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”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s New?

A reflection for the fifth week in Lent.
By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Thus says the LORD…
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.

-Isaiah 43:16-19

 

Is God doing anything “new” in your life?  Putting water into any of your personal deserts, or rivers in whatever might be a wasteland for you?  Perhaps more importantly, would you notice any of this “newness” if it were happening?

Many aspects of our lives conspire to prevent us from being able to see things anew, or to believe that anything new is possible.  We become overly accustomed to the same people, places, activities and events.  We become jaded by apparent corruption in institutions that we formerly esteemed and trusted.  Fixation on our mobile devices literally prevents us from seeing what is around us.  How can we believe that anything new and good is possible?

The late Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, captured this phenomenon well in an article she wrote titled “Windexing the Eyes”.  She described a monk who, after his 30-day retreat, said “It was as if my eyes were Windexed.”  The hours of prayer, meditation and silence were “the knife that excised the ‘cataracts’ formed by years of biased, habitual ways of seeing and refusal to see”.  Now, he was able to see beyond externals to a deeper reality. He felt that nothing stood between him and the other.

You may not be able or even inclined to undertake a 30-day retreat, but spending even some time in prayer, meditation and silence each day will provide you with the time and space with which to withdraw from the “externals” that consume you. It will allow you to get in touch with your authentic self and see what God is doing in your life.  During these final weeks of Lent and into Holy Week (and beyond), why not give it a try?

Day 7: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 7, Hospitality for Prayer

Scripture

  • Isaiah 62:6-7, Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels; all day and all night they shall never be silent.
  • Psalm 100, Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness.
  • 1 Peter 4:7b-10, Be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers.
  • John 4:4-14, The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

Meditation

As long as God’s people are divided, and Christians are estranged from one another, we are like Jesus in Samaria, strangers in a foreign land, without safety, without refreshment and without a place of rest.

The people of Israel longed for a place of safety where they could worship the Lord. Isaiah tells us of the Lord’s mighty act; he posted sentinels on the walls of Jerusalem so that his people could worship him in safety day and night.

In the Week of Prayer our churches and chapels become places of safety, rest and refreshment for people to join in prayer. The challenge from this week is to create more places and protected times of prayer, because as we pray together, we become one people.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you asked your apostles to stay awake with you and to pray with you. May we offer the world protected times and spaces in which to find refreshment and peace, so that praying together with other Christians we may come to know you more deeply. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • How can we promote mutual hospitality among parishes and congregations in our locality?
  • Is there a place in our neighborhood where Christians from different traditions can gather in prayer, and if not can we help to create such a place?

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 6

2015_WPCU_Poster_inner_240x349Day 6, Jesus said : The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14)

SCRIPTURE:

  • Exodus 2:15-22, Moses at the well of Midian
  • Psalm 91, The song of those who take refuge in the Lord
  • 1 John 4 :16-21, Perfect love casts out fear
  • John 4 :11-15, A spring of water welling up to eternal life

 

MEDITATION:

The dialogue that begins with Jesus asking for water becomes a dialogue in which Jesus promises water. Jesus will again ask for a drink. “I thirst,” from the cross, and from the cross Jesus becomes the promised fountain of water which flows from his pierced side. We receive this water from Jesus in baptism, and it becomes a water, a life that wells up within us to be given and shared with others.

Sister Romi, a nurse from Campo Grande, was a pastor in the Pentecostal tradition. One Sunday night, all alone in a shack, in Romi’s neighborhood a sixteen year old indigenous girl gave birth to a baby boy. She was found lying on the floor and bleeding. Sister Romi took her to the hospital. Enquiries were made – where was Simei’s family? They were found, but they did not want to know. Semei and her child had no home to go to. Sister Romi took them into her own modest home. Semei continued to have health problems, but Sister Romi’s great generosity brought forth further generosity from her neighbors. Semei named her son Luke Nathanial and in time they were able to move away from the city to a farm, but she did not forget the kindness of Sister Romi and her neighbors.

The water that Jesus gives, the water that Sister Romi received in baptism, became in her a spring of water and an offer of life to Semei and her child. Prompted by her witness, this same baptismal water became a spring, a fountain, in the lives of Romi’s neighbors. The water of baptism springing into life becomes an ecumenical witness of Christian love in action, a foretaste of the eternal life which Jesus promises. Concrete gestures like these practiced by ordinary people are what we need in order to grow in fellowship. They give witness to the Gospel and relevance to ecumenical relations.

PRAYER:

Triune God, following the example of Jesus make us witnesses to your love. Grant us to become instruments of justice, peace and solidarity. May your Spirit move us towards concrete actions that lead to unity. May walls be transformed into bridges. This we pray in the name of Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Source: Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute