Friday, December 25, 2015

Reflection for Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Day
IS 52: 7-10
PS 98: 1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
HEB 1:1-6
JN 1: 1-18 OR JN 1: 1-5, 9-14

Today is the day! The presents are waiting underneath the tree, the stockings are full, the baby Jesus’ are placed in the mangers, and the celebration of Christmas comes to its climax. Advent comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”. During the advent season we await the coming of our Lord, Jesus. Today we sit in awe. In awe that a God so mighty and ungraspable would humble Godself to become a human baby boy, so small and weak.

He has been born. The Savior is here. I believe that this day is a celebration of hope; a celebration of things known and felt becoming tangible and real. For the secular world that is the arrival of presents from Santa Claus. Children of the world feel this fulfilment of hope to see that the cookies are gone, the milk has been drunk, and the presents await.

We can learn a lot from the children who believe so fervently in Santa. While we come to know that Santa is not real, rather a magical figment of imagination that is the secular celebration of Christmas, there is a real conviction in the lives of 2-10 year olds who believe. John’s gospel tells us that for “those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.”

Jesus is the tangible revelation of God. When we believe in him we are given the gift to be called children of God. Believing in things unseen is a staple to any faith, especially when connecting with a God who is omnipresent, omnipotent, and omnipotent, in other words, completely and totally out of our capacity to grasp. Today we are to sit in awe, simply beholding. The First reading proclaims “…all the ends of the earth will BEHOLD the salvation of our God”. We are witness to something big and beautiful. But we are called to do more than behold; we are called to announce what we know, feel and see to others.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news…” This mountain, where glad tidings and good news come from, is a place of rest, revival and renewal of hope. We are not meant to live on the mountain top, just like we are not meant to live our life solely beholding. There is a greater call to action; a further request to share the good news.

Christmas is a time for profound hope and joy. We are called to come down from the mountain, to go forth from Christmas day, to share with our brothers and sisters the newfound light and hope within us. Coming down from the mountain is never easy, but as the first reading states “how beautiful” it is to share the light of God, that still shines as brightly as it did 2000 years ago, shinning through a beautiful baby boy.

I wish you a day of rest, laughter, joy, renewal, wonderment and cheer. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Hannah Sattler is a junior majoring in Social Work and minoring in Theological Studies.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, December 24, 2015

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

Christmas Eve!!  Even the words conjure up childhood memories of that last day of waiting before the big celebration—the smells, the sounds and the sights of Christmas. Fr. Richard Rohr, OFM says that Christmas Eve is actually more Christmas than Christmas Day because it contains all the energy of Advent waiting in addition to the Christmas joy.  Just as the anticipation of an event such as a vacation is a major part of the enjoyment of that event, so it is with our Advent preparations for Christmas. We are almost there!

Typically I spend this day immersed in many last minute details—cooking, setting the table and even some a last ditch effort at wrapping gifts. Hopefully today I will take at least a few minutes in which I can quietly contemplate the gift of God’s love that the world received over 2000 years ago.  A gift that caused the previously mute Zechariah to loudly proclaim:

In the tender compassion of our God
The dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
And to guide our feet into the way of peace!

Christians are definitely Easter people but we are also an Advent people. We watch and wait for the second coming of our God.  But today let us begin celebrating anew that first coming so long again. The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light!  We wait in joyful hope as we pray that we have a part in making the light grow and in banishing the darkness.

Geralyn Meyer, PhD, RN teaches in the School of Nursing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, December 23, 2015

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

“The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy.
They come when the mind is still, when silence speaks loudest.”

For several months, Zechariah has been silent. The angel Gabriel commanded that Zechariah not be able to speak until the birth of John, because Zechariah doubted that Elizabeth could bear a son at her age.

Zechariah was in silence for nine months because he did not trust God’s plan. Imagine all of the times we have doubted God’s plan for us. God is teaching us that in times of doubt, we need silence to listen to Him. Alone time can be uncomfortable because we have an innate need to be with others. In moments of silence, we can better hear what God is speaking to us. I believe that the more silence we have in our lives, the greater our faith in God will be. Jesus often went alone to a quiet place to pray. In a world that is so connected, we need time to disconnect and be alone. Today, as we prepare for Christmas celebrations, take time to be alone. Be comforted in knowing that in those moments of silence, we are not all that alone, because God is at our side.

As Zechariah and Elizabeth experienced, even when something seems impossible, God surprises us. We need to practice diminishing our doubt in God, and instead waiting in joyful suspense for the gifts he may surprise us with in the coming year. Often, we miss God’s gifts, thinking they will be something big, such as the gift given to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Be aware of God’s subtle, yet significant gifts – a new friend; a smile from a passerby; an opportunity for growth. God is giving us gifts every day. Be aware and surprised for all that he gives us.

Be silent
Be aware
Be surprised

Kaitlyn Vokaty is graduate student studying Occupational Therapy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Reflection for Tuesday, December 22, 2015

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

One of the best periods of my life was when I was a Jesuit novice.  The formation I received at the novitiate changed me profoundly.  The novitiate building itself became as much a home as my family’s house, and every year all the young Jesuits would gather there to watch the newest Jesuits take their vows.  I came to cherish that former convent on Denver’s east side.  So when the Jesuits decided to sell that building, it was a blow to many of us.  The last time I visited the place was difficult, even heart-wrenching.  But as we were driving away, I was suddenly inspired to repeat a line from the book of Job:  “The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”  That prayer helped me express my gratitude for the gift (which was never meant to last forever) and to praise the Giver of the gift (rather than idolizing the gift).  As the novitiate disappeared in the rear-view mirror, I was no longer sad—just feeling blessed, and content to put myself in God’s hands for the future.
Today’s first reading is startling.  Hannah was a woman who prayed earnestly, with copious tears, for a child… and now she says to the priest at the temple:  “I prayed for this child, and the Lord granted my request; now I, in turn, give him to the Lord,” and she leaves the young Samuel there.  Do we ever beg God for some favor, but then give it right back to God?  It almost seems nonsensical.  But something about this paradoxical back-and-forth lies at the heart of a relationship of love and trust.  As St. Ignatius Loyola wrote, “Love consists in a mutual sharing of goods—the lover gives and shares with the beloved what he possesses, and vice versa, the beloved shares with the lover.”  It’s love that enables us to pray Ignatius’ most famous prayer:  “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess.  You have given all to me; to you, Lord, I return it.”

