Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Reflection for Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Mass at Dawn
IS 62: 11-12
PS 97: 1, 6, 11-12
TI 3: 4-7
LK 2: 15-20

Thank you for remaining with us through this season of patience, self-examination, and preparation. We hope that the daily writings by members of the SLU community have been helpful and that, like Mary in the gospel, you have reflected on these things in your heart.

What Child Is This?

How could it be
that the Creator of the Universe
would think of me?

How could it be
that the Creator of over
a trillion galaxies
would care for me
as a mother, her baby?

How could it be
that the Creator of over
300 hundred billion stars of our galaxy
would comfort me
as a father, his child?

How could it be
that the Creator of the Universe
would conceive of pomegranates
peaches, plums, and apples
to feed me?

How could it be
that the Creator of the Universe
wishes me to call Him, Father?

How could it be
that the Creator of the Universe
would come to me
as a helpless baby
lying in straw in a manger?

How could it be
that the Lord of the Universe
would come to me as a child,
the Christ Child
telling me he needs a
home in my heart?

J. Janda

Reflection for Wednesday, December 24, 2014

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

Here we are at Christmas Eve day. The readings remind us of the promise to David of a heir. They revisit the proclamation of Zachariah.

But, our hearts might be moving in three directions today.

The cultural pull to celebrate Christmas is upon us - no matter what our family or cultural tradition. We might be excited or we might be worried. We might be prepared and ready and will be anticipating a wonderful time with family and friends. We might not yet be fully prepared and the day is hectic. Or, I might be celebrating Christmas alone.

Our religious memory reminds us of why we celebrate Christmas. We could be imagining the holy couple - Joseph and Mary - having made their way to Bethlehem, late and with nowhere to stay. Today, the scene can become very vivid for us, whether we plan to celebrate Midnight Mass tonight or to celebrate tomorrow morning. The crib scene has a story. Our Savior - God with us - did not come into a wonderful palace, like the one David built. Jesus was born into a very lowly place. This is the wonderful sign of God's self-emptying. This is how God chose to come and be among us - as a new born baby, in a manger, a feeding trough. Our Savior comes in this way, and it can become most meaningful today, if we let ourselves chew this good news, in the midst of whatever we are doing. It can mean so much if we let it. It can be a part of what we celebrate tonight and tomorrow. Yes, there might be people and parties, and there might be gifts shared. But, we can be filled with something our world will likely not be celebrating - that our God is a God who desires to meet us in the lowliest places in our lives. God with us, Jesus, comes to "save his people from their sins."

The third movement possible for us today is to remember, to collect, the graces of this Advent journey. For some of us that might have been a great four weeks of feeling that our longing for a closer relationship with our God has indeed come. I might feel forgiven and loved at a deepr level. I might be giving thanks that some darkness within me has experienced light. We might sense that some desert has bloomed with new life, in this new relationship. We might be feeling a greater freedom and a greater fire within our heart to love as we have been loved. We might even feel more prepared to go out to the places where others are feeling darkness and lowliness, and experience the call to bring light and joy there. Or, we might find ourselves not have been able to get around to Advent, right up to this moment. There still is time today. We can prepare for tonight and tomorrow. We can ask "Come, Lord, Jesus," in this moment. We can experience a longing in our hearts to know Jesus' love and mercy, and to feel a small "Rejoice," or even a really big one, flow from deep inside.

Let us approach the manger of our salvation tonight and tomorrow with great openness to the graces each of us can yet hope for and receive - for our own inner peace, and that we might bring peace to others in our lives, because of what we ourselves have embraced.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Reflection for Tuesday, December 23, 2014

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

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?
"But wait, there's more!" "Wait for it......" "Wait, wait don't tell me!" As frequently as we hear these statements one might think that we live in a culture that supports "waiting." By the time Advent is here, it ought not to be too tough to engage in the spiritual practice of "holy waiting." But our waiting is usually measured in seconds; something that has little resemblance to Advent waiting.
For many of us, these past few weeks have been filled with getting, giving, dressing up and trying to think of clever ways to display fruits and vegetables and cheese as Christmas trees, candy canes, and Santas - but little waiting. The only waiting most of us have been doing is in checkout lines, buffet lines, and for those of us who find the series of Christmas parties slightly painful, waiting to go home.  And none of these count unless we consciously let those moments draw us into holy waiting. And the good news is we have two days left in which to experience this sacred practice!
What is "Advent waiting"? We are only willing to wait for something we want, so let's start there. What is it you want? Health and healing for a loved one? Reconciliation with a friend? Love and affection from a family member? The awareness that we are deeply loved by a tender Creator? Freedom from our attachments to busy-ness or being needed, helpful, powerful, esteemed, approved of? Can we quietly hold the depth of our desire - entering into the spaciousness of that present moment, welcoming the longings of our heart? The Advent invitation is to notice those longings with patient trust and awaiting – moment by moment - the grace of God's appearance. This is the crucible where we are refined and purified, “like gold and like silver.” Today's first reading also reminds us that the desires we have for ourselves, God also has for us. Indeed, God's desires for our collective wholeness, well-being and reconciliation far surpass ours.
Today's gospel offers images of waiting. Elizabeth had many months to ponder the name of her unborn baby...which family member would be honored with a namesake? Contrary to customs, she awaited God's choice: "he will be called John."  One wonders how she knew. How long do we wait for God’s guidance in our own decisions? And Zechariah, having just as many months waiting in silence, affirmed Elizabeth's choice. Can we wait in silence, holding our tongue, until we hear God's voice?
How will I recognize God's presence? The birth of Jesus reminds us to look closely and carefully for something that may be small or vulnerable or tender or seemingly insignificant, in an unlikely place and time.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflection for Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent

During this chilly December day, we are 5 days away from the one of the greatest religious events to happen in the history of mankind. The time leading up to this day can be clouded with so much preparation and planning for family coming into town, last minute Christmas shopping, packing clothes for a vacation, etc.  Throughout the Christmas season, I often find myself going through the motions in the days leading up to the birthday of Christ. The challenge for me along with others in the days leading up to Christmas is to actively listen to what is going on around me and to those speaking to me. Both the first reading and the Gospel for today call on the House of David and also on Mary to listen to the Lord. Even during this extremely busy time of the year, we are called, just as we are every other day of the year, to take time out of our day for the Lord and listen to what He has to tell us or show us.

