Decon Harold Burke-Sivers discusses how we can be a source of light to others during the season of Advent.
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Reflective Study Guide Questions
“Not to us, Lord… but to your name give glory.”Ps. 115:1
- Deacon Harold says that, as Christians, our preparation during this time of year must be counter cultural. How you can you actively work on being counter-cultural to the commercialism and materialism in our society as you prepare for Christmas?
- Though it can be easy to forget it, God is actually present in all areas of our lives. He is present even in the areas of darkness. In what dark areas of your life can you search for God during this Advent?
- During Advent, we should be working on opening our hearts to allow other people to see God’s love there. If we’re able to do this, we can be vehicles of mercy to others in our lives. Who in your life might God be calling you to reach out to in such a way?
- Deacon Harold says that our hearts are like rubber bands. In order for our hearts to be filled with God’s love, they must first be stretched. In what ways has God been stretching your heart lately? How might He be working in your heart through this stretching?
Text: 3rd week of Advent: Hope: A Time for Light in the Darkness
Hi, I’m Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers and let us begin our time together in prayer.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Lord, we are so grateful that you have given us this time to be in your presence to meditate and contemplate on the mysteries of our salvation, this time of advent, this time of preparation for the Christ coming into the world and most especially to our lives.
So, Lord, we ask you to give us a deeper spirit of prayer. Prayer is how we connect to you. Prayer is how we talk to you. Prayer is how we share our hearts and our lives with you. Prayer is a conversation. It’s where we allow you to experience the depth of our pain, of our suffering, of our joy, of our sorrows. This beautiful exchange of love and life and intimacy and communion between you, oh Lord, and us happens in prayer. So, Lord, we ask you as we prepare for the coming of Christ during this advent season, to help us to be more prayerful, to help us be more mindful to help us, to speak to you more frequently, and from the depths of our hearts not just with words coming out of our mouths, of our lips with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That our prayer is a witness to the power of our love for you.
And we ask this through Christ our Lord Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Open Your Hearts to Prepare for the Lord
You know, I had an experience not too long ago that after withdrawing about 40 bucks from an ATM as I was preparing to travel, you know, of course I use, you know, the cards and stuff but I always like to have a little cash on me too. And I was driving home, it was a cold and rainy evening and I was going home to be with my family in our nice warm house where dinner was waiting for me. I noticed at a traffic light there was a homeless person standing on the corner that looked that they hadn’t eaten in days. And he was clearly underdressed for the weather. I rolled down the window of the car and called him over and gave him the $40 that I just withdrawn trusting that God would provide for my needs.
So, in my own way, I was a small voice crying out in the desert, preparing the way for the Lord in the midst of often shameless consumerism and often silly political correctness that all too often characterizes this time of year.
You know, as Christians, our preparation for the coming of the Lord must be counter cultural. We must open our hearts to God’s life giving love and most holy will. To allow God to give us a sense of peace, right? This is the time where, you know, where we want to be peaceful, right? This time of, you know, we sing O Silent Night or O Holy Night, you know? And there’s this sense of great peace. There’s a sense of great silence. And it’s interesting that this time of year always comes during when we have the most darkness, right? At least you know in North America, right? It’s often when we have the most darkness that’s when the light of Christ is most prevalent, right? When we’re experiencing the deepest darkness that’s when the light of Christ is the brightest in our lives.
Helping those in Need
You know, John the Baptist asks are you the one who was to come? Or should we look for another? You know, we have to ask ourselves today would we be able to recognize Jesus if we saw him? And how do we prepare for the coming of Christ in our own lives? And looking forward to the excitement and joy of Christmas? It’s sometimes easy to forget that God is present and active in all of those around us, right? Just like that homeless gentleman that I met on my way home. One of the things that your parish might do and I think it’s a great way to help prepare and it’s actually something that my family used to do as well. When my kids were younger. We used to bring Christmas boxes to poor families.
So the Christmas box would be assembled at our parish and we’d have a Turkey in there and we’d have canned goods and maybe a few toys for the kids and stuff. And we would go as a family with my wife and kids to deliver these food boxes to needy families in our neighborhood. Not just Catholic families by the way, but just to those who are in need. And I remember going to those houses and it was really it was a really a powerful experience, not just for me but for the kids as well at, you know, kids are kids they’re going to ask some questions.
We go into these houses and they say things like, “daddy where are their shoes? Or daddy, why do they smell like that? Or, daddy where’s their daddy?” Cause it’s often the mom answers the door and we come in and we deliver the box and the turkey and the gifts. And you know, you can see the joy on the mom’s face because she, you know, she’s like, oh my goodness this is so great cause you know, we’ll actually have food and you can see her going through the box, not just looking at what you brought, but you know you could see that expression on her face. How long can I make this last? And she’s also joyful that the kids have some presents you know? And it’s very humbling. It really is. And, but it was beautiful.
So that our kids can see two things. First of all, how blessed they are to have an intact nuclear family, that our family, you know, has been blessed. Not just material things but the ability to stay together, you know, and that the love that they experience comes from a mom and a dad, just like Jesus had, you know, with Mary and Joseph. Although interestingly, I think that first Christmas with Mary and Joseph was more an experience of what this family that we brought the food boxes were experiencing, right? Jesus was born in a stable, in a manger in a very lowly and humble place. You know, that God is present even there right? With this family, but also in the lowest and deepest places of our lives, you know? God’s light shines forth and penetrates the darkness of sin. And I just love this time of year where the focus is on that, right? That Christ’s light is shining in the darkness.
