Sunday, December 24, 2017

Reflection for Sunday, December 24, 2017

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The glory of the Lord is upon us!  Rejoice!

There are five separate sets of readings for both the fourth Sunday of Advent this year combined with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  In the gospels for this Sunday in Advent and Mass at dawn on Christmas, we find powerful images of Mary, of pastures and shepherds, flocks and angels, and of course the Christ child.

In an Ignatian contemplation I prayed on Luke 2: 15-20, I was moved by the shepherds, picturing myself as one of them on that holy night.  I could feel the cool wind of the evening blowing across my face.  I saw the angels surrounding me, the other shepherds, and the sheep.  I could hear the rustle of the silence of the meadow interspersed with the sheep bleating.  I could feel their wiry wooly coats as I comforted them.  I could taste the grass and dust blowing around through the field.

And in my contemplation, surrounding myself with all the feelings that come through my senses, I too experienced the arrival of the angels.  My fellow shepherds were excited to see the baby and so was I.  But then the head shepherd said to me “Hey, we’re going down to see the baby.  But someone has to stay behind and take care of the sheep – you’re the one, Sue!”  At first I was disappointed but then I curled up with those sheep surrounding me while the others went to the manger.

Now I was really stuck and struck with this imagery.  I couldn’t get beyond the “someone has to stay behind”.  After the disappointment left me, I did this job dutifully and I was able to reflect on that duty and hold it in my heart.  Sometimes we don’t get to “see” things and we must have faith – faith in the glory of God and in all the wonderful things God has brought to us.

In a similar way, in both of the Gospel readings, Mary reflects and has faith.  In Luke 1, we see Mary saying “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  And in Luke 2, Mary “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”  Mary’s a good role model for me in my contemplation but also for all of us.  By Mary’s example, how are we called to be both shepherds keeping the sheep and people of faith that take time to believe without seeing and to listen to the Holy Spirit call us by name?

St. Ignatius teaches us in the first principle and foundation, that we must love, reverence and serve God.  Mary provides the perfect example of this for us and we too, like the shepherds with our flocks (if you will – our families, our friends, our colleagues, the strangers we meet), are called to love, reverence, and serve God on this most holy of days.

The glory of the Lord is upon us!  Rejoice!

Sue Chawszczewski, Ph.D.

Director of Campus Ministry

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Reflection for Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
MAL 3:1-4, 23-24
PS 25:4-5AB, 8-9, 10 AND 14
LK 1:57-66

Today’s readings talk a lot about having faith. In the first reading, we are reminded of how we have been waiting, but that we must be ready for the day that God has promised. Malachi speaks of those who have been and will be sent and that we must remember to be prepared. Christmas is only two days away! We have been waiting throughout the season of Advent for this day and we are so close. It is in these moments of impatience or of knowing that we are so close that we must not lose hope.
Both the first reading and the gospel remind me of a quote I have been reflecting on lately: “Let go and let God.” I am not quite sure where I first hear this quote, but it often comes to me when I am stressed about the future and its uncertainty. For Elizabeth and Zechariah, this meant trusting God with the name He had chosen for their son, regardless of what others were saying. For those Malachi was speaking to, this meant trusting that God would follow through as he had said he would. For us, this can mean trying to let go of the uncertainly and stress about the upcoming holiday season with various family members, obligations, and what the New Year. In our times of stress, we must remember that God has everything under control. Regardless of what happens, He knows what He is doing and will always be there for us. With the Advent season ending, I encourage all of us to focus on trying to let go of our holiday-season stresses and impatience and to reflect on the joyous moments of sharing time together and celebrating the birth of Christ.

Katlyn Martin is a junior studying Political Science. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Reflection for Friday, December 22, 2017

Friday of the Third Week of Advent
1 SM 1:24-28
1 SAMUEL 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8ABCD
LK 1:46-56

     This time of year fills my heart and mind with so many emotions and memories.  Some of these stir feelings which create an inner struggle.  Seeing the heightened commercialism everywhere you turn, beginning with “Black Friday” and all the way through the post Christmas sales can be draining.  How has this season become so lost and how do we personally navigate these days to recognize the spirit of the season? 

     I try to begin each day with thoughts of appreciation for everything I have in my life.  I recall a friend sharing her personal thoughts of finding gratitude, even during difficult times.  She said, “I thank God for everything He has given me, everything He has taken away, and everything He has left me with.”  These compelling words are great reminders this time of year and are consistent with today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke where Mary proclaimed, “the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.”  I too can declare the same statement with my life.

