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Archive for the ‘Advent Reflection Series’ Category

Jesus said to his disciples: “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on earth nations will be in dismay, perplexed by the roaring of the sea and the waves.  People will die of fright in anticipation of what is coming upon the world, for the powers if the heavens will be shaken.  And they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is near at hand.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.  For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth.  Be vigilant at all times and pray that you will have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

 

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of great and fearful signs, of the roaring of the sea and the waves and people dying of fright. In the next paragraph, we are exhorted to “beware that our hearts to not become drowsy” and “be vigilant at all times.”  It strikes me that this is not some future event; these things are happening right now. Having lived at the Jersey shore the last two years, I understand the fear and powerlessness we feel in the wake of the unleashed ferocity of Hurricane Sandy.

Each year we ponder this reading or other very similar passages in our Advent liturgy.  Frankly, I DO try to keep my heart vigilant and alert for signs of God in my life and in the world, sometimes more successfully than others.  When Jesus says, “beware” most of us are quite apt to sit up and pay attention. Yet, being “vigilant at all times” is beyond me.  My hopes for my spiritual life today, next week, next year, seem to never quite pan out.  Complaining of this sorry state to a trusted friend, I received some exquisitely simple advice: Just do the next right thing!  And that I can do.  I may forget to be vigilant, not always keeping my ideals before me.  I can, however, ask myself as I make the choices that each day presents: What is the next right thing?  When I live in this way, I know the security of living out of God’s purposes for me, of being able to welcome the signs of the times, of living without the fear and dismay that Jesus speaks of in today’s Gospel. When I live with awareness (beware) then the journey of life and the destination become part of one reality, and I can await “The Day” and everyday with the “joyful hope” that is also part of this wonderful season.

– Sr. Mary Amy Hauck

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Check my: Facebook page, emails, voice mail, Twitter account. Catch the news: television, radio (traffic and weather together on the 5’s), internet. Common stressors: another “pink slip” rumor – will my hours be cut? The smog check is due before the car registration can be renewed. What is the future of Social Security and Medicare?

Is it any wonder that we are on overload, suffering from 21st century attention deficit? Bombarded by communication – some fostering incredible anxiety and stress.

Now visualize Mary, the young maiden of Nazareth, engaged to Joseph. Any overload that Mary experienced was simple by today’s standards. Perhaps uncertainty about the wood samples that Joseph brought her for the cabinet work in their future home. Perhaps concern over a limping donkey. Perhaps concern for Joachim who was starting to display memory problems. Perhaps concern for cousins Elizabeth and Zachary, without children, facing an uncertain future in their senior years.

Although we do not know Mary’s level of overload, we do know that she was human – prone to experience anxiety (Luke 2:48). But Mary was also full of grace, with a spiritual reservoir to help her cope with basic human anxieties. As a woman of deep prayer who often reflected on the Scriptures, we know that Mary was able to focus on the one thing necessary – her relationship with God, a relationship characterized by profound trust.

When Gabriel appeared to Mary, he quickly spoke to dispel her fear. Gabriel proclaimed, “the Lord is with you.” Our choice is to disconnect, if only briefly, from all that bombards us, to cherish silence, and to embrace God’s presence, especially in Scripture. St. Paul’s commandment is simple:  “Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.” (Phil 4:6) What a transformative practice this might be during these last days of Advent and 2011.

– Sr. Mary Lisa Megaffin, SND

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 “A man named John was sent from God. He came to testify to the light….” John 1:6

Among early Christians there was a custom of saying a blessing when the household lamps were lit:  “Praise God who sends us the light of heaven.”

The Jewish Sabbath observance begins with the ritual lighting of candles by the woman of the house, a reminder that light was one of the first acts of creation. The Sabbath ends with the father saying a prayer, his hands spread towards a lighted candle, toward the light, as if longing for it.