Mary, who said yes to God’s call and gave her life to God, was the first disciple to her son and can be the greatest role model for us as we approach Christmas. She followed the word of God, trusting in his plan for her and for the rest of the holy family. Her ears were open to the voice of God and she continually gave Him the time that was necessary for her to fulfill the will that He planned for her. Like Mary, we are challenged to listen to God in such a faithful way so that in our conversation with Him, we are always aware of the will that He has planned for each every one of us.

As we wait with for the birth of Christ and foster the Joy that will continue to build in our hearts as our relationship with our Lord strengthens, let us realize the importance of finding times to listen to what God has to tell us. Through the daily commotion of the Christmas holiday, let us find time to reflect and learn what God has in store for these blessed lives we are given through the birth of His son. It is not to late to quiet our hearts and give room for God’s word for what we can do better this holiday season. May the Lord bless your ears, that you may hear His voice.

Bradley Mueller is a senior studying neuroscience.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Reflection for Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent

The focus of today’s liturgy is the Davidic covenant, the promise of a throne that will last forever. It appears in the First Reading, in the Responsorial Psalm, and in the Gospel, where the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that “the Lord God will give (her son) the throne of David his father.”

Jesus is to transform that covenant, revealing “the mystery hidden for many ages.” The throne in this new kingdom is to be occupied by “the Son of the Most High ... the Son of God.” Indeed, he is “Emmanuel,” God-with-us.

We are very close now to the coming of Christ. What would the world be like if we were to allow Christ to really come as king? What would a world ruled by Jesus Christ be like? Would we have the poverty and homelessness that we have now? Would we have the death penalty? Would there be abortion and child abuse and negligence of the elderly? Would Jesus Christ allow the people of his kingdom to kill each other in wars?

If only we could join in consenting to God’s rule as Mary did: “Let it be done to me as you say.” Who knows what joy the world would know!
The Church ... receives the mission to proclaim and to establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God. She becomes on earth the initial budding forth of that kingdom. While she slowly grows, the Church strains toward the consummation of the kingdom and, with all her strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with her King.
Vatican II, Constitution on the Church (1964) 5

Gerald Darring

Friday, December 19, 2014

Reflection for Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday 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 two readings today highlight the births of Samson and John the Baptist, and in both cases, their mothers were barren before an angel of the Lord appears and tells them they will have sons who will be great, just as will happen when the angel of the Lord visits Mary, who was not barren, but a virgin. The unusual prohibitions in both stories seem to indicate that Samson and John were nazirites, a Jewish form of consecration to God, marked by avoiding alcohol, ritual uncleanness, and cutting of one's hair - which of course is familiar to us from Samson's story. The word nazir simply means "consecrated" or "set apart" and in modern Hebrew has become the standard word for monks, both Christian and Buddhist.

The Bible abounds in stories of strange births: from the near-miraculous escape of the infant Moses from death at Pharaoh's hands, to births from barren wives (Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Samuel, Samson, John the Baptist) to, of course, the virginal conception of Jesus and his own near-death at the hands of Herod. Naturally, all of those people end up being important figures - heroes, prophets, patriarchs, and so on. God's favor for these seemingly unfavored people is a continual theme in the Biblical tradition - siding with the little guy, the younger son, the barren wife, the David facing Goliath, Rocky facing Mr. T or the big Russian guy.

I understand the literary power of those stories, as a foreshadowing of the future greatness of these heroes and a symbol of God's favor for the dispossessed; as a middle-class white guy who is not dispossessed, and not likely to do something so radical that it will make me famous, where do I find myself in stories like this? For one thing, I would do well to remember the favor of God for people who come from the "other side of the tracks." That so much of the Biblical narrative is shaped by the outsiders of history should be a reminder to me that newness and change so often come from the edges of the system rather than from those who are enmeshed in a system of power and security.

At the same time, I don't have a flashy birth story; my parents are very nice people, but they don't seem to have had any visitations by angels (or demons?) prior to my birth. My hometown is so small it isn't even on the map, although it seems Jesus was in the same boat there - as Nathaniel says in John 1:46, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" I wonder if being "ordinary" leads me to undervalue my own life, to undervalue the "ordinary." I'm not likely to challenge a king and lose my life like John the Baptist, much less to be superhumanly strong like Samson. In the Ignatian tradition, the "ordinary," the "daily" is precisely where we encounter God, and where we make the reign of God happen. Most of us don't do earth-shattering things, but the reign of God is not just for those big explosive events and revelations, but in the daily circumstances in which we all live most of our lives. That means that "finding God in all things" is not just about warm fuzzies, remembering God while we are doing homework (although that's fine), but seeing each moment, each encounter, as an occasion to learn, to listen, to make a decision that will enhance the well-being of those around us. So like God, we can make a decision for those who stand on the underside of history, those for whom the system does not often work as it should, AND we can recall that the opportunities to make those decisions emerge in so many moments of our daily lives.

Patrick Cousins works in the Department of Campus Ministry.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Reflection for Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday of the Third Week of Advent

One of the greatest disservices we can do to St. Joseph is to picture him as an old man. In our mental images of faith, I feel like crossover happens frequently, and all the male father figures blend together. All men in the Bible visually morph into one grey-haired, robed, wise old man who sits majestically on a throne of some sort. The image below of St. Joseph gets this idea across.

Maybe even sometimes, we see him daintily holding a small hammer or some strange measuring tool, since we know he was a carpenter.

I don’t mean to disrespect or deny the value of any religious art, but I think these examples, and our mental image, portray Joseph in a slightly inaccurate light.

Imagine for a moment, this Joseph:

Carpenters in the first century not only worked with wood, but with stone as well. Joseph probably had to work with and maneuver huge pieces of these materials. This was not the work of some old geezer. He would have been muscular and strong. He would also probably be a filthy individual who sweated in the hot Galilean sun, and was covered in sawdust and grime by the day’s end. Surely he would have calloused hands, and plenty of scars, for he had been practicing this trade all his life. If tradition/historical reference tells us that Mary could have been as young as 14 or 15 at the time of the Nativity, is it possible that Joseph was maybe 18, 19, or 20? The age of a college freshman or sophomore? 