     When Mary conveys, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior,” I am reminded of when I feel the most connected spiritually; when I am praying for God’s will for me and listening for the direction to carry out that will.  My spirit rejoices inevitably when I am reaching out to those in marginalized communities.  I do not do this not only to offer hope and express love for them but also in an effort to learn.  It is in others I see God as Pope Francis has shared, “Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God.” 

     I am reminded of a time when my daughter was nine and she helped me with our Angel Tree program at work.  Every year, a local community center of children who are in various levels of need are welcomed to our campus.  There are many fun-filled activities and the little children receive a visit from Santa and receive a few gifts as well.  My daughter helped serve food, help the little kids write thank you letters to their “Angels” and even cleaned up after the event.  As we got in our car to leave, she asked me in such a sweet voice, “Daddy, why does my heart feel funny?”  I asked her to explain further and she said “It feels warm and fuzzy” and continued to share how she believed it was because of the event.  I simply told her, with my eyes filling with tears, “You get that feeling when helping others and not expecting anything in return.” 

     I hope we all create some time to “rejoice” this season by extending our time and hearts to others. 

Pete Garvin is an officer in the Department of Public Safety.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reflection for Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
IS 7:10-14
PS 24:1-2, 3-4AB, 5-6
LK 1:26-38

As I reflected on the readings, I found myself overwhelmed as I can imagine Mary feeling overwhelmed with the words from the angel Gabriel that was sent by God in the Gospel LK 1:26-1:38, the announcement of the Birth of Jesus.  To imagine this moment in Mary’s life where she learns that she will be the Mother of the Son of God – this is an awesome gift and an awesome responsibility.  She was selected to receive this gift from God – a pure and simple gift from God.  Mary humbly accepts this gift (1:38) before the angel departs from her.  How can we learn from Mary’s willingness to serve God humbly and without fear?

To imagine times where you may be overwhelmed with a great responsibility that someone else gives you, even if they have faith in you for this responsibility.  Are there times where we feel unworthy of a “gift”?  Unworthy of someone’s belief in us?  The readings had me reflect on faith – faith in one’s self and faith in God.  I think the season is a time for us to cherish these opportunities to find faith in yourself and finding God in others.  Many times, we get lost in our feelings of not being good enough or worthy enough for what God presents to us – or we don’t recognize God’s presence in our life and the opportunities presented to us.  By strengthening our faith in ourselves, we strengthen our faith in God.  And by strengthening our faith in God, we strengthen our faith in ourselves.

I also think the announcement of the coming of Jesus, the Son of God, is a time for awareness and celebration – this is a time for joy and to be awed by the power of God through the gift he bestows upon Mary and all of us.  How can we find time to reflect on this “gift” during a busy Christmas season that sometimes is full of the material gifts?  My challenge for myself this year is to reflect on the presence of God in my life and how I will find opportunities to strengthen my faith even when I may feel overwhelmed or unworthy throughout the year.  I find my strength in Mary’s grace.

Susan M. Fanale
Director of Orientation
Saint Louis University

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Reflection for Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
JGS 13:2-7, 24-25A
PS 71:3-4A, 5-6AB, 16-17
LK 1:5-25

The Danger of Asking Why?
The LCME remediation process for the medical school has been a complex, time-consuming process that has pushed many students, staff, and faculty to address the most basic elements of what we must do to more effectively deliver, document, evaluate, and continuously improve undergraduate medical education at SLU. While I firmly believe we will come out of this stronger as a school and a university, the remediation process has not always run smoothly. One of the early roadblocks to progress was our community’s obsession with the why: Why did this happen? Why was the report so severe? Why were programmatic problems at SLU not addressed? Why did our leaders respond the way they did? The why’s were paralyzing. Although we needed to understand why the areas of concern were cited by the LCME in order to address them, we needed to move beyond wondering why did this happen to us. We needed to accept that what is, is. We must address these issues. There are no alternatives.
Our biblical characters—and our biblical authors—had an opportunity to asked lots of why’s in our readings today. Two couples who were stigmatized for their infertility were visited by angels who told them they were to have sons who were already special in the eyes of the Lord. This was not a back-and-forth discussion; this was not a bargain or a debate. Samson’s mother, Manoah, accepted the news without asking very basic questions and then passed the announcement on to her husband. Even if some whys crept into the encounters, the authors of the texts didn’t include them in the stories. In fact, I find it interesting that these announcements are recorded at all, since they don’t add much to the storylines of the sons. But what they do add is the demonstration of the acceptance, the blessing, and the joy of the parents who were able to not only shed stigma, but gain sons who would change the course of their nation. They were startled with a responsibility they didn’t see coming, but they got on to the business of pregnancy and parenting.

