Monday, December 24, 2018

Reflection for Monday, December 24, 2018

Monday in the Fourth Week in Advent

2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 AND 29 
LK 1:67-79

Today’s readings, specifically the Gospel, remind me of St. Ignatius’s First Principle and Foundation from the Spiritual Exercises.  The First Principle, summarized, says that our goal as Christians is to be with God, who created us and loves us, and so the purpose of everything we do has to be to “praise, reverence, and serve God.”  I love the First Principle because it allows us to center our lives on what’s really important. The Christmas season can easily distract us from this main focus. Consumerism and materialism infiltrate into our lives, tempting us to think that gifts, decorations, and parties are the most important part of the season.  For college students, final exams, projects, and papers can also distract us and make us think our worth comes from a grade and not from our connection to God.

Zechariah, though, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” tells us God’s plan clearly:

"Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
for he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of his servant David.” (Lk 1:68-69).

This passage, in the context of Advent, centers us not solely within the true meaning of this season, but also within the meaning of our lives as Christians. God loves us so much that he gave his only son to be with us and suffer with us on Earth.  God will liberate us, one day, from this earthly suffering. So, considering this grounding message of Advent, we can better act in our daily lives to “praise, reverence, and serve” this God who loves us.

Julia Murphy is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and an intern in Campus Ministry.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Reflection for Sunday, December 23, 2018

Fourth Sunday of Advent

MI 5:1-4A
PS 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
HEB 10:5-10
LK 1:39-45

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we are given the Gospel passage describing the joy of the Visitation between Mary and Elizabeth and they share the news of the unlikely gifts they had received from God in bearing new life into the world. Not only would both bear sons, but those sons would be figures around whom the whole history of salvation would turn. Mary and Elizabeth probably could not fathom what that would mean but they both knew something big was happening, that God was asking their cooperation in it and though they both saw themselves as unlikely candidates for being so pivotal in the salvation of the human race, they humbly, modestly, but also confidently, had the grace to cooperate with what God was proposing. May we ask for a share in that sort of disposition of Elizabeth and especially Mary; to be open to the Word of God in our loves, the be humble enough listen and confident enough in God to cooperate. And in all the little yeses of our lives, may we share the joy of that yes with those around us!

Fr. Christopher Collins, SJ
Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity
Saint Louis University

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Reflection for Saturday, December 22, 2018

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

1 SM 1:24-28
1 SAMUEL 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8ABCD
LK 1:46-56

The readings today highlight God attending to the cry of the lowly. In both the Old Testament reading and the Gospel, the lowly in these readings are the hearts of two women--Hannah and Mary. Both women rejoice in a fulfilled promise. Hannah prayed in the temple incessantly and promised her first born to be offered back to God. After Hannah’s prayer was answered, she gives Samuel back to the temple which represents God.
Mary also rejoices in a promise which she was likely still contemplating and praying through. Her song, the Magnificat, is prayed daily in the Liturgy of Hours. We are reminded of this mystery which she first sung to Elizabeth, whose heart met Mary’s in prayer, body, and experience.
The faith these women lived was actualized in the nitty gritty of their daily lives. It is easy to look at these stories and believe they are somehow different from our experiences. Hannah’s hope was fulfilled after a long, faithful waiting. Elizabeth also waited for most of her life to bear John the Baptist to the world. And her own husband struggled to believe God’s promise. Mary was likely perplexed and tentative, and yet as she listened to Elizabeth call her blessed, she rejoiced and sang: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.”
What great things will you allow God to do for you during this Advent and Christmas season. Do you believe what you are hoping for in the deepest recesses of your being will be fulfilled? Most of us do not know exactly what it is we are hoping to find. Still, the God who created us fully knows who we are to be. With Mary, let us sing our own Magnificat, expecting God to fulfill our desires in ways that outwit, surprise and delight us.
The poem below was inspired by Mary’s song which I wrote this last October. I pray you will also find a way to sing with Mary her song this Christmas season.


Mary’s song they say
was inspired by the LOVE
she had for God.

Did she cry out poetically
or was she enraptured in
LOVE’s kiss?

Was her heart so open
to allow God
license to
and LOVE
through her?

How might this radical
change our hearts
this time?

Where O my heart
do you shut out
Divine Love?

Recreate my flesh and bone
sinew and thought
to be
Your OWN.

Open my hard, rough,
broken, bruised spaces
and sing once more
Her song, Your song…

Through Me.

