Post Advent: Whoever loves his brother remains in the light

It’s four days after Christmas, and the warm feelings we associate with the holidays are beginning to fade. So what now? What difference will Jesus’ coming to live among us make in our lives? How will it help us to love each other and remain “in the light” (1 John 2:8)?

For one thing, because Jesus became one of us, we now know what love looks like in real-life situations. On every page of the Gospels, he has shown us that love is about making concrete decisions to put other people’s interests before our own, He showed this by dining with people no one else wanted to associate with (Luke 19:1-10). Or feeding people who were hungry (John 6:1-15). Or asking someone suffering in silence to articulate what he needs (Luke 18:35-43). Or forgiving someone who has sinned grievously (John 8:1-11).

If this list makes it sound as if Jesus has set the bar too high for you, don’t worry. Jesus knows your strengths and weaknesses, and he is ready to help you. You don’t have to figure out how to love on your own. Jesus’ own love, his creativity, and his compassion can become your love, creativity and compassion. Slowly. Gradually. Over time and through trial and error.Read More »

A Walk With Mary As We Prepare For Christmas

We invite you to journey with us over a series of six short biblical reflections, with Mother Mary, in the lead up to Christmas when Jesus was born.

Each reflection contemplates a specific event in Mary’s life, and is accompanied by a graphic and verses to help us in our personal reflection.

Mother Mary is our model of gentleness, humility and meekness. She teaches us to be silent, to pray and to contemplate. She is our Lord’s Mother, and she is our Mother.

May these reflections help us to walk with our gentle Mother, to entrust ourselves to her motherly care, and to inspire us to imitate the virtues of Mary, which are also the virtues of Christ.

And as we learn from Mary, we realise that she brings us closer to herself, and to her Son Jesus.

Part 1: The Annunciation: The Angel Gabriel Appears

The angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, to tell her that she will bear a Son whom she will name Jesus. Mary was confused, because she did not know how it could be possible, since she was a virgin. She was afraid, because she would be judged and condemned by the Law and people around her.

Yet, Mary believed the angel’s assurance, and trusted that the Lord would see her through the journey, so she replied, “I’m the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word.”

Reflection:

We may not always fully understand why or how things will work out, and we may sometimes worry about the difficulties that we may face in our journey ahead.

Mary shows us that if we trust the Lord, He will see us through the journey. He will dispel our hesitations and fears, and He will give us the courage to say with Mary, “I’m the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word.”

Verses to ponder:

[The angel] came to [Mary] and said, “Hail (Mary), full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
(Luke 1:28, RSVCE)

“I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary; “may it happen to me as you have said.”
(Luke 1:38, GNT)


Above is part of the 1517 painting, “Visitation” by Raphael (Find out more: Wikipedia)

Part 2: The Visitation: Mary visits Elizabeth

After hearing from the Angel Gabriel that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant even in her old age, Mary made an arduous journey through the hills and valleys to visit her cousin.

Elizabeth was already six months pregnant and Mary stayed for three more months, which meant Mary supported Elizabeth during the remainder of her pregnancy.

Reflection:

Mary teaches us that even though we may have our own worries, or we may be busy with our own activities, we can still pay attention to the needs of people around us.

Just as Mary helped Elizabeth in small ways, we can brighten the lives of others by running little errands, by offering a simple smile and greeting, or by just by spending time with them.

Verses to ponder:

“Mary got ready and hurried off to a town in the hill country of Judea. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth.”
(Luke 1:39-40, GNT)

“Mary stayed about three months with Elizabeth and then went back home.”
(Luke 1:56, GNT)

Part 3: The Magnificat: Mary praises the Lord

Mary’s well-known song of praise, the Magnificat, is found in Luke 1:46 – 55. These words, “my soul magnifies the Lord,…” were spoken when Mary first met her cousin Elizabeth. [Find out more: Magnificat, Our Catholic Prayers]

In the Magnificat, Mary proclaimed the greatness of the Lord and said the Almighty had done great things for her. She did not exalt herself but recognised that God was working through his humble servant.

Reflection:

Mary teaches that we should never become proud or exalt ourselves. Rather we must recognise that it is the Lord who has given us good things.

She also teaches that if we are encountering difficulties in life, we can trust in the Lord to lift us up, reminding us to always stay humble and be grateful to God for His kindness towards us.

Verses to ponder:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… ”
(Luke 1:46-47, RSVCE)

“He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His Name.”
(Luke 1:49, RSVCE)

Part 4: Mary journeys with Joseph to Bethlehem

Since the Emperor had ordered a census to be taken, Mary, now heavily pregnant, has to make the arduous trip with her husband Joseph to Bethlehem for registration.

Reflection:

When we are already burdened by worries, guilt or work, the last thing we want to hear are new edicts that add to our load. Yet Mary teaches us to humble ourselves, forget our ego, and learn to be meek, gentle, submissive and obedient.

Let us not forget that just as God provided Mary with a loving husband, Joseph, on this difficult journey, God will also send people to walk with us through our many trials and tribulations.

