Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Reflection for Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent

The readings for the day can be found here.

Thank you for staying and praying with us on our Campus Ministry Advent web site these past few weeks. We pray your prayer has been enriched by the reflections of our colleagues.

Today, the day before Christmas, the last day of Advent, we approach Jesus, the One we’ve been anticipating, the One for Whom we’ve been waiting, the One for Whom we’ve been praying: God, entering our lives.   Advent helps us prepare a place for Jesus, to welcome Him, All of the ancient prophecies come to their culmination… 

By today, we’ve learned what Advent is not about, [shopping, busy-ness, planning, baking, buying, parties, Santa, and on and on…] and in prayer, what Advent is [expectant waiting, hopeful anticipation, joyful preparation] of God bursting into our lives, now, then, forever, in all places, at all times.

…Today, if not before, we can let go of all of the busy-ness in our preparations for Christmas, we can stop rushing around.  We can really prepare for Christmas.  Today, certainly, at some point, we can let go of all of the shopping, eggnog, planning, buying, cooking, wrapping, banking, Santa, cards, trees, wreaths, gifts, decorating, dinners, cookies, and more, or, at least, put it all in a different perspective.  We could even, hard as it may be to imagine, leave some things undone…waiting, not finished, much as we are still waiting, still as we are certainly not finished. 

We need to be awake and alert, we’re approaching the hour. 

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI observed that It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope… and that is our prayer for you. Let’s continue to pray for each other.  May your memories be filled with goodness, and open to hope…

Bill Kauffman
Interim President
A little more than three weeks ago, we began Advent; now we’re ready to celebrate the reason we started in all of this, in the first place.

Today is the last day of Advent, Christmas Eve, and the readings call us to celebrate, to remember the gifts we’ve been given, to relish the possibilities we’re offered.

St. Luke in the Gospel tells us about Zechariah the prophet, speaking to John the Baptist, who affirms God’s promises--made and kept. 

Zechariah is clear about the role John will play in the new creation.  He will introduce us all to the knowledge of salvation, forgiving sins, teaching us all about the tender compassion of our God.  The promises of God in the Covenant have come to fruition; God will enter our lives.

The brightening light of dawn will conquer the darkness, leading us into hope, guiding us into peace, showing us the fidelity of God and His covenant.  We are called, each of us, no less than John the Baptist, to prepare the way, on this journey we know as life.  In our own lives, we know we either move toward the Lord, or away from the Lord, and the readings remind us of all God has done for us, and is yet to do for us.

May this Christmas give you the gift of peace we’ve all been promised, and the freedom that is ours because of Jesus. May we welcome Jesus into our homes and into our lives, and may our lives and homes be transformed by Him, all through the tender compassion of our God. 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Reflection for Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

The readings for the day can be found here.

Every day, I make a to-do list. A list of emails, assignments, phone calls, and appointments to make; the list continues even after my 8 am – 7 pm student life, with what to eat, when to exercise, and what shows to watch.  I organize my time meticulously so that I can get everything done.  Today’s readings remind me that maybe I should be prioritizing differently.  Don’t get me wrong – I set aside time every day to pray with God.  I ready myself, breathe deeply, and go through a laundry list in my head.  I start with gratitude and then move to petition, listing everything that’s on my heart.  And then my time is up, and I continue on, moving down my to-do list.
But how often do I leave time for listening to God? How open am I to what He wants for me? The more I seek to control my own day, my own prayers, and my own life, the less I open myself to what God desires for me.  Sitting with today’s Responsorial Psalm, I think about how I don’t give God the opportunity to teach me His ways or His paths; I’m too busy telling Him what I think I need.  Elizabeth and Zechariah were listeners, and I want to be a listener too.  I want to be open to the life that I could have, and the life that God is offering me.  I want to be present to the graces in front of me, to feel the Holy Spirit in my daily life. And maybe if I could quiet myself, I’d be a better listener.

Advent gives us the chance to receive Christ into our lives each year.  And each year we ready ourselves, perhaps marveling at the beauty of the Incarnation or the strength of the Holy Family.  We actively prepare for Christ.  But God also calls us to be passive; He wants to move us to a profound understanding of what Christ’s presence means in our lives. He wants to guide us to prepare for what is coming, if we will let Him.