I’m not suggesting we blunt our intellectual curiosity or we stop seeking root causes for areas of improvement in ourselves and our communities. But whys can be dangerous if our questions become barriers to doing. We should ask ourselves how many whys are truly helpful if and when they delay us from work that must be done. Questioning should lead to action, not hand-wringing. There are times for questions and times for work. Gustavo Gutierrez may have been commenting on this when he ordered his day--What Hegel said about philosophy can be said of theology: It rises only at sundown.

Fred Rottnek is Professor and Director of Community Medicine in the School of Medicine.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Reflection for Sunday, December 17, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent
IS 61:1-2A, 10-11
LK 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 THES 5:16-24
JN 1:6-8, 19-28

On Thursday of this past week, in Matthew's gospel Jesus tells the crowd that John the Baptist is Elijah, "the one who is to come," but in today's reading from John's gospel, John the Baptist says that he is not Elijah but he does reiterate the text from Isaiah that we read last Sunday, but with a twist - Isaiah says, "A voice cries out, 'In the desert make straight the way of the Lord,'" but John modifies it slightly: "A voice cries out in the desert 'Make straight the way of the Lord.'" Do you see the difference? In Isaiah, the way of the Lord is being made straight in the desert, whereas in John, the one doing the crying out is in the desert - i.e., John the Baptist.

Similarly, the first reading from Isaiah 61 shows back up in the Alleluia verse - "The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed [mashiach, christos] me to bring glad tidings [good news, euangelion, gospel] to the poor." If this verse looks familiar, it is because this is how Jesus introduces his "mission statement," if you will, when he goes to the synagogue in Nazareth after his baptism and testing in the desert. What does it mean to be Son of God, as the tempter asked him for 40 days? To proclaim good news and to heal people of what is tearing their lives down.

What is the point of making these connections? First, that the early Christians understood themselves as inheritors of an incredibly rich tradition in the Old Testament which we as contemporary Christians rarely appreciate. Teaching introductory theology classes, I know I see all too often that Christian students have next to no familiarity with the Biblical tradition, particularly the Old Testament. But beyond simply lamenting the lack of appreciation of the connections that the lectionary makes for us, the readings point out to us that our expectation then as now is for good news - not just fewer negative headlines every day (although, yes please) but THE good news - the hope of a world made new through God in Jesus.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Reflection for Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday of the Second Week of Advent
IS 48:17-19
PS 1:1-2, 3, 4, AND 6
MT 11:16-19

Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.
If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
[Isaiah 48:17-18]

                As a mother to two young boys, I often find myself banging my head against a wall (figuratively and sometimes literally) when it comes to the number of times I say no: “Ben, no, don’t grab your brother’s neck like that…. Jason, no, toilets are not toys.” Of course, I try to direct their behavior because they are two and four years old – they do not yet have the capacity to fully understand their actions and both the immediate and long term consequences of them. So for their safety and ultimate happiness, I find myself laying out a list of commands quite frequently when I would much rather be cuddling or playing with them.
                Every once in a while, I stop and reflect – this must be how God is with me sometimes (ok, much of the time). I imagine God, my eternal parent, banging head and hands against the stars or the big pearly gates, saying like Isaiah in today’s first reading, “If she only listened to me, her prosperity would be like a river.” Often I think we forget that God would want nothing more than to envelope us in love, peace, and joy, an eternal cuddle so to speak. God’s commands are for our ultimate safety and happiness, rather than an annoying list of rules for judgement and punishment.

                During this season of Advent, whether or not you have children, I encourage you to take some time to imagine yourself as God’s child and reflect on how God wants nothing more than to love you and give you the best. However, this requires our cooperation and openness to God’s grace in the world and those around us. We may falter and fail, but God’s abundant love is still there in the meekness of a child on Christmas morning. Then end your reflection imagining yourself running to the open arms of God...stay there for a while and savor this unending, overwhelming love, allowing it to inspire you to be the best, most authentic version of yourself.

Erin Schmidt is the Liturgy Coordinator in Campus Ministry.