Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Second Tuesday of Advent
IS 40:1-11
PS 96:1-2, 3 AND 10AC, 11-12, 13
MT 18: 12-14

                  When my siblings and I were younger, we had a plastic nativity set that my mom would set up in the window sill on the landing of our stairs. In order to teach us about anticipation, she would hide baby Jesus somewhere new every year, some place that no matter how high or low we looked (and we did look) we could not find him. But rest assured, every Christmas morning, on our way down stairs to open presents (likely at 5am), there was Baby Jesus, swaddled in cloth, tucked into his manger.

                  Fast forward fifteen years later, and I am still like my 6-year-old self, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jesus. We are instructed to spend this time “preparing the way of the Lord”, but we should not stop at the comfort of our own homes/apartments. In Isaiah, we are instructed to go shout at the tops of mountains that God is coming! We are instructed to be translucent in order that God’s light can shine through us and lead others to Him. Like the one lost sheep in the gospel, I have at times felt alone and misplaced by God; had it not been for my Shephard shining through my friends and mentors at the time, I may not have found home. We do not have to physically shout from the steps of the clock tower or down from the St. Louis Arch to proclaim that joy that Jesus Christ is coming, but we can let God’s light shine through us exceptionally bright this season. We live in a diverse city, and we are blessed with opportunity to study at SLU but also to return that grace through our actions. Next time someone stops you asking for money, offer to buy them a meal or a cup of coffee, maybe they are feeling like that lost sheep, and your small token of love and light could bring them the Joy of God this Advent season.

Simone Romero is a senior physical therapy major from Houston, Texas.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Reflection for Monday, December 5, 2016

Second Monday of Advent
IS 35:1-10
PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14
LK 5:17-26

After the last few months some of us may not hesitate to say “we’ve seen it all”. Nothing will surprise us anymore. How can we be struck after the Cubs have won the world series and Donald Trump was elected president?

Today, I urge you to prepare for what is coming; that will wipe all relevance from the events of the last few months. Isaiah foretells of our savior coming to our wretchedness to make all things right. To those downtrodden by the brokenness of our world, Isaiah speaks to you:
“Be strong, fear not! Here is our God, he comes… with divine recompense to save you” (Isaiah 35:4).

The season of advent calls us to live in anticipation of our savior coming to mend our broken world, starting with the hearts of each of us. Jesus has extended an invitation for us to live a new and changed life. Rooted in our orientation towards the coming promise of a messiah who will bring with him the justice this world desperately needs, the justice that we seek.

The Gospel tells the story of men living in bold belief of the power of Jesus. Unable to enter the presence of Jesus through the door, they went to the roof. Amazed by their faith, Jesus healed their paraplegic on the simple instruction of telling him to walk. (Luke 5:17-26) Let the hope of Jesus’ coming fill you and embolden your faith, so that you live like those who climbed to the roof to see Jesus.

Live in the hope, peace, joy and love that comes in knowing our time is coming, our time is near. Jesus will break apart the chains of our human brokenness, bringing his kingdom to earth with him.

Micah Pfotenhauer is a junior studying Public Health and Anthropology.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Reflection for Sunday, December 4, 2016

Second Sunday of Advent
IS 11:1-10
PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
ROM 15:4-9
MT 3:1-12

As a liturgical season, Advent highlights the already and not yetness of Christian Faith.  We are currently in a time of preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus over 2,000 years ago. And yet, as I read Isiah’s proclamation of hope, of a restoration of the people of Israel, my attention is drawn past the new roots and blossoms, to the image of the stump.  This Advent, after a political season that has laid bare the deep divisions festering in our country, that has reminded me of our capacity and willingness to brutalize each other, I am acutely aware of the not yetness present in our world.
I find a good call to action is a nice antidote to hopelessness, and in this Sunday’s Gospel we hear John the Baptist calling us to “repent” and to “prepare the way of the Lord” to, “Make straight his paths”.  Which sounds a little clear in that it is one thing to do; but also vague in that I am initially at a loss as to what step one of “make clear his path” could look like.  For me, this vagueness becomes troubling when I hear john tell the Pharisees, in fact tell me, “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance” followed up with allusions to the stump from Isaiah.
One thing is crystal clear; repentance is not passive, it requires doing something.  I cannot offer you a concrete roadmap or checklist of steps for repentance.  We all have a unique style of sinfulness, of deviating from the vision of who we are that God holds for each of us.  What I do is a starting point for reflection.  Going back to John’s injunction to “make straight (the Lord's) paths,”  I am prompted to think of the parable of the Shepherd separating the goats from the sheep. 

