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!

“This Night” – A Reflection on Holy Thursday

By Sister Clare Walsh, MHSH

Ex 12:1-8, 11-14; Ps 116:12-13, 15-18; 1Cor 11:23-26; Jn 13:1-15

Holy Thursday. Passover. “Why is this night different from all others?”

We are tempted not so much to ignore the evil in the world as to feel overwhelmed by it, frozen by a sense of futility. Holy Thursday opens countless opportunities for prayer, but among them are ordinary acts having a profound, long-lasting effect.

Friends gathered, a meal shared, forgiveness offered, bread broken, wine poured, memory evoked, service rendered. Most often it is the small, everyday act of kindness and compassion that define us and break the cycle of futility.

Holy Thursday makes clear that we are not here to lord over one another; we are here to wash another’s feet. It is as if Jesus is saying to us, “Do not be afraid to stoop down and offer the most humble service imaginable to one another.”

Homeless people having their feet washed by volunteers at the First United Methodist Chuch of Miami.

Foot washing is one of those small, everyday expressions of humble service that reveal us to be followers of Jesus. Look around your world of family, neighborhood, work…what might foot washing look like today?

Why, in 2012, “is this night different from all others?”

The Blessings Come Down

Thoughts on Thanksgiving by Carolyn Rodgers, Cook*

I remember the first Thanksgiving meal that I ever cooked.  My husband, who was my fiancé at the time, said that I should do the turkey because I was a cook.  I was working at Pappas Restaurant at the time; I was a short order cook and I had never prepared a main course.

I put the turkey in a very large pan filled with water—I thought I would boil it down. I thought that’s where the gravy would come from.  My fiancé looked at it and said he didn’t remember that his mother used so much water.  I didn’t say anything, but I was panicked. I didn’t want to ask any family member for advice, so I called my friend Margaret, who was a cook for the Mission Helpers.  After she finished laughing, she told me to get rid of the water, dry the turkey, salt and pepper it and put it in a pan with a tight lid.  She said it would make its own gravy.

It turned out beautifully and I’ve been roasting turkeys like that ever since—hundreds of turkeys.

And that’s how I’ll roast the turkey for the Mission Helpers’ Thanksgiving dinner.  I like everything that I cook for the Sisters, but Thanksgiving is special.  I prepare the turkey, potatoes and dressing the day before, and the Sisters prepare their special dishes.  Sister Dolores does a multi-layered gelatin salad and makes rolls; Sister Dolly makes a great cranberry mold, Sister Natalie prepares green beans with almonds…

I love Thanksgiving.  I love what I fix for the Sisters, and, on Thanksgiving Day, I love being with my family. For me, the day is all about family and friends.  Everyone comes together; all the food is fresh—nothing from cans on Thanksgiving Day.  And we laugh; there is lots of laughter.

There will be 17 or more people.  Before the meal, we form a circle, hold hands and thank God.  We each give God thanks for something—even the littlest children.  This takes a long time, but everyone gets to express their gratitude.

I believe that gratitude can take you a long, long way.  If you’re thankful to God, God will bless you, and the more thanks you give, the more God will be thankful for you.  When the praises go up, the blessings come down.  I really believe that.

Being together and being thankful is what it’s all about.   Everybody has something they can be thankful for—everybody.  Even if you live in a hut, you can say, “Thank you, God, for this space.”  On Thanksgiving, you thank the Lord for everything and everybody—that’s it.

*Carolyn Rodgers has been the cook for the Mission Helpers Community since 1984 and has never served the Sisters a boiled turkey.