Catholics for a Changing Church

Reflections for the week beginning 20 November 2022

Reflections on the Daily Mass Readings

by Derek Reeve

The Presentation of Mary in the Temple, by Titian, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 20th, The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the Universal King

This feast is of comparatively recent origin having been instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, and it was to be kept on the last Sunday of October. To a certain extent, it was the ravages of the First World War, which had ended in 1918, that let the Pope to institute this feast. His purpose was to remind the whole of the Catholic Church of the all-embracing authority of Christ Jesus who calls people into his reign of love and peace. The day was, obviously, meant to be celebrated in conjunction with All Saints, which falls on November 1st.

Many were not happy with this feast since it seems to duplicate in many ways, the feast of the Epiphany when Christ is celebrated as the universal King. For this reason it was hoped that the feast would disappear from the Calendar after the Second Vatican Council. This was not to be, and the feast was moved to the last Sunday in what was named the Ordinary Time immediately before Advent. This is not an altogether happy arrangement, and many would still like to see the feast removed from the Calendar though it does mark a sort of conclusion to Ordinary Time.

One of the main problems about the feast is, of course, giving the Lord the appellation of King. The notion of royalty, in spite of the survival of our own royal family, seems to have disappeared from the popular imagination and one would not to want to imagine Christ as the sort of monarch that we have in King Charles III.

It is questionable whether this feast is at all helpful for ordinary Catholic Christians but to help us we have to remind ourselves of how monarchy was seen in the Hebrew Scriptures rather than at any subsequent time and this is what the readings today try to do.

Readings: 2nd Book of Samuel 5/1-3  :  Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 1/11-20  :  Luke 23/35-43

In the reading from the First Book of Samuel, David is anointed to be king of Israel. His kingship is seen to be his being a shepherd for his people. David had, of course, been a shepherd boy, and he is frequently called the ‘shepherd king’, and his leadership was meant to be that of a shepherd who both leads his people and who cares for each and every one of them. The tribes of the Chosen people also remind David that he is of their flesh and blood and so is truly one of them.

Applying this image to Jesus is not difficult. He is the anointed one, anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism by John, and he is truly one of us, of our flesh and blood, born of Mary and totally human. He is the one who leads us. He goes before us to show us the way, and he even takes us through the gates of death through which he himself has passed, into the pastures of the Promised Land of God’s Reign of love.

The writer of the Letter to the Colossian Christians uses the same imagery of kingship in the reading today. The writer speaks of how God has taken us out of the power of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of his beloved Son. The writer then goes on to praise the wonders of this Son whom God loves and who is the very image of the unseen God. Through him all things were created, as the Gospel of John says in its first chapter, and it is he who holds all together in unity. But as Jesus is risen from the dead so he is the firstborn who will bring all things together through his death on the Cross. On the Cross, at the moment of his death, Jesus became totally one with humanity, sharing their death that they might share his risen life. At that moment reconciliation between God and humankind was achieved and Jesus made peace for the whole human race.

We have been rescued from the powers of darkness, all that would make us less than human, everything that is not love, and we have been brought into God’s reign of love where we share the life of the Spirit, the life of love, which is God’s own life.

As Christians, this is our great privilege. We are the Church of which he is the head, and he has revealed to us this reconciliation that he has brought about. We are the body of Jesus’ followers whose task it is to proclaim to the world God’s Reign of love over everyone and everything. Ours it is to work with all who are of good will, of every faith and none, to bring about peace and reconciliation for all humankind.

The Gospel reading explains what it means to call Jesus King. He reigns not from a throne but from the Cross where his love is supreme.

In this tragic reading from Luke’s Gospel, the leaders of the people mock Jesus and make fun of him. The very title they place above his head is a mockery. But even in the extremes of his agony, nothing changes for Jesus and in the horror of his suffering, he has compassion for the thief who hangs at his side and assures him that he will be with him in Paradise. This last action of Jesus together with his forgiveness of his executioners epitomises his whole massage of compassion and forgiveness. It is these that characterise the Reign of God which he has persistently proclaimed.

However foreign the language may be today is a day when we accept once again the rule of Jesus over our lives. He is our good shepherd, going ahead of us in life and in death. We are the flock that is watered by him in the waters of Baptism and is fed by him in the Eucharist, and he leads us into the Promised Land of the Church and finally into the kingdom where God is all in all.

In our prayer today we can once again welcome Jesus’ rule over our lives, accepting that he leads us and praying that he would lead his Church into the paths of righteousness and peace that we may be the Church that he would have us be, as we pursue our synodal journey together.

Monday, November 21st, Commemoration of the Presentation of the Mother of God

There is no historical precedent for today’s feast, and the story of Mary’s being presented in the Temple in Jerusalem to join the young girls who served there is totally fictional. The story is taken largely from one of the later works which found no place in Scripture, the Protoevangelion of James, which dates from the second century.

This feast has been celebrated, however, from the eighth century in the churches of the East and it came to the West through an envoy of the King of Cyprus who was staying at the court of the Pope while he was living in Avignon in 1371. It was not until the fifteenth century that the feast was extended to the whole of the Western Church.

Though the event may be fictional, the feast celebrates Mary’s total giving of herself to God’s service so that the circumstances of that decision, which may well have been gradual, are of little importance. We celebrate for her what we are called to ourselves through Baptism.

For many religious Orders and Congregations this feast has special importance and is, for them, the reminder of their own commitment and vows as they celebrate Mary’s total commitment to God. In the Sulpician tradition it is celebrated as a reminder to those who have entered the Church’s ministry, of their own commitment to the service of God in the service of God’s people. Today then is a day to pray for all those who have committed themselves to serve God in the religious life or in the ministry of the Church.

Since this is a commemoration of the Mother of God the special readings will most probably be used, which are the following:

Zechariah 2/14-17, Matthew 12/46-50.

The readings, obviously, make no mention of this fictitious event. They do relate, however, to Mary’s total commitment to God.

In the reading from the prophet Zechariah, the prophet foretells the coming of the Messiah who will dwell in the midst of the people. For devout Jews of Jesus’ time, the great Temple in Jerusalem was the place where God dwelt among them in a special way. In the story of today’s feast, Mary is brought to that Temple to be one of those who serve God there. In fact, it is Mary herself who becomes that scared dwelling place where the Lord would come to dwell in her womb, and she becomes the living Temple of God.

The prophet says, however, that God will remain among us, and it is in the Church that is his body that Christ continues to dwell, so that we become the Temple of God in the world.

In the Gospel reading the members of Jesus’ family were anxious to see him but he uses the opportunity to remind his followers that they are all his family. Anyone who does the will of God, Jesus says, or, in other words, tries to live a life that is loving, is part of his family and is raised to the same intimacy with him as Mary and his family.

Today, when we give thanks for Mary’s total giving of herself to God, something which she must have renewed every day of her life, we can also renew our own giving of ourselves to his service. With Jesus, we offer ourselves to be his living presence in the world and the sign of his Kingdom of love and peace both in our own lives and in the life of our Christian community.

Tuesday, November 22nd, Commemoration of Cecilia, martyr (II or III century)

Virtually nothing is known about Cecilia although there are legends about her which date from the fourth century. These legends may contain some elements of truth within them, but it is impossible to know with any certainty. They portray her as a young Christian woman from a noble family who had been given in marriage to a young pagan named Valerius. The legend tells how Cecilia was able to bring both Valerius and his brother to faith in Christ and both were martyred. Cecilia herself was also caught and, eventually, executed. A church in the Trastevere area of Rome, founded by a woman named Cecilia became the church of Saint Cecilia, and she has been widely honoured since the fifth century.

The association of Cecilia with music is due to certain words in the primitive legend about her life and death. On the night of her wedding to Valerius, the legend tells how she sang in her heart ‘Lord, may my heart remain unsullied so that I be not confounded’. It was only in 1584 that the Academy of Music in Rome at its foundation, chose her to be its patron and since then she has been invoked as the patron of music and musicians.

Today is a day to give thanks for the wonderful gift of music, which so enriches our lives, and we pray for all those who compose music and who make and perform it.

Readings: Apocalypse 14/14-19   :   Luke 21/5-11

The reading from the book of Revelation, which may have been missed yesterday because of the special readings for the Presentation of Mary, (Apocalypse 14/1-5) depicts the heavenly court, called Mount Zion, with the Lamb, that is Christ, surrounded by the multitudes of those who had lived lives that were undefiled by the world and who had ‘never allowed a lie to pass their lips’! It is interesting that this quality is singled out, and it may give us pause for thought. How truthful am I? It is also noteworthy that the whole multitude is singing. How important is music in the lives of human beings and what better to offer to God. Saint Augustine said famously that ’whoever sings their prayer prays twice’.

The reading today from the book of Revelation is a vision of the Son of Man, the Lord himself. He has a sickle in his hand, and the angels surrounding him execute a bloody judgement ‘throwing the vintage to the earth into the winepress of God’s fury. This scene alludes to the wickedness of the Roman Empire which the visionary sees all around him and the judgement that will come upon it. This was an assurance to all who read these words that justice would be done.

It is easy to see why many have associated this vision with our own times but this temptation must be resisted. The writer writes for his times and not for ours. As we reflect on the God whom Jesus reveals to us, it is impossible to equate this God with that of a God who wreaks vengeance, even on the most wicked. Perhaps it is easier to apply this judgement of God, not to those who perpetrate great evils but to the evils themselves. This leads us to the belief that God will, in his own good time, do away with all wickedness and evil so that humankind may live in prosperity and peace. This is the vision of the coming Kingdom of God.

The Gospel reading, which we missed yesterday, (Luke 21/1-4) is the familiar story of the ‘widow’s mite’, a term which has become part of our language. It is an injunction to generosity. The rich give of their spare cash, as it were, while the poor widow gives her entire fortune, small as it is. It is so often the case that it is the poor who are far more generous than those who have wealth, perhaps because the more one possesses the more one becomes attached to it and entrapped by it. How generous am I in my giving, especially to those in need? Do I just give what I can spare without inconveniencing myself too much or do I give so that it hurts a little?

The Gospel reading today is, again, one that was read some weeks ago on a Sunday. The Temple in Jerusalem was greatly embellished and built up by Herod as a sign to the world of his power and might. Luke, once again, presents Jesus as a prophet who not only speaks in God’s name but foretells the future. Luke’s readers will know how Jesus’ words have already been fulfilled, and so they will have greater faith in what he says and teaches. Jesus warns against the false prophets who come in every age, and his words would have reminded the reader of the Jewish revolt against the Romans which precipitated the destruction of both Jerusalem and the Temple itself. But the end is not so soon, Jesus says, so that we have to live our lives, aware that the End will come but taking each day as it comes and trying to live it as well as possible.

There are special readings for Cecilia but, almost certainly, those for the day will be used. Those for Cecilia are: Hosea 2/16-17, 21-22, in which God is speaking to his people, but which recall the way in which Cecilia followed the call of Christ from the wilderness of paganism into intimate union with himself.

Matthew 25/1-13, which is the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, which recall Cecilia’s readiness to meet the bridegroom, Christ, when he came to call her to martyrdom.

Wednesday, November 23rd, Commemoration of Clement (+160) and Columbanus (+615)

After Peter’s martyrdom in Rome, legend has it that he was succeeded in the role of leader of the Roman church by Linus and then Cletus, but nothing is known about them. Clement, however, who is said to have followed Cletus is a far more historical figure. He H is known mainly for his Letter to the church in Corinth, written about the year 96. This letter is an exceptionally early witness to the function and authority of the ministers of the Christian community. The Letter shows, for the first time, the bishop, or leader of the church in Rome intervening effectively in the affairs of another church and calling for repentance and the restoring of unjustly deposed presbyters. The Letter also provides evidence for both the residence and the martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome. There are other writings attributed to Clement, but they are not authentic.

Legend has it that Clement was exiled for his faith to the Crimea where he was made to work in the mines which was a common punishment. Clement, according to legend, was killed by being thrown into the sea with an anchor fastened around his neck. Although the legend is totally unreliable, Clement has always been venerated as a martyr.

In the ninth century Saints Clement and Methodius claimed that they had found Clement’s relics together with an anchor, and these were brought to Rome and buried in the Church of San Clemente. This is a fascinating church built on several levels and on the foundations of a first century house church belonging to a certain Clement. It is very improbable that this Clement is the one whom we are celebrating today.

