Advent 2013

Dear friends, thank you for joining us this Advent. Our daily reflections for 2013 have moved – visit our new site at!

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Monday, 24 December 2012

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 And 29

Lk 1:67-79

The readings for the day can be found here.


A goal with the reflections we’ve provided throughout Advent 2012 is to give members of our community–students, faculty, staff and administrators–an opportunity to reflect prayerfully about the daily readings for the season.  These reflections give all of us an opportunity to enter more deeply into our faith, to enter more deeply into the mystery we celebrate and anticipate, to enter more deeply into our relationship with God.  This, the  “Fourth Week of Advent,” though, is only two days long: today, Christmas Eve, and tomorrow, Christmas Day.

Not all of our authors are Catholic, or Christian, but all of our authors reflect the many layers of men and women of faith in our University community.  Regardless of the season, it is clear that we are truly blessed at Saint Louis University.

Today, the end of Advent, we anticipate, for Christians, tomorrow, and the birth of Christ.  Today we end one era, and tomorrow, we begin a new era, if we allow it to happen among us.  This is the “promise kept” Fr. Biondi mentioned in his reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, 2 December.

As we enter more deeply into the Year of Faith, [October 11 2012-November 24 2013] we clearly need our faith and this season.  Wars, hunger, illness, loneliness, sadness, debt and finances, perhaps personal conflicts and relationships, remain–but we know from Advent that their power is limited.

A greater person, a stronger power, faces us, and calls us, and urges us to be more than all the things that work to harm us.  This mystery, Jesus, faced similar trials and tests in his life, his world, among his supporters and his detractors.  He did not hide from the difficulties; he entered into them, and wants to enter into our lives, knowing who we are, and where we are, and as we are.  And so, as we prepare to leave Advent, we can continue to pray,

Come, Lord Jesus.  Come and visit your people.
We await your coming.  Come, O Lord.


As we leave Advent, and our readings draw our hearts to tomorrow, and the next moment, we hear God giving King David something of a “reality check.”  God teaches David—again–that God’s ways are not our ways, and God’s needs are not ours.  Where and how we live, there lives God, who promises David a life and legacy beyond his imagining, beyond his dreams.  Promises made.

We move from one prophet, Nathan, to another, Zechariah, who had experienced his own miracle from God, and teaches us more about and from God.  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, not coincidentally, gives his own history lesson, reiterating the promises made by God, to us, through Abraham and the prophets–to save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.

These are the promises made, and Jesus is the promise kept, for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David…

With this grace and gift from God, let’s continue to go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation…as we wait and watch for… the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Promises made, promises kept.


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Sunday, 23 December 2012

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Mi 5:1-4a

Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19

Heb 10:5-10

Lk 1:39-45

The readings for the day can be found here.


As Christmas draws closer, we want to make sure that our children receive gifts—we are obsessed that they receive the right gifts, ones they will enjoy. We even go further and worry about poor children, who may not receive anything, and whole organizations go about providing gifts for those who otherwise would receive nothing. It is as though, children, and, in particular, poor children, have a claim on us, as if those who are most vulnerable, those who can do nothing for themselves, solicit our care.

Today’s readings, which address the Messiah’s coming, the immanent birth of Jesus, show us that our care for those who are most vulnerable in our midst is but a shadow of God’s intense care and mercy. God chooses the least among Judah’s clans to be the origin from which the Messiah emerges. God chooses a poor, humble virgin, someone who would have meant nothing to the mighty Roman Empire, to be the Messiah’s mother. This love for those who are little in the eyes of the world is so characteristic of God that God could not remain distant from the human race as a whole in all its vulnerability; instead, God becomes flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone. When God looks upon the human race, which Ignatius Loyola describes in his meditation on the Incarnation, God sees “men and women being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning.” God’s response is not to flee this chaos, but to draw closer, to become part of it out of love for us.

