Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Holy and luminous action
Christ's light is ours to receive and share with others
by Sister Laura Zelten
The Gospel for Christmas Day may surprise you. This reading is not one of the familiar Nativity narratives. Rather, this Gospel is the opening section of John’s Gospel, which begins with: “In the beginning was the Word.”
This first chapter of John's Gospel has inspired more theological writing than any other chapter of the Bible. John's Gospel begins with powerful words that make us think about who God is and what God is up to in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is about light in the darkness. Picture a single candle. The background is black but in the center there's a small flame, brilliantly shining. Christ is our light. As St. John says, "The light shone in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it." There is a kind of boldness to the light. It lives in the darkness but the darkness cannot overcome it. And maybe that's the thing. Maybe that's the Gospel writer's point. The light doesn't eliminate the darkness; the light is there helping to change the situation, making it better by being a constant, faithful presence. This, I think, is the message of the Incarnation, the story behind the story that we will tell each other this day. God enters into the darkness to sit alongside of us as a caring advocate, a loving presence -- God with us -- Emmanuel. God climbs right into the darkest places to be with us; in that holy and luminous action, we find reason to hope.
So, wherever there is darkness in your life, anywhere in our world, we can be absolutely sure that our God, our Emmanuel, is there, too -- a Light in our darkness. And because we are in relationship with God who is Light, THE Source of the Light, we, too, are called to be Light.
- Where do you find the light of Jesus?
- How are you called to be light to others this Christmas season?
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Third week of Advent encourages us to carry a message of joy and hope to others
by Sister Rose Jochmann
Can you believe it? Christmas is 10 days away! How is your Advent preparation going? Advent is such a short church season. Have you taken time to remember what the season is about? We are celebrating that Jesus, the Son of God, came to live among as a human being. We are celebrating that Jesus continues to live with each of us.
In church this weekend, you will notice that the pink Advent candle is lit. The pink candle tells us it is time to rejoice. The Entrance Antiphon says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near.” This gives us a hint regarding the emphasis of the week. The first reading reminds us of the real reason for the Christmas season, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.” The second reading continues the same theme, “Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always.” And the Gospel speaks about John the Baptist who was preaching “Good News to the people”.
So, as you finish your preparations for Christmas, don’t let yourself get stressed and anxious. Remember that the Lord is near, the Lord is with you. Rejoice! Bring that Good News to the people you meet.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Our Advent call is to sing the Good News of the Lord
by Sister Lynne Marie Simonich
In Sunday's readings, both the Prophet Isaiah and St. Mark encourage us to “speak boldly”. Isaiah says “Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news!” (40:9). John the Baptist cries out to “prepare the way” and proclaim the Good News. We are called, as Catholic Christians, to speak with confidence about our faith. No easy task! John the Baptist not only spoke boldly – his words and his actions cried out about the coming of the Lord.
This Second Sunday of Advent challenges us to bring the Good News of our salvation to others by our words and by our actions. What does that challenge mean for us? Are we willing to share our faith with others? Do our actions reflect our belief in the Good News?
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. She, too, is a wonderful model of someone who risked everything to bring the Good News into the world. In a world where there has been so much “bad news”, our challenge is even greater. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we, as followers of the Lord, shared some good news each day? What good news do you have to share today?
May Mary inspire us as we continue this Advent journey.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Putting an ear to God's heart
Advent 'alertness' happens as we make space for God and walk the journey designed for us
by Sister Donna Koch
The Advent Season leads us to reflect on the journey of the past and the challenges of the present as we look with anticipation toward the future. The prophet Isaiah ponders all three in a dramatic, emotional plea for God to remember those who seem to be wandering. He acknowledges the people’s feelings of “lostness” in the guilt of their failings and then gives comfort with the tender, molding image of God as potter.
In the Responsorial Psalm we see the beautiful images of God as the shepherd of Israel, and as the vine planter.
St. Paul in the letter to the Corinthians is filled with gratitude for the way God has enriched them. He reminds them (and us) that we have all the spiritual gifts needed because of Jesus. He wants us to remember that God is always faithful.
As we ponder the Gospel there is a felt urgency in the words to be “watchful and alert.” We are asked to reflect on the images of the man traveling abroad, the alertness of the gatekeeper keeping watch and the trust that is needed in giving responsibility to others.
Jesus’ words remind me that I have no control over how my life will unfold. Unexpected events pierce my outer composure causing me to listen in a new way, watch with alertness, sit quietly at the bedside of someone I love, or reconsider my values and priorities. My agenda changes in a flash.
It seems that more than anything during this Advent Season we must put our ear to God’s heart and continue to walk this journey with faithfulness. As we do so we give thanks for all that has been, for all that is, and for all that will be, remembering that our past or present situation is not our final destination!
Questions to ponder:
- What is the “lostness” or wandering I have experienced?
- How have I experienced God’s faithfulness?
- What images of God do I turn to for support/comfort?
- How does this Advent Season call me to BE?
