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Let the Lord Enter Your Life

Pope Francis has proven to be a trusted guide in dealing with the stress of the Christmas season and the anxiety of daily life in general. In his apostolic exhortation Rejoice and Be Glad, he puts his finger on the dangers of a frenetic quest for happiness: “The presence of constantly new gadgets, the excitement of travel and an endless array of consumer goods at times leave no room for God’s voice to be heard.

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Advent Is Construction Season

The call of Advent is clear. From both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, we hear, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah was writing to the people exiled far from their homeland. John the Baptist was talking to people who had lost their way in a tangle of politics and religion. In our own lives, we hear this call as well. We all have some roadwork to do in our souls. We might say Advent is construction season.

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Light the First Candle

Advent begins quietly, with the lighting of the first candle on the Advent wreath. As the days grow shorter in the northern hemisphere, we move to a place of increasing light both indoors and in our hearts. Instead of adding more things to do and and more challenges to meet in an already busy time, Advent calls us to rest, to step back, to learn to appreciate the small events and simple gifts that flow through our days.

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As I Have Done, So You Must Do

Perhaps no action by Pope Francis has generated as much astonishment  as his washing the feet of prisoners—men, women, Christian, Muslim. It is a return to what Jesus intended: As I have done, so you must do. The Holy Thursday liturgy is marked by the ritual gesture of the washing of the feet. The central action of service reminds us that our communion is more than a meal, more than nourishment for our bodies and souls. It’s the act of taking on the mission, the ministry, the very body of Christ. And it is a challenge to us to remain in communion with one another.

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Pray for Grace

Most of us aren’t likely to betray anyone to a death squad. But as we meditate on the events of the Passion, we might reflect on the times we’ve betrayed a trust, the times we’ve talked about someone behind their back, the times we’ve stayed silent when a friend has been ridiculed. Resolve to keep silent when tempted to gossip and to speak out when others are gossiping. That sounds like a challenge, doesn’t it? It is. Pray for the grace to meet it.

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We Are the Body of Christ

As members of the body of Christ, we experience the death and resurrection that Jesus did. Everything in our lives—the heights of joy and triumph, the depths of suffering and death—is united with the life of Christ. The cross is before us now with its wordless challenge to love beyond death. Take some time this week to think about events in your own life that have given you an experience of Jesus’ command to pick up your cross and follow him.

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