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Hope and Joy

December 10, 2013



The word Advent means “to look forward to a coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important.” What could be more important than the birth of Jesus? We are excited and happy.


We are eagerly awaiting and praying for a sense of what we need to be doing. The first reading for today gives us a direction; we are urged to “prepare the way of the Lord”. But, how? The answer is to “comfort, give comfort to my people.” So, even before Jesus comes to us as a child in a manger, God is telling us what Jesus will be teaching us when he preaches as an adult. We are to be His hands and feet here on earth. We are to care for one another. Easy, right? Easy to care for sweet little babies, not so easy to care for the difficult people who cross our path or whom we seek out to follow our directions. But, at this time of great excitement and joy, it is not so difficult and every action inspires great happiness. How wonderful if we could carry out our lives with this much enthusiasm all year.


Reading 1 directs us to joyously sing out, to herald the good news. This seems easy to do and fun.


We'll stroll around singing all of those beautiful carols of the season. It is lots of fun and makes us laugh and, maybe, cry a little with joy. But we are also told that we must “cry out” and this part is more difficult to do. We must tell everyone that this life is fleeting and that we will wither like the grass. Are we afraid to say it because others won't like it or because it is too hard for us to accept? Is this “good news? Yes, it is, because we proceed from that truth to a much greater one. “The word of our God stands forever.” Do not be afraid for here is your God! The Responsorial Psalm is exultant. God is coming and He governs the people with equity, constancy, justice. It is fitting that December 10 is International Human Rights Day, the day proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948 to promote equity of human rights for all people in the world. Slowly, slowly, we are working our way to run our puny little world in the manner that God would have us do.

The joy and the hope of the first two readings are continued in the Gospel reading. Here Jesus asks us “What is your opinion?” Questions involve us so much more than lecturing. A question forces us to participate. We have to stop and think. Jesus asks us if it would matter to us as shepherds, or, perhaps, parents, if one of our little ones were lost? Our answer must be that even if we had a hundred, we would run out and search everywhere, because each one is equally loved and valuable. What a great comfort this message is to us! Who hasn't felt like that strayed sheep at one time or another? Out of the fold and lost. Now we know that we need not fear because our Heavenly Father will always go after us and tenderly bring us back. No wonder “the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice” at this time of looking forward to “the coming of something extremely important”, the birth of Jesus.


Thought Questions

Are you afraid right now, for yourself or someone you love?

Would it help you to focus on the anticipation of this great event if you planned out a small action of caring for each remaining day of Advent?



Heavenly Father, you bless me every day. Help me to share my blessing with everyone I see today. Despite the many distractions in my life, help me to stay focused on the coming of your Son so that this season of Advent be full of shared excitement and joy. Amen


By DeeDee and David Smith






Reading 1 IS 40:1-11


Comfort, give comfort to my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her
that her service is at an end,
her guilt is expiated;
Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD
double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:
In the desert prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!
Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill shall be made low;
The rugged land shall be made a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, “Cry out!”
I answer, “What shall I cry out?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their glory like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.
So then, the people is the grass.
Though the grass withers and the flower wilts,
the word of our God stands forever.”

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings;
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.


Responsorial Psalm PS 96:1-2, 3 AND 10AC, 11-12, 13


R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day.

Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king;
he governs the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.

They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.

Gospel MT 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples:
“What is your opinion? 
If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray,
will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills
and go in search of the stray? 
And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it
than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. 
In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father
that one of these little ones be lost.”

Tags: hope and joy, human rights, international human rights day, international human rights, comfort, confort, st agatha, joy, hope, online advent retreat, advent retreat, advent


Jan Honore  |  Culver City  |  December 12, 2013  |  11:29 PM

DeeDee and Dave,

Your reflection gives us so much to think about. Consolation is a thread that I see weaving through the readings and I appreciate it so much. As you point out, it is difficult to accept the fact that life is fleeting and that we shall one day wither like grass. But we are consoled by the Good News that tells us that the word of God stands forever. We shall be loved by God forever----- beyond the end of time. Simply breathtaking! 

Equality is a big concept here that I also find consoling.  God rules with justice and equity. We are valued and loved  equally, every person the same. Nelson Mandela sacrificed so much in order to stand for this equality of all human beings, along with Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and many others. We celebrate the lives of these great leaders who have taught us the essential need for equality on our earth, and we remember their efforts to bring about that equality, joining with them in this cause (as the hands and feet of Jesus on earth). It's so good that you reminded us about International Human Rights Day, a day that is set aside for us to consider the importance of our  continuing this effort for equality for all. And------- it all flows from our Scriptures teaching us that our Good Shepherd leaves the flock to search for us when we are the lost lamb, loved and valued equally with the others. What a consolation!



Enrique Reyes  |  Los Angeles  |  December 12, 2013  |  8:53 PM

 Hi DeeDee and Dave! Your reflection is very uplifting, it gives us hope and joy! I have also wondered about leaving the 99 sheep to get the one that has been lost, and now I understand that every one of the them makes the 100, and every one of them is as important. That the shepherd went looking after the lost one makes me think that this is how God will treat every single one of us when we are in need, He will treat us with care and with love. It also makes me think of the following quote: 

"It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." - Dag Hammarskjold, past Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Fr. Bill  |  LA  |  December 10, 2013  |  3:44 PM

Dee Dee & Dave: Thank you for making me see something I had not before seen. I have always wondered why one would leave 99% of one's assets, in apparent danger to search out the one lost one. It isn't good business sense. Maybe that's what shepherds do, I don't know--I've never been a shepherd. But you spoke of the "inherent value" in each one. As I read that, I thought, "What if the lost sheep was the shepherd's 'pet?' Then, of course, he would search high and low for it." And, maybe that's the one of the points of the parable--that each of us is like a "pet" to God--so uniquely and totally loved, that He can't do without us! Hence He'll do whatever it takes to get us--coming as one like us (Christmas), and even giving Himself up for us (Good Friday), so that we can be with Him (Easter). Thank you.

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