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
We're in good hands with our Shepherd
Whether we are ill or lost or doing just find, Jesus is with us always
Who heals you when you are hurt, keeps you on the straight and narrow, and refreshes your soul? One name: Jesus. Sunday is the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, and the readings for the day are full of comforting images of our Good Shepherd. Which passage or words resonate with you? It could be one of these or a different one:
- I will tend to my sheep. I will rescue them when scattered, I will heal them when they are sick, I will protect them from harm.
- I will tend to my sheep. I will give my flock verdant pastures, restful waters, and a table of plenty.
- I will tend to my sheep. As they have welcomed, fed and cared for others, they have done so for me.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
God's goodness: A gift to be shared
Through happiness and sorrow, we give praise to God as we lift each other up
by Sister Carolyn Zahringer
Sunday's opening prayer states that “God is the author of all that is good.” So true. God’s grace gives us the lens to see life more deeply.
The first reading is the same reading my brother chose for his wife’s Mass of Christian Burial last April. That reading sings the praises of a good “wife” or the life of any good person. What makes a person’s life viewed as having been “good”? The answer is God and the response is grace.
The Communion antiphon is from Psalm 73: “To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord.” My brother’s family models this hope and happiness as they have endured and embraced multiple challenges. To cite just two: the death of a 6-year-old in a farm accident and the total loss of property in a house fire. Never did this family abandon their faith journey. Their faith, prayer life and a supportive faith community helped them rise above each challenge.
What gifts do you have to share so that others may see God’s visible face in our time and space?
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Shortcuts won't do
The parable of the bridegroom and virgins instructs us to work each day on our relationship with God
by Sister Elise Cholewinski
“Behold the Bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”
I remember the summer evening, a long time ago, when my sister and I returned home after playing tennis. Our mother told us that while we were gone a friend from college had called. She was taking a course in children’s literature, and as part of the course she was assigned the reading of 75 children’s books and the writing of a summary of each book on a note card. She really felt pressured and knew that we had already taken the course and done well in it. Could she possibly borrow all of our note cards? I recall the irritation I felt by this request, aware of how much time and effort went into completing that project. She did not get the cards.
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus tells the parable of the 10 virgins awaiting the return of the bridegroom. Five brought oil to keep their lamps burning and were prepared for his arrival. The other five brought no oil and were depending on the wise virgins to rescue them. That didn’t happen. The foolish virgins had to fend for themselves and, in the end, were left outside the door.
This parable presents us with several questions:
- What kind of oil do I use to rekindle the fire in my heart?
- In what kind of darkness must I let my lamp burn today?
- When must I challenge people to do their own work in order to develop a deeper relationship with God?
- Who is the bridegroom? Am I excited about the ways in which He comes to me?
- How has he opened the door for me?
- Into what kind of feast am I invited?
Thursday, November 2, 2017
Do your deeds match your words?
Discipleship requires consistency from the humble and the exalted
by Sister Renee Delvaux
In preaching to the people, Jesus urged them to observe what the scribes and Pharisees say but not to follow what they do. The scribes and Pharisees “preach but they do not practice,” and furthermore, “they love places of honor; all their works are performed to be seen.”
So, what is Jesus’ message for us? It is simply that we are to match what we say with what we do. It sounds so simple but the follow through with the doing gets more challenging! Are you ready to speak and live as Jesus instructs, as a humble servant before all? This is our call to discipleship.
Jesus’ teachings often end with a bit of a jolt, as does this Gospel. He reminds us that the great ones in the community should be the servants of all, and that, “whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” No, Jesus doesn’t leave us feeling comfortable, but rather, challenged!
- Are you a person of your word?
- Do your words match your deeds?
- Do you practice what you preach?
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Exclusions do not apply to this offer
Everything we do, everything we believe depends on loving God and others
Imagine walking into a room that contains nothing but a single wooden chair. Sitting in the chair is someone you don’t particularly care for. Maybe the two of you had a falling out years ago. Maybe you don’t share the same political or religious ideology. Maybe you don’t like “people like that.”
Now imagine that Jesus walks into the room and says (as He does to the Pharisees in Sunday's Gospel): “Love the Lord. Love your neighbor.” How do you respond? Does it stir up some introspection?
Love the Lord. Love your neighbor. That's what is asked of us. “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:40)
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
What do I value? What does God value?
On our way to the Kingdom we have opportunities to share our faith with those similar to and different from ourselves
by Sister Agnes Fischer
At times I may think that God’s loving actions in our world are restricted to those who believe as I do. In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus and the religious leaders in Jerusalem continue their tense exchange of questions and challenges. Those who don’t think as Jesus does hand Him a coin bearing the image of Caesar. In Jesus' hand, the coin takes on new meaning.
It becomes the image of people in need, of people who think they need nothing, of believers and non-believers. It becomes my own image. It becomes an image of value, great worth, and dignity because those who need me and those who think they don’t need anyone are made in God’s image and likeness as am I.
I can be Christ’s hands holding that coin. In many encounters, the opportunity to increase a person’s worth is within my reach. Do I recognize authentic love and goodness in this world and give thanks to God wherever I encounter it, whether among the poor and the weak or among the high and the mighty?
Do I hold out my hand to those who don’t think as I do?