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”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Inner Chapel for Mom

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

I just came across a new book* that invites the reader to imagine one’s prayer space as an inner chapel where God speaks to each of us personally.  Pondering this as Mother’s Day approached, my mind was flooded with images from the infancy narratives described in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.  In my imagination, I beheld scenes of the Incarnation…Visitation… trip to Bethlehem…Jesus’s birth… Flight into Egypt—and all of this Mary held in her heart.  She must have had a great heart to accept what God was asking of her during some perilous times.  That would require a large inner chapel!

During this global pandemic with its dangers and upheavals, mothers are asked to accept, and to do, quite a lot. Perhaps you are working from home while home schooling your children, looking after elderly relatives or neighbors, trying to keep some sense of normalcy for your family. Whatever your own situation is, what do you need from God or from Mary during these days?  What do you wish to ask of them?

If you can, find a quiet time and place to pray, perhaps before the rest of the family is up or after they’ve gone to bed. Bring your hopes, fears, concerns, and questions to Mary, or Jesus, or other person of the Trinity. Talk with them as you would to a good friend. Then, just sit quietly and notice what you are feeling. Perhaps jot down your thoughts in a journal. Start with a 10 minute prayer period if you can, and increase the prayer time later, if circumstances allow.

Be assured that the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart are holding you in our prayers. We give thanks for all mothers…all women who have shared life and love with us. We pray for God’s abundant blessings on you and your families this Mother’s Day and every day.

 

 

*“The Inner Chapel: Embracing the Promises of God” by Becky Eldredge.  Available at Loyola Press.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms of Love

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

(This post is part 3 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 3 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Where do you go when you need a helping hand and no one is around, or no one understands what you are going through.  Maybe you have experienced a major disappointment, lost a job or were turned down for a promotion.  Perhaps you feel alone, lost, confused, hopeless, unloved, or you do not know what to do or where to go.

 Do you remember that Jesus, the visual image of the Trinity, is always approachable and ready to lavish grace and love on anyone who asks?  The title of this reflection comes, in part, from an old spiritual that was popular in the days when pioneers were setting into the Southern and Western parts of the United States.  It was a long and dangerous undertaking.  Many travelers put their trust in God and hoped to survive the journey.  Where else could they put it?

 The section of the Litany of the Heart I choose to explore (eighth stanza) is near the end.  It highlights some qualities that Jesus can share with each of us in our life journey.  In fact, the entire Trinity wants to participate in this outpouring of grace.

 Here’s what the litany might suggest:

 Be our refuge when we feel alone, confused, and away from home.

 Be our shelter when we feel rejected, misunderstood, lost.

 Be our comfort when we don’t know where to go, or what to do when we are sick, confused or weary.

 Be our rest when we try too hard, are lost and alone along the way.

 Be our welcome breast when there seems to be nowhere to go, when we are hungry and cold.

 

 For reflection: What graces do you desire from God?  Do you ask in confidence?