Christmas reveals God’s love for the weak and the vulnerable—a love that characterizes all God’s dealings with us, always. At this Christmas, may we grow in God’s love for those who are needy and vulnerable, not only innocent children, but also those who are broken by social and economic structures, the poor, victims of discrimination, the unemployed, those who may not be able to do much for themselves. May we also allow God’s love to embrace all of us, sinners in all our own ways, who in our sinfulness may be unable to do much for ourselves other than depend on God’s faithful, unmerited love.
Finally, when God draws near, the response of John in Elizabeth’s womb is to leap for joy, and even the mountains will skip like rams and the hills like lambs (PS. 114:4). Beneath human consciousness, infants in the womb and mountains and hills leap for joy. Would that we, with our sophisticated consciousness, might gradually increase our awareness of God’s closeness to us, know that we are loved as we are, build a more just world that cares for the most vulnerable—in brief, leap for joy.

Fr. Michael Barber, S.J. is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

1 Sm 1:24-28

1 Sm 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

Lk 1:46-56

The readings for the day can be found here.


In the first reading, we hear of Hannah, the mother of the future prophet Samuel. It is helpful to recall the story of Hannah and how she got here. Hannah had prayed to God very hard to have a son but never could. In strong faith, her prayers were finally answered, and she was very thankful to have a son whom she named Samuel. When Samuel was much older, Hannah returned with him to the temple in Shiloh. This is where the first reading picks up and where Hannah shows her great faith, something that we are called to mimic. She gives thanks to the Lord and returns Samuel to Him. Samuel works for the priest Eli, eventually becoming a prophet and spreading the good news of the Lord.

Hannah teaches us that everything we are given, even our most beloved possessions, is a gift from God. Moreover, we are called to offer our possessions to God so that he may do good things with them. This reading calls to mind the Suscipe prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola:

“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.”

How can we live out this prayer? What do we have to offer the Lord? The Christmas season is a time filled with gifts and presents, giving and receiving. It is during this time when we can reflect on all of the gifts that God has given us. But it is even more important to reflect on how we can return these gifts to God. How can you fulfill God’s calling using all of the gifts he has given you? During this final week of Advent, as we prepare for the coming of Christ, think of one “possession” of yours that is very valuable to you like Samuel was to Hannah. Pray on that possession, trait, skill, or blessing that you have and ask the Lord to show you how you can offer it as a gift to the Christ Child on Christmas day.


Ryan Hughes is a senior civil engineering student from Louisville, KY. He is the President of SLU Habitat for Humanity and sings in the Mass Choir.

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Sg 2:8-14


Zep 3:14-18a

Ps 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21

Lk 1:39-45

The readings for the day can be found here.

For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.

– Song of Song 2:11

The above line from today’s readings is not a meteorological statement but one which is meant to express the climate of our hearts. With only a few short days left till Christmas, many of us may still find ourselves far from ready for a celebration. The cold, damp winds of our world and lives may still be our primary feelings. The joy and light and celebration of the Incarnational love of the season has not been able to move the clouds of fiscal or institutional “cliffs” away.

It would seem to me that this is possibly the same mood that Mary may have felt when she travelled to visit Elizabeth. From the Gospel of the next few days, we hear again the words of hope and rejoicing which comes when these two relatives gather to support each other. They come together to not only to share the joy of the upcoming birth of their children, but also to gather strength and light from each other. Both find themselves in the midst of pregnancies which are not “normal”, and though they are filled with faith in God, there must have been some fear of what all of this was going to mean. The clouds of uncertain futures, human tragedies and violence, still must be part of their thoughts. They both needed to find reassurance from each other that all was well, and that God would continue to support them in the trials to come.

Though the weather outside our windows and inside our hearts may still be grey and cold, we need to take the example of Elizabeth and Mary. As we search for the change in the climate of our heart and soul, we need to seek out fellow searchers, loved ones we can share our own joys and doubts. We need to listen to the commonness of the journeys we are on and find encouragement that we are all in the places we are meant to be. No matter where or in what climate we find our hearts, we now need to remember that the first Christmas was not any easier than ours. We need to remember that God so loved us that he came to be like us, not in an easy or comfortable time. God came to us in the messiness and confusion of human life and time, to show his great love which is beyond words.

As we, continue to prepare for our celebration of our loving God, let us turn to each other. Let us remember that in our sharing we get and give the support needed by each of us. We continue to try to see God working in our lives. We continue to grow in the freedom which allows God to speak and touch others through us. As we learn to better receive the gifts of encouragement and the care of God and others, we will find that the forecast for our lives and world will be brighter.

Have a Merry Christmas, and a Bright New Year.

Fr. Don Highberger, SJ is Special Assistant to the Vice President for Mission and Ministry.




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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

Is 7:10-14

Ps 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

Lk 1:26-38

The readings for the day can be found here.

Even more frightening than the prospect that God will deny our prayers is the possibility that he will answer them. Today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah presents Ahaz’s reticence to engage and (yelp!) be engaged by God. Ahaz’s modesty proves false when, despite being invited by God, he refuses to participate in God’s saving plan for the world.

Mary is the church’s antidote to Ahaz. Mary’s acceptance of God’s offer resulted in a gift that exceeded even Isaiah’s imagination. Not only would a virgin conceive a son that signified God’s presence among his people, but the Virgin would conceive God himself! The angel Gabriel was indeed right to declare nothing will be impossible for God.

False piety and self-love are the stuff that brings prophets to the fore. And so in response to Ahaz’s side-stepping God, Isaiah stands in his place to be God’s agent of prophecy and promise to his people. Unlike Ahaz, Mary’s true piety, humble submission, and selfless love found favor with God. Mary’s ‘yes’ to God was compelled by a love that overcame her fear, and resulted in a Love that overcame the fear-mongering ways of this world.

May we this Advent season emulate the Blessed Virgin Mary, who lovingly dared to engage and be engaged by God.

Ben Wayman is a PhD student in historical theology.

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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a

Ps 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

Lk 1:5-25

The readings for the day can be found here.


So many babies, so little time! They didn’t name-drop Jesus in these readings, but we can see how these passages apply to Christ’s coming. We are all filled with anticipation in this season, and the fever of a long wait over. These Biblical parents waited decades for the news of their babies, but now that they know their children are coming, they only have to wait nine months. Us? Twelve months! We have to live through nearly twelve months of anticipation for the most joyous day of the year, Jesus’ birth. And with this most joyous coming, we should prepare. The parents in the passages make spiritual preparations, such as purifying themselves, which is something we can do through reflection and confession. And we can even imitate their physical preparations, in a sense, as well. Just as these wonderful mothers show the beautiful physical changes of their coming joys, we prepare houses, boxes, trees, (really, no object is safe!) for the coming of Christ on Christmas. As wonderful as these preparations are for visual beauty, though, they strike a deeper chord in us for their inner beauty; like the beauty these mothers must have experienced after living through years of barrenness for the lovely curves of new life to finally enter their frame. Like these transformed women, the new season transforms our barren communities into places full of joyous sights and sounds that remind of the coming joy of Jesus. The world has new life not only with the lives being brought into it, Jesus, John, and Samson, but with the new life brought into those living on earth who are transformed by the joy of the new arrivals.

Debra Reilly is a Junior at SLU double majoring in English and Studio Art.


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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Jer 23:5-8

Ps 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19

Mt 1:18-25

The readings for the day can be found here.

The first reading and psalm from today both give us hope for the day when Jesus will come again for the second time. Although Advent is a time when we reflect on Jesus coming into the world for the first time, it can also be fruitful to have reminders that we are constantly preparing for the next coming of the Lord. Just like the readings from the first week of Advent, we are told that we must be on the watch for God. For us, this may mean taking the extra time out of our day to talk to that lonely-looking friend; saying “Thank you” and adding a smile toward the worker at the cash register at the store; or even sitting down for five minutes in silence to talk to God and catch up. Doing these little things throughout our daily routines not only helps others but brightens up our own days, for we know we’re following God’s will to do good.

The Gospel from today is a true “phew” moment. Joseph was about to divorce Mary, when all of a sudden an angel appeared to him and told him to stay. St. Joseph is a great example for us during this Advent season. He followed God’s will without question and served his family with everything he had. Once again we can use this reading as a model for our own lives – emulating Joseph, we can actually listen to what God is trying to tell us through the priest’s homily at Mass (this is one I struggle with). We can also serve our families and friends, which sometimes is tougher than serving a poor stranger whom we don’t know. This gospel passage, along with the first two readings, remind us that we need to be on our toes, for God may inspire us at any moment to do His will.

