Lord, Make Us Turn to You.

A reflection for the fourth Sunday of Advent.

By Noreen Douglas

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 “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” (from the responsorial psalm).

In a forever changing world, we have this truth in our hearts. We humble ourselves through the wars of life, while being full of hope through the obedience of our faith. We rely on our faith to lead, to guide, to help, even to comfort us in all the details of our lives.

Therefore, we surrender our understanding, our time, our feelings, even our lives to allow our faith in God to be seen in this forever changing world.  We, too, cry out “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

Through our love one to another we reflect God’s promises. We show his long-suffering and patience as we take on the trials of this conformed world with the compassion and understanding of our faith. We celebrate the newness and freshness of each day with gladness in our hearts.

We stand ready and willing to surrender to his will…ready to heed the mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself,” as we, too, cry out “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

We celebrate God’s promises with every breath of our lives through our obedience to our faith in God. Like Mary in today’s Gospel acclamation, we respond in this forever changing world, “I am yours, Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Alleluia!

(Noreen Douglas is employed as the housekeeper at the Mission Helper Center. She and her husband, Rob, serve as Campus Life Directors at the Loch Raven campus of Metro Maryland Youth for Christ.)

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

advent-week-4-peace_without-wordsBy Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial Psalm: 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

The time is near. Our celebration of Christmas 2016 is now just days away. Are you ready? Have you made the necessary preparations?

Can you reflect on the reality of this historic event as we imagine Mary and Joseph getting ready to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem? What last minute preparations did they think were necessary?

There may have been a discussion—perhaps concerned, even a little worried between the thoughtful Joseph and the soon-to-be young mother, Mary.  The caring father-guardian Joseph knew Mary’s faith was deep and strong.  He placed his trust in the goodness of the God of Life.  I imagine Joseph wore a smile as together they gathered the few things they would need for their journey.

getting-ready-at-nazareth-to-bethlehemCarefully, they placed bundles of small blankets for the infant to come (just in case).   Mary may have gathered together strips of white cloth, which would tie the coverings bringing warmth and a feeling of security to the infant.  Although Joseph was a skilled craftsman, thoughts of bringing a cradle on this trip (just in case) was not a practical consideration.

It was time.  It was time to to leave Nazareth if they were to arrive before the darkness of night.   On their journey, they met fellow travelers.  They heard talk of crowded inns, people being turned away for lack of space.   Joseph and Mary probably traveled with a bit of anxiety.

As they journeyed on, they most likely shared whatever food and drink they had with their fellow travelers.  Their thoughts and hearts turned to prayers requesting the Father to bring them to a safe haven – a place of safety, a place of peace. The Father would surely provide.

You and I live centuries from that time-honored trip to Bethlehem that changed our world and our journey in this life.  That moment in time changed everything.  The responsorial Psalm echoes what our hearts want to sing: “Let the Lord enter….”

The Gospel reaffirms the angel’s words of assurance: “Do not be afraid.”  What is your heart’s prayer for Christmas 2016?

A world at peace? A place of safety on the streets of our towns and cities?   A life journey that speaks good wishes to friends and strangers alike?

Lord, grant us all a merciful heart, a peaceful heart, and an earth honoring your Son!

Our Advent Journey: A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

Readings:

MI 5:1-4A
HEB  10:5-10
LK 1:39-45

Our readings this Fourth Sunday of Advent are a great reminder of how God uses the ordinary in extraordinary ways!  The prophet Micah prophesizes that from small, ordinary, even insignificant Bethlehem will come one who is to be the ruler of Israel, and St. Paul reminds us that rather than desire extraordinary efforts by us, God desires us…our willingness to say, “Here I am, use me as you will.”  Luke’s Gospel then shows that the one that seems insignificant, even barren some said, can be fruitful in ways unimaginable and the one who says “Let it be done to me according to your word” will bring forth the Good News of our salvation.  In these two women reside “the Word made flesh” and the Voice who will herald that Word!  Extraordinary, indeed!

advent-4th-sunday-wreath4Actually, our readings today give us the story of Christianity – our story – that was unfolding even before the birth of Christ – and at the center of this story are Elizabeth and Mary.  Last Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, we were invited to rejoice for the Lord is in our midst; today we hear of a manifestation of that joy that comes from the presence of the Lord.

Mary and Elizabeth visit with Joy 1Mary teaches us that we are meant to bring Christ to others, and Elizabeth shows us that we are to welcome Christ and look for Christ in others.  We are called today to experience the joy of this Visitation encounter; a joy that was conceived alone but came to fulfillment in relationship with the other.  Often, that ordinary, unknown, seemingly insignificant other.  Pope Francis in his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” (Light of Faith), highlights for us that “Persons always live in relationship.  We come from others, and we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by our encounter with others.”


So what can we take away from these readings that speak of relationship, of encounter?   One suggestion might be to ask ourselves:  How might we, like Mary, strive to be faithful, in our work, our relationships, our lives.  How can we recognize that we, too, bear Christ?  In the midst of our current times, how are we being called to recognize and welcome the Christ and how might we learn from Elizabeth’s patient waiting?  How are we being invited to become and be used as instruments in spreading the message of hope and joy?  Isn’t spreading joy with others what our Christmas gift giving, our visiting, our singing, our praying, and our traditions all about?

Mary’s journey to the Visitation comes with risks.  She sets out and travels to the hill country, a difficult terrain, away from the comfort of home.  How might her journey help us get in touch with our journey to Christmas; our journey to Christ?

crosslightWhere are the rugged terrains of our lives, our neighbors, and our world?  Might it be that as we journey to the Light of Christ, it is together that we name the darkness and learn how to live together so it doesn’t overcome us?  When we recognize and name our inner poverty, our emptiness, our longing, our darkness then we ready ourselves to receive the light of Christ.  Our Advent journey has been a time of waiting, of trusting that God is with us, and that God will continue to show us the way.  Let us journey on praying to do so as Mary and Elizabeth have shown, in relationship, full of faith, hope, love and joy.