there’s supposed to be something inside the package!” The little girl looked up at him with sad tears rolling from her eyes and whispered: “Daddy, it’s not empty. I blew kisses into it until it was all full.” The father was crushed. He fell on his knees and put his arms around his precious little girl. He begged her to forgive him for his unnecessary anger. An accident took the life of the child only a short time later. It is told that the father kept this little gold box by his bed for all the years of his life. Whenever he was discouraged or faced difficult problems, he would open the box, take out an imaginary kiss, and remember the love of this beautiful child who had put it there.  In a very real sense, each of us has been given an invisible golden box filled with unconditional love and kisses from our children, family, friends and God. There is no more precious possession anyone could hold.