Preparing the Way

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120620.cfm

During Advent in the northern hemisphere, we observe a shortened span of daylight.  For many people, this can bring on a downturn in mood, and some even suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder.  This darkness can extend to our spiritual lives as well.  How then do we bring more “light” into our lives and the lives of others?  Lighting our Advent candles is one way of keeping vigil as we await the birth of Jesus, and the rituals we observe around the candle can bring a sense of hope and joy.  During this season we might also try to rid ourselves of egotistical tendencies and some of the “busyness” in our lives and spend some quality time in prayer and reflection, calling to mind who we really are in the sight of God.

In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist say:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In his book, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent, Richard Rohr, OFM states:

“John the Baptist’s qualities are most rare and yet crucial for any reform or authentic transformation of persons or groups.  That is why we focus on John the Baptist every Advent and why Jesus trusts him and accepts his non-temple, offbeat ritual, while also going far beyond him.  Water is only the container; fire and Spirit are the contents, John says. Yet if we are not like the great John, we will invariably substitute our own little container for the real contents.  We will substitute rituals for reality instead of letting the rituals point us beyond themselves.

John the Baptist is the strangest combination of conviction and humility, morality and mysticism, radical prophecy and living in the present. This  son of the priestly temple class does his own thing down by the riverside; he is a man born into privilege who dresses like a hippie; he is a superstar who is willing to let go of everything, creating his own water baptism and then saying that what really matters is the baptism of “Spirit and fire”!  He is a living paradox, as even Jesus said of him: “There is no man greater than John…but he is also the least” in the new reality that I am bringing about (Matthew 11:11). John both gets it and does not get it at all which is why he has to exit stage right early in the drama.  He has played his single and important part, and he knows it.  His is brilliantly a spirituality of descent, not ascent.  “He must grow bigger; l must grow smaller.”  (John 3:30).

The only way such freedom could happen is if John learned to be very empty of himself already as a young man, before he even built his tower of success.  His ego was out of the way so much so that he could let go of his own ego, his own message and even his own life.  This is surely the real meaning of his head on a platter.  Some have cleverly said that ego is an acronym for “Edging God Out”.  There’s got to be such emptiness, or we cannot point beyond ourselves to Jesus, as John did.  Such emptiness doesn’t just fall into our laps; such humility does not just happen. It is surely the end product of a thousand letting-goes and a thousand acts of devotion, which for John the Baptist gradually edged God in.”

For Reflection:

How do you manage to schedule some down time in your day? Can you make this a priority during Advent?

How are you bringing more “light” into your own life, and the lives of others during this season?

Do you keep a journal to help you track your progress?

How is your spiritual life one of “ascent” or “descent”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 11: 1-10
Responsorial Psalm: 72: 1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Reading II: Romans 15: 4-9
Gospel: Matthew 3: 1-12

Advent 2 pic 2The word “hippie” came to mind as I began reading the Gospel for the second week of Advent. John the Baptist certainly marched to his own drummer, living in the desert, wearing “odd” clothes, eating “strange” food. People like John are often written off as kooks, nut-jobs, outliers. In spite of his off-putting ways, though, people of his time seemed drawn to him, traveling (on foot, remember: no Greyhounds to tourist meccas) “from Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan.”

His message wasn’t very cheerful, either, nor was he much of a diplomat in presenting his thoughts. Really, if someone invited you to go for a long, rough hike to hear an oddball, sort of angry person scold everybody and warn them of impending punishment, how likely is it that you would have gone?

Maybe the appeal lay in seeing someone blast the religious leaders of that day – aristocrats and legal scholars of their faith, not known for sensitivity to the human condition. Whatever drew people to John (nothing good on TV?) they certainly came and were motivated to be baptized as a sign they would change their ways.

There’s a balance to John’s fire in the first reading. Isaiah is just as intense as John, but more hopeful, perhaps because he foresees justice for the poor, safety even for a baby playing near a snake (which had to be a much greater concern in those days), no harm or ruin anywhere on earth. Who wouldn’t go for that?

