Christmas

Comment

Christmas

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests” - Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas! Christ the King is born today and we have now received into our world the loving savior as a child. The all powerful God has become the most vulnerable of beings. We have been infinitely blessed and shown the love of God for humanity through Jesus Christ. In this newborn babe our only hope for salvation is found! 

As a child I remember the joys of listening to Christmas songs and hymns while decorating our family tree on December 24th, a tradition that continues to this very day. My favorite of these songs was always a lesser known song called “Welcome to Our World”, a song I strongly encourage you to listen to and meditate upon at some point today. In particular, the fourth verse has recently struck me as being central to the mystery of Christ’s birth.

“Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born”

It was not until I had held my friends’ newborn baby last summer that this line held meaning to me. Holding that beautiful little girl in my arms and realizing that within that most delicate of beings was an incredible future left me in awe. I was equally afraid of accidentally hurting this small child as I was in awe of everything that I knew she could become. 

From there I could envision Mary and Joseph in that stable going through those same emotions. Of course they had foreknowledge of who this child was from the angels as well as ideas of who He would become because of the prophets. But to them, this was their fragile baby who was born in a manger. His perfect face was contentedly asleep as they gazed upon Him with joyous wonder. They could not have known of the great sacrifice that He would have to bear in the future. They could not have imagined the glory of the Cross and the Resurrection. All they knew was that they had the Son of God under their care and protection and that they loved Jesus more than anything else in the world. 

So today, as we celebrate this central mystery of our faith, let us ponder upon the incredible beauty of the Incarnation. The Word of God came into the world to share in our humanity, not as a grown man but as a baby boy. This baby boy would one day give up his life to redeem all of us from our sinfulness. And then finally, this baby boy would rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven. Ahead of this baby there is so much to come, but today He is still just a baby. And so let us celebrate this most joyous of occasions  singing joyfully all of our hymns and carols in honor of Jesus Christ, the child in the manger. 


 

Let us pray,

Loving Father, thank you so much for the gift of your Incarnation. There is no greater gift than the gift of your Son living amongst us. Today, as we celebrate this solemnity, receive our joy and our praise in thanksgiving for all that you have given to us. Let the love of Christ that we encounter today shine throughout our lives for all of eternity.

Amen.

 

 

This reflection was written by Kevin Effron

Kevin Effron is a first year Master of Divinity student at the University of Notre Dame. He is working at Verso Ministries this year as his ministry placement for his M.Div. and is the proud creator and organizer of Prepare the Way. Kevin hopes that you find this retreat as spiritually fruitful to meditate upon as he did while helping to put it all together. 

Comment

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

Comment

The Fourth Sunday of Advent

"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” - Luke 1:30
 

A great way to pray with Scripture is to imagine yourself in the story. Have you ever imagined yourself as Mary, hearing these same words from the angel, Gabriel?


“Do not be afraid, John Paul, for you have found favor with God.”


It might seem odd or a little weird at first, but imagining ourselves as Mary helps us to understand that we are chosen by God, just as Mary was. God has found favor with each of us, and each and every day, God is extending his invitation to us saying, “Come, follow me. Do not be afraid.”


Last year I faced a difficult decision in my own life. On the one hand, I had the “easy” route – safe, comfortable, stable. The other path – unknown, risky, scary. After weeks of discernment, lots of conversations and prayer, I realized that I was discerning out of fear and not out of trust. For all of life’s decisions, especially the most important ones, we should discern out of trust in the Lord, not fear of the unknown. After I made that realization, the choice was easy. Trust in God’s providence.


Sometimes following Jesus can seem like a daunting task. Sometimes the right choice is the hard choice. Sometimes God will invite us to follow challenging paths in life. But through it all we must remember to “Do not be afraid.”


As the final day of Advent is upon us, let us also pray with these words from the angel, Gabriel. “Do not be afraid, ________, for you have found favor with God.” How will you respond? 

 

Let us pray,

Good and gracious God, help us to trust in your divine providence. Help us let go of any fear or doubts that we have in You. Let us respond to Your invitation with the same grace and humility of our Blessed Virgin Mary. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Amen.

