Daily Reflection: December 19, 2011

Monday of the fourth week of Advent

Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a

Ps 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

Lk 1:5-25

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

In medicine, there is a concept of “watchful waiting” that is applied to certain diseases such as early stage prostate cancer, where no immediate treatment is called for but the individual’s condition must be monitored regularly for any changes.  There is an intentionality to this waiting, a purposefulness, a vigilance.  Similarly, the Season of Advent is one of “watchful waiting” for the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  Despite the fact that we are waiting, it is not intended to be a time of passivity but rather a time of active preparation, readying ourselves for His birth and entry into our lives.

Today’s Scriptures begin with a reading from the Old Testament in which a barren woman is visited by an angel of the Lord and told that she will conceive and bear a son, one who will be consecrated to God from the womb and who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.  This story of the birth of Samson is a foreshadowing of today’s Gospel reading from Luke, in which Zechariah is visited by an angel of the Lord and told that his wife Elizabeth, who is elderly and barren, will give birth to a son whom they shall name John.  This is of course the story of the coming of John the Baptist, who will “prepare a people fit for the Lord.”

I often find that I understand Scripture best through music, and this time was no exception.  As I reflected on these readings, the song “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from the musical Godspell ran through my head, as did the words and music from Handel’s Messiah, echoing the prophet Isaiah: “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

What does it mean to prepare ye the way of the Lord?  In my life, I take it as a call to do that which I find exceedingly difficult: to step back from the frenetic pace and the noise and the demands of everyday life and to try to create a spiritual, quiet, contemplative space in which to receive Jesus Christ.  Ironically, I find that I am often least reflective during the time leading up to Christmas because I get so wrapped up in the added work of Christmas shopping, cooking, and getting the house ready for family and the holidays.  Watchful waiting was a challenge for Zechariah and Elizabeth just as it is for us today, but I take from these readings that this time of preparation, of listening, of trusting and of faith, even during periods of darkness and uncertainty, is vitally important.  For what good is the coming of the Lord if we’re not ready to receive Him?

Annette E. Clark, M.D., J.D. is the Dean of the School of Law.

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Daily Reflection: December 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday of Advent

2 Sm 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

Ps 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29

Rom 16:25-27

Lk 1:26-38

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

Christians in this Advent season can’t help but connect the dots in today’s reading; that is, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is obviously understood as the fulfillment of the promise in 2 Samuel that an heir of David would arrive upon the scene to “make his kingdom firm”. Yet, it is in the peculiar details at the beginning of this Old Testament passage where one can perceive a subtle hint that also pointed towards the arrival of the eternal WORD who became “flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)

Followers of Christ throughout the centuries couldn’t help but notice that the longing of Christ’s forefather, David, to find a habitation worthy of housing the Presence of God would find its ultimate realization in the Incarnation.  While David’s immediate desire was that the Presence of God (in the form of the Ark of the Covenant at that time) should be moved from a meager tent to an ornate building (i.e., the Temple), Early Church Fathers such as Cyprian of Carthage (3rd century) contended that what King David was actually pining for was a day when the Presence of God would not merely dwell with us – but would be one of us, “Christ should be the house and temple of God, and that the old temple should cease, and the new one should begin.” (To Quirinus 1.15).

It is interesting to note that although David desired to construct the Temple, he was ultimately barred by God from doing so because his hands had been so often soiled with the blood of men. It would be his son Solomon who would take on the task of building this magnificent, yet provisional structure that came to house the Presence of God leading up to the exiles.  But it was not until a thousand years later when the eternal Son of God underwent human birth that the Presence of God would come to arrive in its final permanent, physical residence – as a human, as one of us.

In the Gospel reading for today, we capture the astonishment of the Virgin Mary who like Solomon before her was commissioned to participate in knitting together a habitation for God’s Presence, yet like David felt like it was impossible to do so due to significant barriers in the way (for David, moral reasons – for Mary, an obvious physical one), “’How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’”

 

Noël Pretila is an adjunct professor in the Department of Theological Studies and is completing a doctorate in Historical Theology at Saint Louis University.