Julia Thomas is a senior Psychology and Spanish Major and Retreat Chair for Christian Life Communities.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reflection for Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The readings for the day can be found here.


The advent season is such a wonderful time of the year.  It seems as though everyone, all over the world, is coming together to spend time with loved ones, spread the good news to all they meet, and give back to others in ways they best see fit.  While I’ve see these actions being performed everywhere I go, I’ve also seen how advent brings about trying times.  “Trying?” you might ask.  “Yes.”  This season calls for our faith in the Lord to stand firm.  For some people, times may be financially difficult and they aren’t capable of giving to others.  In certain circumstances, people may not have any friends or family to share this special time with.  During advent and in our everyday lives, we are faced with many challenges that may require us to call on God.  We may think we can resolve our issues on our own.  Often we use some excuse—such as not wanting to bother Him, but we shouldn’t let anything keep us from going to, hearing and obeying Him.  Do we ever stop to think that Jesus knows our struggles and experiences as He was born a man?  He has been where we are and has the ability to help.

                  Whether times are tough or things are going according as planned, it’s important to remember what this season really means.  It’s important to call on His name and keep our faith in our lowest of valleys and not only in our highest of peaks.  Jesus did not come to help us save ourselves; He came to be our savior.  I challenge you today and throughout the rest of this Advent season to ask God to take control of your life and that His will be done.

Jessica McNeese is an admission counselor in the Office of Admission here at SLU.  She graduated from SLU in 2008 with a B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Reflection for Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

I recall being pleasantly surprised the day I heard the news that my brother, Bob, and sister-in-law, Abby, were expecting their first child. This was to be the first grandchild for our side of the family.  I remember being delighted when they phoned us and told us that the ultrasound showed they were having a little girl.  After that, my mother and I always seemed to “accidentally” find ourselves in the section for baby girls’ in every store we visited :)  

But something felt a little off.  I felt somewhat removed from the situation.  You see, Bob and Abby had moved to Michigan just over a year ago.  At first, we talked on the phone often. But then a little less often. And then, a week or two would pass between phone calls.  As the distance became more pronounced, I felt…disconnected.

Then, this Thanksgiving, my mother and I flew up to Michigan to visit Bob and Abby.  As Abby stepped out of the car at the Airport to greet us, I couldn’t help but notice that she was glowing (she truly was!) and her face was a picture of beaming serenity.  I also couldn’t help but notice her protruding, round belly!  As soon as I hugged Abby and put my hand on her belly, it suddenly became very real for me.  This was really happening!  There was life growing in there.  My baby niece was growing in there!  Once that thought finally registered, I was filled with incredible joy and a great sense of excitement began to grow in me. 

I can only imagine the sense of excitement Elizabeth must have felt all those years ago when “Mary traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb”. [LK 1:39 -41]

As with the case of seeing and touching Abby’s belly, once Mary’s voice sounded, it all became even more real for Elizabeth.  She was “filled with the Holy Spirit, [and] cried out in a loud voice and said “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb". [LK 1:41 -42]
As we rush around getting bogged down in the logistical preparations for the Christmas celebration - shopping, cooking, baking and cleaning the house in anticipation of friends and family from near and far coming to visit - let us take a moment to reflect. 

Let us picture the faces of our loved ones – those that we will see this Christmas holiday and those that are no longer with us.  Picture the baby Jesus statue finally being placed as part of the nativity scene on Christmas morning.  Imagine the joy an expectant mother feels to meet her newborn.  And let that love, joy, and anticipation be at the forefront and color all that we do.  Let the important part of Christmas become “real” for us – the anticipation of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Caroline Kaikati is the Program Manager for Corporate and Foundation Relations at SLU.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Reflection for Friday, December 20, 2013

Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Three salient elements stand out in today’s readings: messengers, messages, and signs. The first reading eavesdrops on a confrontation between Isaiah the prophet and Ahaz, king of Judah, concerning the looming threat of a military strike from the north. We cherish Isaiah’s masterful messianic imagery, but he could be blunt in getting a point across: he named one son Shear-Jashub (“A remnant shall return”), another Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (“quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil”). Isaiah offers a sign—any sign Ahaz requests—as proof of God’s pledge to keep Judah safe if only Ahaz places his trust in God rather than a political alliance. On the face of it, Ahaz responds piously, much as Jesus would later say, “Don’t put your God to the test.” In fact, Ahaz demurs because he has already made up his mind to seek Assyrian protection. Isaiah chastises Ahaz and gives him a sign regardless.