Jimmy Canning is a sophomore member of the Micah Program.

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Monday, 17 December 2012

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

Gn 49:2, 8-10

Ps 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17

Mt 1:1-17

The readings for the day can be found here.

As we continue to wait for Christ this advent season we might find ourselves becoming weary or anxious for His glorious coming. Yet, we know and believe that Jesus is here even in our time of preparing. During this waiting, how do we prepare? During this waiting where do we find peace?

In the first reading today, in Genesis, we learn that Judah will lead the family of his father and the tribe from which the Messiah comes. By gaining this privilege, Judah gained a lot of power. We often think of power being abused. We are taught to shy away from gaining any sort of power and to respect such authority. Yet, power lies in all of us. We have the power to create ourselves, change someone’s life, live each day and know dive into our relationship with God. Power is within all of to change this world and listen to God’s call for us. He is calling us to use our power, our gifts.

Often times I take comfort and find peace within my own family. In the Gospel, we learn about the genealogy of Jesus. What a strong list of the fathers and sons we have gathered today! Jesus Christ, much like us, has his own heritage, one that is rich in love and tradition. While I do not know fourteen generations of my own family, I do know a few. Thinking about my own family I realized how blessed we are. Our ties are strong, traditions alive and love is being spread.

Yet, family is so much more than Swabacks or Paluchs in my life. My family includes friends, mentors, the SLU community and so much more. There is something about being part of something greater than just my family that fills me. Jesus calls me to love not just my family of brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins; but also those I encounter everyday. Everyone matters. Everyone is my family. God is calling me to be Christ to others. Everyday I get the opportunity to do just that and put my love in action. Love is the answer and Love is God.

We can take peace in what comforts us, but what about taking peace in God’s call? What about taking peace in His love? What about other’s presence? Where there is peace, there is God. Through God we all are brothers and sisters, we all are related because we know Christ.

Meg Swaback is a senior social work major and urban analysis minor. She is actively involved in SLU’s Relay For Life, the Micah Program, APO, Sorores in Christo (the Catholic Women’s Group)and is a regular at Upper Room.

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

Third Sunday of Advent

Zep 3:14-18a

Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6

Phil 4:4-7

Lk 3:10-18

The readings for the day can be found here.

The candle is pink.

I remember as a girl asking my mom, “Why can’t all of the candles be pink? It would be much prettier that way!” Her response was a simply that it is Gaudete Sunday, which means we are half way through Advent, and  in order to celebrate being closer the church decorates in rose.  I am sure that I shrugged and accepted the answer and moved on until I asked it again the following year.

It was not until much later when I started to explore the Liturgical calendar more that I truly understood the significance of this Sunday. Like Lent, Advent is a penitential season, a time of preparation and anticipation. We are called to pause our “ordinary” lives and to spend time intentionally focused on what the coming of Christ truly means in our lives. We are called to pray, to seek forgiveness and to ready ourselves for Christ. This Sunday, having passed the midpoint of this reflective time, the Church lightens the mood. The change in color provides us with encouragement as we continue in our preparations for Christmas and the coming of Christ.

The readings today echo this encouragement through resounding words of hope and celebration. Shout for joy! Be glad and exult! Give thanks! Rejoice!

Christmas is a time of great joy and as our journey of preparation draws to an end, our spirits should be lighter. However, in the midst of final exams and wrapping up the end of a semester,  running errands and rushing to gather Christmas gifts, we finds ourselves weighed down by a burdensome “to-do” list. Anticipation and stress fill our thoughts. The second reading speaks directly to this.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything by prayer and petition make your requests known to God.

As we reach the end to our semester and pass the midpoint of Advent. May our focus and preparation turn to joy and celebration.  Today the church reminds us that this is a season of glad tiding as our Savior is coming soon.

The candle is pink.  Give thanks and rejoice!

Beth Schwaab is the Director of Global Health for the School of Public Health.

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