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Archive for the ‘Advent Reflection Series’ Category

This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series – a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

In today’s reading from the Gospel according to Luke, Mary rushes to visit with her cousin Elizabeth. The Angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth was with child, and Mary herself was to bear the Son of God. Both women discovered in each other a mystery that they did not fully understand, and yet they were filled with the joy of eager anticipation.

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What struck me about this scripture passage was the faith and humility of Elizabeth. She is humbled to be visited by the future mother of her Lord. She will share in the joy of motherhood with Mary, her relative. How often do we have the grace to share such an intimate moment with a friend, relative or even a stranger, knowing that God is making known his presence in us?

I have a friend, Brittney, whom I consider to be my sister. We share many things in common, but what binds us is our faith in Jesus. We pray the rosary together whenever possible, and we have confidence that no matter the challenges that we face in our life journey, we share in the joy of God’s love and mystery. We feel God’s presence through one another.

As we draw closer to celebrating Christmas, we are called to remember and reflect on the blessings of the people who have touched us with their wisdom and witness of their lives of faith. How can we reflect the presence of God to others as we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”?

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series – a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

The tradition of gift-giving at Christmas stems from the reality of God’s gift to us in the person of Jesus.  Although we tire of black Friday, pre-Christmas/post-Christmas advertising and all the commercialism that surrounds gift-giving, abundant reflection awaits us.

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With gift-giving comes the ever essential wish list. As children, after we sat on Santa’s lap, whoever accompanied us to see Santa would carefully ask us what we had requested of him. Now families who are adopted by various charities provide wish lists of their needs and desires. And anyone can create a wish list on Amazon.com.

In John 4:10 Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, “If only you knew the gifts God wants to give you.” We might flip this idea of a wish list. As the calendar year comes to a close, we might take stock of our recent spiritual and relational life. Then ask the Spirit, “What are the gifts you want to give me?” or “What is on your wish list for me?”

In Mary we find a model of great receptivity. Humbly I might ask her for the grace to be receptive to the gifts God wants to give me—this Advent, this Christmas and in the New Year. And a fitting New Year’s resolution might be the commitment and courage to ask this question in our daily examination of conscience: “O God, what are the gifts you want to give me?”

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series – a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

It seems hard to believe that we have already reached the second week of the Advent season, when we revisit the story of John the Baptist calling out to us in the words of Isaiah: “Make ready the way of the Lord! Clear him a straight path!”

We might choose to lament that “making ready” has come to mean decorating and shopping, planning, scheduling and traveling; but how sad it is if we don’t move beyond those thoughts to make our own preparation for the coming of the Lord. Imagine how Mary was preparing in those last weeks before her son’s birth. She had to be so focused on that life within her, what his birth would mean, how her life would change. She was clearly making ready and clearing the path for him.

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So, we may need to ask ourselves: What am I doing this Advent that is different than previous years to make ready the way of the Lord in my heart, in my life with others, in the larger world? What am I actively doing to clear Him a straight path?

We need to make within us place and space. This may mean that we need to focus on gratitude and joy, and weed out the negative and our tendency to judge others. It may mean that we are called to simplify our life in some way: reduce our commitments and our busy-ness; clear out our possessions to pass on to others; challenge our own decisions so we give time and attention to relationships that are healthy and helpful.

Maybe this year, clearing the path is about dealing with a thorny relationship, or something we are holding on to which blocks the path for the Lord’s presence. Perhaps it’s about reaching beyond ourselves and forming new relationships with persons who have something to offer from a background, culture, experience, or education that is different from our own.

It may mean that we spend more time in silence and prayer to foster a greater openness within, a clearing out of our own heart, to make way for the message God has for us. As we celebrate this week of Advent, how will we respond to the question: Will I be ready to hear what he has to say to me this year?

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This post is part of our Advent Reflection Series- a collection of original blog posts written by the Sisters of Notre Dame.

Ah, Night! Bursting with new-born-stars
Strewing pathways of fire as they soar
In silent pilgrimage through endless space,
And I stand smallened by their hugeness.
And yet within me, deeply rooted, is a light
Already safe at home and never to be dimmed.
– (Rainer Maria Rilke translated by William J. O’Malley)

The stars are lighting up the skies even when we cannot see them clearly. Our God is present in our midst even when we are unconscious of the very real presence of the divine. The divine spark is within each of us even when we focus only on our failures and limitations.

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When I was a postulant, the bulletin board outside our dining room had the following Advent reminder:

“Many saw the star, but only a few had the courage and wisdom to follow the star that led to love!”

Advent is a time for renewing ourselves in seeking and finding and celebrating the light that is Jesus. It is a time to get back in touch with the star that calls us to believe, to follow, to discover the gift that is Jesus living within me. Do I have the courage?

It is a time for pulling away (for a few moments each day, for perhaps an hour or maybe for even a day) to put aside the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas season to concentrate on the star that is beckoning.

Advent is a time to reach into my own soul and find the God who dwells within; the Child who yearns to be born anew in me; the Child who has perhaps been forgotten in the busyness of everyday life; the Child who needs to be tended to, loved, cherished in my heart; the Child who is the Prince of Peace.

Advent is a time of preparation. It is a difficult time if we use it properly. It is not limited to buying gifts, but is discovering anew the gifts within ourselves. It is not limited to decorating trees, but is challenging us anew to prepare (yes, even decorate) our hearts for the rebirth of Jesus in our lives. It is not limited to cleaning our homes for guests, but is calling us to “clean up” and get rid of the clutter in our lives that is preventing us from being a truly Christ-welcoming home. Do I have the courage to follow the star of Advent, the star that leads to love?

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Fourth Sunday of Advent: Behold Emmanuel
By Sister Rose Marie Tulacz

 

“Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’.” Matthew 1: 23

The scripture readings for this week hover expectantly at the approach of Christmas.  In this threshold moment, I sense it is not a time to write something new, but to pull back the veil, clarify and magnify what has been revealed.

There is incredible beauty in being human. We are precious to God. God loves us unconditionally. God rejoices in us. God delights in our beauty. True humanity is God’s presence revealed in the world. The Incarnation is about God’s longing and passionate desire to be known, loved and embraced in the humanity of His Son, Jesus. The Incarnation is about God taking up residence in us. It is about God’s pulsing delight in being visible in human form. At our very core is the movement of the Holy Spirit throbbing behind every heartbeat and graced activity within our souls.

As we pause and reflect on what true humanity is, we are pulled into the heart of the world, with all its sufferings, injustices, fears, joys and goodness. We cannot despair or become indifferent to the cries of the poor as the truth of the Incarnation is revealed and the work of transformation into God-likeness has its way.

The birth of Jesus in time and space is indeed a bright star in the history of the world. Our prayer and Eucharistic moments as faith communities are the necessary means to continue to liberate and celebrate God’s being with us in our everyday experiences and relationships. The path to human fulfillment is embracing the truth our relationship with God and with one another is inseparable. 

 

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Third Sunday of Advent: Evangelii Gaudium  

By Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin

Pope Francis I recently issued an Apostolic Exhortation entitled The Joy of the Gospel or Evangelii Gaudium.  What Catholics are discovering and treasuring is his simplicity-especially in his lifestyle and in his direct approach to faith as a profound experience of the person of Jesus. What is also exciting for us as Sisters of Notre Dame, consecrated women religious who have always tried to be true “daughters of the Church,” is the simplicity of his writing style.

In this document, Francis helps us understand Mary’s role as the Mother of Evangelization, the Mother of the Good News. This image is a powerful message for us as we prepare for the good news of Christmas.

“Mary was able to turn a stable into a home for Jesus with poor swaddling clothes and an abundance of love. She is the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises. She is the friend who is concerned that wine not be lacking in our lives.  She is the woman whose heart was pierced by a sword and who understands all our pain. She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith by her maternal love. As a true mother, she walks at our side, she shares our struggles and she constantly surrounds us with God’s love. (In the Marian shrines) we find strength from God to bear…weariness and suffering. As she did with Juan Diego at Guadalupe, Mary offers maternal comfort and love, and whispers in our ear:  ‘Let your heart not be troubled…Am I not here, who am your Mother?'”

Follow this link for the full text of “The Joy of the Gospel.”

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html

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Second Sunday of Advent: Saint Joseph

By Sister Mary Grace Leung

When I was in the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program some years ago, I was intrigued with Saint Joseph. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke present Joseph as a man of great faith; a man who was called to be the foster father of Jesus; a man who personified quiet strength and who had the utmost trust in God. Joseph’s tremendous faith stands out especially in Matthew’s infancy narrative. This faith makes Joseph open to receiving and recognizing divine communications through his dreams. Joseph is a model of faith, always listening and doing what God asks him to do without hesitation. His life was totally devoted to God’s plan of salvation by helping to raise the Child conceived in Mary’s womb, no matter what challenges life brought him.

As I learned more about my new-found faith through RCIA, I asked myself, “Can I also be as faith-filled and trusting in God as Joseph was?”

Advent is a season of patient waiting and joyful anticipation of the coming of the Lord. I find that these days of anticipation bring welcome moments of contemplation of the great mystery of the incarnation. Let us take a few moments each day during this busy season to appreciate the graces of our eager longing for Jesus, our Savior!

 

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