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Daily Reflection: December 17, 2011

Saturday of the third week of Advent

Gn 49:2, 8-10

Ps 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17

Mt 1:1-17

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

As we wait and watch in anticipation for the Lord this Advent, what might we do to help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world?

In Genesis 49, we are told that Judah will receive the birthright privilege of leading the family of his father, Jacob,and that Judah is to lead the tribe from which the Messiah is to come.

“Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee…The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”

Judah, in other words, came into a mighty lot of power. My training as an economist leads me to fear power. Power, according to economic theory, is harmful in two distinct ways. First, the exploitation of power transfers benefits from the powerless to the powerful. The powerless are thus harmed. Second, the benefits lost by the powerless exceed the benefits gained by the powerful. Society as whole is thus harmed. I fear, that in my hands, power might be exploited and others might be harmed.

Now, unlike Judah, I rule no mighty tribe. That makes it tempting for me to claim that I wield no power and need not concern myself with abusing it. But such a claim is probably false. We all have power to wield.

What might we do to avoid using power in a way that is harmful to others? The Responsorial Psalm for the day suggests an answer. In Psalm 72, King David prays for his son Solomon, newly seated to the throne.

“…He shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment…He shall defend the afflicted among the people, save the children of the poor…Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.”

Perhaps if we hold for ourselves the same hopes that David had for his kingdom under Solomon, we will use our power well. As we wait and watch in anticipation for the Lord this Advent, I pray that we all might use our power to govern with justice, to defend the afflicted, and to save the children of the poor. In so doing, may we help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world.

As the new church year begins with the season of Advent, what resolution might we embrace to help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world?

In the Gospel lesson for the day, we find the genealogy of Jesus Christ. What a list of characters it is – populated in no small part by a bunch of sinners and skunks. This genealogy makes me think of my own family tree. (Not because of the sinners and skunks, surely.) Thinking about one’s roots is somehow comforting. Sinners and skunks aside, we often seem to take pride in our roots. We seem to like having a sense of where we came from. And we tend to find it easy to love our family – even the less noble folks on the list.

Why do we find it so natural to love our family, but so often have difficulty loving others? In seeming contrast to our nature, the underlying ethic of the discipline of economics is that everyone matters and everyone matters equally. No one counts more than anyone else, and no one gets discounted. As I consider the genealogy of Christ and my own family tree, I pray that this Advent season I might resolve to remember that the entire diversity of humanity is my family, to remember that as the genealogy of Christ suggests, God loves us all. To love God is therefore to love all others equally.

As the new church year begins with the season of Advent, I pray that we all might resolve to embrace the connectedness of the human family through God, and to love one another equally. In so doing, may we help fulfill God’s reign of peace and justice in our world.

 

Bonnie Wilson is Associate Professor of Economics in the John Cook School of Business.

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Daily Reflection: December 16, 2011

Friday of the third week of Advent

Is 56:1-3a, 6-8

Ps 67:2-3, 5, 7-8

Jn 5:33-36

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

As the St. Louis weather turns to cold, the nighttime comes sooner, and classes prepare for final exams, the winter brings with it a calm as Christians wait for the birth of their Savior. Today, we find ourselves in the heart of the Advent season. As a Catholic growing up, we would spend this season preparing things for the coming of Christ: decorating the Church, practicing our songs for the Christmas Eve celebration, and discussing how well we had behaved anticipating desired gifts. Although cute and memorable, all of these actions point to a deeper reality of the Advent season: true preparation for the coming of Christ must be active. In anticipating Christ’s coming, we cannot sit idly by counting down the days; we must constantly work to better this world.

In today’s First Reading, the Lord says, “do what is just.” As people of faith, we must remember that preparation is not talking about what is just or sitting around waiting for others to do what is just, it is actively doing the work of the Lord. This Advent season gives us a chance to ‘prepare’ the world for our God. It gives us a chance to constantly strive for better relationships, to use every day as an opportunity to improve ourselves, and to always remember those who are most in need.