In the Christian imagination that sign of Emmanuel finds fulfillment in Luke’s account of the Annunciation. This time the messenger bears divine tidings not so much unwelcome as unexpected. Again the implicit imperative is reliance on God’s redeeming power. Like Ahaz, Mary risks a loss in status should she embrace God’s offer (her good name, her looming marriage) and she too assesses the practical dimensions of the situation (“I have no relations with a man”). But in the end, her egoless response opens wide her life to “let the Lord enter,” and the ramifications of her choice far exceed the sort of security Ahaz sought for Judah.

What might we make this Advent season of the messengers, messages, and signs in our own lives? Discerning what God has to say to us is a notoriously tricky business, and self-deception and bullheaded certainty are common pitfalls. So we might seek to be particularly attentive to the voices of wisdom and sound counsel in our lives (whether or not they come with an obvious divine stamp of approval), especially those who challenge our comfortable assumptions. I think of times I’ve asked a trusted confidante for advice, only to hear my “inner narrator” reflexively harrumph, “Wrong answer!” when the response isn’t what I want to hear. If the Bible’s account of God’s love affair with humanity teaches us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. How can we range past the fences of our imaginations and trust that God will work wonders in our lives well beyond what we can conceive on our own? Like Mary, we’re called to relinquish our ego, our self-certitude, and become vessels through which flows God’s promise of salvation.

“Ask for a sign from the Lord, your God.” ANY sign. Perhaps it’s less a matter of some singular phenomenon that dispels any doubts, and more about training our eyes to attend to the “signs of the times,” to take in the welcome and the unwelcome, the exquisite and the pitiful, and seek the traces of God’s loving fingers all around us. In so doing, we may recognize that God’s holy place is right here in our midst, that our lives even now are replete with blessings from the Lord.

David Brinker
Assistant Director
Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Reflection for Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

The readings for the day can be found here.

What a wonderful convergence of oddities in the readings for the day! Both Manoah and his (unnamed) wife and Zechariah and Elizabeth are barren couples bearing children who will be great, being told by angels to consecrate their children from birth. We certainly know other infertile women in the Bible who will go on to bear important children: Sarah, Rebekah, Leah and Rachel, Hannah. Something in us (or at least in the Bible) seems to like the idea that great heroes are born, not just made: they were chosen from before their birth, they were destined to be great, they demonstrated even as children the seeds of greatness that made them memorable as adults. Little George Washington's honesty about cutting down a cherry tree says something about how we see the leader: someone who was destined to be trustworthy, upright, even at a cost to himself. I wonder if there is a wish to keep oneself from having to be "great," as if to say that prophets and genuises and change agents have extraordinary callings, whereas I was just an ordinary kid, and I'm pretty ordinary as an adult.
I don't much like the idea of God having some specific plan for my life that I somehow have to guess; that makes it seem like there is one way to get it right and a million ways to get it wrong, and if I miss, I've screwed up my life. Most of our lives look like a pile of spaghetti, like "Plan B" (or C or D or W or BB...), not like some special calling I got before I was born and I always knew that this was what my life would be about. Except...we are all called before our births to greatness, even if that is ordinary greatness. We might fumble around to figure out where we are headed, but wherever we are, that is where we can be great. Last year for the month of November, when we were remembering saints and holy people and deceased loved ones, we put up pictures of "non-canonized" holy people, saints with a small s, in one of the chapels on campus: Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, among others, as well as more local saints like our own SLU grad and prophet Mev Puleo. All of those people went through dramatic shifts in their lives - none of them seemed to follow some steady line from birth to fame, but somehow even as adults, even without being given a specific job right from the womb, they were capable of ordinary and extraordinary greatness. Their job was, in their own diverse settings, to manifest the will of God for the healing of the world. They did that by all kinds of means - teaching, washing the bodies of dying people, writing books, taking photographs, speaking against injustice. All of these are forms of greatness, even when it took them decades of their adult lives before they figured out how they were to live out that common call. Ignatius hardly followed a direct route to sainthood, and neither did any of these people on my chapel walls. Neither do I. Neither do any of us.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflection for Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent

“He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.”  Psalm 72:13
Joseph, arise!  Guide me this Advent in the journey to Christmas.  The King of the Universe became poor for our sake, and He became Incarnate in your poor, humble family.  He dwelt under your roof and was obedient to you, Joseph.  How can I ever thank you for saving Mary from stoning, taking her in, for fleeing with the Christ Child to Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous envy, working in Egypt as a lowly immigrant, and returning to Nazareth where you lived a hidden life of quiet labor in the presence of God and the Blessed Mother.  Blessed Joseph, who died in their presence, obtain for me and my dear ones this blessing of a happy death.
St. Joseph, help me to encounter Jesus deeply this Advent, so I can celebrate His coming as a vulnerable child.  Help me welcome His coming in Holy Mass, where He comes in Sacred Scripture and Eucharist, under the humble disguise of bread and wine.  May I run to Him in the merciful healing of Confession.  Help me to welcome His coming in each neighbor, especially the poor, sick and abandoned. Help me seek His presence in each day He gives me. Prepare me for His coming at the end of my earthly life and when He comes again in visible glory. 
Teach me to receive Jesus with joyous welcome when He comes.  Despite my sins, I happily receive Him, for I trust in His merits and not my own. St. Joseph, teach me to hold the Child Jesus, to let Him embrace me with delight, though I am not worthy to have Him under my roof.  Eradicate my superficial spirituality, and ask Jesus to possess all the rooms of my inner and outer life.  This God, through whom all things were made, is no distant creator.  Jesus wants intimacy.  He wants me to live and move and have my being in Him.  He desires to radiate through me like host in monstrance, a beautiful symbiosis like no other.  But this is not biologic life. This is divine life, filled with the fullness of God.  The Word of God became flesh to make us partakers of the divine nature.[1] 
St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon  Saint Louis University.  Pray for our community to be a place to encounter Christ and be transformed by the Holy Spirit.  Terror of demons, pray for our purity.  Help us be sanctified by our prayers, studies and daily work.  Help each person develop the gifts God granted, happy to serve with charity in truth.  Above all, pray for us all to receive the joy of knowing, loving and being loved by your adopted son, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

-Elizabeth Abraham MD, OCDS
Dr. Abraham is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at SLU School of Medicine and practices pediatric nephrology at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center.  She is a member of the Secular Discalced Carmelites of St. Louis, Missouri, under the patronage of St. Joseph.

[1] 2 Peter 1:4; Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph #460.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reflection for Tuesday, December 17

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent

Thus the total number of generations
from Abraham to David
is fourteen generations;
from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations;
from the Babylonian exile to the Christ,
fourteen generations.
            ~Matthew 1:17

            I believe I am not alone when I find readings with the genealogy of Jesus to be a tad tedious and repetitive.  Since these points are usually the focus of homilies, I know that the evangelist Matthew is trying to maintain the humanity of Jesus while also tying his lineage to Abraham and David to show that Jesus fit the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning the Messiah.  However, it was not until I understood the historicity of the writer and the numerology of “fourteen” that I began to have a greater appreciation for the layers of meaning sandwiched between the many names I cannot properly pronounce.
            First of all, repetition is a key factor in literature at the time that Matthew wrote this Good News about Jesus.  Think about it in this way…only the learned and the wealthy at this time had access to the written word, let alone the materials to create them.  From our perspective, it may have cost the Gospel writers the equivalent of one dollar per word when you take into consideration the time and money to create paper and ink then write everything out – no unlimited texting for them!  So when biblical authors wrote something, they meant it; when they repeated something, it was even that much more imperative that it be said.
            Secondly, numbers have underlying meaning for biblical authors like Matthew.  So I did some research…what I found was that fourteen is the doubling of seven – the biblical number for perfection.  Therefore, when the number fourteen is used it usually refers to deliverance or salvation.
            So in reflecting upon the gospel reading for this day in Advent, I pray that you embrace three things: the significance and love of the God who humbled God’s self to be incarnate for you, me, and all of humanity; the passion of those who retell this story in every generation; and last, the desire of both to have the love of God fully realized and incarnate in your life.  This is our salvation – the fulfillment of who we were meant to be as beings made to love and be loved.

Erin Schmidt is the Campus Ministry Liturgy Coordinator.

*Numerology from “Meaning of Numbers in the Bible: The Number Fourteen” (http://www.biblestudy.org/bibleref/meaning-of-numbers-in-bible/14.html)