This same young man would have known his Torah and his Jewish town, and would have known the total shame and social rejection that he could expect if he decided to accept an unexpectedly pregnant Mary into his home.  

This same man would have had to protect and care for Mary on their long trips to Bethlehem and Egypt, insuring the safety and survival of both his wife and their newborn on the dangerous open road. 

All the while, we hear not a word from him. All throughout Scripture, we hear not one recorded word from the man who is now known as the patron of the Universal Church. Personally, I find it hard to connect with the ambiguous old grey man we so commonly see. I connect with this real Joseph. I want to talk to this vibrant, strong, dedicated Joseph, and learn from him. I want him to teach me the amazing virtue and dedication he demonstrates in this reading. I want to know what he was thinking during the craziness of this reading, and what amazing things he learned from his own son in the aftermath of it.  

I offer all these ideas/images merely because Joseph’s story, like the other main players in the Nativity story, is so rich and powerful, but so easily forgotten amidst the repetition and frequency with which we hear it. The Nativity Story asks for more.  We’re called to latch onto this amazing story that is written in our hearts, and dive into the deeper message waiting for us in it. Joseph is only one part of it. There are many others within the Nativity Story with their own tale, waiting for us to enter in and discover them.  Then, hopefully, as Jesus arrives in heart and mind, we see him with clearer eyes, and love Him all the more for the beauty that His story weaves into our own.

Mike Lally is a member of the class of 2015.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Reflection for Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday of the Third Week of Advent
GN 49: 2, 8-10
PS 72: 1-2, 3-4AB, 7-8, 17
MT 1: 1-17

I come from a large family. As anyone with siblings may understand, I sometimes feel as though I bicker with them more than I stop to appreciate them. Yet something that I am reminded of every Advent season is how beautiful the concept of a “family” is. There exists a group of people that will accept all of your faults and mistakes and love you for them. And even greater, that group isn’t limited to those within your gene pool. Friends fulfill that familial role for those whose families may not. Advent always brings me back to the realization that family is something special to be cherished. Celebrating Mary’s decision and anticipating the beginning of the Holy Family has that effect.

The best part about true families is that they are with you for all time. As we see in the Gospel today, Jesus had fourteen generations of history that remain with him forever. Not only is he the son of God, but he is the descendent of Abraham and David. That, and the twelve other generations, influence his life, whether he realizes or not. I am so happy to be able to appreciate the simple fact that I have a support system that helps to pick me up when the world beats me down and will keep me grounded in times of success.

Advent calls each and every one of us to take a look at those in our lives who make life better. I don’t know if I would suggest making a fourteen generation genealogy like Matthew did for Jesus. But I do call everyone reading this to stop their busy lives and focus on the best thing of Christmas season: the relationships. There are so many distractions: finals week that just finished, traveling, work, commercialization, etc. But take time to stop and tell someone in your life that you love them, because there’s one thing this world cannot have enough of: love (Christmas cookies took a close second). Thank you all for reading and enjoy your Christmas breaks.

Paul Otto is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences, an avid reader, self professed nerd, aspiring biologist, and dedicated couch theologian.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reflection for Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent
ZEP 3: 1-2, 9-13
PS 34: 2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 AND 23
MT 21: 28-32

"Tyrannical city!"  How could I not think of current events while praying today's readings?  But then again, isn't that the miracle of Scripture?
And so, we have been warned - again (and again and again).  Choose well whether you be the "remnant" or the "proud braggarts."  Right now it seems USofAmericans are split along this issue - and most.
And for those who believe that God works through reality, we are charged with bringing more and more people to the discussion table where actions need to be hammered out.  We are not charged with bringing people to their knees through violence.  Our forgiving and loving God offers us a chance at reconciliation: "You need not be ashamed of all your deeds, your rebellious actions against me." But we do need to decide if we will choose to remain with God and God's people or not.
In today's responsorial psalm I was nudged to remember a mission trip in 2010 with Pax Christi to Guatemala.  While visiting a mission area around Lake Atitlan we came to the church where Fr. Stan Rother was martyred back in the 80s.  Upon entering the church I heard a muffled sound which drew me in... I didn't see any people in the main church and so kept walking toward the altar. The sound grew louder, but I couldn't tell if it was singing or praying or what. And then I turned the corner and saw about a hundred women kneeling in the small chapel before our Lord... crying out, and I said to myself, "So this is what the Lord hears when it is said, 'The Lord hears the cry of the poor!'"  And now our Lord hears those cries on our city's streets, but not just ours... Cries from the streets of Hong Kong filled with protesters being cleared... the streets flooded by Climate Change in the Philippines... the streets of Gaza filled with rubble...
These are all God's children, and we are all sisters and brothers, crying out today's Alleluia verse: "Come, O Lord, do not delay; forgive the sins of your people!"  And now today's gospel which concludes with these words: "Yet even when you saw that, you did not later change your minds and believe in him [John the Baptist]."  My prayer is that we pray for and seek to develop the compassionate and wise eyes and ears of God with which to see and hear our sisters and brothers, our Selves - and those who are on the other side of any and all issues, those not in the choir, for we need us all to "call upon the name of the Lord, to serve God with one accord!"

Richard DeBona is Director of Parish Social Ministry at St. Francis Xavier College Church.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Reflection for Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday of the Third Week of Advent

By what authority do I act?

In the gospel reading for today we see that Jesus is questioned “By what authority are you doing these things?”.   When I read this I wondered, by what authority do I act?  Do I take authority over a task or situation in order to seek the best, most positive outcome or do I allow things to progress without taking control which can lead to negative job performance and relationships?

Daily I face tasks and interactions that can be challenging and I am given authority within my job to respond in certain ways based on policies and procedures that are establish by my employer.  Although these policies and procedures are based on many factors such as fairness, fiscal responsibility, and an attempt to keep order, I need to consider that if I assume the authority given to me by God rather than the authority given by man, it can influence the product or outcome to be more considerate of the effect that it has on students, colleagues, or guests.

