Who’s In Charge Here, Anyway?

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122020.cfm

In today’s first Scripture reading (2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 12A, 16), we see God issuing something of a course correction to the king.  David somehow had come to think that he had created his own success (“Settled in his palace”, “rest from his enemies”) and he wanted to share his prosperity with God.  As soon as you read that, you may think, “isn’t that backwards?” and in fact God instructs the prophet Nathan to remind King David of how he made it to the top – namely, with the power of God, not on his own merits.  Put more bluntly, God asks David, “Who do you think you are? I called you from herding animals.  I made you commander of my people.” In contemporary parlance, in other words, God is saying to David, “Get over yourself!”

Most of us have gotten such treatment at least once in our lives, maybe not from a prophet but from life itself.  We are shocked – SHOCKED – that thus and such is happening to us!  A pandemic – herenow? Businesses shutting, opening, shutting again? People who never could have imagined needing any kind of public assistance, forced by lack of funds to stand in line at a food bank? We are not citizens of a third-rate dictatorship – ah, but haven’t you heard that very term used recently, and repeatedly?

Here we are, folks – look in a mirror and confront your own need, then turn to God and express just what God has been hoping to hear from you: your longing for a savior.  Jesus’ coming to save us was not just centuries ago.  He will come again and again, in all sorts of disguises and through all sorts of people and agencies, whenever we humble ourselves to ask, and accept what has made available.

For reflection:

In what ways are you serving as God’s surrogate in reaching out to others’ needs? Think beyond the material to the emotional and spiritual. Take note of the expressions of longing in so many Advent and Christmas hymns, such as “O come, O Come, Emmanuel”. Make those songs your true prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 6, Listen to this Dream

Scripture

  • Genesis 37:5-8, Listen to this dream that I dreamed.
  • Psalm 126, We were like those who dream.
  • Romans 12: 9-13, Love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.
  • John 21:25, The world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Meditation

Joseph has a dream, which is a message from God. However, when Joseph shares his dream with his brothers they react with anger and violence because the dream implies that they must bow down before him. Ultimately famine drives the brothers to Egypt and they do bow before Joseph, but rather than the abasement and dishonor they fear, it is a moment of reconciliation and grace.

Jesus, like Joseph, unfolds to us a vision, a message about the life of his Father’s kingdom. It is a vision of unity. But like Joseph’s brothers, we are often upset, angered and fearful of the vision and what it seems to imply. It demands that we submit and bow to the will of God. We fear it because we fear what we might lose. But the vision is not about loss. Rather, it is about regaining brothers and sisters we had lost, the reuniting of a family.

We have written many ecumenical texts, but the vision of Christian unity is not captured in agreed statements alone, important though these are. The unity God desires for us, the vision he puts before us, far exceeds anything we can express in words or contain in books. The vision must take flesh in our lives and in the prayer and mission that we share with our brothers and sisters. Most of all it is realized in the love we show for one another.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, grant us humility to hear your voice, to receive your call, and to share your dream for the unity of the Church. Help us to be awake to the pain of disunity. Where division has left us with hearts of stone, may the fire of your Holy Spirit inflame our hearts and inspire us with the vision of being one in Christ, as he is one with you, so that the world may believe that you have sent him. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What does it mean to place our own dreams for Christian unity at the feet of Christ?
  • In what ways does the Lord’s vision of unity call the churches to renewal and change today?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Day 5: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 5, The Fellowship of the Apostles

Scripture

  • Isaiah 56:6-8, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
  • Psalm 24, Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD?
  • Acts 2:37-42, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
  • John 13:34-35, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.

Meditation

Jesus’ commandment to love one another is not theoretical. Our communion of love with one another becomes concrete when we gather together intentionally as Christ’s disciples, to share fellowship and prayer in the power of the Spirit.

The more that Christians, especially their leaders, encounter Christ together in humility and patience, the more prejudice diminishes, the more we discover Christ in one another, and the more we become authentic witnesses to the Kingdom of God.

At times ecumenism can seem very complicated. Yet joyful fellowship, a shared meal and common prayer and praise are ways of apostolic simplicity. In these we obey the commandment to love one another, and proclaim our Amen to Christ’s prayer for unity.

Prayer:

God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may you give to all Christians, and especially to those entrusted with leadership in your Church, the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that with the eyes of our hearts we may see the hope to which you have called us: one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above and through all and in all. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What is our experience of encountering one another as brothers and sisters in Christ through Christian fellowship, shared meals and common prayer?
  • What are our expectations of bishops and other church leaders on the path towards the visible unity of the Church?
  • How can we support and encourage them?

We encourage you to share your personal reflections in the comments section.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

A Sacred Time – A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

[Readings: Genesis 9: 8-15; Ps. 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Peter 3: 18-22; Mark 1: 12-15]

As you contemplate the season of Lent, you might consider reflecting on its meaning to you now as well as at other times in your life.  For me, growing up in the ‘50s and early ‘60s, Lent was a time set aside for repentance, for “giving up” things that I liked, such as desserts or movies or even the sleep I could have had if I didn’t attend daily Mass.

In the parochial school I attended, participation in the weekly Stations of the Cross on Friday afternoons was mandatory, thus adding to the sense of obligation. While even then I appreciated the sacred nature of Lent experienced through the “smells and bells” of the pre-Vatican II Church, the emphasis was on self-denial and sinfulness.   The season often seemed interminable, oppressive and stark.

Today, Lent is a time that I actually look forward to, as the season seems to invite me to deeper contemplation.  My focus is not on deprivation, but on deepening my relationship with Jesus through prayer.  I think the change occurred when I started to go on weekend and then week-long silent retreats each year.  At first, these retreats truly felt like desert experiences.  Even though there were 30 or 40 other people in the retreat house, we passed our time (and each other) in silence.  Time took on a whole different feeling, with no particular structure to the day.  All the familiar distractions of television, email, internet browsing, phone calls etc, had been left behind.

In that environment, I was tempted to throw myself into reading the many spiritual books in the library, but I had a graced insight that this would only be a further distraction.  So I entered into what at first seemed like the unwelcome, solitary work of looking deeply into my own heart and mind, asking myself where I was in relationship to God, and what I (and God) wanted that relationship to be.

At first, this situation seemed almost as frightening as facing any amount of wild desert beasts.  I was not sure I wanted to head in this direction, and was afraid of what I might hear as answer in prayer.  But with trust in God and the patience of a skilled spiritual director, I was able to pass out of that narrow, somewhat desolate place in which I found myself.  What opened up for me was an abundance of new life.

The God who made a covenant with each of us waits for us to approach.  The psalmist reminds us that God’s ways are love and truth, that God is kind and full of compassion, desiring to guide us through our own personal and communal wildernesses.  With humility and trust, perhaps we can all spend some sacred time with God this Lent, knowing that God will provide us with what we need.

Lenten Prayer

Give yourself permission to carve out some time each day for prayer.  Give it whatever time you can, although 30 minutes or more is desirable.

You can pray with the scripture passages of the day, or with the many fine Lenten reflection books and guides that are available.  You can also simply pray from your own experience.

Tell God what is on your mind and in your heart.  Be sure to include a time of interior silence to listen to what God is saying to you.  Sometimes, just resting in the presence of God is the best prayer.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 1 Prayer and Reflections

Day 1, Changed by the Servant Christ.
Scripture

Zechariah 9:9-10, A King righteous and victorious – and humble.
Psalm131, My heart is not proud.
Romans 12:3-8, We have different gifts with which to serve.
Mark 10:42-45, The Son of Man came to serve.

Meditation
The coming of the Messiah and His victory was accomplished through service. Jesus wants a spirit of service in the hearts of His followers as well. True greatness consists in serving God and one’s neighbor.
Zechariah’s prophecy concerning a victorious and humble King was fulfilled in Christ. The King of Peace comes to Jerusalem – the City of Peace. He does not conquer it by deceit or violence, but by gentleness and humility.
Psalm 131 describes the picture of a mother and child as a sign of God’s tender love and of trust in God, to which the entire community of believers is called.
St. Paul challenges us to discover our own abilities. Each of our traditions has been endowed by the Lord with gifts that we are called to place at the service of others.
By His service, Christ redeemed our refusal to serve God. St. Paul reminds us that the diverse gifts given to us are for service. In our diversity we are always one body in Christ, and members of one another. The use of our diverse gifts in common service to humanity makes visible our unity in Christ. They are an expression of the practical ecumenism which the Church and the world badly need. The imitation of Christ the Servant provides eloquent testimony to the Gospel, moving not only minds, but also hearts. It is a sign of the coming Kingdom of God – the Kingdom of the Servant Christ.

For Your Reflection:

On this day we encounter Jesus, on the road to victory through service. We see him as the “one who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life, a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Consequently, the Church of Jesus Christ is a serving community. The use of our diverse gifts in common service to humanity makes visible our unity in Christ.

  1. What opportunities for service are most threatened by pride and arrogance?
  2. What should be done to ensure that all Christian ministries are better experienced as service?
  3. In our community, what can Christians of different traditions do better together than in isolation to reveal the Servant Christ?

Prayer 
Almighty and eternal God, by traveling the royal road of service your Son leads us from the arrogance of our disobedience to humility of heart. Unite us to one another by your Holy Spirit, so that through service to our sisters and brothers, Your true countenance may be revealed; You, who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

(Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute)

The Lesson of the Recycle Bucket

By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

When I first began to work with clay, the instructor explained that we do not control the clay but we unite with it.  The clay will teach us how to shape it.

Well, in my pottery experience I have had many conversations with clay.  Sometimes we get along very well and other times the piece is off center, misshapen and destined for the recycle bucket.  Not very satisfying.  What did I have to learn?

In clay work as in life, there is a journey and a process and each stage is important and serves its purpose in getting to the desired end.  I tend to be impatient and want to get the job done and see immediate results.  But it is not like that with clay or in our life experience.  I learned this the hard way.  Clay too moist collapses; pieces not dried out explode in the kiln; improper glazing results in bubbling and crawling; and an interrupted cooling process causes (of all things) cracked pots!

Working with clay teaches many lessons, and I had to learn them all as I followed the process from kneading, throwing, drying, firing, glazing—each with its own discipline and all calling for patience, humility, perseverance, as well as a spirit of creativity and imagination.

There will always be days for the recycle bucket, but for me, as I learn to respect the journey and the process, I find working with clay my way of keeping centered and focused.
There is harmony between me and the clay; there is accommodation to my life and the stresses that come.  But more than that is the excitement and sense that God is working with me in my own creation story.  I take the clay of the earth and knead it and shape it to say what God wants me to say.  God is at work!  God is at play!  Clay is fun!  Clay is sacred!

Sister Jane’s creations are on  display at Mission Helper Center. They make great gifts!