As we prepare for a season of gift-giving to celebrate God’s greatest gift to us—the gift of God’s very self—it’s good to remember that gift-giving is not really about the gift:  it’s about the relationship that the gift expresses.  God showers us with gifts every day of our lives.  As the Psalmist sings, “What return can I make to the Lord for all that he has done for me?”  If all we have and are comes from God, the only thing we’re able to do in return is to give back what we’ve received—even all we have and are.  As a wise Jesuit once told me, “God is a jealous lover; he wants it all.”  Let’s pray that we can be as freely generous with God as God is with us.  And in the end it is all for our good… for it is in giving that we receive, and it is in losing ourselves that we ultimately find ourselves.

Fr. Steve Schoenig, S.J. teaches in the Department of History.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reflection for Monday, December 21, 2015

Fourth Monday of Advent 
SG 2: 8-14
ZEP 3:14-18A
PS 33: 2-3, 11-12, 20-21
LK 1: 39-45

“Hark! my lover–here he comes” is the first line from today’s first reading found in the Song of Songs. The narrator is excited to see her lover and uses these words to describe his upbeat demeanor upon arrival: springing, leaping, gazing, and peering. He’s made it across the mountains and hills and now sees through the windows and lattices. All this work and suffering just to see his lover. Jesus does the same for us. He suffers so that we can live our lives in peace and praise of him.

This is why the Responsorial Psalm proclaims, “Sing to him a new song.” Our voices, filled with joy and love for Jesus, show our praise for him. At the end of this story the lover tells the woman, “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” He wants her with him because she is lovely and he wants to see her and hear her voice. The baby Jesus is coming and as soon as he arrives he, too, wants to see us by his side and hear all of our voices. There are several ways we can do this as we approach the end of the Advent season. For example, at the most fundamental level, we can take the time and effort to pray and consistently tell God about our lives. I like that this method does not have to be formal. I often find myself walking back to my dorm room late in the evening. I like to use that time to tell God about my day, just like I would tell a friend walking beside me, and listen to God’s voice in the sounds of the water fountains and the wind brushing up against the trees. We are fortunate to live on a beautiful and well-maintained green campus. In addition to prayer, we can also experience God and see his works in the mass. In the span of just one week we have the Christmas mass and celebration on Friday, December 25th, the weekly Sunday mass on Sunday, December 27th, and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God mass on Thursday, January 1st. These are all wonderful opportunities to see Jesus over the holiday season. Thus, we can pray and go to mass to hear and see Jesus in our lives.

Alex Mikhailov is a sophomore studying Economics and International Studies.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, December 20, 2015

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

Each time I read the Gospels through the eyes of Mary I cannot help but try and place myself in her shoes. What must it have been like for her to be called upon by Gabriel to be the mother of Jesus?  I always think about how she must have felt and of the thoughts that must have raced through her mind. In these moments I almost instinctively determine that I wouldn’t have the faith and strength to respond as Mary did. I do not have enough within me nor the confidence to fully trust in God and myself. And so begins the “I’m not enough for ____” internal debacle that seems to flood from one aspect of my life to another. I am good, but not great. I work hard, but I should work harder. I care about people, but I need to be more patient. I could do better, I could be better, and I could try harder. Did Mary ever feel this way? Or Jesus himself?

The Gospel today gives us a glimpse into Elizabeth’s world as she asks, “and how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” A statement of feeling unworthy  has become all too common among SLU students as we often overload our plates with activities, involvement, meetings and credit hours. At times, it seems as if the SLU culture is founded on being overscheduled and overwhelmed at all points of the day inhibiting our ability to be satisfied with the now and ourselves as we are.

These thoughts of unworthiness and “not-enoughness” come to impact our attitude about ourselves and the world around us that can become paralyzing at times. In fear of not being able to be the best person for the job or able to speak the perfect words in front of a group of people, we find it easier to not try in the first place and not speak up in fear that our voice might shake. But God doesn’t need nor ask for perfect, which is such a central message of the Incarnation - that God became Man to validate the human struggle. Faith is the Marys and the Elizabeths of the world which is reflected in you and me. We very much are enough, incomplete and imperfect as we come; we just need to say “yes” to Christ amidst the uncertainty and feelings of doubt.

“blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”

Don’t paralyze yourself in the evils of the “not good enoughs” this Advent and prepare the way for the Incarnation no matter where you are on your faith journey. Whether you are struggling or growing or confused or changing, you are enough as a Child of God; open your arms to the Lord today in whatever capacity you have, because what you have is enough.

Caitlyn McNeil is a senior studying Economics in the John Cook School of Business.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, December 19, 2015

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


The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:2, New International Version)

How many times have you found yourself asking ‘what if’ questions? What if I mess up on a work assignment? What if I forget the lyrics during a performance? What if I get cancer? What if I lose my job? The list goes on and on.

As followers of Jesus, we are commanded to live by a different moral code and not wonder about the ‘what ifs’. Instead God wants us to stand strong on our faith and know that no matter what happens in the future, God will take us through it with dignity, grace and compassion.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10a, New International Version )

I sing in a group and we recently had a performance in what is considered a prestigious venue. While rehearsing one morning, I started feeling very nervous and began wondering “What if I mess up or fall on the stage?” I almost drove myself crazy with all the ‘what if’s’ that were swirling in my mind. Eventually, I decided that the best course of action would be to rehearse more. At that very
second I turned on my phone to listen to the music, and the daily scripture popped up on my phone. It was Psalm 18:2 – 'The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Some may regard this as a coincidence, but I choose to believe that God, via modern technology, spoke directly to me and reminded me once again that he is faithful and that I don’t have to ask ‘what if’.