Isaiah wrote: “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone.” (Isaiah 9:1)

What could be clearer than that?  And yet it led to so many not seeing Jesus when He came. All through history it often seems that the chosen one, one who has a great gift, to do a great work, to influence the ages, is the unlikely one; the youngest rather than the eldest, the meek and humble not the strong and proud, the unlettered rather than the learned, the rejected not the accepted one.

In stillness our spirit clarifies. It becomes pure and transparent.  The God who’s Spirit abides within us then shines through our spirit, just as sunlight shines through water. This is what we call purity of heart.  This is what allows us to see God.

Saying our mantra, our prayer word faithfully, simply and lovingly, brings us to that stillness where we see the light clearly both within and around us.  Seeing this light is the only secure basis of contentment and peace. Let us mindfully walk this Advent journey on the path that leads us further into the stillness.

– Sr. Rose Marie Tulacz, SND

ndcreation@aol.com

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   “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire.” Peter 3:8

We approach fire with near religious devotion. We chose wood carefully. Perhaps a green log for the back of the fire, to burn slowly through the night. Kindling is carefully stacked.

Fire is powerful. Fire is a strong stimulus to dreams and song, the things that make us human but are often locked out of our minds by our desire for power. We gaze into the embers where flames flirt magically into light and smoke.

Looking into the flames of a hearth, it is easier to forgive. Fires are for romance, friendship, and song. It was around the fire that households gathered and communicated.  It was around the fire that our ancestors offered sacrifices, and incense carried prayers heavenward.

At the core of the Gospel is the invitation to be changed, to let the old be burned away. Meditation is the way we respond to the call of Jesus to leave self behind. The Word is Incarnate among us and within us. The quality of our life together is directly proportionate to the life of our prayer.

A deception is that we authentically pray only after we have come together at the other levels of human relatedness. But the truth is that a family of loving, mature people is created out of the prayer it enters together. For in prayer, even though one may be a sinner, the one who thinks the right thought changes the lives of many. If we release the unconditional love present in our hearts, if it is received and welcomed, it will be a power nothing can stand against on the day of the Lord.

– Sister Rose Marie Tulacz, SND

ndcreation@aol.com

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We are very familiar with the concept of waiting when it comes to Advent…we know we are supposed to be anticipating the birth of Jesus and preparing for his re-birth in our lives…but what happens if we turn that around…what if we look at Advent as a time of Jesus waiting for me…waiting for me to give up my preoccupations, my worries, my unnecessary anxieties…how would this “turn-around” change my approach to Advent this year?

Jesus is a patient wait-er ..?  Jesus as servant longs to be servant to me…waiting to fulfill my every need…if I would only allow him to be that in my life….or is it that I need to be in such control that the thought of Jesus waiting upon me seems so foreign?  Allowing Jesus to wait on me would be to admit that I am in need of something I cannot provide for myself…I open myself up in vulnerability to the infant vulnerable one….I open my door to the One waiting at my door…knocking, eager to be invited into my crowded life….Can the call to advent be really a call to simply BE…to revel in the knowledge that my God is waiting for me to recognize his presence, to accept his love for me, to say “yes” to the miracle of rebirth, to speak his name with courage, to tell his story, to follow in true discipleship.

God is waiting for me to become as simple as the shepherds, as wise as the magi, as brave as Joseph, as open as Mary…God gives me this time each year to become the  best I can be….and waits year after year for me to wake up and see the star…and then to follow it…

As this new Advent season begins, I ask for the grace to respond to all that the Lord calls me to be.  May I take more precious time to be present to my God who waits for me with open arms!

– Sister Marie Paul Grech

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Advent Reflection by Sr. Anncarla Costello, SND

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

Living in a culture filled with so many things which vie for our attention and attempt to provide a pseudo-fulfillment and the assurance that we are not alone, we still sometimes feel the ache that accompanies a common human experience: a sense of isolation and loneliness. But on this final Sunday of Advent we are reminded of the Good News — that our God, “Emmanuel,” is with us.

Each Advent, we are reminded that Emmanuel comes to us in a way that suits who we are — and how we are — THIS year.  The Gospels sketch a portrait of Emmanuel and his becoming one among us. He lived and loved and served the sisters and brothers he met each day. He was truly “Emmanuel” for them, despite the fact that perhaps not everyone recognized him as such.

The Gospel today reminds us that we are invited to welcome Emmanuel into our own experiences of isolation and loneliness as well. As we focus on his presence among us, we are challenged to recognize that he dwells within us as we need him to this year and that he companions us in all the events of our lives.

Jesus became “Emmanuel” to teach us how to live. We too, are called to love and serve our sisters and brothers that they might recognize his presence among them through us. In the increasing isolation of modern life, it is more important than ever for us to remember that one of God’s names is “Emmanuel.” Of all the truths that God reveals to us, none is more comforting than to know that we are never alone, that God is always with us and that through our lives, others may experience that presence as well.

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Advent Reflection by Sr. Lisa Megaffin, SND

During Advent, we often hear the refrain “O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel.” Within these words lies an important spiritual message. Emmanuel means “God with us.” The very presence of God is an enormous gift that we cherish as Christians, but often overlook in the midst of our daily lives.

Fortunately, God is NOT a helicopter parent, hovering with controlling eyes or imposing unrealistic expectations for a parent’s vicarious success. Rather, this “God with us” lavishes us with spiritual freedom. God offers infinite grace to free us from captivity, guides us to achieve “spiritual success,” and reveals the path to genuine peace of heart, the peace which the world cannot give.

In the words of St. Augustine, “For you have formed us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until we rest in You.” Within every human heart is an infinite longing for the more, the desire to know God most intimately. Our personal and communal history reveal how we try to fill the spiritual void, as we are held captive by our desires and obsessive actions to achieve prestige, pleasure, power, or fortune. Empty of spirit, we turn to addictions, subtle or overt violence, and other offensive behavior.

In our heart of hearts, we know that the words of Psalm 62 speak an immeasurable truth, “Only in God will my soul be at rest.” God’s love for each person is unconditional and creative, offering  unique experiences of “God with us.” The wonders of nature, the spiritual fire of Scripture, the graces of Eucharist and the other Sacraments, the simplicity of the poor, the love of family and friends, the joy of community—each of these gifts reveals “God with us.” Only by opening our hearts to this “God with us” can we find true success and peace of heart.

With all Christians we pray that Emmanuel, “God-with-us”, may release us from captivity as we open our minds and hearts to the infinite treasures of God’s presence in our lives. In this Emmanuel is our freedom and our peace.

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Advent reflection by Sr. Rebekah Kennedy, SND

A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

Matthew’s Gospel for the second week of Advent highlights the words of John the Baptist calling the people to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.  We just completed holiday preparations for Thanksgiving and are now in the busy days of preparing Christmas festivities.  But is it to this preparation that John is referring? Are not the cleaning and baking and decorating for the arrival of family and friends symbolic of deeper activities in each of our own lives? When we involve ourselves in the manic busyness of holiday preparations is it ever an excuse for us to avoid straightening out winding roads of relationship that really need to be addressed? Do we often distract ourselves with mountains of work instead of sitting down with people who need our undivided attention? Do we get lost in valleys of fear and doubt?

Make straight his paths. The words of John the Baptist are very clear. He tells us to not tarry or meander but to embrace our God who gives direction to our lives. God’s saving plan for us is progressively revealed in repentance and forgiveness. The repentance that we express leads to the forgiveness that God extends to us. This is a necessary step that puts us in balance with God and leads us to strengthen our relationships with others. In these final two weeks of Advent celebration and Christmas preparation, are there any roads of relationship that need smoothing in my life?

  • Is there an obstacle that I can remove to enable a co-worker, family member, or friend to reach me?
  • Is there a detour in my path that I can eliminate in order to welcome a new relationship into my life?
  • Is there a valley of sadness or absence that needs to be filled by removing prejudices and welcoming reconciliation?

Our God is near! Let us welcome him gladly!

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.

Every valley shall be filled and

every mountain and hill shall be made low.