Today we pray for the successor of Clement and Peter, Francis, the present bishop of Rome and for his ministry and for the reforms that he has made in the Roman Curia so that it helps him in his ministry rather than impeding him.

Today Columbanus is also commemorated who lived at the time of the fall of the great Roman Empire when everything was breaking down and people were living once again in fear and confusion after the devastation wrought by the pagan tribes.

Columbanus was born around 540 in West Leinster in Ireland and became a monk of Bangor, which was at that time the most famous school in the country. After some twenty years as a monk Columbanus was sent with a group of twelve others to renew the Christian faith in Gaul.

After what must have been a long and difficult journey, they arrived at a Roman fort in Annegray. People flocked to hear their message, and many joined them. Within a short time Columbanus had founded two more monasteries in the area. Columbanus was outspoken in his criticism of the immoral life lived by Theoderic, the King of Burgundy and earned both his displeasure and that of the local bishops who had never spoken out against the wrongs of the king.

The whole group of monks was ordered to return to Ireland, but Columbanus escaped across the Alps with, as his only possession, a copy of the Gospels. He ended up in Italy in Bobbio where he died in 615 while helping to build a new church. Columbanus’ monasteries led to the foundation of others which became havens of learning and prayer.

Columbanus is reckoned to be the greatest of the Irish missionary monks who had so great and influence in mainland Europe.

Readings: Apocalypse 15/1-4   :   Luke 21/12-19

The reading from Revelation today speaks of the seven plagues that are to precede the final judgement of the world. Before the plagues are poured out, the writer sees another vision of the heavenly court. There the Song of Moses is sung, echoing the victory of the Israelites crossing the Sea of Reeds or the Red Sea. All who joined in singing the hymn were those who had resisted the evil tyrant of Rome and who had gained victory over the evil one who was epitomised in the Emperor.

This reading again speaks of the evil which will finally be overthrown. In the hymn of victory it prophesies that all will come to worship the Lord God, the Almighty One. It is this that we do at every Eucharist when, gathered around the Lamb who was slain on the Cross, we praise the God who will overcome evil as he has overcome death and sin in Jesus and who will gather all humankind into one.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells his followers what will befall them and how they will suffer before the fall of Jerusalem. The language that Jesus uses is echoed in Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostle and those for whom this Gospel was written will know that these words have already been proved true in the sufferings of Jesus’ followers to date.

We, as Christians today may not have to face the sufferings and persecution that Jesus’ first followers had to endure, but it is true for Christians in many other parts of the world. To follow Jesus however will always involve some pain, not least the crucifying of oneself for the sake of others in everyday life. They may also have to take a stand against things which they know to be wrong and stand up for what is right and that does not always make one popular. Jesus assures us, however, that we have no need to fear because he is with us to the end and will protect us.

How ready am I to take a stand on issues that are important in the world today?

There are special readings for both Clement and Columbanus but, almost certainly, those of the day will be used. Those for Clement are: First Letter of Peter 5/1-4, which is the advice given to the Elders of the Church, advice lived out by Clement. Matthew 16/13-19, which contains Simon Peter’s declaration of faith in Jesus, faith which Peter brought to Rome and which Clement also proclaimed.

Those for Columbanus are: Isaiah 52/7-10, which speaks of those who, like Columbanus, bring good news to those who have never heard it. Luke 9/57-62, which speaks of the demands made on those who, like Columbanus, seek to follow Jesus.

Thursday, November 24th, Commemoration of the Vietnamese martyrs (1745-1862)

Christianity was first brought to Vietnam by a French Jesuit in the early eighteenth century and during the first two hundred years it is believed that about 100,000 Vietnamese Christians were martyred though, sadly, there is little historical record of these.

The first of whom there are records are the Spanish Dominicans and during the first twenty years of the nineteenth century Christianity made steady progress but this was dramatically interrupted by fresh persecutions under the Kings Minh-Mang and Tu-Duc who reigned from 1820 to 1883.

Minh expelled all foreign missionaries, forced the Christians to deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix, destroyed churches and forbade the teaching of the Christian faith. Many suffered extreme torture and hardship and many lost their lives.

After this period of suffering, in 1847 persecution started again when Vietnamese Christians were suspected of complicity in rebellion and, again, many suffered and died. Christians were marked on their faces with ‘ta dao’ which indicated that they were followers of a false religion, husbands and wives were separated and their children taken from them, whole villages were destroyed and their possessions taken and distributed. In yet a further round of persecution from 1857 to 1862, many more suffered and died.

Among the many who died were bishops and priests from Europe and many thousands of Vietnamese people. Andrew Dung-Lac was the first Vietnamese priest to be executed in 1839 with another native priest, Peter Thi. Today with them, we remember some 117 martyrs among whom were 59 laymen and women, 50 priests both foreign and Vietnamese and 8 bishops. With them we remember the vast number of those who died for their faith and of whom there is no record.

We pray today for the people of Vietnam and for the Christian churches in that country, and we remember the many Vietnamese who live around us, both Catholic and non-Catholic and who have, in many instances, clung on to their faith through thick and thin.

Readings: Apocalypse 18/1-2, 21-23, 19/1-3, 9   :   Luke 21/20-28

The reading from the book of Revelation today portrays dramatically the doom of the great city of Rome. Babylon is a name that was used for Rome at that time, as a city of great wickedness. The angels proclaim the downfall of the city. Like ancient Babylon which was cast symbolically into the Euphrates (Jeremiah 51/53-64) so Rome is thrown into the sea.  Counterpoised with the lament for her downfall is the song of rejoicing that follows. Rome is called the great prostitute, not only for her corruption but above all for her following of many false gods.

The whole episode ends with the invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb which anticipates the final vision of the book. The marriage of God with his people is a frequent theme among the prophets and here it becomes the marriage of the Lamb, the Son of God made flesh, with his followers, the Church.

For us today the words of invitation recall the words of invitation to the Lord’s Table that are now used in the celebration of the Eucharist.

In the Gospel reading today Jesus speaks of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the great Temple, something which those reading these words would know had already happened. This gives weight to Jesus’ words about the coming of the Son of Man. If his words about the destruction of the Temple had already been fulfilled, then Jesus’ prophecies about his coming again were also to be trusted. 

The reading ends with the prophecy of the end of all the nations and peoples of the world but there is, deliberately it would seem, no indication of when this would be. For his followers, Jesus says, when these things happen they are not to be alarmed but rather see them as the welcoming of the final consummation of all things.

There is always the danger of reading into Jesus’ words some meaning for today. This is to be avoided because, although over the centuries, there have been moments when these words seemed to apply, the End did not come. We are not meant to know but to be alert and ready.

This is what Jesus demands of his followers. Not to be constantly waiting for the End or worrying about it, but to be ready to welcome him here and now when he comes to us in our neighbours, in the poor and needy and in the detail of every moment if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Happy are we that we are called to the Supper of the Lamb whenever we celebrate the Eucharist together, but happy too because we know that he comes to us at every moment.

In spite of all that has been said, there are very real signs at this time that our world is in danger, and this is something which we must take very seriously, as Pope Francis is always enjoining on us. Though the End may come when God wills it, we have the responsibility to care for the world which has been put into our hands and of which we are called to be the stewards. What more can I do in my own life and what more can I encourage others to do both in the Christian community and among those with whom I live and work every day?

We could read Pope Francis Encyclical Letter ‘Laudato si’ which deals with these problems.

There are special readings for the Vietnamese martyrs though almost certainly those for the day will be used. Those for the martyrs are: Sirach 5/1-8, which is a long prayer that might well have been on the martyrs’ lips as they suffered such terrible torments and death. Matthew 10/28-33, which is Jesus’ injunction to his followers not to be afraid, which recalls the heroism with which the Vietnamese martyrs faced their persecution and death.

Friday, November 25th, Commemoration of Catherine of Alexandria, martyr (4th century?)

This feast was suppressed in 1963 but has been restored to the Calendar again more recently though it is difficult to understand why. Catherine is supposed to have lived in the fourth century and to have been a learned woman who, following her conversion to Christianity at the age of eighteen, preached the Gospel throughout Alexandria. She is said to have been imprisoned under the Emperor Maxentius and converted both the Empress and the leader of the armed forces and for this she was put to death on a wheel, hence the Catherine wheel which is a well-known firework!

