Sisters reflect on Advent season

Sister Marie Regine Redig reflects on the Advent walk to Christmas. This image of Joseph, Mary and Jesus encompases they journey they made.

Advent walk to Christmas

By Sister Marie Regine Redig

Christ could be born
A thousand times in Galilee –
But all in vain
Until he is born in me.
- Angela Silesius

We are an Advent people. Winter and Advent bring to us quiet, rest, and darkness; a time to ponder Advent stories and invite their meaning into our hearts. Like Mary, God’s Spirit will overshadow us if we choose to give birth. We can be the cosmic womb destined to be bearers of the universe; to know ourselves and others in Christ Jesus.

Zechariah and Elizabeth, before the miracle of John, felt unblessed and sad for many years. We all know elderly people who feel alone, and long for someone’s visit. Be Jesus to them.

Sister Marie Regine Redig reflects on the Advent walk to Christmas. This image of Joseph, Mary and Jesus encompases they journey they made.

Mary and Gabriel had a conversation. She was young and not yet ready to conceive, but in talking, came to know and trust the word of God. We know young women who do not know themselves and their bodies well enough for the important decision to bear a child. Talking with someone who cares about them helps. And if conception and pregnancy have already happened, gentle thoughts and words can bring the healing Jesus to birth.

In the crowded census time, when many were traveling to Bethlehem, Joseph, after a long trek of 90 miles from Nazareth, could find no room for himself and his spouse who was with child. Some innkeeper was kind enough to allow them to use the barn behind the house. It did offer needed space and privacy along with the warming breath of the animals. We’ve seen the homeless looking for space to set up their tents under the highway’s overhead bridge. Is it too much to offer them a bite to eat, an ear to listen to their stories and to talk of possibilities? Without a place to live, how can they even be counted in the 2020 census? Let Jesus be born in you, for them.

Another travel-trek took Joseph and Mary, this time cuddling their child, on the long trip to Egypt, fleeing for their safety from a tyrant who feared losing his power. They trudged to an unknown territory to live among people different from themselves. What did it feel like for Joseph to look for affordable housing, to find work and to make new friends? What did it feel like for Mary to meet with neighbor women for food ideas and, of course as a new mother, how to treat Jesus’ sniffling nose or bruised knee. So much newness in a new country! On TV and in other news coverages, we repeatedly see the plight of individuals and families from Central America as they flee from terror and death, looking for safety and a better life. How sad that many are treated inhumanely at our southern border! There are ways for us to comfort, help, and give them life. Prayer and action! Are you being called to spend time in helping the daily influx of refugees in El Paso? Could you call or email your Congress representative to enact helpful policies?

There are many other parts of the Advent/Christmas story beyond these few that you can pray, ponder and put to use in your birthing of Christ Jesus - go to it.

A familiar Isaiahan reading in Advent, talks about how the wolf and the lamb, the calf and the lion, the snake and the child are fearless and show us a kingdom of peace where what we share in common with all peoples and creation affirms the beauty and dignity of our differences. The ancient instinct to lash out is replaced by our willingness to reach out across our diversity in color, possessions, talents, personality, traditions, religious beliefs, skills and all aspects of culture.

Mary was told that there is nothing that God cannot do. She believed and we need to believe that the Spirit of God, who overshadows us can inspire us in ways that we can open what is closed, widen what is narrow, and share love in our families, communities, and countries. From the womb of your Christmas-self, live with the pain and labor of birthing Christ Jesus into the world.

Esperar - To wait, to hope

 

Advent Lessons from a car repair

By Sister Patricia Lange

This past September, I drove my Chevy to a car shop; it was checkup time. The diagnosis by the mechanic revealed a number of items that needed attention. Upon hearing this somewhat sad news, I decided to wait for my car while it was repaired and brought back to good health. Actually, waiting for the car to be repaired wasn't a problem. There was a buffet of donuts available for consumption, and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee encircled the waiting area. As we all know, donuts and coffee can be excellent stress relievers. The waiting room itself was filled with a melting pot of diverse personalities, ethnic backgrounds and colorful fashion choices with a sprinkling of fashion faux pas. The audible conversations covered a smorgasbord of topics: sports, vintage cars, family events, car bills, all knowing teenagers, insurance, etc. However, some members of this distinct and newly formed ‘community in waiting’ chose instead to have silent intense conversations with their phone applications. There I was, surrounded by a multitude of people waiting for one common event - the conclusion of car repairs.

As the hands on the wall clock began walking across its face, the thought occurred to me that we spend so much of our lives just waiting, and waiting and waiting. There's the traffic stop, an appointment, an overdue letter or phone call, a plane that is late, news from a friend, crossing the street, a reply, etc. The challenge is not so much the waiting itself, but how that waiting time is used, for waiting can be a door to opportunities.

And now, several months later, it is the Liturgical season of Advent, another time of waiting, a time of new beginnings. Still, questions arise surrounding this new season of waiting. Is Advent only a patient waiting time filled with resolutions and practices? Or is Advent a meaningful time of awakening opportunities for change as we ourselves await the Promised One to come? Or is Advent a composite of all these elements and so much more? Yes, we remember the birth of Jesus, the Messiah who became one of us, who walked this earth in the past and redeemed us. And yes, we know that at some point in time, in some distant future, Jesus will return. But we also know that Jesus comes to us in the sacred moments of each day, in the guise of people and events regardless of background. How do we recognize Jesus in all these opportunities that await us each and every day? In our present day politics and culture, how do we respond to all its challenges both individually and collectively as we walk joyfully through this season of Advent? Each day of Advent is an open invitation to transformative opportunities. May we have Advent eyes to recognize them and Advent hearts to respond.

