If you’re at all like me, you value planning activities and making “to-do” lists. More importantly, you enjoy crossing off things on the to-do list.

Today’s readings bring to the fore God’s to-do list, God priorities, for our world. They remind us of the spiritual dimension of this season of Advent, lest those aspects drift too far from our hearts during this unusually challenging season, especially in this very difficult year.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives his disciples a pretty intense to-do list as he sends them to preach the good news of the Reign of God. He tells them to cure those who are sick, cleanse lepers, drive out demons and even to raise the dead!

And you thought your  holiday list was difficult!

But the secret is found in the last line of instruction Jesus gives “You’ve received without cost, now give without cost.”

The ability of the disciples to accomplish these extraordinary tasks while they preach the good news is not something that they achieve the ability to do on their own. It is God’s gift.

It is God’s work; it is God’s “to do” list.

What a helpful reminder for us as we think about our own spiritual disposition this Advent in the midst of all the usual challenges of the holiday season, with the added challenges of the pandemic as well!

We are reminded that Advent and Christmas are first and foremost not about us. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But it is more than that. This liturgical season is there to remind us that Jesus is asking us to join with him in bringing about God’s Reign of justice and righteousness, of peace and joy. The fields need laborers – those who are able to respond in love to the call of Christ to be about the work of God’s Reign.

That work isn’t just the task of clergy – of deacons, priests, bishops or even popes! It is the task of all of us who are the Church – the community that acts in the name of Christ.

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah, the people cry out because they need help in the midst of adversity. Even here the message comes through loud and clear – our Teacher is God who speaks to us – not from above to dominate or from in front to moralize, but from behind to guide – “Here is the path; walk in it; step this way.”

When we perhaps feel we can’t do any more, or our own “to-do” lists seem impossible, God reminds us that there is still work to be done, but it is not burdensome work. It is a joy, because it helps us focus on what is most important.

We are given a mission to make God’s dream of justice and peace for all people real. What a to-do list! But we have been gifted for the work – and the work, when done in love, is a gift to us!

Let us pray to see clearly with Advent eyes where our true work lies during this holy season.

God give you peace!

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As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.