It is my hope you will use this holiday season to prepare for Christ’s coming by living the vision of Christ throughout your life. And, in so doing, have a very merry Christmas!

 

Matthew Ryan is the Student Government Association President.  He is a junior studying Public Health and Economics.

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Daily Reflection: December 15, 2011

Thursday of the third week of Advent

Is 54:1-10

Ps 30:2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b

Lk 7:24-30

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

“Believe!” We see that word at Christmastime. It is prominently displayed at Macy’s during the holiday season. It was the message of “Polar Express” that you will have everything you need if you just believe! But the secular message doesn’t compare to when we believe in God. Can we believe in taking Him at his word?

God certainly has a sense of the ridiculous, doesn’t He? The first reading causes us to feel a range of emotions. Who could not be sad for an infertile couple? A barren woman has no descendant family.  A barren woman cannot care for children, the role of every ancient Israelite woman in the family. And without her children she is never complete. She is grieved. And incredibly, God says that her descendants will be numerous! How wonderful! And to prepare for that by enlarging her tents. Can she (Jerusalem) believe? Would I believe such a promise?

I do not think we are so different from the Jews of Jesus’ time. I wonder if John the Baptist must have looked ridiculous to the Pharisees and to the Herod household. They wore fine garments and John is described as wearing animal skins. And yet, he believed and made the choice to follow God! But they didn’t believe. So in what ways do we not believe God’s promises in our lives? For me, the most difficult challenge is to let God be God, to let go of control of the details, to let the course of events play out according to His plan, or if I really believe he might he ask me to do something I don’t have the courage to do or don’t want to do! What then allows me to Believe?

Jesus has gone before and has prepared the way for me! I can believe without fear when I follow the light of Christ.

Mary Lee Barron is Associate Professor of Nursing and Director of the Advanced Nursing Practice Programs in the School of Nursing.

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Daily Reflection: December 14, 2011

Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, priest and doctor of the Church

Is 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25

Ps 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Lk 7:18b-23

The readings for the day can be found here.

What have we learned from today’s readings? Were we just reading this to read? Or were we just hearing but not listening? I’m sure that many of us have found ourselves not fully listening during class, a presentation or speech, or even during mass. We might not be listening to our parents, teachers, or friends but all in all the one person who we should listen to is God. That’s what’s today’s readings are about. To listen to the truth.

The first reading tells us that God is the only LORD, and no one else. Because God is the truth, one would think entrusting our lives and soul to him would be natural; of course, we at times don’t listen and deviate from what God has been telling us. Jesus, in the Gospel, also implicates how we ought to hear about the wonders being done and that he is indeed the one who is to come. The only reading that explicitly tells us what we ought to be doing is the responsorial psalm, “I will hear what God proclaims.”

Situations arise day to day where we must listen to different people or even ourselves. It causes a dilemma at times because we are hesitant about if someone is right or wrong, or doubting oneself and your decisions that you are making a good decision. This is all natural and part of the learning experience. The one person who we should not hesitate to listen to or doubt anything said is God. He is the one we should put our faith in.

In keeping mind this time of Advent, we must also listen to our hearts and to God so that we may prepare ourselves and be ready for the birth of Jesus. May God bless you.

Diana Santillan is a senior studying International Business and French.  She is President of the Hispanic-American Leadership Organization and Treasurer of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholar Society.

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Daily Reflection: December 13, 2011

Memorial of Saint Lucy, virgin and martyr

Zep 3:1-2, 9-13

Ps 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 and 23

Mt 21:28-32

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

As we enter the Christian Season of Advent and close out a calendar year, now is an opportune time for me to reflect upon my life as I know it and my life as I envision it to be. This time of year has been the most reflective for me as I oftentimes base life goals and timelines on the calendar year. As a spiritual being who connects closely with Christian principles yet is open to the teachings and messages of other faiths, I welcome opportunities to read a variety of scriptures, passages, poems, quotes, etc. and make meaning in words for myself and the world around me. This is what Matthew Chapter 21, Verses 28-32 (The Parable of the Two Sons) did for me.