Verses to ponder:

“[Joseph] went to register with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him. She was pregnant …”
(Luke 2:5, GNT)

Part 5: The Nativity: Mary gives birth to Jesus, Mary our Mother

Mary was about to give birth and she was suffering from labour pains. However, Joseph and Mary could not find a proper room in the inn, and had to settle for a place where the farm animals lived.

When Mary eventually gave birth, she wrapped baby Jesus in cloths and laid him in a manger, which is a trough or container used to hold food for animals.

Reflection:

Mary shows we can be happy in a lowly place like the stable where Jesus was born, and there is no need for worldly riches or pleasures.

The image of Mother Mary wrapping Jesus in swaddling cloths also reminds us that she is our loving and gentle Mother, and we are her little children.

Verses to ponder:

“[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
(Luke 2:7, NABRE)

Part 6: The Angels and the shepherds – Mary silently contemplates

When Jesus was born, angels appeared to shepherds, singing praises to God, and telling them about the birth of the Holy Child. The shepherds went to Bethlehem, and found Joseph, Mary, with baby Jesus lying in the manger.

The shepherds could not hold their joy and told Joseph and Mary what the angels have said.

Mary treasured these words in her heart, and pondered deeply about them.

Reflection:

This is one aspect of Mary that often draws us to her. Mary doesn’t speak much and is prayerful and contemplative. She took note of what happened and pondered about them day and night.

There’s a need for us to stay silent and humble, to pray, ponder and cling to Jesus and Mother Mary, and not get distracted by the many activities around us that may not be relevant.

Verses to ponder:

“[The shepherds] told them what the angel had said about the child.”
(Luke 2:17, GNT)

“Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
(Luke 2:19, RSVCE)

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We hope you have enjoyed this 6-part series reflection on Mary this Advent!
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Reflections by Gabriel Liu
OLPS Communications Ministry

Taken from: http://www.olps.sg/walk-mary-we-prepare-christmas-1478#.XBdImrPQ7IU

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Advent Week-4: My spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:47)

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow,” Helen Keller once said. What a remarkable statement coming from a woman who had been blind since infancy! Although Keller couldn’t actually see the sunlight, she knew it was there, and she also knew that it could overcome any shadow in her life.

In today’s Gospel, Mary has fixed her eyes on the source of all light, God the Father. Although Mary could have worried about what her neighbors might think or how she could possibly raise the Son of God, she chose instead to turn her thoughts toward the Lord. And because of this, her heart was filled with praise and rejoicing.

What a beautiful model for all of us to follow! Like Mary, we too can choose to fix our eyes on Jesus and his truth in Scripture. As we reflect on all that God has done for us, the desire to praise him and rejoice in his goodness to us will naturally well up in us. Then we will be able to pray, with Mary, “The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.” (Luke 1:49)Read More »

Advent Week-3: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)

Saint Paul believed that rejoicing was a basic disposition that we all should try to maintain, even when things don’t go our way. In his short Letter to the Philippians, in fact, he spoke about rejoicing fifteen times. And let’s not forget that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter! He was not going to let his circumstances rob him of his joy.

So how did Paul maintain a joyful disposition? First, he rejoiced because he knew Jesus’ love. If you back up just two chapters in this letter, you’ll see him singing a hymn that extols Jesus’ willingness to empty himself, become a man, and die on the cross (Philippians 2:7-8). And then in the next chapter, he writes, “I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8). The thought of Jesus’ love–a love that gives of itself freely–continually filled Paul with joy.

Second, Paul rejoiced in the Philippians themselves. They were his joy and his crown (Philippians 4:1). They were his dear friends who had joined him in a “partnership for the gospel” (1:5). He rejoiced because he knew he had brothers and sisters who loved him and supported him in his faith.Read More »

Advent Week-2: He Choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world

Think back to a time when you were chosen for some special privilege or honor. Maybe your employer chose you for a position over other qualified applicants. Or perhaps your teammates chose you as captain because of you ability to lead others. It’s a good feeling to be singled out in such a way. Or think about how you felt when your future husband or wife chose to marry you and spend the rest of their life with you.

We believe that God chose Mary, before creation of the world, to be the Mother of God. And because he had chosen her for that unique role, he prepared her in a special way. He preserved her from original sin and gave her to two devout, faithful parents.

The God who chose Mary has also chosen you–and from the beginning of creation as well. He knew you. He intended for you to be born. He wanted you so much, in fact, that he sent his Son to redeem you.Read More »

Advent Week-1: “The Days Are Coming, Says The Lord…” (Jeremiah 33:14)

We often talk about “The Christmas Story,” as if it were one single story. Actually, it’s made up of a number of individual stories, each of which tells us something unique about the Christ child. The story of the Annunciation tells us about Mary’s openness to God’s plan. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth tells us how John the Baptist – Jesus’ forerunner – was called at birth. The stories of the shepherds and the Magi tell us that Jesus is worth searching for.

There’s another story we don’t often think about because it’s not as long. It’s the story of the innkeeper whose closed doors led Mary and Joseph to the manger. But just imagine for a moment that he did manage to find room for them after all. His inn, not the manger, would be honored throughout the world. There would likely be a grand church marking its location, and pilgrims would flock to it year after year.

As Advent begins, let’s not be like the innkeeper. He missed a grand opportunity because he didn’t make room for Jesus.Read More »