Weekly Reflections

Reflection for March 15, 2015

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Who prefers the dark? Stepping into the light of Christ is a daily decision

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"God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might have eternal life." (John 3:16)

by Carla Schommer, Director of St. Francis Convent

John 3:16 is often seen on signs, on billboards, and as a motivational or inspirational quote.  It's a message about our Christian faith.  God loves us so much he brought us Jesus, and by believing in Jesus we are given eternal life.

This scripture passage is also the opening verse before this Sunday's Gospel.  What does it really mean to believe in Jesus?  It's tempting to think that believing in Jesus is by affirming the belief statements of the creed and agreeing to the truths that Jesus existed and worked miracles and died and rose from the dead.  Accepting these truths are important but there is much more to believing.  Even on our best days we have encounters with sin -- in choosing to do wrong and failing to do good.

In the Gospel, John shares a keen observation about human sinfulness: Jesus is the light that has come into the world, but people prefer the darkness.

We stay in the darkness and attempt to hide our sins, even from God.  We must come out of the darkness of our lives and into the light of Jesus.  Jesus came into the world to reveal our sins so that they may be forgiven.  This is Good News!  Jesus took our sins and lifted them up through the cross so that we may be forgiven and have eternal life.  If our hope is eternal life, we need the revealing light of Jesus each day.  To believe in Jesus means nothing less than to make his self-offering love part of our own lives through unselfish, thoughtful concern for others.  God has great love for us and shows us mercy that never ends.

 

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Reflection for March 8, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Great Expectations: We hear Christ better when we set aside our assumptions

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by Sister Ann Rehrauer

The refrain from Psalm 19 runs through all three readings for this Third Sunday of Lent: "Lord, you have the words of everlasting life."

In the reading from the book of Exodus, we hear God's life-giving words to Moses and to the people of Israel in the form of the Ten Commandments.

While we tend to resist mandates and the limitations that external laws place on us, these "words of life" are not really coming from the outside.  Instead, if we look carefully, each commandment is an expression of a basic sense God has planted within us.  In order to be truly human and in healthy relationships with others, we need to be trustworthy and generous, to honor those who gave us life, and to respect the life and rights of others.  To violate these laws is not an action outside ourselves, but it is to erode the very fiber of who we are.  Each time I act with less than integrity, I am less of the person God created me to be.

In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he notes that Jews and Greeks alike are looking for words of life. The Jews asked for signs that Jesus' message was truly a word that would bring them life and Greeks sought words of wisdom to bring them life.

But because the words and signs Jesus used were different from what people expected, they missed the life-giving message that suffering and sacrifice have positive value in life.  And so Jesus' words became stumbling blocks for them.

In cleansing the Temple, Jesus gave both signs and words of life.  The old will be destroyed and God will no longer dwell with us within a Temple building, but in the very person of Jesus.

This Lent you and I also look for life-giving words.  Open minds and open hearts are needed on this journey so we don't miss the message.

Reflection questions:
  1. What are the stumbling blocks (in life and work, and even in the Church) that keep me from seeing and hearing God's call to a more faith-filled  life?
  2. Jesus drove out the merchants from the temple. What in my life do I need to get rid of so that God might dwell more visibly and powerfully within me?

 

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Reflection for Feb. 16, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

God's laws are about what to do as well as what not to do

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by Sister Ann Rehrauer

As someone who often works with Church law, today's Gospel is a gentle but clear reminder that law, even Church law, provide us with guidelines for living, but they are not the maximum for which we strive - they only give us the "bottom line."

That's true if we simply read the words of the law.  But if we look beyond the words to the values that underlie the law we see much more. "Thou shalt not kill" prohibits the intentional taking of someone's life by murder or reckless driving.  But the spirit of the law includes positive encouragement to safeguard and promote life; to help others to obtain the basic necessities of life; and the responsibility to care for our own health and person.  The commandment reminds us that all life is precious.  

In our day, we have become aware that abortion, violence, and physical abuse are threats to human life.  More recently the issue of human trafficking of vulnerable people for sexual or economic profit has come to our attention - even here in the State of Wisconsin.  Women and men, children and elders, and immigrants are trafficked and exploited sexually or economically or both, for the profit or pleasure of others.

The USCCB Committee on Immigration designated February 8, the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, as a national day of prayer for survivors and victims of human trafficking.  Our prayer should also lead us to a greater awareness and to join in action to combat this threat to life.  For more information visit the USCCB website:  www.usccb.org/stopslavery.

When we bring our gift to the altar this week, we also bring our prayer, concern, and action on behalf of the vulnerable members of our community.

 

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Reflection for Jan. 26, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Having new life in Christ requires letting go of today's life

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by Carla Schommer, Director of St. Francis Convent

Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee following the arrest of John, saw two fishermen -- Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew -- casting a net into the sea. He said to them, "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men." Peter and Andrew, at once, dropped their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20)

A little further on Jesus saw James and his brother John in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called the brothers, and they immediately left their boat and their father to follow him.

Jesus interrupted their daily routine, their daily livelihood, and called them to a new life.  Peter, Andrew, James and John did not hesitate to answer Jesus with a "yes." They gave up their livelihoods and even their families to follow him.  Every day of our earthly journey Jesus interrupts our lives calling each of us to come and follow him.  How willing is our "yes" to God's call?

Following Jesus always means leaving something behind, and we won't always know where our decision to follow Jesus will lead us. It's not easy to walk away from the things we know and want to do in order to follow Jesus and do what he asks of us. In order to answer with a willing and immediate "yes" to Jesus' invitation we must nurture our relationship with Jesus through prayer, both private and with community. As we come to know Jesus' abundant and unending love we long to be with him, to leave our former lives behind and follow him to new life.

Let us pray that we grow in our relationship with Jesus and his unending love, that we open our ears to his call to follow him each day, and that we respond, at once, with our "yes" to his invitation to new life.

 

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Reflection for Jan. 29, 2012

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bangert_Fran_Sister_100pxby Sister Francis Bangert

In Mark's Gospel today, Jesus enters the synagogue to teach.  He knows who He is (One rooted in the love of the Trinity) and what His mission is ("I have come that you may have life and have it in abundance"). Clear identity and focused mission empower Him to teach with authority, to attract aching hearts with a new vision of life.  To give credence to the power of His words, Jesus then acts: "Come out of him" and the unclean spirit, now powerless in the face of Jesus, comes out of him. Mark gives no further details about this man, except that Jesus healed him.

When have you or I personally experienced or know someone "being held powerless"  by an addiction: perfectionism, alcoholism, workaholism, drugs, sex, gambling, food, or others. This "unclean spirit" controls us to such a degree that we are paralyzed and unable on our own to become free. It is only in turning to Jesus and reaching out to others (family, friends, recovery groups, counselor, spiritual director, confessor) that the power of love and compassionate listening can help us re-think, re-direct, re-cover and know the "abundant life" Jesus offers.

Through our Baptism, you and I -- the church -- are called in our daily lives and in ordinary ways to either reach out to others for help in our need, or be a life-giving instrument to those who are hurting. In this New Year, may we humbly receive the abundant life Jesus offers us and live in true freedom.

"If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts."

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