Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading Baruch 5:1-9
2nd Reading: Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Responsorial: Psalm 126:1-6
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6
Advent, A Time to Respond to God’s Good Work in Us
The one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it. (Philippians 1:6)
Every winter, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival takes place in China’s Heilongjiang province. Artists take blocks of ice from the nearby Songhua River and carve them into buildings, creating a magnificent frozen city. When everything is finished, the ice city is filled with lights, and tourists come from all over to marvel at it.
In today’s second reading, Paul tells us that God is a sculptor. But instead of carving ice, God is shaping us. His goal is to make us into shining witnesses to his love and his grace. Paul goes on to say that he is very confident that God will finish what he has started. Paul’s statement leaves us with two questions: first, what is the “good work” that God has done? And second, why is Paul so confident this work will be completed?
The “work” that God has done in us is our salvation. It’s the work of his Spirit in shaping us to become more and more like Christ. This is why we celebrate Christmas in the first place: God sent his Son into the world not to condemn us but to save us (John 3:17)!
Paul is confident because he knows that this is primarily God’s work, not our own—and God always finishes what he starts! At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you” (John 15:16). Just as he chose Mary and Joseph, Peter and Paul, God has chosen each of us and called us to salvation. We belong to him!
Now, God chooses everyone, but not everyone responds to his call. Yes, so much is his work, but we do have a part to play. So make it a point to choose Christ today. Know that he will give you all the grace you need to become like him. He has chosen you; he has begun sculpting you; he won’t rest until you shine with his light and his love!
“Jesus, I am yours! Come and continue your work in my heart.”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection or Discussion
- The first reading begins with these encouraging words addressed to the exiles from Israel in Babylon, “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery, put on the splendor of glory from God forever” and ends with these words of hope, “for God is leading Israel in joy by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” What do you think these words may have meant to the exiles reading them? What about you? Are their circumstances that are weighing you down (e.g., personal problems, family circumstances, grief over the loss of a loved one, job situation, world situation, etc.)? In light of God’s love, mercy, and grace, how do you think he wants you to deal with these areas during this grace-filled season of Advent?
- The Responsorial Psalm is a song of joy and hope, probably sung shortly after Israel’s return from exile. God promises that their sorrow will be turned into joy; and not just some temporary external “joy” but an inner joy. This is also a message for us who celebrate with joy the coming of our Lord at Christmas. The psalmist says that “our mouths will be filled with laughter,” because “The Lord has done great things for us.” God wants us to experience his blessings and be filled with joy. In what ways have the Lord’s actions brought a special joy into your life?
- St. Paul’s beautiful prayer in the second reading speaks of his confidence that God will complete his good work in each of us and that our “love may increase ever more … through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” Advent is a special season of grace – a time of expectancy that God will answer our prayers. Therefore, we ought not to be discouraged. What are some ways you can pray Paul’s prayer for certain family members and others during Advent?
- In the Gospel, we are introduced to John the Baptist, whose words echo the prophecy from the first reading: “Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Thus, our path to the Lord will be easier, so we “shall see the salvation of God” (Luke 3:6). During Advent, how can you be a witness to your family members and others, so that they “shall see the salvation of God”?
- The meditation ends with these challenging words: “Now, God chooses everyone, but not everyone responds to his call. Yes, so much is his work, but we do have a part to play. So make it a point to choose Christ today. Know that he will give you all the grace you need to become like him. He has chosen you; he has begun sculpting you; he won’t rest until you shine with his light and his love!” What steps can you take during Advent to respond more deeply to the “good work” God is doing in your life to transform you more and more into the image of his Son?
- Take some time now to pray that the Lord would open your heart and mind to hear more clearly his voice during this Advent Season. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.