If I seek His counsel and ask for wisdom, He will guide me to the most appropriate approach when I have to execute or enforce policies and procedures.  He gives me the “authority” or ability to control whether an interaction with a student, guest, or colleague is kind and productive or not.  He gives me the “authority” to accomplish the tasks associated with my position with more than a “just do the minimal that is necessary” attitude. 
With God’s authority to control my attitude and comes an approach that includes love, kindness, team work, gentleness, and a willingness to listen.  Sometimes it takes more time to accomplish the tasks of the day with this approach but there are more rewards in the end.  My work environment is not filled with chaos even when things are challenging and stressful.  I feel supported by colleagues and students.  I can give a guest the best possible impression of Saint Louis University.

By seeking to be close to God and desiring to do His will, I believe that He gives me guidance and authority over any situation, whether it is a long term situation or just a one minute interaction.  This has led to improvements in my work environment and better relationships with colleagues and co-workers.

So ultimately, I chose to accept the authority that God has given me to improve not only myself but my work environment as well.  Do you?

Cindy Bush is Coordinator of Busch Student Center. She has worked in Higher Education for 31 years, including working in Reinert Hall when it was first purchased by SLU.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reflection for Sunday, December 14, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent

The end of first semester. This time of year can be both wonderful and stressful. It is a time filled with not only excitement for the holidays and the end of classes, but also final grades and decisions about what to do next. It’s easy to get caught up in this time and only focus on studying, preparing for the holidays, or whatever other task is on the to-do list. But this is also a time of year when it’s especially important to slow down. Now is the perfect chance to take the opportunity to reflect on all that we’ve accomplished this year and all the good that we have been able to do. Even with Thanksgiving being just a few short weeks ago, it is easy to lose focus and forget to keep gratitude as a consistent part of our lives. In the passage from 1 Thessalonians, we are reminded of this. “Brothers and Sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks”. This passage is a reminder that that no matter what is going on in our lives or how busy and stressed we may be, there is always something to thank God for. This point is supported in today’s first reading from the book of Isaiah. “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.” The readings for this third week of Advent tell us that God has a plan and purpose for every one of us and in this passage we are reminded that He has given us all of the tools we need to fulfill what we are being called to do. 

The word “advent” is defined as “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event". During this Advent season, as we practice slowing down and being grateful, let us use this season not only to celebrate the coming of Christ, but also make this a time of our own advent or our own coming; a time where we begin the arrival in ourselves of the person we are being called to be, using all of God’s gifts to their fullest potential, to serve and work with others as we await the coming of Jesus.

Cassie Zehenny is a senior in the School of Nursing.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Reflection for Saturday, December 13, 2014

Memorial of Saint Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
SIR 48: 1-4, 9-11
PS 80: 2AC AND 3B, 15-16, 18-19
MT 17: 9A, 10-13

Today, we celebrate the Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr. St. Lucy died a martyr- a victim of persecution in the Early Church. Her bravery, courage, and faith gave witness to God. She so loved God that she refused to deny His very existence and suffered execution and even the gouging of her eyes.

Upon reflecting on the great witness and sacrifice of St. Lucy, I can’t help but notice the connection with today’s readings. As Christians, we are called “to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Luke 3:4). I must admit: this is no easy feat. It’s the type of the stuff that makes saints! We hear so much about them: Mother Theresa, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Lucy, and even the Prophet Elijah. We are called to be saints, to be like St. Lucy and give witness to the glory and love of God- that is to prepare the way of the Lord and make straight his paths. However, I often feel so weak. I feel as if I am carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders- especially during final exam season. Like so many, I have numerous responsibilities, difficult decisions to make, pains and struggles, and even regrets. It really is not easy to be a Christian; much sacrifice is required. 

Even so, there must be a way for us- common folk and sinner- to prepare the way of the Lord. First and foremost, it begins with a conversion- an internal transformation and reordering of self to God. We must realize that we need God! We cannot do solve the world’s problems or do everything alone. The weight of our burdens are only lifted in Christ alone! Second, we must acknowledge that we need each other. This makes me think of the South African proverb, “I am because you are.” Our humanity is tied to one another. We must work together, love and serve one another, and humbly- hand-in-hand- before God. Next, we must work to end all injustice, inequality, and evil- to make straight the paths of the Lord. The first reading tells us that the prophet Elijah was “destined … to put an end to wrath before the day of the Lord, to turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and re-establish the tribes of Jacob” (Sirach 48:10). As baptized priests, prophets, and kings, we share in this commission of Elijah. We must work for justice, peace, and righteousness. We must stand up for what we believe even if it means persecution, bitter hated, and dissent, much like the example of St. Lucy and even the prophet Elijah. We are not all called to be Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi, but we can certainly change the world for the better through small, more practical steps. 
Today, let us turn to Christ to ask for his healing in our lives, families, and our world; to help us life the weight of crosses and burdens. As we long for and await the coming of Christ, let us pray for strength, hope, faith, and love much like St. Lucy.


Richard Joubert is a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences majoring in Theological Studies and minoring in both Political Science and Catholic Studies. Outside of the classroom, Richard serves as a Billiken Peer Educator, CMM 193 peer instructor, member of Greek Life, and passionate Billikens fan.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Reflection for Friday, December 12, 2014

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the story of which is close to the heart of all Catholics, especially those of Mexican descent. In 1531, Juan Diego, a poor Aztec Indian who had converted to Catholicism, encountered the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City. She spoke to him with a request to have a church built in her honor.  “I desire a church in this place where your people may experience my compassion. All those who sincerely ask my help in their work and in their sorrows will know my Mother's Heart in this place. Here I will see their tears; I will console them and they will be at peace."

A series of miracles ensued, highlighted by the presence of full bloom Castilian roses at that location, that finally convinced the bishop that Juan Diego had indeed been visited by the Blessed Mother herself.  The church was built in her honor, and that Basilica in Mexico City has become the most important shrine to our Blessed Mother, under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe in all the American continents.

Numerous prayers, novenas, and special customs to venerate Our Lady of Guadalupe have been part of the ongoing story of these miracles. One such prayer is shown below.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, make intercession for the Holy Church, protect the Sovereign Pontiff, help all those who invoke thee in their necessities, and since thou art the ever Virgin Mary, and Mother of the True God, obtain for us from thy most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, of sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, of burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen.

