Monday, November 30, 2015

Reflection for Monday, November 30, 2015

Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle

MT 4: 18-22

I’ve been fishing a few times in my life.  When I was little, I went camping with my mom and brother and we did get into a rowboat and actually fish.  Mostly what I remember about fishing were the worms that we had to put on the hooks.  Not too pleasant to a little girl.  There are different types of fishing.  One is that image of sitting in a rowboat out in a vast lake with little around.  One is fly fishing, which my friend John at John Carroll University says is a whole different ballgame.  The other is commercial, the kind where you cast your nets.

Today’s Gospel from Matthew (4:18-22), gives us the story of Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John who are called by Jesus to join Him.  They were all fisherman and Jesus came upon them as they were casting their nets.  I can imagine all of them, hauling nets and fish out of the sea.  And I can imagine their surprise as Jesus asks them to follows Him and be fishers of people.  Their father Zebedee must have thoughts they were crazy to get up and leave it all.  The Gospel story does not share how they were feeling, what they experienced, what emotions they had.  But we can imagine that in the story.  Perhaps they were awed, frightened, or even joyous and excited.  Perhaps Zebedee was angry or maybe he was thrilled that Jesus called his own people.

As I reflect on the Gospel and on my experience of fishing, I share a few elements.  First, if you are in a boat, fishing by yourself or perhaps with friends, one thing you experience is the silence.  You have to be quiet when you fish so you don’t scare the fish away.  You also have to be patient.  It is a good way to pray about Advent – finding some moments of quiet and stillness, and yes perhaps even patience, to reflect on the story of the birth of Jesus and on your part in that story.

Second, when you are fishing, you are experiencing God’s beauty and creation.  As Pope Francis points out in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “nothing in the world is indifferent to us” and so as we experience creation, whether it be in fishing or in a walk in a forest, we imagine how we treat creation.  This is also a good way to pray during Advent.  How do we treat the creation around us and care for it, just as Jesus was born to care for us.

Finally, imagine the enormity of working with a fishing crew and lots of outrageously huge nets.  I can imagine myself trying to cast those nets out into the water and bring back the bounty of the sea.  But I can also imagine casting my own net wider than that.  As Peter, Andrew, James, and John were called to cast their wide nets for people who would be followers of Christ, how do I cast my own net wide enough to include all those people around me?  Given the injustices and murder and trouble in today’s world, how am I a welcoming presence to those who are different than me?  And in praying about Advent, how can I be like that wide eyed baby Jesus – loving all who I place my eyes upon.  How can I see Christ in everyone I encounter – no matter what color, status, religion, or state in life?

As we enter the first week of Advent, let’s think about these reflections and include them in our prayer.  How can I find moments of quiet, solitude, and yes patience with myself and others?  How do I treat the creation that is around me?  And how do I welcome the stranger into my life, just as the disciples welcomed the stranger Jesus?

Sue Chawszczewski is the Director of Campus Ministry.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent
JER 33:14-16
PS 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
1 THESS 3:12-4:2
LK 21:25-28, 34-36

“The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise,” writes Isaiah in today’s reading. The promise is of a new reality for the people of Israel. The promise to be fulfilled is that a “just shoot” will arise in the house of David and that through that one, justice will be established and when justice, peace also will follow.

This is the reading for the first Sunday of Advent, which, in the Church’s calendar, marks New Year’s Day. The new year starts with a promise from the Lord. And the promise is spoken to the people in the midst of their exile. It is spoken at a time when it seems that promise is really very far off form being fulfilled.

This seems a desirable prophesy for today as well. And it seems just as unlikely that it will be fulfilled now as it probably did then to the people of Israel. We think of Syria and Iraq and the slaughter of innocents that ISIS continues to perpetuate. We think of the intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine, of the Ukraine, of the immigrant crises in the Mediterranean and on our own southern border. We think of the violence on our own streets in St. Louis and the ever widening gap between the haves and the have nots, throughout this country of ours and in every part of the world today.

Justice? Peace? Really?

It is a new Church year starting today. Advent means coming toward. The Lord is coming toward us again in a new ways. But we are not pretending that he has not already come, definitively. God has has already come in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago. But this is a new moment for us to try to open up again, anew, to that coming, and to let it transform us. Christ comes to transform the world into something different, to overcome our isolation, our fear, our pettiness, our hatred and divisions that we establish among ourselves. The way Christ comes is in what looks like weakness.

This is the key for us. Peace can be established around us in our daily living if we allow that same method of Jesus to be ours. Instead of spending most of our time blaming all those other people “out there” for not being just and not establishing peace, let the call be to start with ourselves today.

Fr. Chris Collins, S.J. is Assistant to the President for Mission and Identity.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What are you waiting for?

Often enough, Advent is presented as a waiting game - when I was a child the Advent calendar with its daily piece of chocolate was a way of making it a little more bearable to wait four whole weeks for Christmas. So this year, as I think about the beginning of this season, I ask myself (and you):

What are you waiting for?

I imagine two senses in which that question could strike the reader. What are you waiting for? In one sense, it asks what hope, what anticipation is keeping you afloat. The waiting is for something to come, something to happen, from outside. That reading fits well with the literal meaning of Advent, from ad + venire, "to come to," like the refrain of that old Advent song, "O Come O Come Emmanuel": "Rejoice, rejoice/Emmanuel/Shall come to thee, O Israel." Such a "waiting in joyful hope" resonates with the final words of the Bible: "Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!"

But that question reads differently if we read it with the insistence of the person whose life depends on a different future (avenir), a rearrangement of the powers that be, something new that is yet to come (a-venir). What are you waiting for? Where are you? What is keeping you from doing something about the blood of the innocents which cries from the earth? Why do you not do something to repair the world which is being run off its tracks?

While I suspect that most Christians have a hard time imagining it, the Biblical tradition is loaded to the gills with people having the audacity to ask those laden, anguished questions of God: "How long, O Lord?" "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Looking at the immensity of the needs around us, we might transpose those questions onto ourselves and our peers or, better yet, listen more attentively to the anguished voices that have been asking us those questions and awaiting our response. In Syria and Lebanon, in Mali, in Paris, Iraq and Afghanistan, in Ferguson and Baltimore and so many other places which cry for a newness to come, our desire to wait is a luxury that people cannot afford.

What are you waiting for?

As Martin Luther King put it, "Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively." If we choose simply to wait for things to change in our world, wait for God to drop a better world in our laps, then December 25 will come and go like any other day. If we celebrate the birthday of Jesus without enacting that which he enacted with his life, unto his death - the reign of God, the promise of a radical newness which is to come into people's lives - then we turn the season and the day into an anniversary rather than an invitation.

But it IS an invitation: Campus Ministry invites you to reflect with us every day this season as our friends, students, and colleagues share their dreams and their efforts to enact a world which we have been promised. We invite you to act with us to build that world which we hope and trust is to come. And we invite you to celebrate with us in our weekly and daily liturgies across campus.

What are you waiting for?

Patrick Cousins is the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry.