Having Great Hope in God’s Plan – Advent 2017


Here in this talk, Fr. Nathan encourages us to spend advent the way God prepared Our Lady for Jesus’ coming. He discusses how Mary has allowed God to enter her life with full hope and faith in her heart. He encourages to do the same and to open our hearts, and allow the Holy Spirit lead our lives.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“We must have confidence in God, Who is what He always has been, and we must not be disheartened because things turn out contrary to us.” 

Saint Philip

“Wait upon the Lord; be faithful to His commandments; He will elevate your hope, and put you in possession of His Kingdom. Wait upon Him patiently; wait upon Him by avoiding all sin. He will come, doubt it not; and in the approaching day of His visitation, which will be that of your death and His judgment, He will Himself crown your holy hope. Place all your hope in the Heart of Jesus; it is a safe asylum; for he who trusts in God is sheltered and protected by His mercy. To this firm hope, join the practice of virtue, and even in this life you will begin to taste the ineffable joys of Paradise.” 

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Father and Doctor of the Church
  • How did Mary prepare for Advent? How can you emulate some of those things as you prepare for Christ’s coming?

  • God has already been preparing you and working in you to prepare you for Advent. Just as Mary’s Advent truly began with the Annunciation, what are some ways that you have seen God preparing you for the coming of Christ before this Advent season even began?

  • Fr. Nathan points out that even our sorrows, struggles, financial difficulties, illnesses, social difficulties and other sufferings of our lives have all been a part of our Lord preparing us. This may hurt, but is it possible for you to recognize God’s hand, will and way in any of these situations in your life? What about just His presence as He has walked alongside you, maybe silently, during those trials?

  • God prepares us by waiting and by the dryness of what we think we need to have. Think about in your life where God is asking you to wait right now. And instead of seeing there a type of coldness or aloofness of our Holy Father – who is never cold or never aloof – try to see, instead, His preparation. He is asking us to thirst. The greater our desire, the more apt we are to open ourselves to receive the intensity of His gift.

  • God always comes into our life to expand what we thought was possible, to take us to the next level, and to open us to a depth that we didn’t think possible. He comes to disturb an otherwise human peace. Do we expect God to surprise us, or have we grown routine in what we expect of Him?

  • Are you ready for God to challenge you and to take you deeper? If not, what are the things you need to do, and the ways you need to work on yourself, so that you can be?

  • Fr. Nathan says the heart of Mary says, “Whatever God wants, how He wants it, as long as He wants it.” What is one area of your life that you could use this quote as an inspiration to endure your trials and to walk forward in faith? Consider writing this quote down and put it somewhere you’ll see it daily during this season.

  • Consider praying this prayer regularly throughout this Advent season in preparation of Christ’s coming: “God, I want You to take me into Your plans for my life.”

Text: Having Great Hope in God’s Plan

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Come Holy Spirit, Father of the poor, and loom in the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love. Send forth Thy spirit and they shall be created. Thou shalt renew the face of the earth. Let us pray. O God, who did instruct the hearts of Thy faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant us in the same spirit to be truly wise and ever to rejoice in His consolation through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Allowing God to Prepare You as He Allowed Mary

My name is Father Nathan, and I am a member of the Congregation of St. John, the Brothers of St. John. I’m overjoyed to be able to lead you this Advent in some reflections to help you prepare for the coming of our Lord. There are so many beautiful things to do during Advent, from our traditions around the Advent wreath, to the Advent calendar, to buying gifts for those whom we love, to spending special time with Mary in prayer. And as we approach this feast, I want to suggest a very powerful way for you to prepare for Christmas, and that’s by allowing God to prepare you for Christmas as He prepared Mary.

You think about it, the most care that God would have given to anyone during Advent spiritually would have been the soul and the heart of the Virgin Mary. How did she prepare for this great gift? How did God work His work of grace of preparation inside of her? By receiving His action in her soul as an example, we can also better maybe understand and identify the fingerprints of God in our own life as He works in our souls to prepare us.

