Thursday, December 27, 2018

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us

           Many years ago a woman gave me a lovely, matted framed poster that reads Words are so powerful they should only be used to heal, to bless, to prosper. As a child this woman experienced demeaning verbal violence destroying her opportunity to grow in self-confidence and self-worth. 
          Most of us have been injured by words recklessly spoken; most of us have spoken words knowingly or unknowingly that have hurt another. Today we live in a climate that is replete with spoken meanness. These days I find myself frequently glancing up at the wall hanging, reminding myself of the import of my spoken words.
          And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God’s expression of love, his compassion for humanity became enfleshed in Jesus the Word. Jesus revealed in the Gospel, the word of God and “the way” of being for each of us in the world.
          In a message by Pope John Paul II in preparation for a world youth day that could aptly be used in a Christmas homily he stated: To receive Jesus Christ means to accept from the Father the command to live, loving Him and our brothers and sisters, showing solidarity to everyone, without distinction. It means believing that in the history of humanity even though it is marked by evil and suffering, the final word belongs to life and to love, because God came to dwell among us, so we may dwell in Him. Vatican, July 7, 1999
          Our calling is to presence Christ in wherever and whatever circumstances we are involved showing solidarity to everyone without distinction. Yes, there are situations that present tough challenges for choosing words, especially when “I feel hurt” or “I know I am right” or when “I feel misunderstood, judged, or wronged.” To go the extra mile or turn the other cheek I might never want to choose for an option. But then looking at the person of Jesus, the Word made flesh who came to heal, to bless and invited us to prosper in God’s saving grace, and we remember And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. and God came to dwell among us, so we may dwell in Him.

          Sr. Aileen Bankemper, OSB

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Come, Lord Jesus!

         When I taught 8th grade in one of our parish schools years ago, I spent some time developing the idea of Advent with my students. One  particular year brought it home to them in a way I certainly never expected.
          I tell the students that the word comes from the Latin “ad” meaning “to” or “toward”, and “venturus”, meaning “the coming”, future tense.
          So we celebrate by remembering the first coming of Jesus on Christmas day, and hearing much in the scriptures about his second coming at the end of time. And of course, the children are always aware that “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”      So many comings!
But, in between there are other comings of Jesus, in our daily lives, in the persons we encounter, and events of the day. And - Jesus tells us, “Be ready, for you do not know the day or the hour.”
I would tell the children about my little 9 year old brother Billy who was dying during Advent of the year I was a sophomore in high school. On Dec. 8 I had spent the day with him in the hospital, talking, playing games with him and just being there. He came back home for Christmas. But, On Dec. 29, Jesus came for him, as we gathered around his bed, waiting. I’ll never forget how his eyes opened wide during the coma, focusing on Someone or Something bright in the corner of the room. And then he was gone. It was so awesome! I’ll never forget.
The students are always very quiet when I talk about this.
Well, after a few days, they went home for Christmas break. One of the girls, named Patty, went Christmas caroling around the neighborhood, and when she came home she was tired and lay down to rest on the couch. Later, her mother could not waken her. A day or so later, Jesus came for her. When the students came back after Christmas, there was Patty’s empty desk. What an Advent lesson that was!
Advent this year has been most adventurous for me as I was taken to the Emergency room on the first Sunday, and have had a lot of unexpected time to spend with the Lord exploring His coming in my life while I recuperate.
The Lord comes to us in so many ways! I find Him in the loving care and concern that has been given to me from the nurses, doctors, Sisters in my community, the students and school personnel, and my family. I learn from them all how to be more compassionate and thoughtful of others. And I am overcome with gratitude.
          Yes, Jesus is Coming! Are we ready for Him at any time? As in the book of Revelation,  The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
Sr. Mary Carol Helllmann, OSB

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Cataracts of Advent

       I was intrigued by the two very different meanings of the word cataract: the rush of mighty water over a precipice vs. the opaque film that impedes sight with advancing age. How did the root of this word take such differing paths?

       The Greek kataractes means something that is rushing or swooping down. It became transferred into Latin in the form of cataracta, and thus could mean a waterfall or a portcullis (grated gate, a safeguard to a castle)

       From about the 16th c. the word cataract began to be used as a simile for the film that obstructs light from entering the eye. In that sense it is closer to the portcullis, which would slam or rush down to prevent an enemy from getting in. The cataract of the eye neither slams nor rushes nor swoops, but it obstructs quite well.

       Waiting for a date for cataract surgery is waiting for the light. No more will the brain have to work to equalize the corrected with the blurry. This cataract of Advent will soon give way to clearer vision, to a vision of the Lord Jesus coming in power, as in a cloud of light.

Sr. Christa Kreinbrink, OSB

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Our Tender God

       Each morning we gather to Praise God with and for all Creation, using the ancient Psalmody of the People of God.  The prayer closes with the sung “Canticle of Zachary” from the Gospel of Luke.  Lately the closing stanza has held me in prayerful thought for a long while.  These days I am more and more aware of how these words encompass the Advent theme.

By the tender mercy of our God,
The dawn from on high will break upon us,
To give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
To guide out feet into the way of peace.

Or in Sr. Deborah’s version, we sing on another day:
You are merciful; you are tender.
You are the sun’s rays
striking the eastern horizon at dawn.
You are the Morning Star, rising to shine on us.
Brightening our shadowed steps, banishing death.
You are our beacon, drawing us on in peace.

Calling our God, tender, had never stirred me before.
      Then, in reading a set of books I received for Christmas, the word tender has caught my eye again and again.  Many have heard of Fr. Gregory Boyle, SJ, who has worked with gang members in Los Angeles for three decades.  In his first book, Tattoos on the Heart, he introduces us to the “Homeboy Industries” that he began; the largest gang-intervention program in the world.  He shares stories of conversion, crisis, death and new life that bring tears to one’s eyes.  I have watched Fr. Greg’s You-tube presentations to which he always takes two former gang members along to tell their stories.  The audiences get very touched by the homies’ stories and Fr. Greg’s approach with them.
      In his second book, Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, (2017) he shares his philosophy of convincing these folks of their own goodness, that it is only in a culture of tenderness that this can happen.  He sites Julian of Norwich’s thought, that “the true and most authentic spiritual life was one that produced awe, humility and love.” Fr. Greg says, “It is awe that softens us for the tender glance of God, which enables us to glance in just the same way.”  He says that “Homies” (Homeboys or Homegirls) “begin to inhabit their truest selves once they are on the receiving end of tenderness. This they soon discover is its own reward.”  Once Shaggy texted him, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.”  He shares about a prisoner who has become one of his teachers, “He has learned the tender gravity of kindness, and knows how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness.”  Fr. Greg says, “We don’t try to get them to be ‘good’; they already are. We’re hoping they’ll find the goodness and seek happiness in their “yes”.
       In Luke’s Gospel we read recently of Jesus speaking of the coming of earthquakes, plagues, and famine, and then says, “Do not be terrified.”  “Be not afraid”, “Fear not”, he says over and over.  Jesus wants us to see terror as he does. This is what Greg teaches the gang members who come to their center.  “They can confront terror with an openhearted kindness as Jesus does.  Suddenly, plagues and earthquakes have lost their menace when met with such tenderness”.
      Fr. Greg considered it a singular blessing to have known Cesar Chavez, especially his keen skill of listening.  Nothing or no one else existed in that moment but you, no matter who you were.  Once a reporter commented to Cesar, “Wow, these farm workers, they sure love you.”  And Cesar smiled, shrugged, and said, “The feeling’s mutual.”  “When the feeling’s mutual, we are seized by a tenderness that elevates us to the very largeness of God…The affection of God unfolds when there is no daylight separating us.” 
      It is so evident that the Home boys and Home girls feel very “at home” with Fr. Greg and his staff.  And I have learnt a lot about what a Culture of Tenderness can mean for folks on the edge of society.  I am grateful for such Christ figures who show forth the “tenderness of God” in our midst!
     Happy Advent! 
                                Sr. Mary Tewes, OSB