This scripture resonated with me particularly because I am currently in deep thought regarding necessary life changes and modifications as I enter a new year. The immediate themes that came to mind for me were action, intent and opportunity. Oftentimes, we communicate what should be, needs to be, and will be and never see it to fruition. In the process, we fail to keep our word to ourselves, others who rely on us, and most importantly, the Creator. I believe that a good measure of a person is their ability to keep their word and follow through on selfless commitments, especially those which benefit others. Paying lip service to God and appeasing others with poetic prose and intentions without heart and action does not favor any. Speaking your truth through movement rather than tongue is valuable, tangible and transparent.

Because the second son in the parable did not keep his commitment to his father, he did not do his father’s will. However, the first son did not consider doing what was asked of him but later changed his mind…thus doing the will of father.  It was not about what he said he would do; it is about what he did. This is a testament that we all have the opportunity to change and follow through on what is asked of us, willed for us, called for us and destined for us. If it means loving more deeply, prioritizing people and goals, using whatever power and voice you have to ensure that our communities and environments are socially just, being an advocate for the marginalized, or listening actively and compassionately…there is opportunity. As spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi is often quoted, “you must be the change you want to see…” During this season, I challenge myself and others to move beyond “I can” and “I will” toward “I am”.  When you are doing the will of the Creator and living righteously, you will have to speak or answer less. For, it will be seen.

 

LaTanya Buck is Director of the Cross-Cultural Center and a member of the Division of Student Development.

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Daily Reflection: December 12, 2011

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Zec 2:14-17

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab

Jdt 13:18bcde, 19

Lk 1:26-38

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

When I reflect on the readings for today, I am filled with emotion about mothers and children.  Mary’s acceptance of the role of Mother is what has brought us to this Christmas Holiday season.  Fittingly mothers are such an integral part of the holidays.  They are the keeper of the memories and the traditions.  Mother’s strive all year long to keep food on the table and a roof overhead.  They struggle to keep God’s children safe and happy and whole.  They endeavor to impart knowledge and foster independence.

No one explained to Mary how hard the job was, but she accepted it unconditionally, as mothers do.   I reflect on all the mothers that embrace the job given to them by God:   that go without, especially during these financially difficult times, to make sure there are gifts under the tree.  They sacrifice in order to fulfill the needs of their children and God’s children by preparing food for the homeless, donating food to a pantry, filling stockings for the service men and women or donating presents for sick children at area hospitals.  How blessed we are.  I want to continue to give back whenever I  can and thank my mom and the mother of my children often for the gifts they bestow on me.

As Mary accepted the job of carrying the son of God, we accept the job of caring for our own children and children of others at Saint Louis University.  The readings remind us of the momentous job that God entrusts to us to have children, and especially Mary who was chosen to carry his son and Joseph who was chosen to be his earthly Father.

During this advent season, I am reminded although not everyone has children of their own, there are always children that need us.    Are we willing to accept them like Mary and Joseph?

As part of our university mission we accept the role of educating men and women for others. Hopefully we also accept the role of helping our students in all aspects of their lives – throughout their college years and well beyond.

 

Jay Goff is Vice President of the Division of Enrollment and Retention Management.

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Daily Reflection: December 11, 2011

Third Sunday of Advent

Is 61:1-2a, 10-11

Lk 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54

1 Thes 5:16-24

Jn 1:6-8, 19-28

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

So I hear that Advent Season is a time for New Year resolutions. Resolutions are made after some time of self-reflection. So to me, Advent is a time for self-reflection about my relationship with God and how He is using me to reach out to other people. More and more every day I realize how blessed I am. The places God has taken me and the people He has put in my life reminds me of how blessed I am.