For me, the power of this story is the trust and obedience that both Juan Diego and Mary herself demonstrated when they were asked to be a conduit of God’s love by saying yes to a heavenly request. In today’s Gospel (the same one from the feast of the Immaculate Conception), the angel Gabriel invites Mary to become the God-bearer for all the world, for all time—a most awesome and overwhelming message to a young girl! But Mary (and Juan Diego fifteen centuries later) have faith and trust in God’s promises. As the prayer above notes, we ask Mary today for God’s grace to “keep our faith”, to continue to have hope in these days of anxiety, and to continue to live a life of active and intentional charity for the world around us. This prayer has never had more currency than in our world today.

Larry Bommarito is Program Manager for the Institute for Biosecurity in the College for Public Health and Social Justice.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Reflection for Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent
IS 41: 13-20
PS 145: 1 AND 9, 10-11, 12-13AB
MT 11: 11-15

On the night of October 12, a mere four days after the death of VonDerrit Myers, Jr., I marched from the Shaw neighborhood to SLU, following in faith the leaders of the march. This march turned into Occupy SLU, a weeklong movement that both uplifted me and challenged me in many ways. Throughout the week, I was amazed at the strong love and hard prejudice with which I came into contact. It was heartbreaking to hear the things that my classmates and peers said that reflected their biases as white people in America. Conversely, though, I felt such passion, courage, and love from my new friends that occupied the space around the clocktower. They professed their love for every person they came into contact with – even those that adamantly disagreed with them. They helped me to realize that this movement for justice is fundamentally about love, and loving each other.

I participated in Occupy SLU because I feel a need to participate in a discourse on our campus about racism and the unfair treatment of people of color. As a white person, other white people are more likely to listen to me than to listen to my peers of color. I am called to use this privilege to educate those around me about the reality faced by my friends and family of color in order to create a larger coalition of people fighting this injustice. I am so deeply grateful that Occupy SLU happened, as a call to encourage other SLU community members to join the fight for social and racial justice that is encompassing our city.

We have come a long way since that mid-October week. We have continued to resist an unjust system for people of color in America. We have cried together, organized, protested, and loved each other. Most of all, we have struggled together in this fight for justice. And the fight will continue as we move forward.

In today’s reading, we hear the Israelites seeking water in vain, thirsting for life. Much in the same way, black people in our country have taken to the streets for over 100 days, telling us to recognize their right to live. The Lord tells Israel that he will help; he will make them a threshing sledge, to thresh the mountains and crush them, and the wind will carry them off. So, too, will the Lord give us the tools we need to thresh the hills and mountains of oppression against African Americans that have been built by our ancestors for over 300 years. We must work, with overflowing love, as the hand of the Lord, and with her tools, to dismantle racism and help lead our peers, our families, and our country to recognize that black lives matter.

Emma Cunningham is a graduating senior studying Women’s & Gender Studies and French.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Reflection for Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday of the Second Week of Advent

“Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest. 
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves. 
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”” 

Today’s passages remind me that we are soon approaching the end of a semester and the end of a year. 

At times I find myself overwhelmed from the business of work and life. There are multiple pending deadlines, endless meetings, and badgering that always seems to occur between one of my three sisters and me.  However, I have also been overwhelmed by all of the conflict occurring in our community, across the country, and around the world. I feel overwhelmed by the pain my fellow community members are feeling about the deaths of men of color in Ferguson, Staten Island, NY, and across our nation. There is a burden of recognizing the existence of these injustices that say ‘one’s life is less valued than another’ because you cannot un-see it; and therefore I’m compelled to take responsibility. I have a responsibility to educate the campus community about the realities of racial injustice and institutional oppression.

Though at times I find this burden wearisome and have grown tired by this taxing responsibility. I am also reminded by this passage that I am not alone in this burden-I can rely on others for faith and strength.

At SLU, the mission speaks to serving humanity for the greater glory of God by working to alleviate the injustices which exist in our society. I believe this means that we have to actively take on a burden of responsibility in healing our local, regional, and national community. Through this burden of responsibility I challenge you to critically reflect upon the social issues within our society and to ask yourself “what is my responsibility”?  “How can I support and be supported by others?” What are you willing to do to take responsibility for the community in which we live and learn?

Patrice French is Program Director of Retention and Student Success.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Reflection for Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent
MT 18: 12-14

The first reading today starts off with a word so many of us need: “comfort.” If you are like me, you find yourself in a very “uncomfortable” time in life. Finals are here, grades are being finalized, some of us are applying to grad schools or making big life decisions, and let’s not even mention sleep deprivation. Yeah, we could all use a little comfort. And when I think of comfort, all I really want is to lounge in my living room back home, curled up next to the fireplace with a plate of my mom’s Snickerdoodles, a warm cup of cocoa, and watching a new episode of Parks and Rec. Is that too much to ask? While I do hope that I get to achieve this soon, God’s message of comfort goes much deeper.

How many of us feel absolutely lost right now? Maybe it’s just lost in the shuffle or the daily monotony, needing to break free. Or for some of us, it’s a greater feeling of lost, having no idea where you are in life or with your faith and seeing no signs of getting back on track. I imagine this is a very common feeling among college students and humanity in general. The Israelites felt the same thing millenniums ago. They had spent lifetimes experiencing what seemed like obstacle after obstacle and even spent years in exile. For all practical purposes, it was foolish to believe that there was hope or that their future showed any signs of betterment. They were lost. Yet, in the first reading, here is Isaiah telling them rejoice and take comfort, your punishment has been fulfilled, the wrongs have been righted, and the Lord is coming to save.

Isaiah’s message of hope is vital for all of us in our own lives. But what does it really mean to have hope? We hear the word so often, yet I feel we fail to capture what it truly encompasses. Although I strongly believe there is a lot of joy from being optimistic, hope is more than that. As Christians, our hope takes on an entirely new form in Jesus Christ. Hope is knowing that this life – these challenges and struggles, these pleasures and joys – are not our final destination but knowing that we have fulfillment in the coming of our Savior.

Jesus is fighting for you. He wants each of us, wherever we are in life, however lost we may be. The gospel today gives us the image of Jesus as a shepherd and we as His sheep, showing us that Jesus wants you specifically. You may feel lost or separated but that doesn’t stop His dream to be united with you. Jesus is frantically doing everything He can to get you back because He loves you beyond compare. During this time of Advent, we are preparing ourselves to find Him. We may not be where we want. We may not be comfortable. But that’s okay. God is not calling us to be our final products yet. He uses these uncomfortable times or moments of uncertainty to wake us up, to better understand ourselves and our relationship with Him. The Israelites knew that all too well and you might too. But at the end of the day, take comfort and rejoice because God knows you’re lost and He is doing everything He can to guide you back home, even if we don’t understand how. So in these weeks before Christmas, reflect on where your heart is and if you are truly ready to receive Him or His dream for you.

