Reflection for January 20, 2019…Second Sunday of Ordinary Time by Juanita Harding, Notre Dame Associate
A reading from the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians: 12-4-11.
In today’s reading, St. Paul writes about the different kinds of Spiritual gifts; the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, mighty deeds, prophecy, discernment of the spirits, varieties of tongues, interpretation of tongues.
“One and the same Spirit distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”
How awesome that each one of us is chosen to receive certain gifts to help others and spread the word of God. It’s a reminder of who we are as Christians and why we are here.
After reading this scripture, I prayed about what gifts I have been given, and asked myself, “Am I truly using them to the best of my ability as God intends?”
As I was preparing to write these reflections, news broke in our diocese that one of the priests who is very dear to me, turned himself in to the State Patrol, admitting that he had sexually assaulted a young woman in his parish. His long battle with alcoholism had brought him to this lowest point of his life.
My heart is heavy as I pray for this young woman-victim of a life changing trauma, for our priest, for his brother priests who carry the shame of “guilt by association,” and for our wounded church community. My feelings jump around from anger and disgust to deep sorrow, to bewilderment. I am moved to prayer and reflection on the question of: “How does God—our Abba, who loves each hurting daughter and son—look at all of this?”
The psalms cast some light into this dark space, especially Psalm 51, as I pray in particular for my priest friend.
Have mercy on me, God, in accord with your merciful love;
In your abundant compassion blot out my transgressions.
Thoroughly wash away my guilt and cleanse me from my sins
For I know my transgressions: yes, my sin is always before me.
Against you have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes.
Behold, you delight in truth in my innermost being;
There you teach me wisdom when I bare my shame and truth before you.
Turn away your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.
A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Do not drive me from before your face, nor take from me your holy spirit.
I offer you a contrite heart; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not turn away.
So, what does this have to do with today’s liturgy, commemorating the Baptism of Jesus?
Jesus stepped into the Jordan River to receive the baptism of John, who was preaching repentance. Jesus stepped into the Jordan as an act of solidarity with all who sin, not to participate in our sinfulness, but to share with us the way out.
Psalm 139 tells us that wherever we are, whoever we are, no matter how we try to evade the love and mercy of God, God is there to meet us. In his baptism, Jesus asks us to let him enter the murky waters of our hearts, and to let him bring grace and healing to whatever is hidden and painful there. And then, to rise out of the waters to live life full of a peace that comes from the very core of our being.
“Come, Lord Jesus!”
by Sr Marie Alice Ostry ND
Epiphany – this means manifestation. We just celebrated the coming of the Christ at Christmas. What does this mean in our lives? What did it mean in the lives of those who lived in Mary and Joseph’s time? God came to share in our life. This Sunday we celebrate God’s coming with a “different slant” – manifestation. Christ came to manifest – show – who God is within our human existence.
God is manifesting in all of Creation. We hear in the Gospels that in the words of Jesus and he came for ALL. To me all means “all of creation,” simply because God is the One from Whom all creation came. As I reflected on manifestation I realized that God could only begin to reveal the meaning of “God-life” through the various creations that abound in not only our world but the whole of the universe. And yet, the Whole of the God-life is still not FULLY manifested.
So, what does this mean in our lives? I cannot answer for you, but for me it is living with the amazing and awestruck realization that everyone I meet and everywhere I go IF I am “awakened to the Spirit” I am encountering God’s life. Since the Trinity is a reciprocal experience, I in turn need to respond, respect with the Spirit of the God-life within me to all and everything each day. This is daunting and I take courage in knowing that “God walks with me” each day. Let us be a manifestation of God’s life throughout this New Year.
by Sr Cynthia Hruby ND
Plight of the Family in Flight
The Gospel for today tells of Jesus in the temple teaching the elders. His parents are in the caravan on the way home when they realize Jesus was not with them (LK 2:41-52). The caravan, yes, we have been hearing for some time now of the caravan of families heading to our southern border. We know that many family members are separated and that the love that binds them is stretched beyond our imagination.
Question: What experience in my life can I ponder so that I can begin to be in solidarity with the plight of parents who need to make the choice to flee their homeland? Share it with someone.
Traits of the Holy Family
(Adaptation of homily points by Rev. Bryce Sibley, 2014)
Question: Which traits are most characteristic of my family of origin? …of the family I was blest to form in my faith tradition, whether with or without a marriage partner?
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing" (Romans 15:13); may you always remember, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is His faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:22-23).
by Sr Melannie Svoboda SND on December 24, 2018
The story of the first Christmas sets before us an array of unique individuals. First, there is Mary, a teenage mother. Then there is Joseph, her conscientious husband, a simple carpenter.
Next, we have a powerful Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, who orders all the people in his vast empire to be counted. Why? Probably because he senses he is not receiving all the tax money that legally belongs to him. Perhaps too his inflated ego is curious to know exactly how many people are under his absolute rule.
Because of his edict, Mary and Joseph are forced to make the journey to Bethlehem, a trip of about 90 miles. What makes this journey such a hardship is the fact that Mary is nine months pregnant. At this critical time in her pregnancy, she will be deprived of her family and women friends who could have helped her to deliver her baby. Mary and Joseph’s lives, like so many of our own lives, are subject to political forces and historical movements beyond their control.
Other individuals are part of the story of the first Christmas. There’s the innkeeper whose inn was filled, but perhaps he was the one who directed them to the stable. Then there’s a bevy of angels who announce Jesus’ birth to a band of hard-working shepherds. Soon a trio of star-gazers enter the story bearing precious gifts for this newborn king. A little later, Mary and Joseph will encounter two other holy people when they present their newborn in the Temple: Simeon and Anna. These elderly individuals, who realize the significance of the child before them, have important speaking roles in the Christmas story.
Another person plays a vital role in Jesus’ early life: Herod, the megalomaniacal King of Judea. By all accounts, he was a very nasty person even before Jesus was born. He had his potential rivals murdered (including a number of family members) in order to secure his power.
Once he hears the Magi talk about the birth of a new king, he mercilessly orders the slaughter of all the little boys under two in Bethlehem and the surrounding area.
And last, but certainly not least, is the central character in the Christmas story: the baby…Jesus!
One important lesson we can learn from the array of characters in the Christmas story is this: God can—and does—work through all kinds of people to bring about good. All kinds of people. The young and the old, the simple and sophisticated, the rich and the poor, the powerful and the helpless, the humble and the arrogant, the saint and the sinner. Incredibly, each person in this story plays a role in the history of salvation. Some did it through their love, goodness, generosity, and holiness; others did it through their hatred, evil, selfishness, and sinfulness.
The amazing fact is that God can use everyone to bring about God’s plan, to bring about God’s goodness—even you, even me. A question to reflect on this Christmas is this: Where am I in the Christmas story for 2018? What role am I playing to bring about God’s plan in today’s world? How am I partnering with God to bring about goodness in 2018 and into 2019?
In Romans we read: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). Isn’t that some of the best news in the entire Good News? It makes me want to burst into song… and to sing to each one of you:
Merry, Merry Christmas!
by Sr Mary Kay Meagher ND
This is one of the years in which the 4th Sunday falls on the day before Christmas Eve giving us a 4th week of Advent with one day! It feels a bit cheated and I want more time because I need time for all the events, preparations, to do list etc.
Pondering this time issue reminds me that time belongs to us not God. There is no time line with God. So the good news is what is short or long for us is just always present with God whether in my world it’s a second, minute, day or week. God’s interaction with each of us is not coming but IS.
by Sr Theresa Maly ND
The readings for our Sunday Liturgy this week remind us to “Shout for joy” and “Rejoice always” It is easy to rejoice in preparing to celebrate a birthday, especially that of Jesus. But there is more. We look at the world around us: the unrest, the wars, poverty, hunger, utter lack of respect and care for the many, especially those who are of a different race, religion, skin color, sexual orientation, political affiliation, or from the ‘wrong’ country. Rejoice? Really?
Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Christmas is that we celebrate the Incarnation, not just the Nativity which was a one-time event. The Incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us, is for always. Truly a reason to “Shout for Joy”.
