Weekly Reflections

Reflection for April 21, 2019

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Paradise promised

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Our living Savior is here among us today

by Sister Elise Cholewinski

During this season of Lent I have been teaching a course for the Fox Valley Bible Study. We have been walking through the Passion of Christ according to the Gospel of St. Luke. My study in preparation for each class has provided me with many interesting details. One in particular really struck me. It is the meaning of the word “Paradise”, which is in Jesus' message to the good thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” It is a Persian word, meaning a walled garden. Sometimes a king would invite one of his subjects to walk with him in that garden. The thief received more than a promise of immortality. He was given the honored place of being a companion with Jesus in the garden of heaven.

As we celebrate the high point of the liturgical year this Easter, one of the readings presented to us is the account of the women being confronted by the empty tomb. They are told not to look among the dead for someone who is living. Our feast is not about a Jesus who rose from the dead a long time ago. To look for a historical Jesus is like walking into an empty tomb. That’s not where He is. We glory instead in the Lord who IS risen, present to us now in Word, sacrament, the community of the baptized, the poor, and the stranger.

It is particularly in the Eucharist that the Risen Lord appears to us. As we engage in this deep mystery at the table of His banquet, let us make of our hearts a walled garden, where as His honored companions, we enjoy the intimacy of His Presence.

Reflection question

If you had to write a Resurrection account of your own identification of Jesus in a poor person or a stranger, what would your story describe?


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Reflection for April 14, 2019

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Holy Week: A journey of faith

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Go on and take a plunge into the waters of Jesus' words, love and salvation

by Sister Mary Kabat

As we gather for Palm Sunday we will hear that “Today we gather together to herald with the whole Church the beginning of the celebration of our Lord’s Paschal Mystery.”  In these days of Holy Week we will journey with him from his Passion through his Resurrection.

The challenge is to do so not as bystanders or as persons who “ho hum” have done this for so many years.  So it is a blessing to hear the Gospel from Luke 19:28-40 proclaimed!  Two disciples have gone off at Jesus’ instruction to bring a colt which Jesus mounts.  As the news spreads that Jesus is entering Jerusalem more and more people come running, breaking off branches to wave and lay on the ground before Jesus.  They erupt into song, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord.”

We know the rest of the story.  We know the cheering and singing will give way to silence, to jeers, to shouts of “Crucify him!”  Where did the cheerers go!  Where did the persons shouting praise go?

We don’t need to look too far.  Haven’t we all had high moments in our spiritual lives?  Perhaps it was a time of retreat or we received a longed-for answer to prayer.  Perhaps it was a time of grace we thought would transform us forever.  Perhaps it was a time we made a promise to the Lord.

The challenge is not loving and following the Lord Jesus in the short term.  It is loving, following and being faithful and passionate in the long term.  Holy Week is before us.  Let us run to the Lord, stay by his side, hear his words, see his actions this week and find ourselves alive with and for him this Easter.


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Comments:

CommentBubbleThank you for the message you gave us for Holy Week it is a busy time and we need to remember to take quiet time with Jesus. All of you have a very blessed Easter. ~ Rheda

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Reflection for April 8, 2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Who has 'loved you back to life'?

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Jesus shows us how genuine concern for others is the way out of darkness

by Sister Lynne Marie Simonich

For those parishes with a Rite of Chistian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process this Lent, the Gospel used will be the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Those not involved with the RCIA will hear about Jesus forgiving a woman caught in adultery. There is a connection between these two Gospel passages. 

I was in a parish several years ago and knew a family that went through quite an ordeal.  The mom and dad were expecting their second child. Their 7-year-old daughter was very excited waiting for a new brother or sister. The day came for a trip to the hospital where a baby boy was delivered. The little family waited in the hospital room for the baby to be brought in. However, a nurse came in to tell them the sad news that their son didn’t make it. Something went wrong. The nurse brought in their son so they could all hold him and have their “good-byes”. The grief in that room was overwhelming. Each of the family members held this precious baby in their arms, kissing him, rubbing his arm and saying “I love you”. Their son was taken away and the family was left to mourn together. 

Not long after this, the nurse came running in. Their son was alive! She saw the sheet covering him move and then heard him cry! The doctor was examining him, not sure what happened. Soon the doctor came in with their son, alive and well. He gave their son to his mother and said there was no medical explanation for what happened. He believed that the family had  “loved him back to life”. Loved back to life! 

I think that is what happened to Lazarus and the woman caught in adultery. Jesus loved them back to life … Lazarus brought back from the darkness of the tomb and the woman brought back from the darkness of sin. 

What can we do to love others back to life -- the neighbor who lost his or her job; the little child whose grandmother died; the husband or wife watching his or her spouse suffer from dementia; the teenager who was injured in a school sport; the parents who lost a child to drug addiction or violence?  What can we do?


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Comments:

CommentBubbleAn incredibly moving story! ... loved the child "back to life". What can we do? A lot! What should we do? Make more of a "deliberate" effort from Him through us to love others lives back to life... ~ Michael V

CommentBubbleWow! What a beautiful moving story. Brought me to tears. God give me the strength to love all my family members this much. God Bless all the Sisters. ~ Randy

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Reflection for March 31, 2019

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Rejoice in God's extravagant love

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At Lent's halfway point, we reflect on the mercy and forgiveness given freely by our Creator

by Sister Sally Ann Brickner

After my confession a few weeks ago, as a penance Father suggested that during the next day I meditate on God’s boundless mercy and compassionate forgiveness. Often in the intervening days a multiplicity of images from the Gospels have reinforced what Father wanted me to feel in my body, mind, and spirit – God is LOVE and forgives me unconditionally. Today’s Gospel reading from Luke, the parable of the Prodigal Son, exemplifies this truth so vividly.

Who of us has not on numerous occasions felt remorseful like the Prodigal Son? How often have we not humbly turned and asked forgiveness from a parent, a sibling, a co-worker, a spouse, a friend only to find that forgiveness was granted without our asking!

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus reveals God’s identity, God’s attributes, God’s relationship with sinful humanity. God respects our free will and never coerces us. Nevertheless, God watches and waits and longs for our return to the “Fountain Fullness” of God’s love. At the least sign of conversion of heart from our worship of idols, God embraces us with merciful forgiveness.

In the New Testament reading St. Paul tells the Corinthians, and us, that it is Christ who makes possible our reconciliation with God and one another. In Him we are made new, breaking the bonds of sinfulness and being reconciled to God and each other. It is not our doing, but only God’s grace that heals divisions, binds up wounds, restores us to wholeness.

This Sunday marks the half-way point of Lent, and the Church invites us to rejoice. We rejoice heartily not because Lent is half over but rather because in Christ we are reconciled to God and one another, because in Christ we experience God’s profuse mercy and loving forgiveness.


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Comments:

CommentBubbleLovely reflection and reminder that merciful forgiveness is, in fact, ours for the asking! ~ Michelle

CommentBubbleForgiveness-and-healing seem not to come 'naturally' to us, in many ways. This is a life-long process that must be modeled, demonstrated, experienced, and practiced again and again. For people, like myself, who never really 'knew' a meaningful encounter of forgiveness or process of healing-reconciliation within our family-of-origin, (I guess the thinking of the time was that, "That's what 'confession' is for," without ever understanding how much it was within the dynamics of the relationship/s themselves, that 'confession' and healing needed to happen.) I am just now starting to learn, at age 66, how important and necessary the dynamics of practicing family forgiveness and healing really are. Thank you for your potent message, Sally Ann. It hurt; but it also helped. I guess that is what good preaching really does. :) Linda

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Reflection for March 24, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The blazing bush that does not burn up

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Moses' encounter with I AM starts with a liberation of the heart and becomes a liberation of God's people

by Sister Margaret Mary Halbach

This week we hear and reflect on one of the most powerful stories of wonder and awe, found in the Book of Exodus. While Moses is taking care of his father-in-law’s flock something in the distance catches his eye – a burning bush. When he gets closer to the bush he realizes that it is not burning. God calls to Moses from the bush:  “Moses, Moses!  Come no nearer!  Remove your sandals from your feet, for this is holy ground.  I am the God of your Fathers.”

Afraid to look at God, Moses asks: “If the Israelites ask me your name, what shall I tell them?” God replies: “I am who am. I AM sent me to you. This is my name forever through all generations.”

What is the message for us as we journey through this third week of Lent? I have pondered this Scripture often during Lent and retreats. When I am like Moses -- being attentive to the simplicity of the burning bush -- I become more aware of God’s presence in my life and in those around me.

In your own lives, where is your “holy ground”?   Where does “I AM” reveal Himself to you? Find your holy ground. Ponder it. Realize that God is with you and reveals Himself to you.

Peace and prayers be with you in the Lord’s revelation of himself to you this Lent and in the days ahead.  We walk with each other.  God bless you.

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Reflection for March 17, 2019

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

After His suffering there is a great glory

Sunday's Transfiguration passage assures the apostles (and us) that Jesus is the Messiah

On Mount Tabor in Israel stands the Basilica of the Transfiguration. We believe the structure marks where Peter, John and James witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration and conversation with Moses and Elijah who spoke of Jesus’ exodus.

Lent is a time to enter into Jesus’ exodus -- His passion, death and resurrection – as well as remember his connection to the first exodus – God’s people escaping slavery in Egypt. We are, in a sense, on a pilgrimage just like Peter, John and James. We journey, we recall and we are blessed.

Here is a photo of the basilica’s mosaic interpretation of the Transfiguration. As you gaze upon it, consider:

  1. How do I describe my journey to the “mountaintop”?
  2. How do I contend with the inevitable detours or roadblocks?
  3. When have I made a "tent" for Jesus?
  4. God asks: "This is my chosen Son; listen to him."  How have I responded?

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image: Berthold Werner, public domain

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Reflection for March 10, 2019

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Confidence, gratitude ... and temptation?

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Life's challenges are opportunities to surrender ourselves

by Sister Ann Rehrauer

Each year in Lent the Church invites us into a time of renewal -– a spiritual springtime of remembering and recommitting ourselves to Jesus.  The Gospel states that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, then led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, and from there began his mission.  Each of us has also been baptized, reminded that we are God’s “beloved,” and sent to live as disciples. 

As I reflected on the other readings for this Sunday, it seemed a bit strange at first that they focused on gratitude and a sense of confidence, rather than repentance.  Israel had experienced deliverance from the slavery of Egypt and was given a rich and fruitful land.  In response, they offered a sacrifice of gratitude from their abundant crops.

Paul reminded the Romans who were suffering persecution that God’s word is always near us to guide us -– in our mouth and in our heart.  If we believe and confess that Jesus is Lord, salvation is assured.

So how do confidence, gratitude, and temptation go together?

Recently I visited with a retired sister who lives in a residence with other seniors.  She shared how grateful she is that God has given her good health so that she can still drive others to church, lead a Scripture group, and sometime help out others in the building who find life challenging.

That same week I met with a sister who is dealing with some cognitive difficulties herself and can no longer drive, and lives with chronic pain.  Yet that same attitude of gratitude came through as she expressed how good God has been to her and how blessed she is.

Discipleship is a journey and a process.  Over the years we grow in our understanding of what God’s call means and we experience what it is to be the “beloved” son or daughter of God.  We also face some of the same temptations Jesus faced in the Gospel, and hear the same call to surrender ourselves to whatever God asks of us as each stage of life.

It may be facing spiritual hunger or emptiness, discouragement in our ministry from failed efforts or misunderstood intentions, or it may be the loss of control that comes when we are unable to change things or to make good things happen for others.  In spite of the challenges and temptations, we live with an attitude of confidence and gratitude.

During these next six weeks of Lent I invite you to use the opening prayer of today’s Liturgy each morning in a spirit of confidence and with gratitude for the blessings we have already received, but also asking that in times of temptation or challenge “we may grow in understanding the riches hidden in Christ, and by worthy conduct (or efforts), pursue their effects.” 


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Comments:

CommentBubble"... Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, then led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted, and from there began his mission." In the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, Gospel of Mark 1:12, "... the Spirit immediately drove him [Jesus] out into the wilderness." What a difference a word makes! I bring this up because it's OK to know that the Spirit does, at times, 'push' or 'move' us with such a compelling notion, like a strong, burning idea or intuition. The Spirit is gentle, yet also very strong -- and convincing, as S/He needs to be! I have found repeatedly in my life experiences, when I respond to that compelling 'push' or 'movement' and attend a certain event or service that I feel drawn or 'sent' to, I discover and learn so much more of the ways-and-life-and-spirit-of-God! -- Linda

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Reflection for March 3, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Start at the beginning everyday

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Our journey of faith is full of new chapters, each one a labor of love

by Sister Carolyn Zahringer

The concluding lines of Sunday's second reading from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians caught my reflective eye.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the works of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

With thoughts of Lent approaching, and our school staff journeying together via the ALPHA program, I am reminded that every day is a journey in faith.  The word "alpha" means beginning. We are all at the beginning of some phase of our faith journey.

Lent affords us an opportunity to slow the pace of life a bit.  ALPHA is an invitation to pause with “faith friends”, to pause together to share the journey. We each hold a piece of the truth. When we share our piece with another, the pieces fit together in amazing ways.  God continues to work miracles in our lives. We might see them if our eyes of faith are open.

What surprises await us each new day and through our upcoming Lenten journey?