In the second reading, we’re encouraged to endure and be hopeful – something we can all get behind these days – expressing our trust and hope by the way we relate to one another – just as Jews and Gentiles were urged to get along, though in Paul’s time that was a wildly radical notion! Is it too wild and radical for us in our time? Do we have enough of Isaiah’s vision to give it a try? Where will you begin?

 

 

Contemplating the Mystery of Christmas

A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent
by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Advent-wreath-week-2Each year, the Church invites us to enter more deeply into the mystery of Christmas by focusing on the birth of the One who reveals the infinite love of God, the Creator and Father.  The Sunday Scripture readings that we hear in the season of Advent invite us to look again at God’s creation and rediscover God’s love.  The Advent scriptures offer us some rich images to contemplate as we approach Christmas.  Here’s a sampling:

John the Baptist: …a man who reduced life to the essentials so he would not be distracted from hearing God’s voice and responding to it.  John’s single-hearted response attracted the attention of many who were seeking conversion and repentance, but didn’t know where to turn.  John pointed them to Jesus, the image of the invisible, all-loving God.  What can you do to minimize distractions? What do you do to make yourself available to hearing God’s voice?

Isaiah’s description of rain falling down from the heavens producing plants that sprout and bloom: This image invites us to appreciate the hidden work of God who enlivens all of creation and brings all things into being, including ourselves!  This image calls us to patient attention and grateful appreciation of all God is accomplishing in us and in others.  What are some of God’s gifts for which you are grateful?How do you affirm the gifts of others?

Mary: …in whom the word became flesh. Mary’s example can serve as a blueprint for our own lives.  She holds the mystery of God in her heart.  She trusts God.  She is present and attentive to Jesus from conception to the cross, and beyond.  Her entire life is shaped by Christ.

How do you see your life as shaped by Christ? In what way(s) are you inviting Christ into your life in a new way this year?                       

God’s very being revealed in an infant: …vulnerable, needy and dependent on others for its very existence.  This image invites us to look at our dependence on others, as well as others’ dependence on us.  It leads us to grasp the interconnectedness of everything in the created order and, ultimately, the connection of all creation to God.  We exist in a web of inter-dependence that extends throughout all of creation and into the mystery of the divine.  Who are the people who thrive on your attention?  Who are the people who inspire and enliven you?

Contemplation is a way of discovering the truth that all of creation receives its existence from God.  According to Thomas Aquinas, when we learn a humble, serene attentiveness, we shall see the goodness of the world. The world is simply the expression of divine bounty, simply an expression of love.   As Christmas draws closer, let’s look deeply at creation.  Let’s discover God’s presence in the world around us.   Can you imagine God looking at you?  Can you imagine God loving you?  Can you imagine God depending on you?  Can you see God in others?  That’s the mystery of Christmas!

With Joyful Voices – A Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

On this third Sunday of Advent we are greeted with exalted cries of REJOICE! With voices from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we are called to celebrate, to rejoice.  Isaiah proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord…”  We hear Mary sing out, “My soul rejoices in my God…”  And Paul joins this chorus with “Rejoice in the Lord always…again I say, rejoice” Why such jubilation?  Because, as Paul explains, “…the Lord is near.”

The promise has been fulfilled and yet in its fulfillments we still find unfinished business.  In Jesus, God came to be with us, to walk among us, to bring hope and peace and justice to an aching humanity.  Therein lies the agenda for each of us.  John the Baptist, in this Sunday’s liturgy responds to those who ask who he is by stating, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”  In our Baptism, each of us has been given a mandate.  We are to be a voice, a voice like that of John, announcing the day of the Lord.

All that God asks of us is to use the voice that is ours at this moment in our lives.  It can be a strong, vibrant voice, or that of someone who has borne the heat of the day and can hardly speak beyond a whisper.  All God asks is that you allow yourself to be the voice through which God enables someone to experience today that “the Lord is near.”

That voice can be a smile of affirmation, a nod of approval and encouragement.  It can be a kind word or act.  Then, there is that phone call or email that you have been putting off.  Whatever it is, allow yourself to be a voice that prepares the way for the peace, love, joy and hope that Jesus has come to bring.