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

“Quick, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again.” Lk. 15

Even though the Gospel for this Sunday is familiar to all of us, we never tire of it. It shows in bas relief how in Christ old things can pass away and new things can come. It is possible to let go of the old if it bogs us down, and believe in new life. So we hear again the parable of the Prodigal Son returning to his father who receives him with open arms and abundant blessings of love and gratitude. With a little imagination we can picture Jesus, the storyteller, holding his listeners spellbound as they wonder how the story will end. Surprise, shock! Jesus has come up with a terrifically radical, unforgettable story to get across the mercy of God, the loving Creator-God. He reveals his Abba as one who waits for us, refusing to take away our free will and who even lets us wander and fall until we find how miserable we can be apart from him.

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Especially parents can identify with this story as they feel an aching longing for their departed children. Many parents are tortured by what may have gone wrong or what could have been different in their relationships with their children. They hope and pray for their children to realize that they have a home and are painfully missed.

But the story is not just about others returning. It is also about us. In many ways we wander, straying from goodness and close dependence upon God. During Lent we are invited to spend time looking at where we are and where we have wandered. We allow ourselves in quiet prayer to recognize our plight. By facing our inner truth we come to an awakening, “I must return.”  The Church, especially during the Holy Year of Mercy, opens its doors, providing the sacrament of reconciliation and doctrinal promises of forgiveness and acceptance.

As Saint Paul says in the second reading, God our Father is reconciling us through Christ. As we prepare for the Easter renewal of our baptismal vows we believe: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come.”

What are these old things for you and what might the new things be? For the Prodigal Son it was very clear. Is it clear for you?

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

The burning bush that was not consumed and the barren fig tree that was spared destruction can lead us to a consideration of the duty of care for our common home—the Earth.

In his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home (Laudato Si’) Pope Francis proposes certain practices that may seem trivial but as he says, “directly and significantly affect the world around us.” Among these are choosing to use less heating and wearing warmer clothes instead, avoiding the use of plastic and paper, reducing water consumption, separating trash and recyclables, cooking only what can reasonably be consumed, showing care for other living things, using public transport or carpooling, planting trees, and turning off unnecessary lights (L.S. 211).

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“Reusing something instead of immediately discarding it, when done for the right reasons, can be an act of love which expresses our own dignity,” (L.S. 211). The Pope decries what he terms a throwaway culture. “[W]e know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded and ‘whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor,’” (L.S. 50).

Lent provides us with the impetus to examine our lifestyle and to evaluate our stewardship of the Earth.

Questions for reflection:

Am I striving to be aware of how my actions affect others—my brothers and sisters throughout the world?

What type of ecological situations are we forcing future generations to face by ignoring ecological problems now?

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

As we begin the Lenten season we journey with Jesus into the desert. In the film The Bible there is a heart-wrenching scene where Jesus is struggling for survival after 40 days in the desert. The devil approaches Him and offers a stone to change to bread. He takes Jesus to a high point and encourages Him to jump and trust that God will provide. Finally the devil takes Jesus to the temple and offers Him a royal kingdom. Each time Jesus rebukes the devil, staying strong against these temptations.

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Lent is an appropriate time for all of us to face our temptations and examine our God connections. What are our priorities and where does God fit in? We are offered three ways to improve our relation with God and our Christian family.

  1. PRAY – We are encouraged to pray more during this Lenten season. Where are you in your prayer journey? If your answer is that you don’t have time to pray, then Lent is the perfect opportunity for renewal. For Lent create a prayer space, maybe with a cactus plant as a reminder of Lent. Practice silence and create times of quiet, at home or in the car. Meditate, breathe slowly and pray the Psalm for the day. Read a spiritual book. Take a walk and see the beauty around you.
  2. FAST – Jesus fasted in the desert. Lent motivates us to fast, wasting less, giving up grudges, fasting from TV.
  3. ALMGIVING – Finally we are encouraged to look around us and see those in need. Almsgiving motivates us to spend a little less on ourselves and offer money to a charity. What could you do to help? Simplify your life. Do some spring cleaning and offer the extras to a local second-hand store.

Pope Francis has offered the idea of practicing a Work of Mercy on Fridays. The Pope is a tremendous example to us we see him reaching out to those in need. Our prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to be better disciples in our world today. Kerry Weber, managing editor of America Magazine, wrote the book Mercy in the City in which she describes her Lenten journey of picking a work of mercy each week and executing it in some way.

Reflection Questions:

  • What is a temptation in my life that I want to address this Lent?
  • How does my involvement in economic, political, or church systems contribute to the building of the Reign of God?

Prayer: Grant almighty God, through the observance of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

An ambassador is an honorary position, but also a very responsible one. An ambassador stands in place of another of greater distinction and purpose. Saint Paul liked to think of himself as representative of Christ and His message, and so do I! What a Christian challenge! To be a stand-in for Christ!

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We carry in our hearts and minds the indwelling of our Savior, with all the outpouring of God’s love. The call this Lent may be precisely to let Christ truly live out His love in and through us. We might spend some time reflecting on Paul’s words to the Corinthians (2Cor. 5.20-6.2).

“We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. For our sake He made Him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain!”

So we resolve not to receive the grace of God in vain. This Lent the church is even more than ever aware of the great message of God’s love and forgiveness, as Pope Francis has announced a Holy Year of Mercy. To reflect on God’s great love, acceptance and forgiveness, encourages us to be merciful to ourselves but also challenges us to treat others with this same mercy. We recognize and even celebrate that while made to the image and likeness of God, we are all very human and human beings are “in the making” and not brought to perfection yet. Because we are in the making we depend on and want others to give us the benefit of the doubt, to have mercy when we fail or make mistakes. We too need not to judge others or expect perfection from them. Let us use the entrance antiphon for Ash Wednesday as our own mantra this week: “You are merciful to all, O Lord. You overlook people’s sins, to bring them to repentance, and you spare them, for you are the Lord our God.” But instead of the “Lord” say: “I am merciful to all.” And then see what happens.

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This post was written by Sister Betty Mae Bienlein.

On Christmas Day, 2015, Sister Mary Rebekah Kennedy and I joined the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association to participate in a small gesture of solidarity with the Muslim community in Ventura County, California. The event was organized by the Conejo Valley Interfaith Association to promote inter-religious relationships. Reverend Julie Morris, an Episcopalian Minister and parent at La Reina High School and Middle School, invited us to attend this event.

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About 75 non-Muslims stood in unity with the Muslim community supporting them, their values and faith, and denouncing Islamophobia in all its forms. We gathered on the lawn in front of the Mosque with signs and banners, greeting the passersby with peace and solidarity.

All were invited to join the Muslim community for the Friday Jummah prayer. We listened as Imam Ahmed Patel graciously thanked the visitors for supporting them especially on “the most holy day, Christmas Day, of the Christian religions.” He also spoke about the Muslim religion as one of peace and respect for others and that their religion was not one of extremes. “If the Quran says we pray five times a day we do not pray six times a day.” Imam Patel also stated, “That for a Muslim, we are first human and then a Muslim.” As we left the gathering we were treated to donuts and many hugs and kisses filled with gratitude.

Imam Ahmed has posted the following statement on the Center’s website.

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The Sisters of Notre Dame continue to support our Muslim neighbors and strive for peace and unity among all religious individuals.

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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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