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Comments:

CommentBubble"We each hold a piece of the truth." Interestingly, I find myself more & more realizing this particular truth in numerous & amazing ways through my involvement & participation in religious services other than Roman Catholic. That might sound brazen or shocking saying that, here, in this particular space, but it is not meant to be that way. It is meant to be understood as revelatory, as that is its awesomeness to me - revelatory of more and more, deeper and deeper truth. In fact, I find myself drawn to women priests (Episcopal Church); women pastors (Lutheran, Methodist); women ministers (servant-leaders, like at the YWCA). I find these experiences to be healing and empowering, something I am not - and have not been finding in the Roman Catholic Church. Yes, it's true: " When we share our piece with another, the pieces fit together in amazing ways." Thank you for affirming that beautiful truth, Sr. Carolyn! ~ Linda

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Reflection for Feb. 24, 2019

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Staying Gospel-busy

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Taken seriously, Jesus' instruction could lead to a lifetime of work -- and for the highest cause

Do to others as you would have them do to you. -- Luke 6:31

by Sister Mary Kabat

We have heard this challenging message of Jesus from the time we were children.  Our parents tried to get us to “feel” the pain we had just inflicted on our sibling.  They tried to have us think about how we would feel if that same action was done to us.  Is it any easier now?

In our everyday lives we can be quick to react when we feel harmed in any way, quick to give back double the pain, insult or opinion we don’t share.  Reading this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 6:27-38) is an examination of conscience:

  • Love those you consider “enemies”
  • Do good to all who dislike you
  • Pray for all who mistreated you
  • If someone hits you, let them hit you again without striking back
  • If someone takes your coat, give them your sweater too
  • Lend without expecting anything in return
  • Don’t judge people
  • Forgive and give in abundance

This Gospel passage will keep us busy for the rest of our lives!  Living that way, as Jesus surely did, will transform every relationship we have.  The ripples of such living will spill over to other people’s lives and may influence their living as well.  Who know where it will go and what good it will bring to our world.  Are you ready?  Go!


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Comments:

CommentBubbleVery good reflection, Sr Mary. -- Millie

CommentBubbleA number of years ago I attended a weekend conference on Forgiveness at UW-Madison. It was the first ever, offered from what has now become the International Forgiveness Institute. https://internationalforgiveness.com/. The purpose of the weekend was to teach us that forgiveness does not mean looking the other way from a violation, offense, or abuse. It means acknowledging the offense and holding the offender accountable, without revenge. Forgiveness means "freedom from victimhood."

The lessons of that weekend were insightful and empowering, offering new understanding to the commonly misinterpreted, "turn the other cheek" phrase. "Turn the other cheek" does not mean to take abuse. It means making a conscious and deliberate choice to offer the aggressor a single moment of conscientious thought: do I strike again, or end my violent rampage now?

For, when one turns his face to offer the other cheek, the aggressor is forced to make a physical change. He must either: 1) use the other hand to strike, or 2) backhand. In that one moment, an aggressor is given the opportunity to come face-to-face with himself and his rage. He must then choose to continue his violent rage, or walk away.

Jesus was teaching his followers how to respond to violence in a non-violent and life-changing way. Jesus' methods included offering conversion and repentance to the offender. Something very radically different from the social and religious norms of the day, which justified returning - and even escalating violence for violence. -- Linda

CommentBubbleThanks for the thoughtful reflection. -- Sister Kay

 

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Reflection for Feb. 17, 2019

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Pursuing an ever-lasting joy

Sunday's Sermon on the Plain reminds us of the riches of the Kingdom to come

Think back to Christmas. Do you remember your favorite gift and the excitement or happiness you felt? Has that joy continued or has it waned a bit?

This Sunday’s readings, particularly Jesus’ sermon on the plain, remind us that the things of this world do not bring us real sustained joy. Only Jesus does. Not possessions, not success. Only Jesus.

Reflection question: When do I feel closest to Jesus?

  1. In times of prayer such as Mass or private prayer
  2. In times of service to others (listening to someone else without judging or talking about my problems, sharing a meal, helping with a task)
  3. In times of forgiveness when I let go of grudges or when I realize I have made poor choices, hurt others and separated myself from Jesus

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Comments:

CommentBubbleI feel close to Jesus when I'm enjoying the beauty of nature, colored leaves in fall, everything budding out in spring, a flowing river. I feel close to Jesus when I volunteer at the A & A Alexandrina Ctr helping young families and when I get to be a small part in helping save a baby from abortion. I also feel close to Jesus when I spend time with my two precious gifts from Jesus--my grandsons. Everything I have is a beautiful gift from him. -- Karen

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