Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Reflection for Wednesday, November 30, 2016

First Wednesday of Advent (Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle)
ROM 10:9-18
PS 19:8, 9, 10, 11
MT 4:18-22

But I ask, did they not hear?
Certainly they did; for
“Their voice has gone forth to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.” -Romans 10:18

As I read the scripture passages for today, I could not help but think of the popular Advent song, Mary, did you know?, which every year sparks discussion and anger on my social media pages (Spoiler: I’m a theology nerd, and so are my friends). We are only 4 days in and already people are sharing posts and pictures for the dislike of this song and the theological implications for the question it poses.

In the first reading, Paul writes to the Romans concerning the passing on of faith through oral tradition and a personal claim of that same faith by those who proclaim that Jesus is the Christ. Often when talking about this reading, people choose to focus on faith as a gift (for without the Church and her members how would one know about Jesus Christ) or they focus on faith in terms of belief as a means of justification.

While these may be important discussions, my identities as a woman and a mother move me to instead focus on the moment of hearing in regards to Christian discipleship. During Advent, the most significant point of hearing takes place during the Annunciation, the moment that Mary heard from the Angel Gabriel that she was to bear a Son who would be the Savior of the world. What follows from Mary is her canticle (i.e. the Magnificat) to God in praise and thanksgiving. Like Paul and many of the critics above, I am certain that Mary heard and believed that what the Angel Gabriel had said for her canticle has gone forth to all the earth and her words to the end of the world. Nevertheless, this does not mean that we cannot imagine the moment that she first heard the Gabriel’s words calling her favored and loved by God and pondered what sort of greeting this might be (cf. Luke 1:28-29). Sung as a prayer, the song Mary, did you know provides us a contemporary imaginative contemplation in the experience of Mary as she grasps with the fullness of what this great news will mean for her, her family, her people, and the world.

I have had the blessing of being pregnant twice during Advent and experiencing solidarity with Mary as she discovers the gift within her, her fears and anxieties about bringing this gift to term, and the pain and suffering of birthing this gift who will bring light and life to the world. Even those who have not, cannot, or chose not to have children can still imagine themselves in a similar situation as Mary during this holiday season -  fears and anxiety, joy and light in the darkness, abundant life after pain and suffering. My prayer is that through the inspiration of the Spirit we can all use our prayerful imaginations to enter more deeply into the Advent season and the struggles of others so that words of faith, hope, joy, and love can echo to the ends of the world. 

Erin Schmidt is the Campus Ministry Liturgy Coordinator.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Reflection for Tuesday, November 29, 2016

First Tuesday of Advent
IS 11:1-10
PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
IS 11:1-10 PS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17 LK 10:21-24

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
                  and a branch from his shoots shall bear fruit.” –Isaiah 11:1

There was a tree stump in the neighborhood where I grew up. Every day I’d ride past it on my bicycle when I was out playing with friends. Based on the stump’s size, I’d say it once was a towering oak tree that lived for many decades, providing shade beneath it as well as loads of acorns for hungry squirrels.
I knew none of that as a kid, of course. For me, the stump was a landmark that I’d ride past.
I don’t know if it’s there still, but it reminds me that life is always replete with past remnants – ‘stumps’, if you will. The markers are everywhere. Our bedroom dressers are markers from my deceased grandmother, who acquired them in the 1940’s. Many of our Christmas decorations are hand-me-downs from past relatives. Even our body features can remind others of relatives who came before us. My posture and hairline is a sort of “stump-marker” that reminds my grandmother of her long-dead father, who was born in 1901. The reminders/stumps signify what isn’t there anymore, but also that there’s a particular history … a lineage. Something continues onward. The connection remains.
This passage in Isaiah is commonly known among Old Testament scholars as a prophetic allusion to the Messiah to come, an event the Old Testament points toward. Jesus, the shoot that bears fruit, will descend from the stump of Jesse, King David’s father. It’s a lineage. This is good news! The Messiah is coming! But … the people that Isaiah is prophesying to don’t know Jesse; he’s long dead. And they themselves will be long-dead when Christ arrives. So why is Isaiah sharing this to the immediate audience?
Perhaps it’s this: this prophecy insists to its immediate audience they are part of a story that’s going somewhere. The Israelites are in exile in Babylon during Isaiah’s time; his words remind them that the exile is not the end of the story. It also confronts them with hopes and challenges. How to live in the meantime? How to live with a hope that the fulfillment of which will surely outlive them, but someday not their descendants?

I suppose it’s a similar sort of hope my grandmother had when she gave us the bedroom dressers near the end of her life. She knew what it meant for her to pass those on to us – she knew she would soon have no need of them. It’s what my mother hoped for when she diligently worked to raise me up in the Christian faith – that fruit would be born that would outlive us both. It’s what I hope for with my future descendants, that some of what I am and have will cooperate with God’s plans for them, and that what I have to give toward that will outlive me. I find hope in that reality, and challenge in the here and now. I am a tree that will someday be a stump, but from that stump a shoot will bear fruit sometime later. So it was with Christ, from the stump of Jesse.

Jim Roach is the Campus Minister for Reinert Hall.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Reflection for Monday, November 28, 2016

First Monday of Advent
IS 4:2-6

PS 122:1-2, 3-4 B, 4CD-5, 6-7, 8-9MT 8:5-11

“Alleluia, alleluia.
Come and save us, LORD our God;
let your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.
Alleluia, alleluia.”

Preparing our minds and our hearts – that is what Advent is all about.  Preparing to purify ourselves for the most awesome moment that is the birth of Jesus.  Today’s readings capture that hope for the moment.  In Isaiah, we hear about how the Branch of the Lord will be glorified.  And how there will be a purification – a purging and washing away of all the bad and the filth.  We also hear about how in this moment, there will be new creation and we will be sheltered and protected.  

The centurion in Matthew also wanted to provide shelter and protect.  He called upon Jesus to help cure his servant.  And he too had hope.  Jesus was pretty much astonished by the centurion.  In a sense, the centurion had also purified himself – purged himself of the fear of talking to someone like Jesus.  And perhaps he felt sheltered and protected by Jesus in this request.

This first Monday of Advent moves us along on that road to hope – the hope of the birth of Jesus.  But for the next several weeks – and even beyond that – how can we also purify ourselves and be a hope to others?  St. Ignatius calls us to ask ourselves:  What have I done for Christ?  What am I doing for Christ?  What ought I to do for Christ?

Picture Christ as that that person you may meet on the way to class; as the person in line at the check-out counter at the store; a friend who asks you to lend an ear in a moment of despair; someone sitting alone for a meal; a person who you know has been ridiculed by others.  Are you, like the centurion, fearful?  Can you overcome your fear because someone else needs you?  How can you help someone to feel sheltered and protected?

In recent weeks, we have heard a lot about the fear of those who our country sees as “different”– different in faith, race, origin, gender, ability and in a host of other ways. In this Gospel passage Jesus is called to help someone by one who is different than he is.  I can’t help but think, how I am called to help someone struggling at this time?  It is a cry that many will utter aloud this Advent:  “Come and save us, let your faith shine upon us”.  We cannot ignore that cry or that call, just as Jesus did not.  By our faith we are called to help.   Advent – preparing our minds and hearts.  Having hope.  Can you provide hope to someone this week?  This Advent?  This year? 

Sue Chawszczewski

Director of Campus Ministry