 

Chose to be a Good Samaritan

By Sister Francine Koehler

“As the hind longs for running streams, so my soul longs for you my God” - Ps 42,1

My memories of our group’s Mission Awareness Process (MAP) trip this past August, are still rousing feelings of restlessness, challenges and outrage.

Sister Francine Koehler reflects on Advent and her trip to El Paso, Arizona, with a Mission Awareness Process (MAP) group with the School Sisters of Notre Dame at the men’s carpentry shop.

After my experience at the Arizona-Mexican border, I will never be the same. Until then the desert landscape had just been some distant image of blooming cacti and blue skies. I had never walked in, much less through, a desert as thousands of migrants have. As we learned of their stories, I felt a deep desire to comfort them and to fix this overwhelming immigration phenomenon never before seen at our borders. Of course, I felt so inadequate and helpless. All we could do is to leave gallons of water in the desert, hoping they would find water and drink, knowing that someone cares and hopes for their safety and well-being.

May they all be ONE. - Jn 17, 21

In our global culture of polarization, division, and separation, to me it is symbolic of the reality of our times. It shouts, “Stay out of our comfortable lives, our complacent world. You are different from us and do not belong here.” Our experiences this week, taught us that walls and cruel laws can never separate our common humanity.

When we gave handmade dolls made by our sisters, to the children in the shelters, their smiles needed no translation to interpret their joy. When we admired and bought a hand-crafted bag or apron from the women’s cooperative, we could immediately sense their pride and joy in their work. No walls here! We experienced many simple ways to discover, “the dignity of difference,” (Anthony Gittins) to realize our oneness as brothers and sisters in Christ.

And who is my neighbor? - Lk 10, 29

Jesus answers this question with the beautiful parable of the good Samaritan. We met and accompanied Samaritans in action in Arizona. They are a diverse group of mostly retired folks who practice works of mercy to the migrants who come to the kitchens, shelters, and houses of hospitality. We accompanied them on one of their desert hikes to leave gallons of water for weary, dehydrated migrants. We also had the opportunity with about 30 other Samaritans to pray for a migrant who died in the dessert. The prayer and cross planting to remember her was a two-hour ritual along a desert road. It was led by a Native American deacon. Since 2000, almost 3,000 migrants have died attempting to cross the desert. That total only includes those the Border Patrol has found, some identified, some unknown.

Some Samaritans visit kitchens and serve meals weekly, clean up, play with the children, teach sewing, gardening, and carpentry skills to migrants on both sides of the border. They educate, advocate, pray, and serve—living out the School Sisters of Notre Dame’s Corporate Stance: We stand in solidarity with our immigrant sisters and brothers.

Esperar, in Spanish means both to hope and to wait. It arouses in me a profound desire to act in collaboration with others, like many good Samaritans in our families, ministries, communities, and world.

When we wipe away their tears and share in their smiles, we touch hope, which strengthens our oneness.

 

Advent Reflection

By Sister Michelle Emmerich

Every culture has its story, rich in symbol, value and significance and peppered with a unique history and relationship to the world. This Advent marks a time of reflection between the story telling of our Thanksgiving tables and our upcoming holiday tables. In the weeks ahead, we are inspired by the voices of wisdom found in Isaiah, Romans, and the Gospel of Matthew who urge us to, “WAKE-UP” (Rm 13: 5-11), to recognize even the smallest sign of God who dwells in our midst! (Mt. 24:39-44). Isaiah entices us with strong images of a powerful God intersecting with a frail humanity; with the earthy embrace of mountains and valleys, lions and lambs.

Advent engages us in a complex reflection of diversity. For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son into a world of foreign occupation and oppression, to a people of wealth and poverty, to the scholarly and the illiterate, to those with lifetime disabilities and those socially isolated, and to the young and the elderly. Yes, it was the, “best of times and the worst of times,” an age of longing and hope for LOVE to be born anew.

As we approach a new decade in the 21st century, we, too, pray to recognize the smallest sign of, “God with us,” amidst the complexity of diversity. That recognition challenges us to deeper contemplation, entering into the mind-set and heart-set of the God of love so that we may see, hear and experience God’s view of reality and listen to the inner voice urging us to action.

Over the course of my years in ministry, I have counted more than 20 different cultural groups with whom I have interacted. With grateful heart, I feel simply blessed by the gift of their presence, the perspectives of their worldview, their joys and struggles to raise their families amidst shifting economies and the ethical values that provide a moral compass in decision-making. I have benefitted from their reverence and care for the earth as well as their respect for the dignity of all created life. Like Blessed Theresa, we continue to encounter the richness of diversity. In deep faith and high courage, we let the transformative power of our God happen, because love gives everything!

May we walk into the Advent season to bless all with renewed hope, peace, love and joy (the gifts of Advent).

 
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