 

 

Pilgrimage spotlight


Each Sunday during Advent we’ll also take a moment to highlight the actual Scriptural sites where these passages during Advent take place.

This Scripture story takes place in Galilee at a small town called Nazareth. Galilee refers to the northern region of the Holy Land which surrounds the Sea of Galilee.  Places like Capernaum (the town of Jesus), the Mount of Beatitudes, and Nazareth all are found in Galilee.

A pilgrim's view of Nazareth.

A pilgrim's view of Nazareth.


Today, you can visit the beautiful Basilica of the Annunciation which commemorates the story of Mary’s “yes.” There is a modern church which has been built upon previous churches. The upper level and courtyard areas feature various cultural depictions of Mary from all over the world. The lower basilica surrounds a cave where tradition believes the Annunciation might have taken place. The floor between the upper and lower levels has a large opening which allows a stream of light to penetrate the lower level, again reminding pilgrims of Gabriel’s visit to Mary.

This reflection was written by John Paul Lichon. 
John Paul is the Founder of Verso Ministries. He lives in South Bend, Indiana, with his wife, daughter, and the newest member of the family due in March.

Comment

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

Comment

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent


Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” - Malachi 3:1

I remember as a grade school child in CCD classes my mother (and teacher) would take this Old Testament Reading and this week of Advent to ask us "If Jesus was coming to your house for dinner, what would you do to get ready?"  And the answers poured in like waters over a fall - vacuum the house, mop the floors, make the bed, prepare a special meal, get dressed up, take out the trash, get a haircut, and on and on and on. 

But for Mary and Joseph this was not a hypothetical question.  It was a practical reality.  They were traveling to Bethlehem for the Roman census and Mary was about to go into labor.  That was no excuse to stay put in Nazareth, so off they went, by foot, on a multi-day journey south.  When they got to Bethlehem there was no relative to stay with, no motel with accommodations, and as much as they would have liked it there was no Airbnb.  But Mary and Joseph did the best they could.  They found shelter in a stable.  And when there was no pack-n-play or crib available, Mary did the best she could and lined a trough with hay and lay baby Jesus in that manger.  How prophetic, simple, and humble - God became flesh in the city of Bethlehem, Hebrew for "House of Bread," and was laid in a trough because one day he would become the bread of life for the world. 

So what about you? How do you prepare for Jesus coming for dinner?  Every week we join him for a meal around the altar.  How do you prepare your heart and mind for Mass every week?  What about for Christmas?  How have you kept Jesus at the center of this Advent season as we approach his birth in just two days?  How can you be like the prophet Malachi's message and "prepare the way before" Jesus for your family and friends?

 

Let us pray,

Heavenly Father, grant us an open heart to receive your Son at his Birth this Christmas.  Give us gracious and courageous hearts that we mare share this message with others.  Help us to always be prophets who seek to prepare his way in this world and in our lives.  

Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

 

This reflection was written by Josh Schaffner
Josh Schaffner is the president of Verso Ministries and in charge of the Indianapolis headquarters for Verso! He is a proud husband and father who also loves providing the ministry of pilgrimage to all who seek it.

Comment

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Comment

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

The Mighty One has done great things for me” - Luke 1:49

Like any good English major, I’ve always had a soft spot for grammar. When I read today’s beautiful Gospel passage, I couldn’t help but notice that Mary’s famous Magnificat is written in the present perfect tense: “The Mighty One has done great things for me.” 


Mary doesn’t say “The Mighty One did great things for me”—that would be the plain old past tense. Rather, she says He has done great things. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud. He has cast down the mighty and has lifted up the lowly. 
We use the present perfect tense to speak about an action that began in the past but continues into the present. God’s action is ongoing!


God certainly wasn’t done doing great things for Mary at the Annunciation. In fact, He was just getting started. And while we may be nearing the end of this Advent pilgrimage, God certainly isn't done doing great things for any of us either. On the contrary, He’s just getting started: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). What great things has the Mighty One begun in you? 


