January 17, 2021

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

  • 1 Samuel 3:3b-10, 19
  • 1Corinthians 6:13c-15a, 17-20
  • John 1:35-42

Reflection Written by: George Stein, RCIA Team Member

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

These are lyrics to a popular Catholic hymn composed by Jesuit Dan Schutte when he was a student of theology at Berkeley. He took his inspiration from the words of a young Samuel, which we hear in this Sunday’s first reading: “Here I am, Lord. You called me.”

I want to answer the call of the Lord,as assuredly you do as well, and do most often, but usually with a certain amount of temerity and self-doubt. I put the question to myself: Is it truly I who you are calling? Are you sure it is me? In doing so I unite myself with many of those who God has called–notably Abraham, Jonah, Gideon, Jeremiah, Zackery, Peter, Thomas–all who have expressed their humanness, their self-doubt, at such an august call.

To these words from 1 Samuel 3 we are invited in the liturgy to respond in song: “Here am I, Lord, I come to do your will,” all the while acknowledging that the will of God is written within our hearts.

In our gospel reading from John the Evangelist, we hear Jesus’ invitation to some disciples of John the Baptist: “Come and you will see.” Jesus invites us. Come with me. Stay with me. Accompany me. Enjoy my company. Follow me. Share my mission.

What a privilege! But, oh, what a responsibility!

In these days of the COVID-19 pandemic, how do we follow Jesus? Many of us are quarantined in place, alone, or in a small family pod. We have limited movement from our homes, essential travel only. What started out as a welcome respite from our daily routine, from our workplaces, has become, for many, drudgery. Some of us suffer boredom. How much streaming of Netflix can one person endure? How many games of Sudoku? Some people are stressed. They worry and struggle to make a living, to keep money coming into the household, to help their kids with school work? Some wrestle with mask-wearing. Are government directives to wash our hands, wear a mask, maintain social distancing oppressive?  Have these safety measures really deprived us of our God given rights? Are these not responsible actions promoting the common good?

In a time of such insecurity, so much unknown, such an abundance of confusion –notwithstanding a government in transition, a seditious uprising of discontented voters, the magnitude of the number of unemployed, homeless and hungry. How do we follow Jesus in these times? Share in his mission? What responsible actions are we to take?

“A kindly thing it is to have compassion of the afflicted.” That is how the Florentine Giovanni Boccaccio begins his Decameron. This 14th century aphorism may be a most lucid insight into plagues we may ever have. The plague Boccacio is referring to is the “Black Death,” or bubonic plague, that resulted in the deaths of 75-200 million over four years.  

Compassion for the afflicted. The mission Jesus has given us.  In Matthew 25 is to care for the least, the lowliest, the most afflicted, that is, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to care for the ill, and to visit the imprisoned. These afflicted journey with us through this pandemic.

I have been able and privileged to deliver bagged lunches to the homeless and recovering who are currently quarantined and housed in temporary shelters. So many others in our St Joseph community are engaged as well in this mission. I am, as are many of  you, able to call friends who are sick, to reach out to distant family, to those who live alone, to those who are imprisoned in their own homes with words of encouragement. I have ZOOMED with groups of individuals on journeys of faith, some inquiring, others searching. I have used this gift of time to read and inform myself more deeply on familiar topics and to venture into new topics. By reading books about racism in America, I have become more informed about the lives and struggles of Blacks and all people of color in a predominantly White culture and feel more prepared for future action as this raging pandemic withers.

We trust in the Father as we move into the unknown.

Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord?
I have heard you calling in the night
I will go, Lord, if you lead me
I will hold your people in my heart.

Questions for reflections:

  • How is the Lord calling you to mission these days?
  • Does your self-doubt inhibit you answering the call?
  • What responsible, compassionate actions am I willing to take?

January 10, 2021

The Baptism of the Lord

  • Isaiah 55:1-11
  • 1 John 5:1-9
  • Mark 1:7-11

Reflection and calligraph by:
Katy Callaghan Huston, MAPS; Lector and RCIA Catechist

I thought I would begin this reflection with an Ignatian-style meditation: putting myself into the Gospel scene. But I found I was distracted by not being able to imagine the Jordan River. So, of course, like many inhabitants of the 21st Century, I went to the internet. I found that people go to a site that has been “done up” to accommodate large numbers of tourists who wish to be baptized in these historical waters. Roman Catholic Christians, pray in the Nicene Creed at Mass, “I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins”. We could go to the Jordan River and pray in the water, but we would not be “re-baptized”.