The winding roads shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth,

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

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We’re happy to be able to share our reflections with you this Advent. First in the line up is Sister Regina Robbins, formator, spiritual director, and one of our gifted retreat speakers. Enjoy!

Advent or Christmas – What time is it?

Reflections on trying to get it right this year.

Sister Regina Robbins, SND

Each year as the secular world reviews its inventory of Christmas items from last year and stocks the shelves of stores with ever new dazzling, must-have things, to the sounds of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” the Christian world, especially in the Church liturgy, suggests a quieter and more reflective spirit. Advent/Christmas have always been in a kind of dance of one step forward, one step back, which is challenging if one is trying to stay in the Now of Advent. We hear,“Repent, the Kingdom of God is near.” And then Christmas cards start arriving: “Rejoice, for this day a Savior has been born.” “A people in darkness have seen a great light.” Spiritually it can feel a bit schizophrenic.

We Christians do a kind of balancing act during these four weeks as we do Advent and Christmas together. This is not so bad.  We are in this world, and in some ways are caught up in the joy and anticipation of the season even before Christmas. Smart people just do not start Christmas shopping the day before Christmas. Let’s face it: we celebrate Christmas before Christmas as well as on the day. Shortly afterwards we, like everyone else, are ready to sweep up the pine needles, put away our decorations and anticipate the New Year!

I suggest we make peace with this reality. After all, the season is about God becoming human. The mystery of the Incarnation is that Jesus entered fully into his life reality: dining, traveling, celebrating, providing the best wine and being with friends, calling people to fullness of life. Still he wept over Jerusalem, spent entire nights in prayer, called people to love, forgiveness and repentance. We get the idea that Jesus was not happy with the terrorism of his time, the greed of the rich and distortions of leadership, illnesses and in general, life as it was. He prayed the psalms and read the prophets and proclaimed the coming of the reign of God. But he also celebrated the Jewish festivals of family and village as he grew in age and wisdom.

Advent calls us to be in touch with our human condition, to sense our own longing for “we know not what” and our hope for a better world where peace, justice, love for one another and kindness are the norm. It is a time to grow in the virtue of hope, to gently lead others to take in the negative news of our day, but to look beyond in faith to the promises of God.

Advent, from the Latin, adventus, means coming! Who’s coming and coming for what? The season suggests waiting, patience, delayed gratification, and even entering the darkness of our own sin, and our longing for peace, unity and justice. We renew our belief that Jesus is the Messiah who comes to set us free from whatever holds us and the whole world in bondage! Because we are a people of hope, indeed we can anticipate in a spirit of  joy, attend parties and celebrations. Since Jesus came to proclaim the kingdom, then the way we celebrate Advent and Christmas is to BE the presence and “coming” of Christ in the way we show love, kindness and generosity. Our lives reveal that the kingdom is inbreaking gradually perhaps, but definitely, and  that Christ has come and will come again to complete God’s story of love for this world. And we people who have lived in a certain darkness will finally see a great light and the promised Kingdom will BE. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

 

 

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INNKEEPERS

by Sr. Juliemarie McDonald, SND

Each year in Advent waiting time

we are the innkeepers of our souls.

Our souls are caves – damp, dark, and dingy.

In the smelly stables of our souls,

we house our own mice and spiders and crawly things.

Yet, Jesus, as in days of old,

still chooses such unlikely caves

in which to become incarnate.

Into these damp, dark, and dingy places

He descends as light

to burn bright,

to radiate the night.

Enfleshed once more in our humanness

taking on our human limitations

of littleness, simplicity, and childlikeness,

He craves to be cradled and crooned to again

by human hands and voices.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Come into the dark caves of our souls.

Be born again in our limitedness.

Infinity embrace our finiteness

to reach out through us

to others whose caves are also

dark, and damp, and dingy.

Shine through us, O Lord,

into this dark world of ours.

Light up the spaces of our souls once more

That we may be…Your browser may not support display of this image. the stars that lead to new Bethlehems.

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