We can only make ourselves sick by worrying about the ‘what if’s’ in life. Instead, we can use our time in more productive ways like helping someone less fortunate than ourselves or writing out a list of 10 to 20 things we are grateful for. I find that writing a gratitude list immediately calms me down and reminds me not to worry and ask “what if?”. It makes me say, “Here I am Lord, how can I be of service to you?”

Lori Corzine works in the Center for International Studies

Friday, December 18, 2015

Reflection for Friday, December 18, 2015

Third Friday of Advent 
JER 23:5-8 
PS 72: 1-2, 12-13, 18-19
MT 1:18-25

"Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel."

Joseph seems like the type of guy who followed the law. He didn’t want to hurt Mary, but at the same time Mary was going to bear a son without Joseph himself getting her pregnant. So originally he planned to quietly divorce her, unwilling to expose her to shame. Sometimes we think it was so easy for Joseph to allow Mary into his home, when in reality he had a lot at stake. He had his own family, a reputation and life to carry out. This particular passage, truly shows what a man totally trusted in God looks like. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

Our culture often pressures men to bail out when there is trouble. Joseph shows the way by obeying God over the pressures of prevailing culture, even if he will personally suffer for it. We are afraid to go down a road that is not lit for us, and mapped out just the way we think it should be.

Surrendering one’s self to God, there is freedom. We are free to say yes to what is right and good without any fear because God is with us. Sometimes things get difficult but there is an even greater reward in the end. When Joseph let Mary into his house, although there were plenty of reasons to say no, he was really answering God’s call.

Each one of us: students, co-workers, faculty and staff members are called by God. When we give up and obey by faith we will then use faith to obey. Faith and trust is how we pursue living out the life God has called us to do . It isn’t easy. First off, we have the urge of sin not to trust God. Secondly, God’s calling (his promises) are futuristic and thus unseen to us. So how do we give up and embrace that freedom? We have to pray and set our hearts on trusting God’s promises until the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith so much so that we say, I trust you Lord. And the reward is always greater than we can imagine.

Has there been a time in your life when you trusted the Lord and experienced his blessing? Do you have a sense of how God is using your current circumstances to prepare you for a great calling?

Molly Diehl is a junior majoring in Nutrition & Dietetics.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, December 17, 2015

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

How many of us could name our great grandparents? Our great great grandparents? Some might be able to but probably not many. The Gospel for today is the genealogy of Jesus. It contains his family tree from Jesus all the way back to Abraham, 42 generations of family history!

Knowing where you were from and truly knowing your family members and the history of your family was important in Jesus’ time. It is the very reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem. When Caesar decreed that every man should return to the land of his family, Joseph and Mary embarked on a long journey to the city of Jesus’ ancestors.

Many of us will embark on these long journeys to the homes of our family members during this Christmas season. Perhaps the entire family gathers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for Christmas dinner. Or perhaps we enjoy the company of our immediate family as stories are shared around the Christmas tree.

Wherever we are, Jesus calls us to be with our family. On the night of his birth, Jesus is together in Bethlehem with not only Mary and Joseph, but with all his ancestors who lived and prayed in that humble town.

While it will not be possible for many of us to journey to the homes of our ancestors in Ireland or Italy or wherever your family is from, it is enough to reflect and pray for the members of our families who have gone before us. It is through these people that we are able to live as we do.

During this Advent season and this coming Christmas season, take the time to put the phones down and truly listen to your family. Learn their stories. Know them for the incredible human persons they are. What are your aunt’s greatest fears? What was your uncle’s greatest challenge growing up? What is your grandma most proud of her in her life? Who really are these people that we call our family?

Just as Jesus is in the presence of all his family on that first Christmas, let us also be fully in the presence of our family. As we prepare for Christmas, let us pray for family and for the beauty and wonder that comes from knowing and loving a person so deeply. Let our families be more than just names on a family tree; let them truly be a part of who we are.

Moira McDermott is a senior studying Secondary Education and English.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Third Wednesday of Advent
IS 45:6C-8, 18, 21C-25
PS 85: 9AB AND 10; 11-12, 13-14
LK 7: 18B-23

“I am the Lord, there is no other…”

With these eight words at the beginning of today’s first Reading, everything is made clear.  When the Lord is Number One in life, everything else seems to fall into place.  Dealing with the daily challenges of life can be a little easier knowing that we are not walking alone.  The little things don’t weigh us down.  We have more patience when dealing with difficult people.  The glass is half full rather than half empty.  When we put other material things before our relationship with God, things soon become out of balance.  Work becomes the primary focus and the source of self-worth.  Material possessions become more important than spiritual well-being.  I like to compare finding this balance with an automobile. When something goes wrong with an automobile, it can throw everything else off.  One low tire messes up the alignment for the entire vehicle.  Being low on oil impacts the functioning of the engine.  Everything is connected, and if one part is out of balance, the entire car is affected.

I like to think of Advent as the time to get things back in balance.  The weeks before Christmas are spent with preparations for the holiday.  There are cards to be written, gifts to be purchased and wrapped, decorations to be put up, cookies to be baked, parties to attend, and on and on.  Advent is the time to remind us to pay attention to our spiritual lives and to find that balance that comes when God is first and foremost in our lives.  Later in the Reading we are reminded:  “Turn to me and be safe, all you ends of the earth, for I am God; there is no other!”  So just in case we didn’t hear it at the beginning of the Reading, we are reminded again! 

May these remaining days of Advent provide an opportunity to bring balance back into our lives.  When we truly realize that God is God and place our lives in God’s hands, Christmas will be a time to celebrate both the birth of our Savior and a renewal of new life within our hearts.  There can be no greater gift.

Cathy Zimmer is the Business Manager for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reflection for Tuesday, December 15, 2015

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

Christianity has a very different reality for us today in the United States than it did generations before us.  Those of us from Anglo-European descent may have hungered for religious freedom in a different era, but today we live as the cultural majority. Consciously or not, this profoundly shapes how we read today’s passages. Both texts (Zephaniah and Matthew) uncomfortably challenge us to ask:

  • Are we more like the ‘tyrannical city’ or the ‘faithful remnant’?  
  • Are we more like the parable’s first son (who says yes but doesn’t work) or the second son (who says no but willingly serves)?

These pointed, almost aggressive questions do not allow us to hide behind someone else or the nearest bush, do they?!  We are boldly asked how we embody God in our daily words, actions and belief.

Few would choose ‘tyrannical city’ over ‘faithful remnant’---yet if we have not advocated for the poor, oppressed, refugee, or mentally ill, how have we chosen God over personal gain?

If we were born into a different part of the world, we likely would approach these texts from a very different perspective.   Our community is preparing for our fourth trip to Guatemala for Spring Break, and I’m eager to share the powerful instrument of liberation theology with another group of students. Guatemalan people’s reality is defined by instability: the government, economy, health care, education, housing and even the climate.  Liberation theology teaches us how God has a preferential option for the poor and is found more in the brokenness of the world than great victories.

Sometimes texts leave us more uncomfortable than reassured.  Let us remember Emmanuel, God is with us, even in our grappling, questioning, fear and mistakes.  While most of us live in a privileged reality, this is not the universal reality for our world.  Our God chose to take on human form in the humblest of ways, born in a lowly manger.  May this humility inspire us to serve others with equal compassion and claim a voice for solidarity.

Rev. Rebecca Boardman
Lutheran Campus Ministry-St Louis

Monday, December 14, 2015

Reflection for Monday, December 14, 2015

Third Monday of Advent 
NM 24: 2-7, 15-17A
PS 25: 4-5AB, 6 AND 7 BC, 8-9 
MT 21:23-27

This time last year I was a new member of the Saint Louis University community, and these reflections had an impact on me—from the diverse contributors representing so many roles within our community to the myriad of ideas, thoughts, stories, and vulnerabilities shared.

Taken in their totality, today’s readings are greater than the sum of their parts—which is so often the case if I take the time to reflect, think and feel.  A variety of words and concepts from these readings have stayed with me—particularly when others asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things?  And who gave you this authority?” (MT 21: 23-27)  And ever the educator, Jesus responded with a question back to them:  “Where was John’s baptism from?  Was it of heavenly or of human origin?”  And, then other words and concepts from the readings jumped out at me—“compassion,” “truth,” kindness,” “hears what God says,” “guide me in your truth and teach me,” “guides the humble to justice, he teaches the humble his way,” “show us, Lord, your love”—and how they have the potential to complement and inform the question regarding authority.  Too often, I find myself seeking answers, solutions, sometimes quick fixes rather than exploring my unknowns within the context of compassion, truth, kindness, humility—all parts of God’s love for us.

This past week was filled with opportunities and challenges—as is every week; and when I found myself looking inward and putting myself more in the role of the learner and not one of authority, my experiences and interactions were richer, more rewarding, and actually produced more energy than ending a busy week feeling totally drained.

My opportunities for growth and exploring some of my unknowns this past week included—watching a movie that addressed a painful topic for the Church and listening to others provide thoughtful comments as well as ask questions in community with others; listening and responding to class presentations where students took the risk to become the authority on a given area of study; participating in a workshop that challenged me to explore my calling within my  professional journey; receiving respectful feedback that a decision made did not sit well with some colleagues; and hearing about challenges that some members of our community are facing and them having the strength to speak up—these are only a few of any number of interactions I have had this week….to either fully engage with heart and mind or to not listen to God’s way and manner of being with others.  In the end, neither Jesus or the chief priests and elders provided definitive answers but rather took the opportunity to reflect and contemplate.

These readings leave me with this question:  How can I more consistently behave and act with kindness, compassion, and humbleness with and for others?  I only hope I take advantage of this Advent season to ponder the question further and to act upon what I might find via God’s love and His way.

Jill E. Carnaghi is a staff member in Student Development.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, December 13, 2015

Third Sunday of Advent
LK 3:10-18

Advent calls us to embrace the struggle of being a hopeful people while doing good in the present. And the readings today call us to rejoice—for all sorts of reasons.
Many of these reasons for rejoicing are due to absence of things—judgment, fear, and anxiety about our place in the world. But by calling out these absences, we acknowledge that all these reasons not to be happy are very real. These fears, anxieties and understandings of relationships were real to the people of Israel as they are to us today. But, as people of hope, we know that future holds promise for better days.

John the Baptist epitomizes this concept of one-foot-in-the-present and one-foot-in-the future. He points to crowds to Jesus, but he keeps his flock focused on the practicalities of day-to-day living. Hope is not passive, nor is building the kingdom. John was preparing the foundation for the new kingdom by organizing his followers to understand the integrity of doing good while looking to the future.

We also live in turbulent times in the region and in the world. Building the kingdom remains uncomfortable for us, because just as John’s followers were pushed out of their comfort zone by answers to their own questions, we challenge ourselves when we dig deep into today’s issues of social justice and the common good. Hoping for a better future—and fairer structures and just legal systems—is good. But hope isn’t enough. Hope in the future must be complemented by action today.

And that action may be in verbal and physical protest, or in collaborating to write legal briefs, or in initiating difficult conversations with friends and colleagues, or in committing to personal goals to engage most effectively as an aspiring academic or professional. Or, at times, it may be all of the above.

As James will remind us later in his epistle that faith without works is dead, so too John reminds us today that hope without works is empty, untethered and wistful. We are called to be and do better. And that is our challenge today as members of the Saint Louis University Community.

And, on a lighter note, take a look at the video below. It’s from another era, and the songs are from an earlier era still. The video is a classic—and a little goofy and campy through our lens today. But take a look and a listen, and look up the songs (and the singers) if interested. You’ll find this blending of hope and action is an eternal and yet very modern struggle.

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

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, December 12, 2015

Second Saturday of Advent 
ZEC 2:14-17
RV 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10 AB or JUDITH 13: 18 BCDE, 19
LK 1: 26 -38 or LK 1:39-47

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and is also the eve of Gaudete Sunday. This means the merging of two celebrations of absolute joy, and two reminders of the unexpectedness in our expectation.

Tomorrow’s celebration of Gaudete Sunday will mark the halfway point in our waiting, halfway through Advent, halfway to Christ. The day and the pink candle we mark it with are a reminder that we cannot lose our hope in waiting-- that we must not let ourselves be overcome with the anxiety of waiting, but rather that we must be overcome with the joy of expectation.

For those who are not familiar with her story, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego in 1531, an indigenous man living in Mexico during Spanish occupation immediately after the conquest of 1519-1521. In her apparition to Juan, Mother Mary reveals herself in the clothing and skin-coloring an indigenous young woman, speaking to Juan in his native language. Juan brings Our Lady’s request for a church to built at the site of the apparition in her honor to the Archbishop of Mexico City, and brings back the sign of Our Lady’s imprint on his cloak when he is asked to retrieve proof of the apparition.

What does the apparition of Our Lady to an indigenous man in the mid-16th century have to do with our experience of Advent today?

In two weeks we celebrate the Incarnation, God made tangible, God choosing to enter into the human condition, in all of its gritty reality, its beautiful earthy nature. Unlike the common Christian experience of waiting for the second-coming and the Kin-dom of God today, the Jewish people on the whole were anticipating the coming of a concrete human person. From the Book of Zechariah today: “See, I am coming to dwell among you, says the Lord. Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day” (Zec 2:14-17). Christ, they believed, would come specifically into their own historical socio-political situation and establish a new, literal kingdom in an earthly context, perhaps through political revolution.

Imagine, then, how unexpected the historical Christ was! Poor, often homeless, Jesus spent time with women, thieves, the terminally ill, and social outcasts. And when he did spend time speaking with and teaching those he would have been expected to come to, the Jewish social elite, he did so by discussing women, thieves, the terminally ill, and social outcasts! Christ was the embodiment of unexpectedness within expectation. He came first through the body of a woman, his Mother, not to stage a political revolution, but to die as an innocent victim of state violence, sentenced to death for the very crime he was expected to, and yet did not, commit. And yet couched in his death, in the waiting for the Resurrection that our waiting in Advent should conjure reminiscence of in our hearts and minds, is joy. Because death does not win, injustice does not win.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, appearing with Jesus in her womb, again embodies the bringing of unexpected joy. The Catholic Spanish would have expected an apparition to themselves, from a Mary who looked rather like themselves. Instead, the message came to them of an image of an indigenous Mary, through a poor, indigenous man. God brought joy, once again, to the people who needed it, rather than those anticipating it. The joy of the Mother was brought to an oppressed people first, empowering them to act as agents of change in a time when they had been robbed of agency, to speak with authority to those who had recently robbed them of their voices. The joy of the coming of Christ rings true in this story as well, and reminds of the story found in our Gospel today, of the annunciation. As Mary responded, “May it be done to me according to your world,” so to should we be open to the unexpected Christ moving within our hearts, as he moved within her womb (Luke 1:26-38).

My hope for each of us at this point in our Advent season is that we refrain from allowing our expectation to become anxiety. Let us, in some ways, shed expectation, embrace the unexpectedness, and leave our hands and hearts open to the humble God reaching out to us in ways and people we could never imagine. This is just where we will find Her. This is where we will find Joy.

Maria Bednar is a senior majoring in Theological Studies and Women's and Gender Studies and is an intern in Campus Ministry.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Reflection for Friday, December 11, 2015

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

Today ‘s Gospel should be relatable for any social human being. Here Jesus clearly exemplifies the judgmental nature of mankind and their many opinions.  He compares the two reactions of the people towards John the Baptist and Himself. He says, “For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they [the people] said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’” And then He says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”

John and Jesus “just can’t win.” One refuses to eat and drink, and the people respond negatively. The other eats and drinks, and the people still respond negatively. This sounds much like the experiences of the social world today. People are full of opinions, and though this is not necessarily a bad thing, there will always be someone who has an opinion different from your own. (i.e.“Haters gonna hate.” Right?)

So what can we do?  And how does this apply to the Advent season? We must first begin by accepting the reality that we cannot please everyone. No matter how hard we try, we will make decisions in our lives that others may not approve of. At first this seems like a negative thought, but now think of Mary, the Virgin Mother. Mary decided to bear the Son of God. She said, “Yes.” despite what others would think about her (i.e. that she was a young, unwed mother who cheated on her fiancĂ©).  And her decision changed the course of the universe.

So we must remember: as long as we are making decisions with and for God, we need not get distracted by negativity. This advent season, it is important to free ourselves from the social world of opinions, and focus on the coming of Jesus Christ. Don’t get distracted by debates about a red coffee cup or the next presidential candidate. Remember everyone is entitled to his or her opinions, accept your differences, and love on. This advent, make the conscious decision with Mary to ignore the negative opinions of others, and focus on preparing yourself for the coming of the King of the Universe.

Parker Davis is a junior majoring in Theological Studies and Communications.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, December 10, 2015

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

There are some readings from the Bible that just move the soul, that set it aflame with a strong inherent knowing that the Lord is here, He loves us and is yearning for us. God is Love, and thus naturally longs to have an intimate relationship with us through prayer, the sacraments and others. We feel this and know this, at some points more so than others. But then we read a passage such as the first reading today (Isaiah 41: 13-20) and come across this line in verse 14: “Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the LORD; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”


Maggots? Worms? But Lord, I thought you loved us?! But this is exactly the point that God wants to make with us. “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and of great kindness.” He loves us so much that, even if we were measly, helpless, spineless worms, he would lift us up. Love Himself would transform us into a state-of-the-art, speedy, shiny new sleigh, one that cuts through snow and ice and storm like a knife through butter.

And it doesn’t stop there.

The Lord will cease at no expense to share His infinite mercy and kindness with us. He has promised to completely fulfill us… and then fill us some more. Parched with thirst, God will not only give us a glass of water but will create rivers and fountains, marshlands and springs for us – what a generous and amiable Father we have! And He doesn’t bestow these blessings on one group at a time, allowing them to trickle down to each individual member. He comes to YOU first, and showers YOU with all these gifts. “God loves all of us as if there was only one of us” as St. Augustine said.

Jesus knows how to romanticize us with these words and promises that hold so much Love and Truth. He is the Savior, the world’s Emmanuel, and He is also our best friend. He knows us better than anyone else, and comes to each individual in the exact way that he/she needs a friend. Despite our failings, despite our lacking love at times, despite our forgetfulness, Jesus is always present. In fact, He comes to us. In the joy. In the suffering. In the silence.

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells us “…there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the Kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” He pursues us constantly because He loves us, but also because He wants to show us our worth. Yes, YOU are worth the Son of God’s time, attention, unconditional love and protection. Sure, we mess up because we’re human. But our sins can never diminish the strength of Jesus’ love for us and it can never exhaust the ocean of His infinite mercy.

Advent is a time of preparation and anticipation, of awaiting the “Holy One of Israel”. The good news is that we know our Savior will come. Our longing will be met by the incarnation of Love, and He will fulfill us to the ends of the earth if we allow Him. How much louder and more spirited should our song be when we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!”

Erin Canning is a senior majoring in Biomedical Engineering.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Reflection for Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Second Wednesday of Advent
IS 40:25-31
PS 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10
MT 11:28-30

Where I come from, we have funny sayings that get us through difficult times.  When obviously weary and distraught, my people say things like “it ain’t no hill to a stepper” or “I ain’t no ways tired” or “some days you eat the bear, and other days the bear eats you.”  Still, they fight their way through the most trying of situations.  That is the spirit of my people—we make it in spite of troubling circumstances and impediments.  With my people, the truth is that it is almost sacrilegious to admit that one is tired or weak or vulnerable.  We do this to protect ourselves from those who would take advantage of us.  Along those lines, among my people, it is taboo to entertain the thought that we may not make it to our end goal.  If I asked my elders why they believe so strongly that we will make it, they might respond “because we are the children of the ‘eternal God, creator of the ends of the earth’” (Isaiah 40:28).

As a boy, I was taught that the most egregious sin against the Creator is despair.  I learned that it was not just pessimistic but selfish to think that I could be so low as to not rise again.  To think in such a way would be tantamount to casting doubt on the omnipotent Creator.  Back in my home church, aptly titled “Greater Faith,” I can vividly remember the larger than life Texas transplant and community stalwart the Rev. Joe T. Denman hollering at the top of his lungs: “Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, they that hope in the LORD will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:30)!  With a crucifix and picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. hanging on the wall in his background, I had no choice but to believe the Baptist preacher.  More than believe, though, I tried to live the words I heard.

Admittedly, these are difficult days.  Aside from the fact that it is flu season and papers are due and no one can seem to agree on how to get things accomplished, black youth are dying too frequently at the hands of criminals (some of those criminals have sworn in front of witnesses to protect and serve the youth they have killed) or by way of systems (think health care, housing, educational, and courts) that choke the life out of young black people slowly.  When I think to complain about the way my faculty meeting went or that I have to fill out yet another form, I remember that some people--in very close proximity to this campus--are climbing higher hills and fighting bigger bears than I.   Some of those people come so close to despair that they strike out and shout to keep away those who would take advantage of them in their state of vulnerability.

Still, they (particularly the young people) believe in the promise of better days.  They count on the Creator who “numbers them, calling them all by name” (Isaiah 40:26) because they know that they are valued.  Thankfully, unlike man, their Creator pardons all iniquities and redeems their lives from destruction (Psalms 103:3-4).  They will, one day, be able to set down the burdens of poverty and race that our society has forced them to bear.  In this season, I proclaim for them the words that Jesus once spoke to those who were tired and oppressed:  “You will find rest for yourselves” (Matthew 11:29).

Stefan Bradley is currently director of African American Studies Program and associate professor in the Department of History.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Reflection for Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Second Tuesday of Advent
GN 3:9-15, 20
PS 98:1, 2-3 AB, 3CD-4
EPH 1:3-6, 11-12
LK 1:26-38

The Gospel reading for today’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception speaks of the Annunciation, the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary at the conception of Jesus.  Although it would seem that the Immaculate Conception refers to Jesus’ conception, it actually is a feast in honor of the conception of Mary. It is a celebration of the belief that she was conceived without the stain of original sin.  The angel Gabriel confirms that her nature is, “full of grace”.  The original Greek word used is kecharitomene and means: “has been and continues to be filled with the grace of God.”  (CCC 490-493, 722, 2676)

The Gospel for today (Luke 1: 26-38) is wonderful for reflection.  Each line holds truths worth pondering.  Catholic teaching states that Mary was pure from the moment of her conception, pure in mind, body and spirit.  Her soul is so immaculate, that God could join the fruit of her womb and become flesh of her flesh, bone of her bone.  The fruit of her womb, Christ, is fully human and fully divine, sharing both natures.  Imagine that, the creator of the universe, enfleshed (incarnate) as a response to his pure love for humanity.

When I place myself in the scene of the gospel I can picture the young Mary taking an afternoon rest from her chores.   A whispering rustle, followed by a warm enveloping light entered the room as the angel appeared to the young woman.  I can feel her startled response to this visitor and his words, as she pondered what they could mean: “Full of grace, the Lord is with you… conceive… bear a son…  Son of the Most High…”   Her question, “How could this be?”  And the angel’s calming reassurance, “do not be afraid… the Holy Spirit will come upon you… the Most High will overshadow you… for with God nothing will be impossible.”  I listen to her response, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  The angel departed from her leaving her, and me, in wonder.

Judi Buncher
Mission and Identity

Monday, December 7, 2015

Reflection for Monday, December 7, 2015

Memorial of Saint Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

IS 35:1-10
PS 85; 9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14
LK 5: 17-26

The capacity of Biblical texts to transcend their original context never ceases to amaze me. At one level, the passage from Isaiah speaks to a very particular situation, foreign to most of us: exiles returning from afar will come home in joy as the desert springs into life and threats to safety vanish. 'Hope' takes on a very specific tenor in a desert: the bloom of flowers, the availability of water, and the disappearance of threatening animals.

For us, living in St. Louis in 2015 as more or less privileged people, the world created by the poetry of the readings might seem very far away. I lived in the Arizona desert when I worked among the Navajo people, so prayers for rain and awe at desert flowers are not foreign to me, but all in all, the world of the Biblical text is manifestly not our world. Yet the strangeness of the landscape it describes stands in tension with the hope with which we can so easily identify: a passion to overcome fear, to strengthen those who have been crushed by the weight of their lives, and to work through the traumatic encounters that still doom so many people to truncated and pain-filled existences. How relevant, even for those of us who never visit literal deserts, who could not tell a jackal from a hyena, and for whom "Carmel" is the stuff in the middle of chocolates.

Similarly in the gospel, the urgency of healing for a friend in need transcends the cultural strangenesses that blocks full appreciation. A house, a crowd, a hopeful few people with a friend who is out of options. Luke's Gentile audience was familiar with tile roofs rather than the daubed stick roofs that a Semitic audience would recognize, and the thought of breaking through any kind of roof (Where are they? Jesus' house? Are they screwing up his roof?) might seem outlandish to us. Whether we can identify with their culture, we can identify with their pain and their sense of urgency to help someone in need.

When Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven, and the elders are offended, he tells them that saying that sins are forgiven seems easy (there is not much in the way of evidence for it actually happening), so he will do something harder to say (since there IS evidence for it happening) - take up your mat and walk. Which the paralyzed man does. Which indicates that the other part is true too: if Jesus can cure the paralyzed, then he can certainly do something less visibly dramatic, like forgive sins.

I can't literally enable paralyzed people to walk, but the first reading holds several imperatives addressed to the reader, which are presented as literal tasks: "Strengthen the hands that are feeble, make firm the knees that are weak, Say to those whose hearts are frightened: Be strong, fear not!" No magic there, just the courage to share compassion and recognize kinship across barriers. I can do that. Then, says Isaiah, God will give sight to the blind, open the ears of the deaf, enable the lame to leap and the mute to sing. Glad God is doing that part, because that's all outside of my skill set.

If we can reach across millennia and wildly diverse cultures to make sense of such strange texts, with their talk of miracles and Middle Eastern landscapes, how do we continue to be so utterly baffled by people in our own time? How is understanding so often out of reach? Watching the news gets depressing fast: massive racial injustices; ongoing violent crime; environmental catastrophe looming ever closer; and the silencing of women, people of color, the young and the old, gender and sexual orientation non-conforming persons, and more. I can't wave away any of that terror and pain, but I can do something precisely because, even if I don't always know from the inside the anguish that the other feels, I do know the urgency to love and be loved, the silencing power of pain, and the crush of injustice. The distance between people is real, but it need not be absolute: we can seek to understand the other in his/her/hir reality and hope to respond in love.

Patrick Cousins is the Assistant Director of Campus Ministry.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Reflection for Sunday, December 6, 2015

Second Sunday of Advent
LK 3:1-6

All of us can identify with carrying something heavy and painful, and then being broken open as we face whatever it is in truth, bringing it before God. The beauty of the readings today is the confirmation that brokenness is not the end of the story! These readings are literally saturated in transformation, joy, and glory. Throughout the readings we have themes of transformation, joy is mentioned seven times, and glory is mentioned six times. In Baruch, Jerusalem exchanges a robe of mourning and misery for a cloak of justice from God. In the Gospel, repentance is the transforming power of forgiveness. In the psalm, tears are transformed into rejoicing. The images of being sent forth in weeping and returning in rejoicing are repeated over and over. How appropriate for Advent! What a beautiful invitation, wrapped up in a promise!

This is a promise that God will remember us in our Advent journey, if we are willing to do the tough work of honesty. In the middle of the passage from Baruch, we hear a verse echoed in our Eucharistic Prayer, “Gathered from the east and the west at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that they are remembered by God.” We are invited to bring to God all of the best and worst of ourselves, and then trust that She will transform us into Her glory. St Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is human beings fully alive.” To be fully alive, to be the glory of our God, we must enter our Advent journeys willing to be broken, placing our hope in the coming of the One who transforms us!

Theresa Schafer is a Senior Theological Studies major and a Campus Ministry intern.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Reflection for Saturday, December 5, 2015

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

Sometimes I picture myself in the disciples’ shoes as Jesus sends them out to do Kingdom work. I hear a grand, booming voice and usually visualize Morgan Freeman looking me deep into the soul with his wise old eyes, boldly and articulately telling me to: “GO! to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!’ Cure the sick! Raise the dead! Cleanse lepers! Drive out demons! Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Emphases added for effect.) When I leave that daydream, I spring out of my chair shouting, “Yes, God! Send me! I want to cure the sick and raise the dead!” Then, my roommates look at me strangely and I calmly sit back down. The Lord’s voice sends us out and “sounds in our ears” in peculiar ways. I’m reading a book called The Sacred Journey by Frederick Buechner that explains God’s language, “the alphabet of grace,” in this way: “Like the Hebrew alphabet, the alphabet of grace has no vowels, and in that sense his words to us are always veiled, subtle, cryptic, so that it is left to us to delve their meaning, to fill in the vowels, for ourselves…the meaning of the incarnate word is the meaning it has for the one it is spoken to, the meaning that becomes clear and effective in our lives only when we ferret it out for ourselves.”

Personally, I find it exhilarating when I think I can hear the voice of God so clearly spoken to me through his Word, my brothers and sisters in Christ, or simply everyday life. Every once in a while, I catch myself hesitating, “Wait, you want me to do what?” but often my initial excitement to hear God speak directly to me carries me through to at least plant the seeds that He hands me. What I find hard to believe sometimes is that when I plant those seeds, the Lord will provide rain to water it. I usually have my watering can handy just in case. Unfortunately, it seems like the two things God calls me most often to do are generally my least favorite things to do: listening and waiting. I’ve heard it said that it is how we go about waiting that tells the most about our faith. Jesus calls us to trust Him, even when we can’t quite see his angle. Once we do the Lord’s work and plant a seed, we can never control when or how we see results – we release the proverbial reigns. For a control freak like me, that’s infuriating. But Jesus calls me into relationship with Him and into the deepest level of trust I can possibly muster. He calls us to take chances doing what the Lord requires of us. But sometimes what’s required of us is that we wait. The challenge is to ditch the watering can and wait for the rain.

Alec Beeve is a junior at SLU studying biomedical engineering.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Reflection for Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday of the First Week of Advent
IS 29:17-24
PS 27:1, 4, 13-14
MT 9:27-31

Do you believe that I can do this?”
Jesus asks the two blind men this question. His phrasing of the question is interesting; He does not ask if they believe they will see again or even if they believe that He, Jesus Christ, can make them see again. Jesus addresses more than just their blindness when He asks the broader statement of “Do you believe that I can do this.” The “this” that Jesus asks can be referring to anything: His ability to guide us, to heal us, or to save us from our sins. Jesus isn’t just asking the two blind men this question, He is asking all of us. This seems like an easy question to answer. Of course He can do this, whatever this is, He’s Jesus Christ, the son of God, and He has the power and mercy to do anything. But how often do we act as though we don’t believe He can do it. How often do we doubt in His timing and His love for us. When we get frustrated at God for taking too long or for not answering us clear enough and we turn away from Him.  If that is what happens, our answer to “Do you believe that I can do this?” is a no. Or a maybe. Or a yes I believe You can do this but I’m not ready to let You.
The ways in which we answer Jesus’s question will look different for all of us. But in order to be prepared to respond to Jesus, we need to fully entrust our hearts to God.  When we do this, we can see how God shows us in our day to day lives that He can do this.  
There are days where we decide to put our trust in God and answer yes and there are days where we burden ourselves and answer no. Luckily for us, Jesus asks us this question of “do you believe that I can do this” every day. All day long. He never stops asking us this question. Because regardless of how we chose to respond to Him, the answer to this question will always be: yes He can do this.  

Franki Feinberg is a sophomore nursing major from Houston, Texas.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Reflection for Thursday, December 3, 2015

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

In the Gospel Reading for this day, Christ tells the people, “not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.“

On orthodox Christian theology, those who do not enter the kingdom of heaven will find themselves in hell. And so the implication of Christ’s words is that in hell there will be people who have said their prayers and addressed Christ as Lord. 

This must be one of the most fearful passages in the New Testament.  Who, then, is saved if calling Christ ‘Lord’ is not enough? And what do we have to do to be in the group of the saved?

We might try to answer these questions by thinking of Peter, who is the rock on which the church is built. Christ says that those who enter into heaven are the people who have built their house on a rock. What makes Peter a rock for the church?

The first thing to notice here is that Peter is not a sinless man. If getting into heaven requires doing the will of the Father, then doing the will of the Father  can’t be a matter of being righteous. In fact, Peter’s sin is just the same as the sin of Judas, the villain of the Christian story: Peter betrayed Christ in Christ’s hour of need. 

Of course, Peter repented his sin. But, then, so did Judas. The difference between Peter and Judas does not lie in their repentance, but in their attitude and relation to Christ after they sinned.

When Judas saw and repented his sin, he killed himself. He threw himself away as hopeless. When Peter saw and repented his sin, he did not let go of Christ. When after his resurrection Christ asked Peter, “Do you love me?”, Peter was willing to say ‘yes’. Both Peter and Judas said ‘Lord’ to Christ. But only Peter really came to Christ. Judas said ‘Lord’ to Christ, but in the end he was unwilling to come to Christ.

And so this is the difference between those who enter the kingdom of heaven and those who don’t, between those who do the will of the Father and those who don’t.  Peter came to Christ as he was, not righteous but sinful. And he cleaved to Christ anyway, even with his own failures and errors. Peter is the rock of the church because he built the house of his life on the rock that is Christ.

In John 6:28-40, people anxious not to be excluded from the kingdom of heaven ask Christ what they must do in order to do the will of God. And this is what Christ tells them: they must come to him.

And, Christ adds, no one who comes to him will ever be cast out.

This is a good thought for us to reflect on as we wait for him to come to us in Advent, isn’t it?

Dr. Eleonore Stump is the Robert J. Henle Professor of Philosophy.