I spent a little time on a “flyover” of the area along the river—it is really quite lush and green. Now I had my “visuals” and returned to my meditation practice. I asked the Holy Spirit to assist. I wanted to better understand what it meant to be baptized. Jesus, after all, was not just immersed in the Jordan River by John. There was an encounter there. John saw Jesus coming and called out that “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

We do not hear it in Mark’s Gospel, but in Matthew, the encounter continues with John saying:
 “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?
Jesus said…, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.

I asked the Holy Spirit, but what is baptism for? The Catechism refers to being anointed with sacred chrism [at our baptism]. We “…become a Christian…incorporated into Christ who is anointed priest, prophet and king.” (CCC 1241).

So, how exactly do we practice that incorporation “into Christ” in our everyday 21st century lives. When we think of “priest” we usually go to the man at the altar or in the confessional. Those are ministerial roles. We are all called to act out priesthood by our attention to prayer, the sacraments, and the Mass. We encounter Christ in our families, our community, our work; in the political and cultural arenas. We are on fire with the Holy Spirt and spread that fire to all we meet.

We are prophets. Many years ago, I met the late Fr. Joseph McGowan, SJ, outside the Seattle Public Library. I had with me some bookmarks I had made with quotes by favorite Saints. He looked at them carefully, and I had him choose one he liked for himself. Then, he said to me, “You, my dear, are a prophet.” He saw in my artwork my own effort at my encounter with Christ and my attempt to teach, challenge and console. I’ve thought often of those words and strive to live up to that baptismal call.

We are kings. Put simply, kings are leaders. All of us have leadership roles and practice those in our daily encounters. Parents lead their children. Spouses lead each other. Employers lead their workers. Politicians lead their constituents. How we lead is how we live out our baptismal call as kings.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How do you encounter Christ in your prayer life?
  • How do you teach, challenge and console as a prophet?
  • How do you lead others to encounter Christ?

January 3, 2021

The Epiphany of the Lord

  • Isaiah 60-16
  • Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6
  • Matthew 2:1-12
Reflection written by: Monica Stein, RCIA Team Member

As I sit here contemplating what to write as my reflection for this week’s readings, I keep waiting for an epiphany.  As you are probably aware, the word epiphany means to make known or to reveal.  I finally decided that I could no longer wait for a great revelation to make me look good, I need to speak from my heart and the Holy Spirit will lead the way. 

Most of you have probably heard the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” It’s a true classic. But not everybody is familiar with the real 12 days of Christmas. In the Church, the Christmas season actually begins the day after Christmas and ends 12 days later. Today, on the twelfth day of Christmas, or, I should say the Sunday closest to January 6th, we conclude this wonderful time of year by celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany.

In celebrating the Epiphany of the Lord, we celebrate the revelation that Jesus was born as the Son of God. This week’s gospel illustrates this revelation through the story of the three wise men who traveled to visit Jesus following his birth.

They embarked on a journey of faith, following the star of Bethlehem until they reached the manger where Jesus laid. They brought gifts that symbolized their revelation of his divinity: gold, which associated Jesus as a king. Frankincense, which was often used in worship, and symbolized the holiness of Jesus. And myrrh, a perfume used for embalming, which symbolized that Christ would one day die for our sins.

Our first reading from the prophet Isaiah calls us to “Arise, shine out because our light has come, the glory of the Lord is rising in us, though night still covers the earth and darkness the people.  During this past year we all felt the darkness, but we need to remember that through the birth of Jesus and this feast of the Epiphany, we are the people on whom a great light has shone. As we look upon the crib we cannot just stay there.  Just like the magi, we are called to move away and take the light of Jesus with us.  

As we start a new calendar year, it’s a time of hope for many of us. Needless to say, 2020 was a very different and difficult year.  2021 is a chance for a new beginning, especially with a vaccine becoming available to inoculate many against COVID. We also have an inauguration to look forward to in just a few weeks. Even though we are still living a very different life than we were at this time last year, we have a chance to discover new things and make our own revelations. As the wise men in Matthew’s  gospel did, we too can continue to follow our faith throughout this year. Through the quality of our daily lives and how we treat each other, even socially distanced, we are called to make our families, our communities, and the wider world a better place, especially the poor and marginalized. The wise men had a revelation that the Son of God was coming, and they were not afraid to follow their hearts. Do not be afraid to follow your heart when you hear God’s call.