A Time for Light in the Darkness
So it’s the Lord who sees the path ahead of us that at times can be filled with difficulties. You know, especially this time of year, I had a really, really good friend of mine who’s a deacon now but we’ve known each other since kindergarten whose wife died a few days before Christmas. And so, whenever this time of year comes around, I know that his heart’s very heavy and that it’s weighing on him and on his children. You know, that what this time of year, you know the memories of this time of year, and you know, they’re doing pretty well now but there’s so many others, like, you know this year for example, this will be the first Christmas where they don’t have a spouse, right? Or the Christmas where they don’t have that child anymore. You know? And this could be a difficult time. But it’s also a time for hope. You know, it’s a time for peace. It’s a time for light in the darkness.
Jesus knows that there are so many families that are struggling to make ends meet, to put food on the table, to keep a roof over their heads to survive until the next paycheck. But as scripture reminds us, it is the Lord that gives bread to the hungry, not only to those who are malnourished but to those who are starving for truth. It is the Lord who sets prisoners free. Not only those who are incarcerated but also those who are imprisoned by sin, by doubt, by guilt. It is the Lord who gives sight to the blind. Not only those who can’t see but also to those who can’t see God. It is the Lord who raises those who are bowed down for shadowing the words of Jesus, that all who humble themselves before the Lord shall be exalted. Right?
Because humility means not thinking less of ourselves but thinking of ourselves less. And that’s what the spirit of advent is all about. Preparation, reconciliation, conversion, preparation opening our hearts and allowing people to see God’s love there, right? To not only to allow them to experience God’s love there but to be vehicles of mercy in the lives of others to allow that love and that light to shine forth into their darkness that they’re experiencing in this time of year. So we can truly be witnesses of God’s love and life.
Being Present for Others
You know, I’m often asked what the most special part of my ministry is as a deacon. And honestly, it’s not doing television it’s not traveling around the world, it’s not writing books although those are wonderful activities. It’s the way that we get to be in people’s lives, right? Is being with that child in the hospital who’s going through a cancer treatment, and the parents are there and the child is crying and the parents are crying and you are there being Christ for them. You know, it’s having to do a funeral for a child who, you know six months old who died of crib death. And the parents ask you to be there for the wake and to preach at the funeral and you are trying to hold it together because you’ve never seen a casket that small.
It’s being present at the bedside of the spouse of a longtime parishioner whose husband is dying. and you are there with her as her husband takes his last breath and you’re there praying with her and praying for him. You know, those are the moments that I cherish the most, you know? And advent is like those encounters, right? Experiencing the joy of advent is like, you know is my experience with the people in my life that are going through difficult moments and I’m there being Christ for them. We have to remember that Christ is always there for us in our difficult moments and challenges especially this time of year. It is precisely in these dry experiences of the desert of our lives, that when we pray from a position of anxiety and grief, which leads us into the very heart of Christ’s suffering and death.
The true cross and real burden of prayer is to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord of every single situation in our lives. That nothing can separate us from the love of God. So if we want prayer to become not just what we do but who we are, we have to wait on God and have complete love and trust and confidence in His mercy. The truth is, is that God always listens to, always hears and always answers our prayers, maybe not always in the way that we think or anticipate but rest assured that God always answers prayers in the way that will always bring us closer to Him in ways that will bring us into deeper intimacy with Him.
Thy Will Be Done
And so one of the greatest prayers that we can ever pray is from The Our Father, thy will be done. Because in following God’s will that will lead us to our ultimate end of all of our prayers, being with God forever in heaven, living in His presence forever. That’s the goal of all of our prayer.
So this advent season, let us boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, a life changing encounter with Jesus Christ by the witness of our lives. Not just with our words, but with our lives. But in order for our hearts to be filled our hearts have to be stretched, right? Our hearts have to be stretched. It’s just like a rubber band, right? A rubber band is only useful when it’s stretched, right? And same thing with our hearts. When our hearts are stretched, when we allow God to work in our hearts and stretch our hearts, again, it creates more room for God’s love to work in our lives. God’s desire is to have deep, loving intimacy with us. And that desire should enlarge our hearts and expand our souls and expand our capacity to receive love from God. And by expanding that capacity in our hearts we make more room for Christ to work. And when people see that they will see the good works that we do.
They will see us living a eucharistic faith in the world and give glory, not to us, but to God. Right? That’s Psalm 1:15, says that beautifully. Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name. Give the glory, all glory, all honor, all praise all blessing to God, our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ in unity of the Holy Spirit, now and forever, Amen.
About Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers
Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers – known around the world as the “Dynamic Deacon” – is one of the most sought-after speakers in the Church today. He is a powerful and passionate evangelist and preacher, whose no-nonsense approach to living and proclaiming the Catholic faith will challenge and inspire those who hear him.
He travels across the United States and around the world speaking at conferences, workshops, retreats, parish missions, high schools, and young adult events – in short, to everyone who desires to know Jesus intimately and enjoy a deeper personal relationship with Him. His areas of expertise include marriage and family life, discerning the will of God, the sacraments, male spirituality, evangelization, prayer, and many others.
Deacon Harold holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Theological Studies Degree from the University of Dallas. He co-hosts the national weekly broadcast “Living Stones” on Mater Dei Radio. Deacon Harold has appeared in the major feature film Power in My Hands and is the creator of Walk by Faith Wednesday Webinars, a weekly hour of Catholic catechesis and teaching.
In addition, he is the host or co-host of several popular series on EWTN television and is featured on the renown Chosen faith formation program by Ascension Press. Deacon Harold is an award-winning author who has written five books, including Behold the Man: A Catholic Vision of Male Spirituality, Father Augustus Tolton: The Slave Who Became the First African-American Priest, and the acclaimed new book Our Life of Service: The Handbook for Catholic Deacons.
Retaining a deep love of Benedictine spirituality which he gained during his time discerning a call to that religious community, Deacon Harold is a Benedictine Oblate of Mount Angel Abbey. He is also a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.