Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
1st Reading: Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11
Responsorial: Luke 1:46-50, 53-54
2nd Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
Gospel: John 1:6-8, 19-28
Responding to the Call to Pray without Ceasing
Pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Without ceasing? That sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Take heart! Paul doesn’t really mean we should literally pray all day long. He is talking about an attitude. He is asking us to try to be aware of God throughout our days, no matter what we are doing.
That still might seem a bit drastic, but think about the Virgin Mary. Try to picture her and what she must have been thinking a few days before Jesus was born. Like every expectant mother, she was probably alert to every movement of the child inside of her. Imagine her putting her hands on her stomach and smiling every time the baby moved—even when he kicked hard! Picture her constantly having to adjust her position when she sat, taking care when she walked, getting enough sleep, and getting her home ready to welcome her baby. Everything was focused on caring for the life growing within her.
Just as Mary was alert to the movements of the baby inside her, we can be alert to the movements of the Holy Spirit inside us. Of course, this was easier for Mary. Her entire body had changed during her pregnancy. There was no way not to be alert to Jesus! So don’t feel too bad for yourself.
Here is one way that you can get better at sensing God’s presence throughout your day. Try to set aside a few times each day when you will stop for a moment and turn to the Lord. Perhaps you can begin your day with a moment of prayer and then try to stop every three hours and pray and then commend yourself to the Lord just before bed.
Your prayer doesn’t have to be difficult either. Just say the Lord’s Prayer, thank him for one blessing, and ask his forgiveness if you have any sin on your mind. Over time, you’ll feel closer to the Lord. Who knows? You may even feel him moving in your heart, just as Mary felt him in her womb!
“Lord, help me to stay close to you.”
Questions for Reflection or Discussion:
- The first reading begins with these words: “The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.” We know that at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus applied these prophetic words of Isaiah 61:1-2 to his own ministry (see Luke 4:18-19).
- How do these prophetic words from the first reading apply to Jesus?
- In what ways do you believe that we, as Catholics, are also anointed by the Spirit to do the same?
- How have you personally experienced the Holy Spirit’s anointing in serving the Lord and “to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners”?
- The responsorial psalm uses the Magnificat of Mary in Luke 1:46-54 to reflect her unique anointing by the Holy Spirit. Through this anointing, Mary is able to speak these words: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
- In what way does this anointing apply to us as well – especially in our proclaiming the greatness of the Lord and in rejoicing in God our Savior?
- How often do you do this? How often should you do this?
- In the second reading, St. Paul exhorts us to “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). At first glance, all of these exhortations of St. Paul may seem impossible, especially if we try to do it on our own strength apart from God’s grace and the Holy Spirit.
- In what ways are St. Paul’s exhortations similar to some of the words from Mary’s Magnificat in the responsorial psalm?
- Relying on the power of the Holy Spirit as your source of strength, what steps can you take to make these words of St. Paul become a greater reality in your life?
- In the Gospel reading, this is John the Baptist’ response to all the priests and Levites’ inquiries regarding his identity: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert ‘make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”
- What do these words mean to you?
- In what ways do you believe that you are also called to “make straight the way of the Lord”?
- The meditation is a reflection on these words from the second reading: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It begins with these words: “Without ceasing? That sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Take heart! Paul doesn’t really mean we should literally pray all day long. He is talking about an attitude. He is asking us to try to be aware of God throughout our days, no matter what we are doing.” The meditation goes on to describe some ways we can do this: “Try to set aside a few times each day when you will stop for a moment and turn to the Lord. Perhaps you can begin your day with a moment of prayer and then try to stop every three hours and pray and then commend yourself to the Lord just before bed.”
- How would you describe what it means to “pray without ceasing”? How well are you doing?
- Using some of the suggestions from the meditation, what steps can you take during this Advent season of grace to do even better in praying without ceasing?
- Take some time now to pray for the grace to draw closer to the Lord by being faithful in daily prayer and taking time to turn to the Lord throughout the day. Use the prayer below from the end of the meditation as the starting point.
Lord, help me to stay close to you.