A Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 2:1-5
Responsorial Psalm: 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

advent wreath one candle The readings for this first Sunday in Advent present us with a number of contrasts.  In the first reading, Isaiah offers the nation of Judah, facing threats from within and without, a vision of unity, peace and justice.  What might it have been like for those beleaguered people to hear the words: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk In the light of the Lord?”

Paul presents the contrasts of darkness and light, wakefulness and sleep, destructive behavior versus putting on Christ. His urging of preparation and watchfulness echo the Gospel’s message of vigilance and preparation for the coming of the Son of Man, “at an hour you do not expect.”  The message seems to have an ominous tone, but could it have been a message of hope for Matthew’s listeners, and can it offer hope for us?

To enter into Advent is not to deny the darkness, divisions and threats that face us, but to embrace the opportunities to trust in God’s promises and to be bearers of God’s love, light, peace and justice in our world.

In his poem, Advent, the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, offers us these words of hope and challenge:

Advent

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss – This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction – This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever – This is true: For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world – This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers – This is true:  I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions, and your old shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and peace are not meant for this earth and for this history – This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.

Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ — the Life of the world.

(Source: Testimony: The Word Made Fresh, by Daniel Berrigan.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004).

 

For Reflection:

How do you find yourself at the beginning of this Advent season?

What graces will you pray for during this season: trust in God, maintaining hope in the face of challenges, compassion for suffering people, other things?

How will you be a bearer of God’s love, light, peace and justice?

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 8, Hearts Burning for Unity

Scripture

  • Isaiah 52:7-9, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.
  • Psalm 30, You have turned my mourning into dancing.
  • Colossians 1:27-29, How great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you.
  • Luke 24:13-36, Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Meditation

The disappointed disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community. It is a journey of separation and isolation.

By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips. It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship.

So often Christians try to evangelize with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches. Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel. True evangelism is a journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, a journey from isolation into unity.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What are the disappointments that isolate us from others?
  • What are the gifts (initiatives, methods, and programs) that we can receive from other Christian communities?

This concludes the 2016 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Day 3: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 3, The Witness of Fellowship

Scripture

  • Jeremiah 31:10-13, They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion.
  • Psalm 122, Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you.
  • 1 John 4:16b-21, Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars.
  • John 17:20-23, That they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me.

Meditation

Division among Christians is an obstacle to evangelization. The world cannot believe that we are Jesus’ disciples while our love for one other is incomplete. We feel the pain of this division when we cannot receive together the body and blood of Christ at the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity.

The source of our joy is our common life in Christ. To live our life of fellowship every day is to welcome, love, serve, pray and witness with Christians from diverse traditions. It is the pearl of great value given to us by the Holy Spirit.

The night before his death, Jesus prayed for unity and love among us. Today we raise our hands and pray with Jesus for Christian unity. We pray for the bishops, ministers and members of all churches. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us all on this path of unity.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, who prayed that we might all be one, we pray to you for the unity of Christians according to your will, according to your means. May your Spirit enable us to experience the suffering caused by division, to see our sin and to hope beyond all hope. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • How do we regard Christians of other churches and are we prepared to ask forgiveness for prejudice towards them?
  • What can each of us do to decrease division among Christians?

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Day 2: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 2, Called to be Messengers of Joy

Scripture

  • Isaiah 61:1-4, The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
  • Psalm 133, How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
  • Philippians 2:1-5, Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
  • John 15:9-12, I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Meditation

The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” We long for Good News to mend our broken hearts and to release us from all that binds us and makes us captive.

When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, even when we feel unable to give anything to anyone, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us.

In the Gospel Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” and “love one another as I have loved you.” It is in this way that we discover his joy in us, so that our joy may be complete. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

Prayer

God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What smothers joy in the world and in the churches?
  • What can we receive from other Christians so that Jesus’ joy may be in us, making us witnesses of the Good News?

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

We Stood Together on September 11

A Reflection on September 11, 2001

By Fr. Paul Wierichs, C.P., who was a chaplain in the New York Office of the FBI on that date.

Sept 11Everyone remembers, and will probably always remember, exactly where they were and what they were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I was chaplain for the FBI’s New York office. After returning to my office after my morning run, but before I got to my desk, all of my phones began ringing – my beeper, my private line, my business phone – all ringing simultaneously. All were people alerting me to the horrific events that had begun to unfold, starting with a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Traveling into New York City I was struck by the number of New York firemen and police being called back to work. Before I entered into the Queens Midtown tunnel, I stopped for a moment and looked over in the direction of the World Trade Center and saw nothing but billowing smoke. As I rushed into the FBI’s New York office, close to the World Trade Center, the office was frantic – faces were grim – something I had never seen in this office.Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see in person at Ground Zero: the dust that permeated the air, the acid smell, the carnage, workers putting their own lives at risk to find survivors. I had lived in a monastery while many of my generation served in Vietnam. I could never truly appreciate the horror they went through. When I talked to people at Ground Zero who had served in Vietnam, they said this was more horrific.