(By Christy Hicks on Oct. 1, 2018)

Christy Hicks is the Campus Minister in Grand Hall.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Reflection for Friday, December 21, 2018

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

SG 2:8-14

ZEP 3:14-18A
PS 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21
LK 1:39-45

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.
-Luke 1:44-45

                  I have had the great blessing to be pregnant during Advent with all three of my children. It was an incarnational experience to walk with Mary, living the scriptures in my body as my child grew and we prepared for its coming. I love Ignatian contemplation – using my imagination to place myself in a scripture story and exploring the scene to learn about myself and my relationship to God. Especially with my second child who was born 3 days after Christmas, I was able to do this…and now I encourage you to do the same.
                  Place yourself in the scene, using all your senses as you read this gospel passage. Are you Mary traveling with child to visit family? Are you a family member or bystander who happens to be here? Are you Elizabeth who cries out in joy in the presence of the unborn child? How do you imagine their voices sound as they speak? What smells of baking for guests reach your nose? After some time of reflection and reading the passage again…What themes emerge from your imaginative contemplation? What do they say about you right now ? your relationship with God? with others?
This passage from Luke reminds me of being pregnant with our daughter Isabella this time last year. My job is to prepare and coordinate the Sunday student liturgies at College Church. And I had a similar experience to Elizabeth during several 9pm Masses, as the child in my womb leapt for joy at the sound of the choir, in particular their beautiful Advent communion meditations. In a very real and tangible way I felt happiness and joy.
This Advent season I invite you to use Ignatian contemplation to have an embodied, incarnational experience of our shared salvation story as Christ is born as a small child and dwells among us. Allow yourself be taken up into the scriptures and to feel happiness and joy that can then be shared with all those you meet this holiday season. Peace to you this Advent season!

Erin Schmidt is Liturgy Coordinator in the Department of Campus Ministry.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Reflection for Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

IS 7:10-14
PS 24:1-2, 3-4AB, 5-6
LK 1:26-38

I enjoy the season of Advent because I’ve often thought of it as an invitation to slow down. We’re steeped in a mindset that pushes speed. We like to have things now. Two-day shipping isn’t fast enough—we need to have it overnighted. For an extra fee, we can avoid the lines at theme parks and move to the front without having to wait. We’re upset with people going 10 mph over the speed limit because we think they’re not driving fast enough. 

I generally use Advent as a reminder to be present. Ideally, this would be a practice I’d embrace all year-round, but I’ll willingly admit that I don’t alway remember to, so it’s nice to set some time aside to reinstitute this practice. When I slow down, I find that I’m better able to notice how God is working in the present moment. There are so many nights when I look over my day and realize all of the opportunities I had to notice God, yet failed to be present to them. Or I can find myself asking why God wasn’t present in a situation when really, I just wasn’t paying attention. 

Or there are those moments when I feel anxious or overwhelmed. When Mary is greeted by the angel in today’s gospel reading, one of the first things the angel says to her is “don’t be afraid.” When I slow down, take a deep breath, and try to be present to the moment, I feel less overwhelmed.

I hope that in these past few weeks you have been able to slow down, but even if you haven’t, there’s still time. In the coming days until Christmas, I would encourage you to seek out those moments in which you can pause and notice God’s presence in the moment.

Robby Francis is the CLC Coordinator in the Department of Campus Ministry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Reflection for Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

JGS 13:2-7, 24-25A
PS 71:3-4A, 5-6AB, 16-17
LK 1:5-25

In today’s readings we have two biblical accounts that are very similar in structure and content. In the Hebrew Bible text from Judges and the New Testament text from Luke’s gospel we encounter two women (proceeded by their lengthy, complicated lineage) receive angelic announcements that though they have been barren for many years they will soon bear children. Both narratives serve to connect Jesus to a long, familiar lineage of ancient figures and communities characterized by their fidelity and faithfulness to God.
To say that these women have been waiting, have been anticipating, have, perhaps, known a spiritual darkness and desolation is an understatement. In spite of that there is an understanding of conversion in terms of a change of heart, especially in Luke’s gospel (1:17). Even as I read these angelic announcements of long-awaited joy, I can’t help but still feel anxious and uncertain. As the mother of two children, I know that pregnancy and the anticipation of a child is a time of steadfast hope that is still fragile and fraught in its anticipation. In this last line of Luke’s Gospel, though God opens the possibility for desolation and anxiety to move towards more genuine joy and consolation. Both passages represent the opportunity and the voice given for women to be the definitive interpreters of their own experience. Each passage also puts before us a long held expectation and a situation in which God transforms that long held expectation and changes our human perceptions completely.

For me, this demonstrates God infusing hope and skepticism where doubt and darkness feel utterly complete.  For many of us, like these women, our anxiety, our grief, our suffering may seem invisible. Often unknown to others and even intangible to ourselves and those closest to us. Joyful pronouncements such as the ones in these scripture passages sit alongside the long suffering that might precede them. In the midst of joy or anxiety, abundance or scarcity, God says to us: I am with you. I am present. What you experience I am present to.

Cynthia Enghauser is Campus Minister in Reinert Hall.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Reflection for Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

JER 23:5-8
PS72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19
MT 1:18-25

Oh, how do I long for the justice of our God!

The world is broken, breaking, over and over, in every moment.

Oh… how do I long for the justice of our God?

The world is broken; it wants healing; but the justice of God… it would really turn my world upside down a lot.

Oh. How? Do I long for the justice of God?

I want to. I think I do. But the justice of God also sounds complicated and hard, and I wonder sometimes how I can have any part in something so big. How it could possibly happen for real at all, even.


This is how: the birth of Jesus Christ came about.

This is how: Jesus Christ is born Emmanuel, God with us.

This is how: the justice of God appears in our midst, already.

This is how the justice of God appears in our midst; this is how our deepest longing is fulfilled:

The birth of Justice, Love in our midst, came about.

The birth of Justice, Love in our midst, can come again.

The birth of Justice, Love in our midst, calls us in to it, each time it comes.

This is how: step by step, birth by birth, breaking by breaking, revolution by revolution.

Love has shown us how:
            the cry of the poor is heard and answered.
            the life of the poor is seen and saved.

Justice flourishes in God’s time:
            in every moment when the cry is heard, and the invisible seen,
            Love lives and breathes in our midst.

Justice flourishes in every moment when Love hears the words “do not be afraid”:

Do not be afraid to bind yourself to the bearer of God.
Do not be afraid to bind yourself to God.
Do not be afraid to love.

Love yourself:
            enough to loosen your grip on fear, love yourself.
Love yourself enough to make room for your neighbor:
            make room for your neighbor right next to you, and love them.
Love your neighbor, and meet God.
            Love God in your midst; find God in your love.

Love is born.

With us.

This is how.

The Rev. Beth Scriven pastors and advises the Rockwell House Episcopal Campus Ministry at SLU and WashU.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Reflection for Monday, December 17, 2018

Monday of the Third Week in Advent

GN 49:2, 8-10
PS 72:1-2, 3-4AB, 7-8, 17 

Reading the genealogy of Jesus Christ makes me think of the generations that have gone before me, particularly my grandmother and the family celebrations she hosted. During this Advent season, I think about her beautiful nativity set that we gingerly played with and rearranged as we marveled at the solemn and delicate figures. Her bright Christmas tree, with the personalized ornaments for every one of her children and grandchildren. The welcoming atmosphere that brought boyfriends and girlfriends and friends without plans was a way we could brag without saying a word—our family is not just about blood. We know from the story of Jesus’ origin that Joseph agreed to raise Jesus as his own, but the biology is a little tricky. In our family as well, we hugged, kissed, and laughed with those we bonded with through love and blood, friendship and trust.
Family trees are not as linear as this Gospel, and women do not disappear in our family as they are largely absent from this reading. I was blessed with strong men and women to look up to, and have gone to parties exclusively for the women on both my mother’s and father’s side. I am sure the matrilineal genealogy of Jesus Christ was just as full of women who connected regularly, supported each other, and loved fiercely as Mary cherished her cousin Elizabeth. I would hope that Jesus was taken aside by his mother and gently taught how womenfolk sacrificed and loved and supported generations of men, some who were kings. She must have taught him so many lessons of compassion and kindness, to temper the ferocious power Jacob preached to his son, Judah. Indeed, Jesus’ life is full of stories where he did not exert his authority or sovereignty, but like a mother, gently guided his children to find the answers themselves.
In this Monday of the Third Week in Advent, let us remember how Jesus found a balance to the wrath and command of previous generations with the benevolence, love, and inclusivity of the feminine influences in his life. Let us read between the lines of today’s readings to see how Jesus’ coming was such a turning point in history, not only for Christianity, but for humanity.

Nicole Mispagel is Graduate Programs Assistant in the Office of Graduate Education and Research in Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology.