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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.

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.

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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By Sister Mary Grace Leung, SND

The seasons of the Church’s liturgical year have always been special to me because I entered the Catholic Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. I was baptized at the Easter Vigil in 2006 and every year I look forward to my anniversary!

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When I learned about Advent in my classes, I made sure it was special by lighting up the Advent candles at home before I had supper. I said all the prayers and pondered on my anticipation of Jesus’ birth. Then Lent came, and I was truly touched by the practice of praying, fasting and giving alms. I was eager to fill my rice bowl for Catholic Charities and I bought food for the homeless whom I greeted along my walks on the streets of the city. Lent helped me realize that I needed to be with and for people who are in need – something that was lacking in my past.

My eagerness and excitement in taking the final steps to my baptism was filled with so many graces. The three scrutinies of the catechumens, the three readings from the Gospel of John about the healing of the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus and the Samaritan woman all pointed me toward conversion experiences that enriched my prayer life and openness to what God was calling me to as a new disciple and member of the Church. What moved me was hearing the voice of Jesus telling me “do you know that I love you?” I said, “Yes, I do!” and every Easter I am reminded of God’s love for me, and that he is always with me in times of darkness as well as in times of joy. God’s love endures and strengthens all of us for the journey, and this is the great blessing of each Easter season.

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By Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy, SND

The time of Lent is a concentrated period in which we gaze contemplatively at the face of Jesus. Each of us might search for something different in his eyes – acceptance, understanding, love, forgiveness, or guidance.

We often approach Jesus aware of and burdened down with our failings, our shortcomings, our biases. My wish for all of us at this season, however, is that in our contemplation of the face of Jesus we might see not our faults and foibles reflected in his eyes but that we might see ourselves as only he sees us. In the Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross writes:

When You regarded me
Your eyes imprinted your grace in me,
In this, You loved me again,
And thus my eyes merited
to also love what You see in me…
Let us go forth together to see
ourselves in Your beauty.

These words give me hope. They remind me that God has made me in His Divine Image. The faults and flaws that I see in myself are invisible to his eyes. When I am present to Jesus as my constant companion I am able to see myself reflected in his eyes and to love myself as He loves me. I then can become a true reflection of the Divine Image.

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They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” John 12:21. Is this not what I ask of God every day? What a grace in my life it would be if, on a daily basis, Jesus and I went forth together, my eyes seeing in myself and in others the goodness He sees and loves. When Jesus looks at me, he does not see a fragmented person. He sees me whole and holy, as he made me, his beauty reflected in me. Gazing on the face of Jesus, loving in myself what he unconditionally loves in me can lead me to also see others as a reflection of his beauty.

And so, during this Lenten season, what will each of us seek? Will I seek my own way? My own preferences? A front-row seat to my own opinions? Or will I seek the face of Jesus, asking Him to hold me as well as every person in His loving gaze, going forth together (Jesus, my family and friends, myself) to see ourselves in His beauty.

 

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Written by Sister Mary Francelia Klingshirn, SND

Inspired by Matthew 4:1-11

Are you walking closely with Jesus, or tangled in the branches of temptation?

While He was in the desert for forty days and forty nights Jesus was tempted by Satan three times. Jesus was tired, hungry and lonely. He was offered food, comfort and power.  We too have entered the desert … the desert of Lent. We too will be tempted… tempted to give up, to renege on our good resolutions.

Or are we plagued with pride? Are we overly self-confident…  fearful…  struggling with fatigue… selfishness…  maybe even filled with alarm? But this time in the desert with Jesus can be a purification and a transformation for us. We need to take courage and say with Jesus, “Get behind me, Satan!”

What else did Jesus do?  He called upon His Father for strength and then spoke to Satan:  “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Jn. 4:1-11) We are God’s loved ones! Jesus is with us all the way! We will walk hand in hand with Jesus. The presence of Jesus can be experienced only in prayer and with the awareness it brings to our soul.

…We take the first step and find that we are not alone. Jesus is with us.
…We give ourselves to Jesus and trust Him.
…We ask ourselves:  “Are we willing to go all the way with Him? To love Him totally?”

The question is “are we resolved to give this Lent our very best shot?”  Can each of us live in all honesty and say…

…I am the architect of my life and Jesus is my model and guide.
…The Holy Spirit will sustain me when I am tempted and weary.
…My inner journey during this Lent is what really is important!
…I will spend each day with Jesus in the Desert.  Yes, I am helpless, fragile; but Jesus will sustain me.

Let God recognize in you what God knows and loved in Christ!

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