Stephen Deves is a senior studying Accounting with a minor in Mathematics and a Resident Advisor in the Griesedieck Complex.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Reflection for Monday, December 8, 2014

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Patronal Feastday of the United States of America

“Hail, Mary, full of grace, the LORD is with you. Blessed are you among women” - Luke 1:28

Today, we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of God. We also wait in anticipation of what is to come this Christmas. Like Eve and Adam in the garden, we wait. Aware of our sins and failings, we long for reconciliation with God, our Father. We long for a savior.

Mary longed for a savior as well. How beautiful it is, then, that she was given the gift of being conceived without original sin, so that she would be a perfect vessel for the Lord, her Savior. Not merited, it was God’s grace that made this gift possible. And how does Mary respond when she is asked give up her body and soul—her whole self—for the sake of the Lord? She does not respond in fear, like Adam and Eve. She accepts, in trust and humility, recognizing that she is God’s servant. I imagine, too, that when she responded, she felt great love and joy in her heart. The thirst that she and her people had felt for so long was finally going to be quenched. And she was going to play her “little” part in it.

Let us reflect today on Mary’s heart when she received the Father’s gift of a savior. Let us spend some time with our Savior Jesus Christ, who so gently came into this world to love us and save us. Let us talk with the Holy Spirit, who overshadowed Mary so that our joy would be complete.
Lord, help us to respond to your gifts, both big and small, the way Mary did. Let us “sing to the LORD a new song”, and praise all of your works continuously. Help us, Lord, to become like Mary, so that we may know You in the intimate, unique way that she did. Mary, help us to imitate your humility and trust, so that we may serve the Lord, joyfully and faithfully, in this life and in the next.

“In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ.”
-Ephesians 1:11-12

Laura Downing is a senior studying Social Work, a student worker with SLU’s Faith and Justice Collaborative, and a practicum student with the Crown Center for Senior Living.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Reflection for Sunday, December 7, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent

Today’s readings all address the Advent theme of expectant waiting.  They also fit together in a puzzling way.  Reflecting on this puzzle can help us see something important about God and ourselves.

The gospel reading from Mark quotes the reading from Isaiah.  Mark presents John the Baptist as Isaiah’s “voice crying in the wilderness.”  Once this voice appears crying “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God,” then “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together.”  Mark’s point: Jesus is the Glory of the LORD revealed. 

But if Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, then why are we still waiting, over two millennia later, for every valley to be filled in, and every mountain and hill to be  made low? Those are apocalyptic images, just like Peter’s image of the heavens passing away with a mighty roar and the elements being “dissolved by fire.”  Such images point to a day when all things will be set right, to a “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”  If Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, then why do we still live in a world full of injustice?  Was the prophecy false?  Does God not keep promises?

The reading from 2 Peter addresses this concern. God has not yet brought all things to completion so that we have a chance to turn away from our deadening small concerns and begin to truly live.  God is merciful, “not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

The gospel reading also suggests an answer.  Recall what John the Baptist proclaimed:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus did usher in a new age, in which the Holy Spirit fills and enlivens the body of Christ.  Jesus has ascended, but is also present with us in the Spirit.  Jesus defeated evil and injustice once and for all, but through us is still fighting it.  We have already won, but not yet claimed the victory.  We can live in hope because in Jesus God surpasses our easy dichotomies.  God is not “either/or,” but “both/and”: transcendent and  immanent, divine and human, omnipotent and vulnerable (what is more vulnerable than a babe in a feeding trough?)

Jesus was the sunrise of a new day, but that day is not yet over.  We are waiting for God, and God is waiting for us.  Waiting for us to think again about what really matters.  Waiting for us to join the struggle against every system that refuses to honor God’s image in every person.  Since it is day, let us keep awake and join the fight, confident that the enemy has already been dealt the decisive blow.  Even as we struggle, we have already won.

Holy Spirit, give us a hunger for justice and the courage to pursue it, not only in our political systems, but also in our closest relationships and in our very selves.

Scott Ragland is a professor in the Department of Philosophy.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Reflection for Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saturday of the First Week of Advent
IS 30: 19-21, 23-26
PS 147: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6
MT 9: 35 - 10: 1, 5A, 6-8

“At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned…”

I write this reflection as I am learning of the non-indictment against the New York City police officer who killed Eric Garner by employing an illegal chokehold while on camera. I am feeling deeply troubled and thoroughly abandoned. My friends of color across the country are crying out in grief, anger and hopelessness. We’ve been here before. The last four months have left this city aching, tired, hungry. Some ache for life as it was. Some are tired of marching, tired of arguing, tired of fighting for the right to live. Some are tired of listening. There are those of us hungry for justice, not just for Mike Brown but for all of the unarmed men and women whose lives have been cut short at the hands of state. 

I know of another life cut short at the hands of the state: the life of Christ Jesus. Jesus the Son of God, Jesus the Agitator… Jesus the man who dared to topple the Empire.

I know that many in this community are weary of unrest. But I also know that a great many of my brothers and sisters recognize, along with me, that something has got to give. The slaying of African-Americans by agents of authority forms a link in the ongoing chain of racial oppression. I believe that I have a special responsibility as white woman and as a Catholic to work to overcome this system of oppression and acknowledge, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” I remind my brothers and sisters who decry unrest that in the absence of justice, there can be no true peace.

We have a long way to go before we can speak of justice in Ferguson, in the wider St. Louis region, and in this nation. We cannot achieve it without struggle in our communities and within ourselves—for in the words of Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”  We must act now to build a more just society. We must struggle together. As we hear in Isaiah: “This is the way; walk in it.” 

We must learn to walk in ways that stand in solidarity with oppressed in this country. We must learn to be the face of Christ, the hands of God, who promises in today's readings that Jerusalem will be rebuilt, bruises will be mended, and the lowly will be sustained. We must rebuild, mend, and sustain.

