"Act of Faith Hope Love Collage" by Art4TheGlryOfGod is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
When we look at the horrific sufferings in the world caused by war, poverty, various forms of oppression and ecological devastation we may ask, “What will it take to bring world suffering to an end?”
The Sufi tell a story:
Past the seeker, as he prayed, came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them the holy one went down into deep prayer and cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?”
And out of the long silence, God said, “I did do something about them. I made you.”*
As we begin the New Year, this is exactly what we need to hear. We are the ones to bring God’s love to this world here and now. This is what the Incarnation is all about. God becoming flesh refers not only to the full humanity of Jesus but to the whole of humanity embraced by God. As the great patristic theologians declared, God became human so that humanity could become like God. Saint Paul loved to refer to the first Christian community as the “Body of Christ,” called to continue the mission of Christ in the world. As “other Christs” we are to use our gifts and talents to bring God’s love, justice, and peace to the human community and the entire earth. How are you being called to make a small contribution on a daily basis to bring the world’s suffering to an end?
*Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection: Storytelling and the Search for Meaning (New York: Bantam Books, 1993, Kindle edition), Kindle location 1549.
The unexpected voice of Advent has the power to set people on a wondrous path of new life. Advent tells the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, who are childless in their old age but give birth to a son, John, because God fulfills impossible dreams. Mary hears the angel’s voice, “Do not be afraid, O highly favored daughter, you will give birth to the Savior.” She responds wholeheartedly, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” And in a dream the unexpected voice of an angel consoles the brokenhearted Joseph, encouraging him to change his plans and take Mary as his wife. They give birth to a son and they name him “Emmanuel,” meaning God is with us. All of these Advent figures listened and trusted the unexpected voice of God. As a result, their lives, and ours, have been transformed in miraculous ways.
This unexpected voice of God still speaks today in the story of Ted Shawn, a young divinity student who was suddenly stricken with polio. From somewhere deep within him came a most unlikely voice calling him to, of all things, dance. So, with great difficulty, he quit divinity school and began to dance, and slowly and miraculously, he not only regained the use of his legs, but went on to become one of the fathers of modern dance.
This Advent recall a time in your own life when the unexpected voice of God came to you, perhaps in a time of great vulnerability, and showed you the way to new life and happiness. Give thanks to God and ask yourself: Am I still listening?
Last week we explored the question Jesus asks his followers, “Who do you say that I am?”
But there’s another way to phrase it. You ask Jesus the question. Just sit quietly and ask Jesus that same question, “Jesus, who do you say that I am?”
It feels a lot different, doesn’t it? There is something very humbling about it, very vulnerable. When we fear that someone will be very harsh or judgmental with us, we don’t usually ask for their feedback. It’s a little easier to hear negative feedback from the people we know do care about us. Honestly asking Jesus this question shows that we have a deep trust that Jesus is only truly interested in what is best for us, that he truly loves us.
What might be more surprising is that Jesus might give us some unexpectedly positive messages. He might very well see all sorts of beautiful things about us that we haven’t noticed or have undervalued.
Whatever the Spirit of Jesus brings to us in response, whether it’s an invitation to grow in some area or a joy at our goodness, the response will always be one of love.
Take some time today to ask, “Jesus, who do you say that I am?”
That famous question, “Who do you say that I am?” occurs in this Sunday’s Gospel. It can be a very important discernment question because how we answer it affects everything. If you say Jesus was a good man who set a good example, that may be nice, but it doesn’t necessarily call a person to any radical change. If you say Jesus is the one who will judge us in the end, then it might just make you anxious and act out of guilt. If you say Jesus is the creator of the universe manifesting in human form to teach us how to live and love, you might feel more drawn to respond with your life.
At a very personal level, we probably answer this question differently from others, and even for ourselves at different points in our lives. Because Jesus is also a ‘person,’ we are in a relationship, and relationships change over time. Jesus may not change, but our understanding of him and way of relating to him will. Some of the different answers I have had to this question: Jesus you are… my partner… my hope… a caress… a challenger… the one I take time with each night and morning… the core relationship in my life.
Discernment involves other people. But the strongest voice in becoming who I am, and discerning what I am called to do, is the voice of Jesus.
Who do you say Jesus is?
I’m not sure why I find this image so delightful, but I do. It’s a photo from the shelf above my 6 year old niece’s bed. She adores Minions. And she thinks of the other ‘stuffie’ as “Baby Jesus when he grew up.”
I love that she put Jesus and the Minion (Kevin, for those in the know) together. It reminds me of how Jesus can speak to any situation, even an animated or pretend one. Jesus meets us where we are – whether we are a Minion-loving six-year-old, a twenty-something struggling to find our life path, a fifty-something grieving the loss of a relationship, or an eighty-something coming to peace with aging.
Let Jesus speak to you just as you are this day.
“Well, my love story began….” I was so struck by each of the young women speaking with me. I had asked each of them to share with me their story of how they came to religious life, and every single one referred to her “love story.” I thought it was so beautiful!
I was visiting our Sisters in the Philippines and I heard the stories of the five temporary professed sisters, two novices and two candidates – each one of whom knew she was on that path because of Jesus’ love for her. And it wasn’t an insular love – it wasn’t a just “me and Jesus” kind of love. Each story included giving and experiencing love with the other Sisters and with the people they serve. It is a love story that leads each woman out to love and serve others.
Their love stories weren’t all smooth. There were often many challenges. But being grounded in that base of love enables them to go forward in confidence – with the one that loves them by their side.
It is true for all of us, whatever our path. The love of Jesus can sustain us, lead us out of ourselves, and give us the courage to continue forth.
Can you sense Jesus walking with you?
At dinner the other night, one of the Sisters said, “My spiritual director asked me, ‘So what does Lent mean to you?’ So now I want to ask each of you.” We each shared our thoughts. It was a good discussion and here are some of the meanings we had:
- It’s like a second chance, a deeper commitment than what I did for Advent.
- A time to slow down and get closer to God, to take time to listen to God.
- A time to take on new practices so I grow in my faith and as a person.
- A time to be more aware of others.
- I try to ask God how God wants me to pray in a new way, what God wants me to give up, and what God wants me to give.
We reflected that sometimes these Lenten practices are for a time of six weeks and other times doing them can lead us into a new life pattern. All of us had the desire to grow, to become more who God made us to be.
What does Lent mean for you? What is God saying to you these Lenten days? Jesus prepared for his public ministry by spending forty days in the desert listening to God and being very aware of all the inner and outer temptations facing him. He grew strong and came out ready to take on a new way of being. What do you need to do to prepare for what God is calling you to do and be?
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Sister Dot Dempsey, OP, in Chicago. Sister Dot serves on our Vocation Outreach Awareness Team.
So much is happening as we celebrate St. Andrew the Apostle, this 1st Week of Advent and at the beginning of the Dominican Family’s 800th Jubilee! So much to think about, celebrate and thank God for.
Jesus said to Simon and Andrew, “come after me.” We too have been called to the Order of Preachers. The motto for our 800th Jubilee is “Go and Preach.” Jesus sent the Apostles and we too were sent by Saint Dominic to find new ways of preaching.
As we begin this liturgical year, in this jubilee year, we invite you to “come and see”, to share the joy in following Jesus. We want to open our hearts and open doors, as we praise, bless, and preach the good news.
This week's reflection comes to us from guest blogger, Sister Dusty Farnan, OP.
I’m writing this reflection on the eve of Advent. Advent invites us into two important actions: to be alert and to be awake. What does any of this have to do with me or especially those of you who are pondering what path to take in life. Maybe you are wondering like Elizabeth how is it that the “Lord should come to me?"
I think it has a lot to do with you and me. Luke’s Gospel for the Last Sunday in Advent reminds me of when I felt the call from God to pursue religious life. I believe I felt like Elizabeth when Mary visited her. I had just witnessed the beautiful reception of a classmate of mind from high school who had become a Novice in Adrian Dominican Congregation. I was so moved by the ceremony and the giving of total self that my friend had made that it stuck with me for a long time. It was as if Jesus” leaped inside me” in a way I had never experienced before. I became alert and aware that Jesus was calling me to follow him more closely. And so I wrote to the Prioress of the congregation asking for admission. It’s now fifty years later.
Perhaps this advent you might be awakened to God’s voice calling you to a deeper relationship. May Advent awaken you to the God life already dwelling in you as a result of your Baptism. May you become more alert to the prompting of God’s call to you this Christmas season.
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Get out your bell-bottoms and platform shoes, because DISCO is here!
Okay, so it's a little less dancing, a little more talking... Sisters Lorraine Réaume, OP, and Sara Fairbanks, OP, have a new video series called DISCO (Discernment Conversations): Dancing with the questions of life!