I remember hearing about a small boy wandering around alone amid the rubble of a tornado that had destroyed much of the area. An adult watching for a moment asked him, “Do you have a home?” His immediate response was, “Oh yes, we have a home. We just don’t have a house to put it in.”
Quite an unfortunate situation, yet this young lad had what was really important…loving family relationships. We hear immigrants, fleeing violence in their countries, speak of their families in a way that it is not difficult to recognize that those family bonds, nourished by a deep faith in God, sustain them. In our daily lives we meet and may seek out those who are hurting and lonely. Cannot a simple expression of loving concern be a moment of mutual encouragement and joy!
As Advent continues, we seek ways to alleviate the sufferings of others, both near and far. We also allow ourselves to enter more deeply into the awareness of our relationships, always within the Holy Mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. Let us “Shout for joy”.
by Rod & Connie Determan, Notre Dame Associates
In Gospel: Luke 3:1-6 John the Baptist has come out of the desert and is baptizing people in the wilderness along the Jordan River. His message, “Prepare a way for the Lord, make his path straight,” is for all people to ready themselves for the coming of the Lord. A message for all of us as we prepare for the Birthday of Jesus.
What a time of great anticipation. So much of my time is spent in anticipation. Events of my life such as vacations, holidays, birthdays, weddings (like our daughter’s), people coming to visit, visits I am planning to see others are all times of great anticipation and planning for me. The planning and preparation for these events pushes itself to the forefront of my thinking and often pushes aside my typical daily tasks. My thoughts are of how I can make the event better and to be sure that I have not forgotten anything important. The anticipation grows as the event gets closer and I find that the preparation often is more memorable and enjoyable than the event I am anticipating. Anticipation is a journey that should be enjoyed and shared with others who are with us on the same journey.
John the Baptist reminds us to prepare for the coming of the Lord and to anticipate his arrival. This Advent season may be a good time to anticipate the Birthday of Jesus and to share it with others. May we all have a life of great anticipations in the hope of the greatest event at the end.
By Dot Connealy, Notre Dame Associate
Your redemption is at hand….
Jeremiah 33:14-16; Psalm 25:4-5, 8-10, 14; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-28; 34-36
“Stand erect and raise your head, because your redemption is at hand…”
Sometimes the words present such a clear picture to me that I am quite amazed. Listen to these words in your heart.
Stand erect: Don’t slouch, slink or slump.
Raise your heads: Stand proudly, stand with conviction and courage.
Your redemption is at hand: Your admittance is paid, your sins are forgiven,
you are a rescued people.
I like to think that I try my best to follow God’s word. I like to think that I will be courageous when I need to be. I like to think that I will always keep my eye “on the prize”. But, of course, I am human, with clay feet, I know that I am not always successful in these bids but then I read the words again:
Your redemption is at hand….stand erect, raise your head….all is well…..all is good….all is paid for….all will be OK. And I think:
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
by Ed McKibbin, Notre Dame Associate
The Feast of Christ the King gives us an opportunity to reflect upon what Christ’s kingship means for us. It is often easy to confuse a kingship for the things Pontius Pilate relates to a kingship: money; power; influence; authority; status, etc. Like Pilate, in our own lives how often do we allow political leaders, celebrities, sports heroes to be our kings? However, Jesus as our King, unlike other kings, testified to the truth. You might recall that this statement Jesus made to Pilate confused Pilate. Pilate wanted to know what this truth that Jesus referenced was? When we allow others besides Christ to serve as our king, we, too, become confused as to what is the truth. This truth that Christ referenced to Pilate is what sets us free as Christians. We are called to spread this truth.
Christ’s kingship was reflected in how he lived his life. As Christ told us, He came to serve and not be served. As St. John reminds us in the second reading, Jesus freed us from our sins by his blood and made us part of his kingdom. This is a kingdom, as the first reading tells us, that will never be destroyed. This provides us with great comfort knowing that our King died for us, out of his love for us, to save us so that we may live with him in his Kingdom forever. In so doing, we are called to do his work here on earth in an effort to spread the influence of his kingdom. To help everyone recognize that our King brings true joy and happiness to our lives here on earth and ultimately in his eternal kingdom where we can live with him for eternity.