Even though Mary’s greatness may have only just begun, she paused to reflect and give thanks. I am an avid journaler because I’ve found that reading my past entries sheds a lot of light on the present; I’m better able to recognize the ways in which God is moving in my life. This final weekend of Advent is a wonderful opportunity for us to pause and take stock of the blessings in our lives. 


Mary offers us a beautiful example of this gratitude and humility. Elizabeth has just finished praising her (“Blessed are you among women”), but Mary immediately points to God as the source of all her joy. Don’t look at me, look at the One who has done all this through me! Don’t proclaim my greatness, proclaim His: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” 


This exclamation of gratitude actually flows from the lips of two faithful handmaidens of the Lord. Mary’s Magnificat echoes the words of Hannah’s Song (our responsorial psalm today), “My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior” (1 Samuel 2). Both women rejoice at the birth of an unexpected child, and both women lovingly return that child to the Lord for His glory. Just as Hannah leaves Samuel in the temple and dedicates him to the Lord, Mary also knows that she cannot keep her Son to herself because He is a gift to all the world. These faith-filled women responded to God’s goodness by giving everything back to Him with praise and thanksgiving. 
What gifts has the Mighty One bestowed upon you? And how can you, like Hannah and Mary, return them to the Lord for His glory? 

 

Let us pray,

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

Amen.

 

 

This reflection was written by Megan Beck
Megan Beck is a second-year Master of Divinity student at Notre Dame. It was through an undergraduate degree in English that she first began to recognize her passion for theology.

Comment

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Comment

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Hark! My lover—here he comes!"
- Song of Songs 2:8

The time before Christmas is magical as kids roam the stores seeing Santa and his presents, lighting the candles of the Advent wreath as Christmas gets closer week by week, putting up the Christmas tree and hanging ornaments as a family, setting up the nativity scene in the living room, and watching our neighbors decorate their snow-dusted houses with Christmas lights to shine for all to see.  There is an inevitable aura that surrounds Christmas year after year. “Hark! My lover—here he comes!”  Jesus is on his way!  How similar does this sound to the familiar Christmas lyrics “Hark the herald angels sing ‘Glory to the newborn King!’”? We look forward in hope to Christ’s coming with JOY.

In today’s Gospel, upon hearing Mary’s greeting, John exuberantly leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. Elizabeth and her babe-to-be knew of Christ’s Presence among them before Mary even told them that she was with child. Elizabeth calmly anticipated Mary as she travelled to the hill countryside to visit her.  Overjoyed by Mary reaching her destination and overwhelmed by her womb’s reaction to Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth cries out “blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).  There is jubilance in Elizabeth’s loud cry to Mary because she has patiently awaited Mary’s arrival and now the time has come; she is here!  Just as they prepared to visit each other, now they both prepare for the entry of the King of kings, the Holiest of holies, the great I Am into our world—there is an aura that surrounds Christ’s coming. 
 
Just as Mary gave her fiat that led to the Incarnation, so must we say “yes” to follow Jesus in his daily coming into our lives.  “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!” (Song of Songs 2:10).   Jesus is calling out to us, and he is asking us to ready ourselves for his coming—he calls to us to follow Him. Where do you find the aura of joy as you prepare for Christmas? How is Christ asking you to follow Him? How are you responding?

 

Let us pray,

Fill us we pray, Lord, with your light and life that we may show forth your wondrous glory. Grand that Your Joy may so fill our lives, that we count nothing too small to do for you, nothing too much to give, and nothing too hard to bear. 

Amen.

 

 

This reflection was written by Natalie Ryan
Natalie Ryan is a wife, a young adult Catholic, and a lover of all baby animals. She loves to cozy up to a hot cup of tea with any Thomas Merton book.  Natalie is originally from Indianapolis and she is now working at a parish as a secretary of Religious Education in a Chicago suburb.  She is also studying to become a Spiritual Director at Mayslake Ministries to walk the journey of faith with Christ's people.

Comment