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This post is part of our Lenten Reflection Series: Be A Fountain of Mercy
Authored by Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy, SND

LISTEN: Jerusalem My Destiny  – Rory Cooney

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!

In our Lenten journey we have arrived in Jerusalem with Jesus. I do not know if Jesus knew for sure what was going to happen to him once he arrived in the Holy City. But I do know that throughout the Gospels, Jesus was faithful to the journey itself which would lead to Jerusalem. Jesus’ journey was one of doing the will of his merciful Father.

Whether Jesus spent time in prayer with his Father, used his healing touch to make others whole again, or spoke words of comfort or admonition to his followers, he was doing God’s will. Jesus is the model for us all of a Son who lived in total awareness of his Father.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.

We, too, are called to live in that total awareness of being a daughter or a son of God. As we continue our journey through the Jubilee Year of Mercy, may we, too, be inspired to spend time in prayer with our Father. May our contacts with others reflect the comforting words and touches of Jesus. May we awaken each day petitioning God to lead us in doing His will.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.
We have set our hearts for the way;
this journey is our destiny.

And, finally, may we be reassured that we do not travel alone to Jerusalem. We are a part of the Body of Christ.

I have fixed my eyes on your hills,
Jerusalem, my Destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me,
I cannot turn away.
We have set our hearts for the way;
this journey is our destiny.
Let no one walk alone.
The journey makes us one.

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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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Sister Mary Regina Robbins led a discussion last week on good listening, and the power we have to make others feel loved by really listening to them. See the whole talk here:

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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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Cleansing of the Temple: Jn. 2.13-25

By Sister Mary Regina Robbins, SND

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple area is shocking. He is definitely center stage in this scene. We see a side of his character that we were not expecting! Jesus in full stature, with energy and anger, makes a whip and drives people, oxen and sheep out of the area in front of the temple. We can picture the tables upturned and money splatting all over. He tells those who were selling doves “Get them out of here. Stop turning my Father’s house into a marketplace!” What’s not to run from? This man is in a rage! And along with this gesture Jesus proclaims without compromise, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” So Jesus, what was going on with you that day?

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I get it. Jesus manifests divinity and humanity. However, I find myself thinking: In Rome, Lourdes and Assisi haven’t we seen folks selling souvenirs and bargaining with people? And they do this right in front of the most holy and beautiful basilicas! In fact the economy of cities are enhanced by tourism purchases. So Jesus, what are we supposed to do with this “sign”?

Certainly our first reflection echoes the minds of the disciples describing prophets in the Old Testament: “Zeal for your house consumes me.” Jesus demonstrates a passionate love for his Father and true worship. Jesus knows motivation and sees through what is going on. As the last line in this account reads, “He was well aware of what was in man’s heart.”

And this leads us deeper into a second reflection: Jesus is well aware of what is in my heart. Am I well aware of what is in my heart? As we journey through Lent; as we enter more deeply into the basilica of true Paschal Mystery worship of God through, with and in Jesus, what clutter stands around the entrance? What moneychanger tables block my humble contrition and my sincere desire to know, love and serve God?

Now picture Jesus with that same energy helping you to dash out the junk, sins and the bad habits that the Holy Spirit keeps nudging you to get rid of. Hear Jesus say directly to you: “Get them out of here! Stop turning your beautiful Temple of the Holy Spirit, into a marketplace of detractions.”

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The Second Sunday of Lent – Transfiguration of Jesus

By Sister Mary Lisa Megaffin, SND

The account of the Transfiguration, a rather mysterious segment in the life of Christ, provides many reflection points about the presence of God.

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It almost seems as if Peter, James and John experienced a bit of an emotional roller coaster. First, they had heard (but probably not grasped) Jesus’ previous challenging messages as recounted in the gospel of Mark:

  • That the Son of Man should suffer many things—a message which Peter tried to discount,
  • The necessity of losing one’s life for the sake of the Gospel,
  • That genuine disciples of Jesus must be ready to deny themselves and take up their personal crosses.

What a juxtaposition: from hard and potentially painful sayings, to the radiance of Christ’s clothing and countenance, to the ecstasy of the apostles–“it is good that we are here.”  It is no wonder that Peter was at a loss for words–“he hardly knew what to speak because they were so terrified.”

What we can learn is that even in times of emotional turmoil, or perhaps especially in times of emotional turmoil, God is present and he will reveal himself to those whose hearts are ready to listen. During Lent, we have many opportunities to unplug, still our hearts, be led up a high mountain apart by ourselves, and embrace and surrender to the deep graces which this solitude fosters. Deep within, I hear “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” In this solitude, I can experience the radiance of God’s presence as I grow even closer in my personal relationship with Jesus, asking him:

  • How is he, as the Son of Man, suffering today in my brothers and sisters around the world?
  • What does losing my life for the sake of the Gospel mean, in light of this suffering?
  • For the grace to be aware of the radiance of God’s presence even in difficult moments, as I deny myself and take up my cross, becoming a source of that radiance and grace for others.

“The grace of the Transfiguration is not just a vision of glory…its primary purpose is something greater: to empower us to live in the presence of God and to see the radiance of that presence in all events, people, the cosmos, and in ourselves.” …Thomas Keating.

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