There is absolutely no historical evidence for any of this and Catherine is not mentioned anywhere until the ninth century when her body was supposed to have been transported miraculously to what is now known as Saint Catherine’ monastery on Mount Sinai. The monastery is still there and is pilgrimage place for Christians, both Orthodox and Catholic.

One of the key features of the legend about Catherine is that she was a woman of great wisdom and intelligence so that today might be a day when we pray for a greater recognition of the gifts and talents of women, especially in the Church. We pray too for the community of monks at Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai.

Readings: Apocalypse 20/1-4, 11-21/2   :   Luke 21/29-33

The reading from the book of Revelation today is, perhaps, one of the most dangerous in the whole series of visions. It describes the millennial reign of Christ when only the satanic dragon remains to be shut up in a pit for a thousand years, while Christ and the martyrs reign on this earth. After the thousand years have expired Satan is let loose for a period of time. Both Death and Hell then yield up their dead who are judged according to what is written in the book of life. To replace the devastation of the first Heaven and Earth, there is a new Heaven and a new Earth and anew Jerusalem which comes down from Heaven, adorned like a bride for her husband. This vision has given rise to innumerable strange and bizarre ideas concerning the reign of a thousand years and what that might mean. In fact, much of the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses derives from this passage and others in the Book of Revelation.

What must be kept in mind is that the account of these visions is meant to encourage those who were undergoing persecution, and they are not meant to be taken literally. The message of all these visions, in a word, is that evil will be overcome and goodness will triumph and God will bring about a new order of things. More than that cannot and should not be drawn from the obscurity of the text.

Today’s reading from the Gospel follows on from that which was read yesterday. Jesus reminds his hearers that just as they recognise the signs of nature so that when the trees begin to bud, they know summer if coming, so the signs for the End will be equally obvious. Finally, Jesus says that his words will endure whatever happens. Luke presents Jesus as the true prophet who foretells the future so that that very generation who hear his words will see come to pass the things that he has foretold concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the great Temple.

What we must hold on to is that Jesus’ words, that is his teaching and his revelation of the Father, will not pass away but will endure for ever, because they are Truth.

Saturday, November 26th, Saturday in Week Thirty-Four in Year Two

Readings: Apocalypse 22/1-7   :   Luke 21/34-36

With the last reading from the book of Revelation today, in a final vision, the writer sees the throne of God in the midst of the city where God and the Lamb reign. Life flows out from them and all will be caught up in adoration, reigning for ever in the light of God’s love. The writer ends with a blessing on all who read what he has written.

In this final vision, once again, there is an attempt to put into words something which cannot be put into words. All we can say, ultimately, about Heaven, is that Heaven is where God is and that to be in Heaven is to be caught up in the mystery of God’s very being. More than that we cannot say, because it is all beyond our understanding and the boundaries of our intelligence.

This ought to help us in our prayer. Often prayer involves making an image of God in one’s mind and addressing oneself to that image. Prayer can be something quite different when we allow ourselves to dwell in the darkness of God’s presence and without forming any image in our mind, allow ourselves to relax in that presence and simply to be with God. Words and images can hinder our being close to the mysterious God who is, in fact, closer to us than we are to ourselves. The emptying of our minds and the silence can draw us closer to the divine mystery in whom, as Saint Paul says, ‘we live and move and have our being’ and words and images cease to have any meaning.

The Gospel reading today is a further warning to be on the watch and to guard ourselves against being ‘coursened’ by the ways of the world. These are good words to lead us into Advent which begins tomorrow.

Advent is the time when we reflect on God’s coming, and a time when we must renew our awareness of his coming. It is the time to recognise, once again, that the Lord comes to us at every moment, in each and every person that we meet and in each and every situation of our daily lives.

To be on the alert may depend on the time that we spend in the silence and stillness, recognising that we are in God’s presence. These moments of stillness make us the more ready to find God amid all the hustle and bustle that surrounds us at this time of the year and to celebrate his coming in the flesh at Christmas.

We pray that we may not be ‘coursened’ but may retain our sensitivity to detect and recognise Christ’s presence in the poor and the needy both near to us and far away. Of course, recognising Christ in those in need also makes us aware of our own good fortune. So Advent must also be a time when, instead of wasting our money on presents that no one needs or wants and on expensive festivities that bring us little real joy, we find ways and means of giving to those who do need our help and our love.