The Annunciation

If we look at scripture, and we read together from The Gospel According to Luke, we see that Mary’s Advent, of course, begins at The Annunciation. In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, to a town of Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendent of David. And the Virgin’s name was Mary. I love this right away, because it situates Mary’s receiving Christ in a preparation that preceded hers. This Christmas, you’re going to receive Jesus in a totally unique way. Why? We know this because every time we receive the Lord at Mass, it’s a totally unique gift of love. And every time we celebrate a holiday in the liturgical cycle, the workings of grace are reopened in our loves. So as you prepare to receive Christ in this unique way, the very first point is to recognize that God has already been preparing you. He’s already been working in you. And that your Advent preparation, immediate, that’s starting this Advent, is actually only part of the whole scene of God’s working in your soul.

You can think of the sorrows that have happened this year, you can think of the losses, the struggles., you can think of the financial difficulties you’ve gone through, the social difficulties – and all of that suffering and hardship as being part of God’s preparation. Almost like He led Israel through the desert in order to prepare them for Canaan, so also He leads us through deserts. Mary was in the great desert of the expectation of The Messiah, waiting and longing for His coming. We know this because Mary’s Immaculate Conception would have made her soul the most ardent of the followers of the daughters of Israel. And as an ardent daughter of Israel, she would have been expecting The Messiah to come. And so here, we find ourselves situated with her in dryness.

It’s in the sixth month of a miracle that God had worked in the womb of Elizabeth, her kinswoman, and Elizabeth had had to wait for whole existence as a married woman for this one intervention of God. God prepares us by waiting. He prepares us by the dryness of not having what we think we need to have. Think about where in your life God is asking you to wait, and instead of seeing there a type of coldness or aloofness from our Heavenly Father, who is never cold and never aloof, we need to instead see there His preparation. He’s asking us to thirst. The greater our desire, the more apt we are to open ourselves to receive the intensity of His gift.


And so Mary’s Advent begins with a sign of waiting in the sixth month of the one who had been called sterile. The virgin receives the angel. The angel went to her and said “Greetings, you who are highly favored. The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words, and wondered what kind of greeting might this be. I love that when we think about this for our Advent, do we expect God to upset the apple cart of our life? Or have we grown routine? I think that Mary is prepared for the coming of The Messiah by a greeting here that completely stuns her. It puts her into a state of questioning. What kind of greeting could this mean? It’s so funny to see how God doesn’t hesitate to trouble the Virgin Mary. He doesn’t hesitate. By the great plans that He has for her, Mary had to align her perspective of the trajectory of her life with the trajectory that God wanted to give it. And when God comes into our life, it’s never to diminish us, or to make us less intense, less driven, less in our expectation. God always comes into our life to expand what we thought was possible, to take us to the next level, to open us to a depth that we didn’t even think possible. He comes to disturb an otherwise human peace.

And so Mary here is troubled. She’s greatly troubled, wondering what this greeting could mean. We now know what it means. It means that she should hang on, because God’s about to do something great with her. I want to challenge you this Advent. Are you ready for the coming of The Messiah? Are you ready for the coming of your Messiah? Are you ready for God to challenge you and to take you deeper? This Advent, prepare yourself by thirst and by expectation. Whatever God wants, how He wants it, as long as He wants it, that’s the heart of Mary. If we could have that heart inside of us, we wouldn’t put limitations on God anymore.

Establishing a Devotion to Our Lady

I wonder secretly if this isn’t one of the reasons why God wants devotion to Mary to be established. When Our Lady appeared in Fatima, she was very clear. She said “God wants devotion to the Immaculate Heart to be established in the world. Why would God want devotion in the Immaculate Heart to be established in the world? Why would we “need” Mary? What’s the big deal about the Catholics and Mary? Why do we insist so much on the Virgin Mary? I want to tell you why. It’s because the greatness of the plan of God cannot be fulfilled in our souls outside of the greatness of Mary’s “Yes” to Him. By opening ourselves to her yes, and the way that she said yes, and with the faith that she said yes, we let the Holy Spirit come into our souls and bring us to an entirely new level.

Let Him Trouble You

And God wants us to be at that level. He wants men and women who will dare great things for Him. Not just limit themselves to little things, like “Okay God, I want You to fit into my life, into my plans. And so I’ve got this and this and this ready for You. So just please obey me Jesus, and then everything will go well.” We’re so natural, right. That’s what we do. But wouldn’t it be awesome instead if we reverse that prayer, and we said “God, I want You to take me into Your plans for my life. What is it that You made me for? What do You intend to have me do with the gifts that You gave me?” Let God disturb your peace. Let Him trouble you, like He did to Mary. Because the future of His plan is realized in the “Yes” and the surrender of our present.

Mary was greatly troubled at his greetings, and wondered what kind of greeting this might be, but the angel said to her “Do not be afraid Mary. You have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus. He will be great, and He will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will have no end.” God prepares Mary for the birth of Christ by opening her to an expectant thirst. Now, as we look at our own family situations, our own cultural situation, as our lives are situated with respect to our friends, our culture, our political realities, are we with Mary in having an expectant thirst? Do we let our hearts open to hope like Mary did?

Mary could have looked around her and said “Oh my goodness, you know, look at all of the problems in my day. The Romans have occupied our land, we’re not able to have the sacrifices that we want, we’re not able to speak the language, we’re heavily taxed.” I mean you can go through a whole list and a litany of the troubles in Mary’s day. “Our people have forgotten religion. No one is pious the way they should be. The temple is filled with people selling things in it.” Right. And then you could think about “Gosh, that sounds so familiar to us.” We look around and we see so many reasons for distress, so many reasons to give up. And so what we end up doing is start to say “Oh, well, I guess our religion is really not about victory anyway. I guess that in my life I shouldn’t expect God to do something.” I look at my own talents, and when I was 25 I thought I could take on the world, and now I’m 65 and I say “There’s no sense in even trying anymore.” We get discouraged. We let the power of hope diminish. God prepares us for Advent, this Advent, by rekindling in us His commandment to hope, and the power of that fire of hope.

Open Your Heart

Let yourself dare once more to count on what God wants to happen. Open your heart to His Plan, to His way of doing things. If we did that, we would allow the Holy Spirit to work in us beyond what we could ever dream. There’s a line in St. Paul that I love very much. He says Do not grieve the Holy Spirit, with which you have been sealed against the day redemption. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. Grieving the Holy Spirit, I think, it comes when we hold back, when we limit, when we act like God isn’t God, when we don’t hope. We have to remember His commandment to hope, and this is the commandment He puts in front of Mary. “Your son will be great, He will be the Son of the Most High, He will reign over the house of Jacob, and His kingdom will have no end. Do you believe this Mary? I’ve been preparing you like I’ve been preparing Israel. I’ve been crushing you by all of these reasons for thirst, by this long expectation. I’ve been allowing you to see the suffering of my people, like I allowed Moses for 40 years and for 80 years to suffer under the hand of Pharaoh. Now, I’m asking you. Will you still hope in My word?” Mary says “Let me it be done onto me according to Thy word.” She walks across the threshold of hope into that amazing reality that God promises, and our world has never been the same. He’s doing the same for you. God prepares you for Christmas by asking you to dare to hope. Open your heart to expectant thirst. Open your heart to what He wants to do. God has great things in store. God bless you.

About Fr. Nathan Cromly

Father Nathan Cromly is an informative and engaging speaker, writer, retreat leader, explorer, innovator, and educator. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Father Nathan is a Catholic priest of the Brothers of Saint John in Denver, Colorado. From teaching children to adore the Blessed Sacrament to leading mountain ski retreats with businessmen, Father Nathan’s spiritual direction, teaching, and dynamic witness has touched the lives of tens of thousands of teenagers, married couples, and families in all 50 states.

Father Nathan is a founder whose ministry has taken on a life of its own. In 2003, he began Eagle Eye Ministries, which now is the home of six forms of outreach to teens and young adults. He opened the Saint John Institute in 2015—a program unique in its kind, allowing young adults to earn an accredited MBA while receiving spiritual formation from the Brothers of Saint John. Besides leading international backpacking trips and making documentaries with EWTN, Father most recently founded Saint John Works, a business incubator program hosting a printing press, online store, missionary platform, and a Catholic art clearinghouse. In his free time, Father has written Totus Tuus, a preparation for Total Consecration to Mary, and launched a weekly podcast titled Dare Great Things for Christ.

While always attentive to the people in front of him, Father has also used the media to proclaim the gospel. Father Nathan has appeared multiple times on EWTN’s Life on the Rock and Father Mitch Live. He has co-produced four hour-long documentaries about the lives of the saints, and has been extensively interviewed on Catholic radio and podcasts such as The Jennifer Fulwiler ShowGood Things Radio, and many more. Above all else, Father Nathan is a Catholic priest. He has dedicated his priesthood to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and is humbled to serve you today.