During the first couple of days, standing there with my FBI raid jacket with “chaplain” on the back, I was overwhelmed by the number of firemen, policemen and other rescue people who came up to me saying, “Chaplain, may I speak to you for a moment?” I heard more confessions in two weeks than I had in years.

As a Passionist, I am called to preach the passion of Jesus. For me that means entering into the passion of people’s lives, particularly when they are called to carry a cross. We offer them hope, consolation, and love. I am honored that I was able to be part of heroic people’s lives. Looking into the eyes of everyone around I saw an inner wound to the soul itself. God was also present in those eyes, giving us all the strength we needed to go that extra mile.

Most law enforcement and emergency workers do not express emotion. This was not the case that day. I was standing inside the American Express building when six firemen brought out the body of one of their own. I said, “Let me offer a prayer.” The lieutenant called them to attention, hats off, and brought those men but also myself to tears.

What struck me about the heroism of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers was their total dedication to the task at hand. When people were running out of harm’s way firemen were running towards the crisis, risking their own lives to help others who needed assistance.

Their unyielding hope in looking for survivors amid all the tons of rubble, dust, glass and steel for more than two weeks showed the true character of each of them. Their outpouring of generosity reflected the outpouring of generosity from all people of all faiths, with their prayers and donations. People came together in unity that day. We can all remember where we were on 9/11, because we were all together.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 8 (Final) Prayer and Reflection

Day 8: United in the Reign of Christ.
Scripture

I Chronicles 29:10-13, It is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.
Psalm 21:1-7, You set a crown of fine gold on his head.
Revelations 3:19b-22, To the one who conquers I will give a place with Me on My throne.
John 12:23-26, Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.
Meditation
Jesus Christ has humbled Himself and been exalted and shares His reign and exaltation with all people.
David’s hymn expresses the truth that everything happens by grace. Christian tradition gives it a Messianic sense; Christ is the true King, full of blessing and life, the perfect presence of God among people.
The Book of Revelations constitutes a message to the Church in all times and places. Those who admit Christ into their homes will all be invited to share with him in the banquet of eternal life. The promise regarding sitting on thrones, previously announced to the “twelve”, is now extended to all who are victorious.
Christians are aware that unity among them is above all a gift of God. It is a share in Christ’s victory over sin, death and the evil which causes division. Our participation in Christ’s victory reaches its fullness in heaven. Our common witness to the Gospel shows the world a God who does not limit or overpower us. We announce to the people of our day and age, that Christ’s victory overcomes all that keeps us from sharing fullness of life with Him and with each other.

For Your Reflection

On this last day of our week of prayer for Christian Unity we celebrate the Reign of Christ. Christ’s victory enables us to look into the future with hope. This victory overcomes all that keeps us from sharing fullness of life with him and with each other. Christians know that unity among us is above all a gift of God. It is a share in Christ’s glorious victory over all that divides.

  1. In what ways do false humility and a desire for earthly glory manifest themselves in our lives?
  2. How do we express together our faith in the Reign of Christ?
  3. How do we live out our hope in the coming Kingdom of God?

Prayer
Almighty God, Ruler of All, teach us to contemplate the mystery of your glory. Grant that we may accept your gifts with humility and respect each person’s dignity. May Your Holy Spirit strengthen us for the spiritual battles which lie ahead, so that united in Christ we may reign with Him in glory. Grant this through Christ who humbled himself and was exalted, who lives with You and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 7 Prayer and Reflection

Day 7: Changed by the Good Shepherd.
Scripture

1 Samuel 2:1-10, Not by might does one prevail.
Psalm 23, You are there with your rod and your staff.
Ephesians 6:10-20, Be strong in the Lord.
John 21:15-19, Feed my sheep.
Meditation
Hannah’s realized that some things happen only with the help of God. It was through His will that Hannah and her husband became parents. In what would seem to be a hopeless situation this text is an example of victory.
The Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 guides his sheep even through the darkest places, comforting them with his presence. Those who place their trust in the Lord have no need to fear even the shadows of disunity, as their shepherd will lead them to dwell together in the Lord’s own house.
St. Paul urges us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power” by putting on spiritual armor: truth, righteousness, proclaiming the Good News, faith, salvation, the word of God, prayer and supplication.
The Risen Lord urges Peter and each disciple to discover in himself a love of Him who alone is the One True Shepherd.
The witness to Christ that has been confirmed in us obliges us to act jointly for the sake of unity. We have the ability and the knowledge to bear such witness! But are we willing? He invites us to cooperate with Him unconditionally thus we will be able to help one another on the road to unity.