This is where my self-reflection begins. God has places certain people in my life as a blessing to me. How I can be a blessing to those people that God purposely put in my life. Isaiah 61:1-2 says that God “has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” Now I don’t think this means that I have to go preach about the work of God to every person that I meet. However, I do believe that I should show the people in my life that all my success and anything good that happens to me is because of God. If people see that I give God credit for all my success, maybe it will lead them to pursue a relationship with Him.

After reflection, it’s time to look forward and get excited about what will happen in the future. If I am a blessing to others, I can expect the God to continue to bless me. Furthermore, I know that if accept the fact that I am nothing without God and need Him so much, I will pursue an even deeper relationship with Him. I can’t imagine anything better than having the person I need the most in my life each and every day. We have yet to see the fulfillment of all God’s promises, but when that day comes I don’t want to be the one left behind because I didn’t believe.

 

Erika Cook is a freshman majoring in Athletic Training. She is a member of the SLU Women’s Basketball team and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

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Daily Reflection: December 10, 2011

Saturday of the second week of Advent

Sir 48:1-4, 9-11

Ps 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19

Mt 17:9a, 10-13

The readings for the day can be found here.

 

What an odd and wonderful set of images that converge on the Prophet Elijah in today’s readings!  The reading from Sirach begins by saying he appeared like a fire and his words were like a furnace, and with good reason – Elijah is famous for having called down fire from heaven to burn a sacrifice to God (after which he had hundreds of prophets from the cult of the god Ba’al killed), he killed a hundred soldiers by calling down even more fire from heaven, and at the end of his life on earth, a fiery chariot took him to the heavens.

The gospel for today falls just after Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration, when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on a mountain.  Seeing Elijah with Jesus, the disciples ask why it was taught that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (an expectation which continues in some Jewish circles today).  This was not a novel belief; the last verses of the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, reference this “new” Elijah: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD”. (4:5)

As always with Jesus, however, there is a twist: whereas the Jewish people of that time generally understood the “day of the Lord” to be a day when God’s wrath would establish peace by consuming the unrighteous, both the reading and the gospel portray Elijah not only MAKING peace, but coming peacefully, as opposed to pacifying people through a display of overwhelming force.  Sirach says Elijah would come to put an end to wrath, rather than dish out even more of it, and Jesus says that Elijah would “restore all things.”  Hardly the firebrand we see in the First and Second Books of Kings; no wonder that people do not recognize the spirit of Elijah in John the Baptist when, despite the fiery tone and content of his message, he fails to produce a single blast of flame from the heavens!

Indeed, John the Baptist is a fitting anti-Elijah for Jesus the anti-Messiah, who responds to images of the Messiah which are based in power politics and overlording authority with the upside-down power of feeding and healing and forgiving.  Today’s gospel, we recall, occurs on the way to Jerusalem, where Jesus, like John, would be executed by the power elites whom they both challenged.

I suggest that the apocalyptic imagery of the day of the Lord, the coming of the Messiah, the inbreaking of “THE END” are all juxtaposed here with the beginning of the new liturgical year and the beginning of the life of Jesus because “the end” is not the end of the world so much as the end of business as usual.  In that vein, and in honor of the fiery prophets Elijah and John, I offer one final image of fire, this one drawn from the works of the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor.  In her short story “Revelation,” (appropriately, the English translation of the Greek word apokalypsis, apocalypse) the haughty and self-satisfied protagonist Mrs. Turpin has a vision of “a vast swinging bridge extending upward from the earth through a field of living fire,” on which walked a vast multitude of souls.  She could see other “good” people like herself, “accountable as they had always been for good order and common sense and respectable behavior” at the end of the line, and “she could see by their shocked and altered faces that even their virtues were being burned away.”  Terrible image!  Perhaps the most dread fire, more to be feared than fiery chariots and fireballs to destroy our enemies, is the one that burns away our most tightly-clutched defense mechanisms, our narrow hopes, our need to project our fantasies of power onto God.

 

Patrick Cousins is a member of the Department of Campus Ministry and is completing a doctorate in Religion through Syracuse University.

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