We have so much work to do.

I hope that you, like the Twelve, will respond to the summoning.

Emily Bland '10 is assistant director of the Vincentian Mission Corps.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Reflection for Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday of the First Week of Advent

Isn’t it wonderful when scripture perfectly reflects what you’re feeling in that moment? In the midst of this bleak midwinter (I’m from Dallas, Texas. I don’t like cold), the scripture reassures us that our suffering is almost at an end. Now, Isaiah doesn’t talk about finals week, sagging GPAs, or the prospect of graduation in 6 months, but I am most certainly one of “Those who err in spirit” or “find fault”. It’s always nice to hear that I “shall acquire understanding” or “receive instruction”. Of course, instruction and acquiring understanding are all what this semester, or college is about, right? So, what does that mean in the context of Advent? This season beckons us to look towards the miracle of a baby born into this world, the love of a mother, the love of God manifest in the world. There’s some donkeys, some wise men, and some shepherds involved too, but all in all it asks us to look up, see that light shining high above us, and that love coming our way. It’s dark, but it’s coming. It’s the coldest time of the year (unless the polar vortex comes back), but there’s some warmth to be found around the manger.

All it takes is a concerted effort on our part to look, see, and believe. The Gospel today emphasizes that. Two blind men ask for the pity of Jesus and He heals them for their faith. Their belief opens their eyes. I wear glasses, so my vision is not perfect, but I can still see those two fingers people hold up to test my vision. However, I have no idea what next semester is going to bring. I don’t know where I’ll be, who I’ll be with, or what exactly I’ll be doing in 6 months. I don’t know whether we’ll be having turkey or ham at Christmas dinner. I should call home about that…

It’s cold, it’s dark, finals are bearing down, and the relatives will be bearing down shortly thereafter. BUT, we have a chance to witness wonderful things if we but take heart, have a little faith, and maybe get a little bit of that “understanding” or “instruction” we need so badly. The Psalm lays it out in such beautiful terms: “the loveliness of the Lord”, “the bounty of the Lord”. Grandma’s cooking probably makes for a pretty nice bounty. Really anything made with love, by someone you love will taste pretty good. So don’t just look forward to those things, look out for them because they could sneak up on you, much like an immaculate conception would sneak up on you.

Andrew Bennett is a student in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and a Resident Advisor in Marchetti Towers.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Reflection for Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thursday of the First Week of Advent
IS 26: 1-6
PS 118: 1 AND 8-9, 19-21, 25-27A
MT 7: 21, 24-27

Today’s gospel is a call to action. When I read it my first thought was, 'why is this gospel showing up in Advent?'  Advent is a time for reflection, a time of hopeful waiting and joyful anticipation. But it is also about preparing. The preparations we are called to in today’s readings have little to do with lights, cookies, parties and presents. These readings pose the question, 'What are you preparing for? What life are you preparing to live?'

Jesus makes it perfectly clear that we are not only to speak our faith, we are called to live it, to embody a faith that does justice. Jesus asks for more than commemoration: he asks for our active participation!

“Whoever hears these words and acts on them will be like the wise man/woman who built their house on a rock”. What are “these words”?  The verses we read today are the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. These chapters in Matthew’s gospel encapsulate the central tenets of Christianity: the Beatitudes; how to pray; Love your enemies; Live simply – do not worry; Do not judge others; True discipleship.

These words inspire us. It is easy to speak of their beauty and eloquence. To return to our opening question are you preparing to live these teachings? Does it make it on to your to-do list? Is it part of your Advent preparations? Is it part of your five-year plan?

Perhaps the question is not 'what?' but 'how?' When I consider this question I like to think about Mary, our spiritual mother. She is not only the woman who became the mother of Jesus, and brought the first Advent into our history, she is a perfect model of how to be an active agent cooperating with God. She full-heartedly, freely, agreed with her YES to God’s plan and through this partnership she gave birth to a baby, Jesus. First through her faith, then through her flesh. 

Her model of discipleship doesn’t end in the manger either. She continued participating as a faithful partner in God’s plan through all the events of Jesus' life: from birth, to parenting, through his early years to his first miracle, from his ministry to his death upon the Cross.  Mary is a great model for this season of Advent. She reminds us that it starts with a yes. 

So with God's grace, inspired by Mary, let us commit to saying "YES".

Vitina Pestello is the Program Coordinator for the Faith and Justice Collaborative.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Reflection for Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest
IS 25: 6-10A
PS 23: 1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6
MT 15: 29-37

On August 19, instead of driving four hours on I-64 West from my home in Louisville to my home at SLU, I tearfully said goodbye to my parents and little sister at the Louisville airport.  Two planes, a taxi, two trains, and thirty hours later, I arrived in the small German town of Kandern.  Theresa, my lovely friend and travel companion, and I hauled our extremely heavy and large suitcases to the entrance of the train station and sat down on the curb.  “What are we going to do if they don’t show up?” I asked Theresa as I realized that neither of us had cell service.  “They” referred to a friend of a friend of a friend who we were supposed to be staying with during our two-week German adventure before settling down in Madrid for the semester.

Exhausted and overwhelmed, we sat together fairly quietly for what seemed like forever as we watched car after car pull into the parking lot only to pull out again minutes later.  I was just starting to panic when a navy blue car suddenly appeared down the road, pulled into the parking lot, and stopped directly in front of Theresa and me.  “You must be Sarah and Theresa!  Hello and welcome to Germany!  We’re Steve and Dawn Liberti!”  Suddenly, all my anxiety disappeared as I was embraced by two complete strangers in a town 4,000 miles away from my homes.

A short drive later, Theresa and I were walking into the Libertis' beautiful home when I was suddenly engulfed by an incredible, overpowering smell.  “I hope you’re hungry!” Steve said.  We’ve got a German feast for you tonight!”  For the next two hours, Theresa and sat around the outdoor table eating three kinds of bratwursts and a potato and carrot dish, sipping on a Radler, and sharing life stories and hopes with strangers who were quickly becoming friends.

While there have been many beautiful moments that have touched my heart during my semester in Europe, my first two weeks were some of the most memorable and meaningful as the Libertis welcomed us with the radical hospitality that Jesus preaches about and practices throughout the Gospel.  In today’s reading, Matthew 15:29-37, we hear the familiar story of Jesus feeding the masses with seven loaves of bread “and a few fish.”  In the story, Jesus surrounds himself with people of privilege and people who are marginalized and because he doesn’t want to send anyone away hungry, Jesus blesses and breaks the seven loaves of bread that the disciples have gathered.  The miracle of this story is not some magical increase in the amount of food, but that by sharing a meal together as a community, every person is able to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually satisfied.  As this Advent season continues, and we gather together with our friends and family, may we remember to show all of our brothers and sisters the same radical hospitality that Jesus showed the crowd and that the Libertis showed me.  

Sarah Nash is a junior studying Sociology and American Studies with a minor in Urban Poverty Studies.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reflection for Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

Christmas ads are in every direction one looks, whether it be through television, newspapers, or department stores. Christmas has turned into a season of gift giving and getting. Where has the true meaning of Christmas gone? The Advent season is the time for reflection and anticipation. It is the time for people to prepare for the birth of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses his disciples, telling them their eyes are blessed because they have seen Jesus as he is. A few paragraphs above, the act of revealing Jesus is said to be only done to the childlike. Both of these ideas support the fact that the wise and wealthy are not the ones who Jesus will be revealed to. Jesus is revealed to the common people, those who live their daily lives for Jesus. This same idea is true today; a person who is wealthy or knowledgeable about scripture does not get preference over an individual who knows less "stuff" but lives out his or her life for God. Living out the Word of God through daily acts of kindness and being the best person you can be is what Jesus calls each one of us to do everyday. The gift of giving a present is one way to show that you care for a person. If all of the Christmas gifts were acts instead of something tangible our world would be a different place. Jesus showed and spoke the truth about the Word of God. This is something intangible just like an act of kindness or compassion. That is the greatest gift one can give this Christmas season. Rather than taking the Advent season to shop for the people we love, let's think of ways we can show our love through words and deeds, just like Jesus did.

Ann Knezetic is President of the Student Government Association.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Reflection for Monday, December 1, 2014

Monday of the First Week of Advent

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
One nation shall not rise raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”

Today’s first reading contains one of my favorite quotes from the Old Testament, and is particularly appropriate as we begin yet another season of Advent.   Advent is a time of hopeful waiting, a time of peaceful reflection, a time to prepare for the “Prince of Peace” to enter into our world and our lives.  And there is no more desperate time that our world needs the peace of the Lord than now.
From racial conflict and injustice in our very own backyard, to wars halfway around the globe, our society is crying out for peace, desperately wanting to turn swords into plowshares.  At times, I find myself overwhelmed by all of the conflict occurring in our world – just watching the news for 10 minutes can cause me to become very cynical about peace ever being achieved.  It’s easy I think for us to despair in these moments, and ask questions like “What can I possibly do to heal this broken world, to help bring about the peace that our Lord desires?”
That of course is an impossible task – if any of us could bring about world peace by ourselves, it would have already been done.  But if we can’t do that, what can we do?  Perhaps we can take time to reflect this Advent on how we can beat swords into plowshares in our own lives, our own small communities.  What conflicts are we still hanging on to, perhaps with a friend or a family member?  What trespasses have we not yet forgiven?  How I can live peacefully each day?  If we can work on ending the small, petty conflicts that can too often consume our days, maybe that will be a start.
Mother Teresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”   As we wait for the true peace that only the Lord can bring this Advent season, let us consider the ways we can make this a time to spread peace in our own lives, and the lives of those we love.  And may those small acts of peace create many ripples, and inspire others to turn their swords into plowshares.

Bobby Wassel is the Assistant Director in the Center for Service and Community Engagement.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Reflection for Sunday, November 30, 2014

First Sunday of Advent
IS 63: 16B-17, 19B; 64: 2-7
PS 80: 2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 COR 1: 3-9
MK 13: 33-37

Welcome to Advent, 2014.  This beautiful time of year, filled with faith and possibilities, offers us a designated period of time to think about and to pray about our own purposes in life…and Who really forms us to enter into those larger opportunities and purposes.

As we begin these Campus Ministry reflections for Advent, we can all begin with prayer, whether we know, exactly, what we want, or need or are waiting for, or what we hope.  We can pray, anyway, with gratitude and for all we might still need.

Simply asking God to be with us, to help and to assist us suffices as we begin Advent is not only helpful, but will, as St. Ignatius told us, bear much fruit.  As each Advent day begins, we can enter more fully into the moments, the Scriptures, and the reflections, and the thoughts and prayers offered by members of our University community.

The readings, throughout Advent, as you know, ask us to prepare, to hope, to anticipate what God offers us, and to seek the grace to receive it, always with gratitude.

My prayer for you and our entire SLU community, then, is one of restful anticipation and thoughtful preparation, in this Christmas season. 

May God bless all of us at Saint Louis University.
-Fr. Paul Stark, S.J.
Vice President of Mission and Ministry

"Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come!" We read those words every Advent, and I always think of the bumper sticker that says, "Jesus is coming - look busy!" If we are not careful, we can lead ourselves to imagine that this season is about putting on a good front and "getting ready for Christmas," as if it might get here before December 25 just to keep us on our toes. The language of repentance is never far away during Advent, and the word in the New Testament for repentance, metanoia, literally means a change of mind - to see things with a new heart and a new perspective. Now, we can't just convince ourselves out of the blue to suddenly understand things in a different way, to see black as white and up as down. We see anew by seeing new things, by being exposed to worldviews and experiences that do not simply reinforce our prejudices. We in St. Louis have had plenty of opportunities in the past weeks and months to challenge ourselves to see new things and hear new perspectives, if we have been willing to do so. I suggest that "Be alert!" may mean for us, "No more business as usual - get out of your comfort zone!" If you think that the best way to get a SLU education is to shut your eyes and ears to the outside world and focus that much harder on your books, think again. The circumstances of the past months have put an endless stream of opportunities in front of us to educate ourselves, engage in conversation, and get involved, if we choose to do so. Pay attention to the kairos of the moment - the possibility of newness and the invitation to help make it a reality. We may never know when the time will come, but when it is here, we have the chance to take it seriously enough to put ourselves in the thick of it, knowing that we have the potential to help advance the reign of God in people's lives.
-Patrick Cousins
Campus Minister