For Your Reflection

On this day the Bible texts show us the Lord strengthening His flock. Following the Good Shepherd, we are called to strengthen each other in the Lord, and to support and fortify the weak and the lost. There is one Shepherd, and we are his people.

  1. How does the Good Shepherd inspire us to comfort, revive, and restore the confidence of those who are lost?
  2. In what ways can Christians of various traditions strengthen each other in confessing and bearing witness to Jesus Christ?
  3. For us today, what can be the meaning of St Paul’s exhortation: “Be strong in the Lord…. put on the whole armour of God”?

Prayer
Father of all, you call us to be one flock in your Son, Jesus Christ. He is our Good Shepherd who invites us to lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our souls. In following him, may we so care for others that all see in us the love of the one true shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 5 Prayer and Reflection

Day 5: Changed by the peace of the Risen Lord.
Scripture

Malachi 4:5-6, He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents.
Psalm 133, How good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Ephesians 2:14-20, To reconcile both groups to God in one body, putting to death hostility.
John 20:19-23, Jesus stood among them and said: Peace be with you!
Meditation
Malachi’s words convey God’s promise of sending God’s chosen one to establish harmony and respect in all households. He draws attention to one of the most difficult conflicts — the heartbreak in relations between parents and their offspring. This restoration of unity is not possible without God’s help. It is God’s emissary who performs the miracle of transformation in people’s hearts and relationships.
The psalm shows what great joy such unity among people can bring. Happiness consists in living in a human community in harmony, peace, trust and understanding. Living together in unity is not restricted to family members only – this is rather a declaration of the closeness between people who accept the peace of God.
The epistle tells us of Him whom the prophet Malachi announced. Jesus brings unity, because in His own body He has demolished the “wall of hostility” between people. Jesus puts an end to alienation. He transforms, heals and unites all that they may become “members of God’s household.”
“Peace be with you” is Christ’s greeting and also his gift. It is an invitation to seek peace with God and establish new, lasting relationships within the human family and all of creation. Jesus has trampled down death and sin. By the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Lord invites his disciples into his mission of bringing peace, healing and forgiveness. As long as Christians remain divided, the world will not be convinced of the full truth of the Gospel. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of this transformation. The Churches need to appropriate and witness to these gifts as members of the one household of God built upon the sure foundation of Jesus as the cornerstone.

For Your Reflection

Today we celebrate the peace of the Risen Lord. The Risen One is the great Victor over death and the world of darkness. He unites His disciples, who were paralysed with fear. He opens up before us new prospects of life and of acting for His coming kingdom. The Risen Lord unites and strengthens all believers. Peace and unity are the hallmarks of our transformation in the resurrection.

  1. What forms of violence in our community can we as Christians confront together?
  2. How do we experience hidden hostilities that affect our relationship to each other as Christian communities?
  3. How can we learn to welcome each other as Christ welcomes us?

Prayer
Loving and merciful God, teach us the joy of sharing in your peace. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that we may tear down the walls of hostility separating us. May the risen Christ, who is our peace, help us to overcome all division and unite us as members of his household. We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

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)

No Healing Through Violence—The Years since 9/11

–From the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).  The LCWR is an association of the leaders of approximately 330 congregations of Catholic women religious in the United States. The Conference has about 1,500 members, who represent 90 percent of the 55,000 Catholic Sisters in the United States.  Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH President, Sister Dolores Glick, Vice President, and Sisters Elizabeth Langmead and Clare Walsh, Field Advisors, are LCWR members representing the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.   

As we commemorate the anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, let us reflect on the past ten years and how we have responded as children of God.  We continue to pray for those families affected by the loss of loved ones and the many that were injured.

Though we as a country went to war to create solace through violence, we also saw the coming together of people of all faiths to try to understand each other in deeper and profound ways.  We have witnessed some families of the victims who declared, “Not in our name!” coming together to call for peace during the most heart-rending times of their lives.  People of faith have come together realizing that healing does not come through violence.

We also recognize the backlash against all Muslims, the hate speech and attacks that occurred using 9/11 as the reason.  We were challenged by Saadia Khan, Civic Outreach Coordinator of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in our Resolution to Action:  “It is the collective responsibility of all community and faith leaders to work together to ensure that the voices of hate and bigotry are not the loudest ones.  Each of us shares the duty to direct the public discourse and educate our communities on accepting one another.  If this type of hate speech and bigotry continues, it will affect the Muslim American youth the most.”

May what we have witnessed during the past ten years call us to recognize that which unites us more than that which divides—our common humanity.  May we continue to pray for peace throughout the world and be bearers of forgiveness and reconciliation.

North Pool of the National 9/11 Memorial Waterfalls at the World Trade Center site, called "Reflected Absence" (Amy Dreher photo).