28 December – The End of 2015
I offer a simple point to end my reflection this year – however I believe it is a very important one.

Towards the end of each year, various people and organisations review the year – it highlights, what was achieved etc. and that is good.

What would be wonderful would be for each of us to take some quiet time with our gracious and merciful God to thank Him for all that he has given us and done for us in 2015.

So much of God’s goodness is repeated each day. No doubt there were in this year some special good times for you as well. Perhaps there was the cross in one or more of its forms. Then there were times of failure and sin.

There is so much to thank God for – His gifts, His love and presence with us in difficult times and his generous mercy and kindness always.

May we find time to do this and if we are in family why not do it together?

I wish you all as the Italians say, “Buona fine e buon capo d’anno” – may you have a good ending and a good start to the New Year.

(This is the final ‘Thought’ for 2015. These will resume again in February 2016)

21 December - Advent - Mary’s Role
As we prepare for Christmas, for Christ to be born a new in our hearts, the Church always puts Mary before us in the last Sunday of Advent.

Who better than the one who prepared so well for Jesus herself and gave birth to this marvellous little infant - who better than Mary to help us open our hearts so that he can make his home even more with us?

The Church in one of the Advent Prefaces says that Mary longed for her Son and Saviour with ‘love beyond all telling’. The preface also says as we prepare for Jesus’ birth may he find us ‘watchful in prayer’ and that our hearts be ‘filled with wonder and praise’.

In other words Mary and the Church are encouraging us to take time to be at the crib now each day even for a few minutes in the business of the day.

As we do this, remember that Mary is there too. Ask her to help us prepare. We can even whisper the Hail Mary to her.

14th December - Advent - ‘A Time of Joy’
The Word of God for the Third Sunday of Advent was packed with joy.

It would be good to go back and reflectively read again the First Reading from Zephaniah - then the Psalm - then the Second Reading of St Paul to the Philippians. The Gospel doesn’t mention joy, however as John the Baptist prepared people for the coming of the Messiah, they were so excited and wanted to know what they had to do to change their lives for this.

What is the joy that God gives us? For an answer we could do no better than to go to Jesus’ words to his Disciples at the Last Supper. “I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy would be complete”.

Jesus used the Greek word “Chara,” taken from the word “charis” which means grace. That’s getting to the heart of what biblical joy really means.

Simply put, “grace” means “God leaning toward me, bending over me, inclining toward me kindly, favourably.”

That’s what God is and that’s who God is for me.

There is never a moment when God isn’t bending toward me that way. No matter what the situation, God is leaning toward me kindly, favourably.

We would do well to bring to mind this reality, this image of God throughout the remaining time of Advent.

We are all familiar with the human image of a parent leaning over, smiling and making happy sounds to his or her child. It is a good image of how God is leaning towards me with great love, moment by moment.

This love, this approach of God is our real source of joy. Many good things (trust, prayer, good living) will follow the more we believe this is how God relates to us.

7th December - Advent - ‘Welcome Jesus’
We are already a week into Advent which is all about the coming of Jesus. We celebrate his first coming at Bethlehem and the Liturgy at the beginning of Advent also turns our minds to his final coming at the end of the world. What concerns me more though, and I am sure all of us, is the end of our earthly world at the time of our death.

We might ask is there any other coming in between? For sure we have a special coming and a time of Grace each Christmas. However Jesus comes to us in so many ways every day.

Because of the first Christmas we have the great privilege of having Jesus live within us and of being sons and daughters of the Father. He comes to us in the gift of a new day and the extra day of life. He comes through the people around us in our lives, work, our family members, those who care for us etc.

May I suggest a simple prayer that we could use throughout Advent and during the course of each day - ‘welcome Jesus’. The beginning of each day, remembering that Jesus lives within, we could say ‘welcome Jesus’.  Although he is there already when we say welcome it enlarges our heart and opens our heart more to him.  

As we welcome a new day, we could also welcome Jesus the giver of that day. Likewise for the precious extra day of life that we receive from him - ‘welcome Jesus’. Then as we go through the day and mix with a variety of people let’s look beyond them to the Christ who is within them. As they come to us we could whisper in our heart, ‘welcome Jesus’. Another good time to say silently ‘welcome Jesus’ would be when someone asks us for something.  

I believe in this way our hearts will be enlarged. Jesus will give us more heart. In turn we will give more heart to those around us because through any act of love and kindness, we are Jesus for them.