What would it look like to be a people of hope? To keep alive—not a naïve dismissal of the reality of the world around us, but a real sense of wonder and of possibility? An openness to goodness—often in spite of circumstances?

Questions for Reflection:

  • What has 2020 revealed to you about your hopes and desires?
  • What light have you followed throughout your faith journey?
  • How is God calling you in 2021?

December 27, 2020

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

  • Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
  • Colossians 3:12-21
  • Luke 2:22-40

Reflection by Vince Herberholt
Member of the Interim Pastoral and Mission Council

When I first read the scripture readings for the feast of the Holy Family, I think I was looking for what I long for in my own family, the feeling of belonging, the emotional connections and the celebrations we have had for special events over the years especially at Christmastime. This year, I have to say that a lot of that being together and celebrating is different and something is missing. This year we are celebrating, after COVID quarantining and testing, with our son and his girlfriend on December 23rd and connecting with our other son and daughter-in-law at the same time in St. Paul, Minnesota by Zoom. It is important to make this connection, but as I said earlier, it is different and something is missing.

And yet, the scripture readings point to the importance of family, what those connections mean and how they have been the building blocks of civilization from the beginning of time. Sirach and Colossians extol the rules and virtues of family in a way that is challenging in current culture, placing the father above the mother but the virtues are formidable: “holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another….” Not that these virtues are present all the time but they are certainly something to aspire to. I just hope my son’s remember the admonition in Sirach, “[Sons] take care of you father when he is old…. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him.” Can you tell I am feeling my age?

The Gospel gives us one of the few depictions of the family life of Jesus. And at the same time moves us in a different direction from a simple birth story by sharing the significance of the Nativity through the eyes of Simeon and Anna. Spirit filled, they acknowledge the significance of the Child as He is presented for the required human rite at the Temple. Simeon’s words acknowledge Jesus as “The Christ of the Lord” and praise God for the blessing of seeing “God’s salvation” before he dies. The birth is now confirmed as more than a humble birth in a stable witnessed by shepherds and angels. In the eyes of these devout Jews, Simeon and Anna, this is the coming of the Messiah.

The Gospel passage ends by focusing back on the human life of Jesus, reared by Mary and Joseph in Nazareth, where He grows and becomes strong under the watchful eyes of His human parents and His divine Father – how appropriate. The human and divine Jesus is folded back into His human family and community and grows into the incarnate Son God and Son of Man. Certainly He experiences some of the emotional connections I referred to in my own family. He grows from that experience. I have a hunch that the difference and things missing in my Family Christmas this year can be found in realizing the significance of Jesus birth and the nurturing embrace of His Holy and Human Family.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do you see your own family in relation to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph? Similarities? Differences? What can you learn from their example as parents?
  • When you think about your family at Christmas time, what are the experiences or connections you are hoping for? Are their experiences that have a spiritual dimension? What are you being called to?
  • Are there experiences around the birth or formative years of your children that you hold as important in your own understanding or role as a parent or as an extended family member?
  • The Spirit helps Simeon and Anna to recognize the Christ in Jesus. Do you experience the Spirit helping you to see Jesus in your life?

December 20, 2020

Fourth Sunday of Advent

  • 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14A, 16
  • Romans 16:25-27
  • Luke 1:26-38

Reflection and calligraph by:
Katy Callaghan Huston, MAPS; Lector and RCIA Catechist

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.

       Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

These are the opening lines to one of my favorite poems: Annunciation by Denise Levertov, 1923-1997. Levertov was an award-winning poet strongly drawn to spiritual themes. Sometime shortly after her move to Seattle in 1989, she became a Roman Catholic. (On a personal note: a friend of mine was her sponsor for Baptism at St. Edward Parish.) Levertov joined St. Joseph toward the end of her life. She was buried from here.

Even before I knew about Denise Levertov and her beautiful poem, I was drawn to depictions of the Annunciation. My husband and I love to travel and the first thing I look for when we plan a trip is what art museums and/or notable churches we can visit. Once in, I start keeping an eye out for Annunciation Art. Mostly I find paintings, but sometimes, especially in churches, there are carvings or sculptures. Oh, and if there is a display of ancient manuscripts, there may be more Annunciation Art. Even before the advent of the iPhone, I took photos…I probably have dozens! The image never fails to grab my attention and bring me to a state of contemplation.

On our last trip before Covid hit, we were in a gallery of the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis. And there was my Annunciation: a 17th Century painting by an Italian,  Andrea Previtali (new to me.) There was a bench nearby and Ed and I sat to rest. I mentioned the Levertov poem, but Ed did not know it, so I grabbed my phone and quietly read it to him. A graced moment!

So what is it about me and the Annunciation? This attraction has been going on for many years. I am not particularly drawn to other Marian Art. I do love anything from the Middle Ages, but enjoy other periods and artists as well.

Later in her poem, Levertov asks this question:

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?

Mary is the one who said “Yes” to God. And that, I think is my lesson. When the annunciations come, can I say yes? Not without thinking: Mary needed to pause. “She was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” Perhaps she made a silent prayer. And then, her question: “How can this be?” And finally, her response, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

Levertov closes her poem with these words:

              courage unparalleled,
opened her utterly.

We hear our annunciations, and ponder, and with Mary as our model, we do our best to consent and be opend.

NOTE: The whole of Denise Levertov’s poem is at this Ignatian site: https://predmore.blogspot.com/2013/04/poem-denise-levertovs-annunciation-full.html

Questions for reflection:

  • When have you experienced annunciations?
  • Did you ever considered saying “No”, “Not now”, “not me” and then have second thoughts?
  • Sometimes we genuinely feel we cannot answer God’s call in our lives. Can you think of such a time? How did you feel and what happened next?

December 13, 2020

Third Sunday of Advent

  • Isaiah 6:1-2A, 10-11
  • Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
  • John 1:6-8, 19-28

The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings…” (Is 6:1)

Reflection written by: Janet McDermott, MTS

Today the Church looks back at Salvation History reminding us that God, in spite of the failings and felt experience of his people, the Israelites, made a very special promise, a promise that would turn their sufferings into joy.  Further, the coming of Jesus, proclaimed by the prophets and hailed in the last days by John the Baptist, the “voice crying in the wilderness”, was to be the fulfillment of that promise.  In Advent we are once more asked to experience God’s generosity and to recognize our own unworthiness before such kindness.  We are invited to take our place in that story of salvation.

Our faith tells us that the long-promised Messiah really did come – as promised over the many ages through the history of Israel.  As I read and reread the selected scriptural passages for this 3rd Sunday of Advent, I found myself at a kind of intersection.  I am touched and amazed by the healing words of Isaiah, knowing that, in many ways, those words are still being said, and at the same time I find myself living in our present day with all its angst and division.

As a person of faith, I ask myself, what has changed?  Jesus came, offering his very self in sacrifice leaving his followers with the mission to tell everyone. Why, then, does humanity do what it does?  And my heart sense is that we as humans are constantly being challenged to understand the work of God in creation.  The promises of God – beginning at creation itself when God proclaimed that creation was good – are rooted (hidden for us to discover) inside each created being.  In science we learn that creation flourishes in interdependence, whether in nature, in the planetary universe, or in our own homes and neighborhoods – we are created to support one another.  The good news is that we need each other in order to thrive.  Surely, resist as many still do, we today are being given the opportunity to rediscover that hidden truth – that we need each other during the present health and political crises.

In today’s readings we learn in the book of Isaiah, that the prophet declares he has been anointed to bring good tidings:

…to bring glad tidings to the poor
to heal the brokenhearted,
 to proclaim liberty to the captive
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

To the nation Israel suffering exile, Isaiah’s message was one of hope addressed to people suffering humiliation – reminding them that God has not abandoned his people.  And I think of the ministry of Jesus who personifies what God promised.  Jesus lived His life bringing God’s forgiveness and healing to the people who sought Him out.  Ordinary people – often the brokenhearted, those who were, one way or another in their personal lives, being marginalized in the world around them – who listened with open hearts to His words of wisdom and hope.   They came to Jesus for healing.  News of Him brought “glad tidings”.  Jesus’ life on earth was a fulfillment of God’s promises expressed by prophets like Isaiah.  Jesus opened the path to a new way of living, life in His Spirit, inviting His followers to be joy for the world by imitating Him.

Today’s gospel describes the work of John the Baptist.  John proclaimed the need for repentance – for an acknowledgement of unworthiness in anticipation of the Messiah to come (“whose sandal strap I am unworthy to untie”).  The scripture is clear.  John offered baptism to the repentant, a cleansing of sin.  Soon Jesus would be bringing a new baptism, creating a new people in the Spirit who could heal others and unbind their wounds.

The psalm selection for this feast floats in with the prayers of our community celebrating this week’s two great feasts honoring Mary (Mary’s Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Guadalupe) quoting a portion of the words of Mary’s “Magnificat” hymn.  Mary declared that her soul “proclaims the greatness of the Lord…and rejoices that she can be so honored by a God who “fills the hungry with good things” (the work of God) and remembers His promise of mercy.  (Surely a cause for joy.)  We too are invited to rejoice with Mary as we remember our own mission as followers to magnify the work of her Son. 

Let us plan then to celebrate the coming holidays with hearts filled with gladness – we have seen the Good News – and with gratitude for the many ways we are given to serve one another.  Let that service become a pathway towards meaningful awareness and to the care of all of creation, of one another – as God sees.  And our God will declare that it all is good.

Thoughts for Consideration:

  • Jesus came yet Jesus is still coming.  Do I believe that?
  • We are called by the gift of the Holy Spirit to declare by our life the good news.  How does that good news shine in my life?
  • The Good News was proclaimed to the poor, the needy, to those who experience powerlessness.  Are there any in my life who I need to look upon with new appreciation?

December 6, 2020

Second Sunday of Advent

  • Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11
  • 2 Peter 3:  8-14
  • Mark 1: 1-8

Reflection written by: Gayle Sommerfeld, member of
Women’s Ministry and Lector

“Prepare the way of the Lord.” Both the first reading and the Gospel reading from the beginning of Mark have this phrase.  And it is a strong rallying call to all of us. John the Baptist is the one who calls all of us to prepare the way of the Lord’s coming.

Mark is considered the first Gospel ever written.  And when he chose to call his work “the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ” he invented a new kind of literature. Interestingly, Mark is the only Gospel that does not tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Mark wants to tell us about the beginning of a new time and place when God entered human history in a remarkable way. The kingdom of God has dawned and is dawning. It all begins with Jesus, the Son of God. It begins with Jesus, but before Jesus there was John, and before John, there was Isaiah.

Isaiah 40:1-11 is immensely helpful for our understanding John the Baptist. God’s intends to come to his people. God gives details for the way to be prepared. By whom, the people God wants to visit? No, by God’s own servants. God does not say, “Tell the people to get ready and when they are ready, then I will come to them.” God says, “Prepare the way! I am coming to my people.” Ready or not, and even during this time of COVID, God comes! And there is great comfort and peace in the coming.

In Isaiah, God sounds incredibly determined or maybe even a little desperate: “I will come to my people, and nothing will keep me from them, ever. Mountains will be torn down, valleys will be filled in, rough places made smooth.”  Whatever it takes! A couple of passages from songs come repeatedly to my mind this week.  The first is “Though the mountains may fall, and the hills turn to dust, yet the love of the Lord will stand.” The second is from Diana Ross:

“Nothing in this world, nothing in this world
Could keep me from you, babe
Just call my name, I’ll be there
Just call my name, I’ll be there now
Ain’t no mountain high enough
Nothing can keep me
Keep me from you”

Mark announces that God’s plan is about to be fulfilled. John the Baptist is God’s prophet preparing the way for the Lord’s coming. He offers a baptism of repentance to the Israelites as a means of “getting ready.” That baptism occurs in the Jordan River, which borders what is known as “the Promised Land.” In Exodus, God’s people wandered the wilderness for forty years until they finally reached the Jordan River. The people were guided and nurtured by God during the journey.  When they entered the waters of the Jordan, their time of wandering ended. They celebrated the end of wandering and looked forward to God’s promises being fulfilled.

Isaiah and Mark do not say, “God will come to those who are ready; and those not ready will be left out.” God is coming to and for us! God will arrive! Wonderful news! So, what can we do to get ready? Confess your sins, John suggests. Get baptized. Repent. Later Jesus will add, “and believe in the good news!” (Mark 1:15). Even if we do none of these things, with every Advent we are reminded that God is coming to find us and fulfill His promises. God is already here.

We have our ways of hiding from God, since the very beginning in the garden of Eden in Genesis. But on this second week of Advent, when John the Baptist shouts, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” it is as though God has just shouted, too, “Ready or not, here I come!” We can try, but there is no hiding from God. God always finds us, no matter what. God will not be stopped, or even delayed. There is much hope and peace in this, even in these times of pandemic and loss. We prepare the way the best we can. We clear out the clutter and any junk that consumes us. We read.  We listen as best we can for God’s voice. We talk with God. We prepare a space within for relationships with family, friends, and God, even if some of that may have to be on Zoom for now. We strive to embrace the mystery we are invited into.

Guide us through this season that we might help prepare the way for all you have promised. Amen.

Questions For Reflection:

  • What new life is being born in you this Advent? What are you most looking for? What do you most desire?
  • Are there mountains that need to be laid low or valleys that need to be filled in your life?

November 29, 2020

First Sunday of Advent

  • Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7
  • 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
  • Mark 13:33-37

Reflection by: Anna Shepherd-Lukasik

I feel like I do a lot of waiting. I watch, I wait, I try to listen, I try to see the direction God wants me to take. In my past I prayed and waited for someone to marry. Now I pray and wait for a child either of my flesh or through adoption, but the waiting seems endless, and I need more patience.  I also keep asking God for direction in my career, what is my next path, or how should I use my gifts and talents for your will?

When, I was praying with these scriptures, it occurred to me, God’s time is not our time. God may actually be waiting for me. God may be waiting for me to have my heart prepared for the gifts He wants to give me. When I resigned to being single, God brought me my spouse. Maybe there is a timing that I do not see, but I must patiently wait and trust in the goodness of God.  Our first reading reminds us, “we are the clay and you the potter: we are all the work of your hands.” Maybe I need to become clay in the potter’s hands, so God can prepare me to be the vessel he desires. He is slowly forming me and preparing me for the work of my life’s vocation. I must trust that one day, in God’s time, the message that God wants to speak to the world through my life will be revealed to me.

These things I mentioned are what I am personally waiting for God to reveal to me, but then I began to think, what is this season of Advent about? It’s about preparing our hearts for the Incarnation, the second coming of Jesus, and to see Jesus who comes to us in the world and in our hearts today. The world waited so long to see the messiah, so long to see God’s salvation. We had no idea the greatness of the plans God had for His people. I wonder if that is true for our world today, we are unaware of the many ways in which God comes to us. We are unaware of the many gifts God gives us. May this season of Advent be a season of thankfulness for the presence of God in our lives. May it also be a season in which we prepare our hearts to receive the wonderful gifts that God has for us. May we rejoice with Prophet Simeon and the Prophetess Anna that our “eyes have seen your salvation.” May we know you are with us.

Questions for Reflection:

  • How can you let go and become clay in the potter’s hands? How is God forming you into the person you are to become?
  • What are you waiting for this year?
  • How has God been drawn near to you this year?

November 22, 2020

Solemnity of Christ the King

  • Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
  • 1 Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
  • Matthew 25:31-46
Written by: Theresa Shepherd-Lukasik, Director of Adult Faith Formation

The Feast of Christ the King is how we end the liturgical year and usher in Advent. It is a feast that I was not aware of until I was 28 years old. My first vivid memory of the Feast of Christ the King was when I attended evening Mass in a small chapel on Loyola University of Chicago’s down campus. That evening my heart was heavy because I had recently been broken up with by a person who I thought I would marry and spend my life loving God and serving others with. Thankfully, I had a dear friend who advised me to enter that Advent with a spirit of waiting on the Lord. She encouraged me trust that the Lord would not leave me abandoned and in time God would reveal to me the fruit of this pain and sorrow.

That evening, as Mass began, a song I had never heard before was sung and the words were, “For you, O Lord, my soul in stillness waits, truly my hope is in you.” We hope in Christ our King, the ruler of our hearts and lives. We place our trust in his providence. My heart was put to rest and I knew my life was in God’s hands and not mine. My heart began to shift from sorrow and my heart desired to reconnect with the Lord and discover his plans.

As was the reading that year, and most years, we do not find a King who came in glory but a King who rules for the cross, a king equated with suffering. Why do we end with the cross and then begin again waiting for the incarnation? I think it is to recall the purpose of his incarnation. Christ our King, came in the flesh to enter into our existence, to know our suffering, and to redeem and heal our broken existence.

I find it fitting that this year, when the world is suffering from a pandemic and our country has been in the grips of divisive politics, the Gospel reminds us to find Christ with us and among us in the homeless, the poor, the immigrant, and in those imprisoned. Christ is still on the cross with these people, and it is up to us to help bring about healing a reconciliation in our broken world. He is a King who reigns under the banner of mercy, and who asks us to be merciful.

This parable can be jarring, and I think it is supposed to stir us out of complacency and remind us that we need to love God and love our neighbor. At Christ’s second coming, we will be judged based on that which we do and do not do to the least of our brothers and sisters. In this gospel passage we are reminded we are only here for a finite time, let us use that time to encounter, to love, and serve God in the least among us.

Questions for Reflection:

  • Advent is one of the church’s penitential seasons, what acts of mercy and kindness might you do this season?
  • Advent is also a time of expectant waiting, spend some time with God and ponder in what ways is revealing God’s self to me? Spend time in gratitude for those graced moments.
  • As the days grow darker, may we continue in hope, that the light of Christ over comes the darkness. What places in my life do I need to ask for God to bring His light?

November 1, 2020

The Feast of All Saints

  • Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14
  • 1 John 3:1-3
  • Matthew 5:1-12A

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes and made them white in the
Blood of the Lamb.”  Rev 7:14

Reflection written by: Janet McDermott, MTS

Today is the Feast of All Saints. On this special feast, the Church invites us to contemplate the lives of those who have passed from this life into the next.  It is a time when we all are reminded that we come from God and that one day we will live forever in the Presence of our Creator.  In that Presence is where our lost ones abide. We all know them – the ones who have passed from our lives but not from our thoughts and memories.  But how many of us stop to ponder our own ultimate destiny?  And what, if anything, do we need to do or be in preparation for that final homecoming?  Scripture, we are told, contains the answer, we believe that Jesus has come into our world to be for us the answer. 

I like the passage that is quoted at the top of this reflection.  Note what the quote doesn’t say.  It doesn’t say that the ones who are welcomed by God somehow got it right all the time.  These people “survived…distress”.  Their “success” is that the Blood of the Lamb washed over all that effort and perseverance, covering them, making them “white” (clean – acceptable to God).

In today’s Gospel Jesus teaches us the Beatitudes, the Beatitudes – the path from distress to hope.  In the times of Moses, the People of God were given the tablets containing the Ten Commandments: follow these rules and you will be My People.  The Ten Commandments were moral guides.  Do this and you shall be known as God’s Nation.  We too, as followers of Jesus, are governed by the same imperatives and in some way can be assured, by obedience to these directives, that we are living a good life.  [We are still called to honor God, our parents, are forbidden to covet what belongs to others, etc.]  But the words of Jesus found in the Beatitudes reveal life’s deeper meaning.  As Christians following Jesus’ call to self-sacrifice and toward dedicated loving, we may find that the clues governing life’s challenges aren’t always clear… 

From the Beatitudes we are told that we can, by following Jesus, lose our taste for material possessions yet somehow that same poverty of spirit leads to great richness.  We can be overwhelmed by sadness, and, by turning to God, can find that we are not alone, receiving the comfort we long for.  Jesus tells His followers that things and events can sometimes seem terribly wrong: justice isn’t always attained but hunger and thirst for justice has meaning in itself.  We can do what we see is the right thing to advocate for only to get negative, even violent, feedback – yet we are assured that we can hope to possess the rewards of God’s kingdom.  Upon reflecting upon the words of the Beatitudes we can learn that, as we face the dark and mysterious events of our lives we can look for inspiration at the life and death of Jesus who, as a result of living who He was, was glorified with new life, the resurrection.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us that ALL of life’s events have meaning in the eyes of God.

Today’s scripture calls us to consider the deeper meaning of our lives.  As the feastday implies, we all know persons who have found that meaning and have lived their individual call – in darkness and in light – to be followers of Jesus.  We thank our God for the community which nourished their journeys, asking that we may learn from them and find the courage to follow in their paths, knowing that one day we can hope to be reunited with them in the Kingdom offered us all.

Questions for further consideration:

  • Souls who have passed from my life: what qualities have I learned to admire? Do they show me God’s divine love in action?
  • What is my relationship with God? In the big picture, our lifespan is short, have I considered meeting God upon passing?
  • Consider times of difficulty in my life – can I see God working through these tough times?