Jesus is quite explicit in saying that whatever we do for the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned - for all those experiencing marginalization today - we do for him.  We are called to make straight the paths for our brothers and sisters.  The steps we take to take down barriers to health care, to education, to each other, are steps to “Make straight the path of the Lord.”  This is only a starting point for discernment and discussion.  There are so many ways our systems meet the description of “crooked paths.”  Let us use this time of preparation to discern how we might join in in the vision of harmony and restoration found in today’s readings.
John Burke is the Faith and Justice Coordinator in Campus Ministry.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Reflection for Saturday, December 3, 2016

First Saturday of Advent (Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest)
IS 30:19-21, 23-26
PS 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
MT 9:35B-10:1, 5A, 6-8

The readings today implicitly and explicitly name the absence of the experience of God, or better yet, the experience of the absence of God. Imagining God as absent is somewhat out of the norm for most Christians, I think; despite a veritable plethora of Biblical images lamenting God's silence and absence (see, as one example that Jesus himself adopted, Psalm 22:1), our standard religious language imagines God as always good, always loving, and always present. But because of that attribution of omnipresence to God, we can have a hard time when violence and and injustice and destructiveness run unchecked - why is this happening? Why does God not intervene? Where is God?

For some people, this sounds like a dangerous lack of trust in God: God is perfect, we are not, so shut up and remember your place. I disagree; the sense of God's absence is precisely, and only, when the desire for God can emerge. The person who desires God is the person who is haunted by the sense of the lack of God, since desire is predicated on lack. That is, we only desire what we do not already have, like the rumbling of an empty stomach. The person whose guts churn with the feeling of God's absence is the one who has enough desire to call God to act again for our wellbeing, in a sense, to be God again. That desire opens up in the readings into hope - the training of the imagination to see a future that is different from the present, above and beyond the "facts on the ground" in front of us. The first reading, for example, offers an imaginative rendering of a future of abundance: clean water, fertile harvests, well-fed livestock, and an intimate and life-giving relationship with God. But to feel the need to craft such an image of the future, life for Isaiah and his community must have been very different: scarcity, fear, the silence of the absent God.

The Church frames Advent as a season of waiting, of anticipation and preparation for the coming of the reign of God in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But if God is here all the time, always obviously available and in reach, what are we waiting for? If we feel God's presence all the time, what are we anticipating? What do we desire? Nothing - because again, desire is only desire for what is absent. Perhaps Advent gives us permission or even demands that we pay more attention to where God, or at least God's dream for human wellbeing, certainly seems to be absent from the world: systematic racial injustice, religious bigotry, homophobia and transphobia, misogyny, untrammeled ecological devastation, and more. Jesus' desire for the presence of God to be made clear is on full display in the Gospel today; he sees people who are lacking the fullness of life that the reign of God entails - "sheep without a shepherd" is precisely a metaphor of the absence of God - and his response is the churning of his guts (the literal translation of "his heart was moved with pity") -- as in the Beatitudes, Jesus' stomach rumbled with hunger and thirst for justice!

We can imagine God as always at hand but still be hungry with desire for the coming of a better future - the presence and absence of God, the "already but not yet" of the reign of God. The future (in French, avenir) is that which is yet to come (a venir) but which we pray for and work for and hope for in a particular way during this season. Come Lord Jesus, viens, oui.

Patrick Cousins works in the Department of Campus Ministry.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Reflection for Friday, December 2, 2016

First Friday of Advent
IS 29:17-24
PS 27:1, 4, 13-14
MT 9:27-31

Recently discussing the topic of mercy, Pope Francis recounted an experience in which a poor woman, whom Francis as Archbishop of Buenos Aires had helped when she came asking for food for her family, rang the doorbell of the archbishop’s residence. He opened the door, and she said, “I want to thank you.” Francis replied, “for the food I sent over to you?” To which she replied, “No, not only the food, but also because you never stopped addressing me as ‘Señora (Mrs.)’” For Francis, mercy always involves treating others respectfully, in such a way that they emerge from an encounter with us feeling their own dignity, even if they receive from us resources to which they lacked access.
We see this same kind of mercy in Jesus’s cure of the two blind men in the Gospel today.  Jesus is not interested in simply curing these men, but he desires that they participate in their own cure. The cure isn’t something to be simply done for them, as if they were only passive recipients, but they need to feel themselves active in their own cure. And so he elicits their faith from the start, “Do you believe that I can do this?” They say yes, and as if to diminish further his own role in the cure and accentuate their role, he says, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” Even after the healing, Jesus shows that they were the center of what he did and that his own self-aggrandizement was not at all part of his motivation for curing them. He warns them, “See that no one knows about this.”
The first reading, too, reiterates this theme. The God of Isaiah is fully committed to justice, to curing the deaf and the blind, to exalting the lowly, and to undermining tyranny and those who leave the just person without a claim. But God is also always and fully committed to taking away shame. “Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face go pale.” Whenever anyone leaves the encounter with God’s mercy, God seeks to ensure that they do so with pride in themselves.
And so whatever mercy and healing we may experience from God this advent, God certainly hopes that we will not finally find ourselves recriminating ourselves, fearful of the future, or cowering before God. Rather it is God’s deepest desire that we experiencing ourselves blossoming like an orchard, leaving behind gloom and darkness, finding joy in the Lord, rejoicing, and full of awe at God’s love for us. Similarly in whatever we do for others, teaching, healing, researching, or serving those in or outside the University, God desires that those who receive what we give will feel themselves respected, confident in their own abilities and strength, and rejoicing in who God is and they are.   It is important to give to others, but even more important that they feel themselves full of self-worth, with the dignity of a Señora.

Fr. Michael Barber, SJ is former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and a Professor in the Philosophy Department.