Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 25

Isaiah 62:11-12 (15ABC); Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20

Reflection by Sister Corda Trouy
Religious education; HHC activities volunteer; switchboard; hair care; monastery service

In Isaiah, it tells us: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, 'Your God is King!'”

In the New Testament, the angel tells the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”

What a gift the Good News is! “A savior has been born to us who is Christ the Lord!” What an incredible gift we have been given from 1 AD, throughout all ages, and into eternity!

In thanksgiving for this great gift of Christ the King, within and around us, we can PROCLAIM the good news of gratitude for the many gifts God has bestowed upon us. This can be done on the mountain top, in the quiet of our own hearts, or, wherever we happen to be. For example, the Blessed Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Our Faith given to us at Baptism, the Eucharistic Celebration in which we encounter the Body and Blood of Christ, in addition to the other sacraments, I emphasize the sacrament of Reconciliation in which we are given the privilege to make peace with God, ourselves and others. (For those of other faiths, you will be blessed by your God-connectedness.)

As we follow the journey of Jesus, his mother, Mary, Joseph, the Apostles and countless others through the Old and New Testament our lives are daily enriched. The Good News, or Gospel, comes alive in us when we savor God’s Word. In quiet and gentle ways, we can proclaim:


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 24

Isaiah 9:1-6 (14ABC); Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14

Reflection by Sister Mary Carmel Spayd
Flower gardens and arrangements, monastery service

Advent has been a time of waiting and longing, and the longing for Jesus has become more intense as the weeks of advent have moved along. Today, on the eve of Christmas, the liturgy says: “Today you will know that the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see God’s glory.” Yes, tomorrow we will join millions throughout the world in song and adoration to celebrate Christ’s birth.

Our finite minds will never be able to comprehend the mystery of God’s assuming our humanity, making us little less than the angels — what wondrous dignity. Can we live up to that dignity in the coming year? And can we honor that dignity in others — family members, co-workers, the unkempt homeless, the cantankerous neighbor, the exasperating student? If we allow ourselves time periodically to ponder on who we and others truly are and act accordingly, we will help make the world a happier one.

On somewhat of a sad note, yesterday’s liturgy stated: “When the Lord comes, shall faith be found on the earth?” Unfortunately, we know that countless individuals have no faith at all. What is the status of our faith? Is it alive and well, or do we need to pray for a deeper and more genuine one as Pope Francis exhorts us to do? A genuine, lively faith will prompt us to live Gospel values, reach out in charity to others, and make the Kingdom a reality here and now.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 23

Luke 1:57-66

Reflection by Sister Anna Corrine O'Connor
Theology Teacher at Presentation Academy (Louisville, Kentucky)

This section of Luke’s gospel is familiar to many of us. We know why Zachariah is silent and the story of Zachariah’s silence ending at the moment he is challenged to name the child according to Jewish tradition. I have missed the following until I read this to write a reflection. Please note that Zachariah actually supported Elizabeth and what she was saying about the baby being named John. This brings a message to us we seldom see in the Scriptures. Here is Elizabeth, the mother of the baby, saying what his name should be. Yet because of the traditions of the Israelites, no one listens to her. Her voice is discounted as “just a woman’s response” and not valid. However, Zachariah gives her support—says the baby’s name is to be John just as his wife has said. We often “skip” to the phrase “he spoke blessing God.” Yet, Elizabeth is the one who called him John; and she was as aware of the Jewish traditions as the people around her. She had the courage to name the child John, after all she was the first to step forward and speak the truth.

How many times have we discounted someone’s words to us because the person wasn’t old enough, mature enough, or was too old to really know what she or he is saying? Yet, at other times, we are in awe of the insight of our children or the wisdom of the old. How many of us have a friend that doesn’t talk much, but when she or he does speak, we really listen. This reading calls us to listen, to hear God speaking through “unlikely” persons. Perhaps it’s time we listen to God speaking with open ears and hearts. Perhaps we are the “unlikely person” speaking God’s word to others today.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 22

Matthew 1:18-24

Reflection by Sister Kathryn Huber
Spirituality Ministry

Dreams can be powerful things. Our gospel reading today is about God’s dream for Joseph and Mary, and how Joseph brought that dream to fulfillment.

Joseph knew that Mary was pregnant and that the child in her womb was not his. Strictly speaking, according to Mosaic Law, she could be stoned for this seeming infidelity. Joseph was in a real and agonizing bind. He, “a righteous man,” wanted to follow the law, but in his sensitivity and concern for Mary, he could not bring himself to do her any harm. What a time of inner turmoil and outer confusion and chaos it must have been for both Joseph and Mary…and then God communicated to them through Joseph’s dream.

In the dream Joseph finds his identity and calling. Joseph dares to believe that God can and has revealed to him a new and awesome wonder. Rather than dwell in dreamland and leave the action to someone else, Joseph himself acts. Mercy and righteousness meet in Joseph. He takes Mary as his wife. And it is God’s dream that Joseph lived out.

Yes, dreams can be powerful things. We too are called to live God’s dreams for ourselves and loved ones, for our community and our world. The story of Joseph illustrates that dreams can change the course of history, but only, only if we invest ourselves in their worth. It will be the same love and trust as St. Joseph’s that compels us toward risk, fearlessness, and good works. As we celebrate this Fourth Sunday of Advent may we follow Joseph’s example and the example of Mary and Jesus in doing what God asks of us. Like them may we listen, ponder, and act.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 21

Song of Songs 2:8-14; Luke 1:39-45

Reflection by Sister Jolinda Naas
Switchboard, Chauffeur, Monastery Service

…Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among woman, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Luke:41-42

How many times have we repeated the phrase “blessed is the fruit of your womb” in our life time? Every time we pray the rosary we repeat that mantra again and again. It becomes such a natural part of the prayer that we say it at times without thinking about the meaning.

Have you ever stopped to think why Elizabeth used the word “fruit” rather than “baby” or “child”? In Webster’s dictionary we find this definition: fruit – the effect, result or consequence of something. Jesus was the result of Mary’s trust and faith in the message of the Angel Gabriel who had been sent from God.

Every fruit has a seed of some type. If that seed is planted, watered, and tended, it will then produce fruit. The child Jesus held the seed of God. Through the teachings and life of Jesus we receive that seed. We in turn must nurture that seed and bear fruit. As we pass that seed on to others by our example and teaching, we will bear fruit.

During these final days of Advent let us pray the “Hail Mary” very thoughtfully and reflect on the words, “Blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Friday, December 20, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 20

Luke 1:26-38

Reflection by Sister Anna Corrine O'Connor
Theology Teacher at Presentation Academy (Louisville, Kentucky)

Today’s Gospel is a poignant and familiar one to all Christians.

The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God.
Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall name him Jesus.”

And then the angel adds: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever,
and of his Kingdom there will be no end."

I don’t know what you think, but I thought the first phrase was difficult enough, but to add that her baby was to take David’s throne and rule the house of Jacob? That is really scary. How have the leaders of Israel been treated, by the Israelites themselves, and by their enemies? Would any mother wish that for her child? Mary is both afraid and filled with confusion: "How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (NRSV Catholic edition) Mary felt all alone at this point of her life and yet she discovered that she wasn’t.

If you haven’t seen the movie The Nativity filmed in 2006, I recommend you do yourself a favor and watch it. It is the most human and “divine” portrait of Mary as the mother of Jesus. She is genuinely afraid at hearing this message given her. Earlier, she had been disappointed about being betrothed to Joseph, the action that ended her childhood. She was no longer free to play with her friends and enjoy the carefree experiences of children. Now she, without knowing Joseph, was carrying a child no one knew about. She was carrying this message from “God” alone! But she said yes to God and began a journey of listening to God to know how this was to happen—this birth of her child. The film shows how her relationship with God and with Joseph and her parents grew through her willingness to say yes to God. We are all asked to say yes to God.

We’ve had times when we wondered what would happen to us as we continued our lives of saying yes to God. We wondered if we would have the strength and/or the wisdom to respond as God wanted; or perhaps even questioned if we really knew God’s presence in the call. Yet, when we let go of trying to control how we’d live God’s call to us, we no longer lived in the fear and confusion but in the wonder of God’s presence within us and leading us. Let us be like Mary and say yes to God this day and everyday of our lives and see how that yes unfolds into a deeper loving relationship with God and our families and friends.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 19

Luke 1:5-25

Reflection by Sister Karen Joseph
Spirituality Ministry

Zechariah and Elizabeth were good people, upright and “blameless according to all of the commandments and regulations of the Lord”, but an elderly couple who remain childless. When the angel tells Zechariah that finally God has heard his longing and his prayer and that Elizabeth will bear him a child, he is astounded! He is also doubtful! “I’m an old man and my wife is now up in years, how can this be possible?” he asks in total disbelief!

God’s time is often not OUR time. We pray and we pray, hoping, asking, begging and nothing seems to happen. God does not seem to answer our prayer. So, we give up and just try to make the best of it. Perhaps the best response is to keep our hearts open to God’s miracles, confidant that miracles really do happen. Of these miracles happen at unexpected times and in unexpected ways. Our God is indeed a God of surprises. Stay awake and watch!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 18

Matthew 1:18-25

Reflection by Sister Kim Mandelkow
Monastery Service

During the seasons of Advent and Christmas we hear much about the various characters -- Mary, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, the Baby Jesus in the manger, the angel Gabriel, the shepherds, the sheep, the donkeys and the cattle, even the wise men -- who didn't show up for a couple of years! One person is treated as an extra -- someone that's there and doesn't get much attention. He shows up in church Christmas programs, but he doesn't have any lines. He doesn't bring any gifts to the baby in the manger. He doesn't sing any songs. He doesn't follow a star in the East. He's just there, dressed in a robe and sandals watching everyone around him come and give homage to the newborn King.

We meet that person in today's Gospel. This quiet, humble man is Joseph, the husband of Mary and it is his example of obedience that challenges me today. Today's gospel from Matthew tells us that he was a righteous man. In other words, he was a man that lived for God and he sought to do God's will. Quite simply, he was a devout Jew, who lived each day listening for God's word and choosing to walk in God's ways. And what I've always found so amazing about Joseph is that while all the other characters simply do what God tells them to without question or hesitation, we know that Joseph struggled to obey, for the gospel tells us that his intention was to divorce Mary quietly. Think about how that would have changed the Christmas story!

Put yourself in Joseph's shoes for a moment. You are engaged to a woman who suddenly is pregnant, and you know that you have not had relations with her. Not only is that a problem for your relationship, but she's pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Now that's a problem in society! Just think if that would happen today. I would be a bit skeptical to believe it, yet I take it on faith that that is exactly what happened with Mary. This compassionate and humble man responds with love at a time of crisis as he takes her into his home, cares for her, and travels with her to Bethlehem where she will give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.

 I am challenged by the person of Joseph today to respond with compassion, humility and love in times of crisis. It is easy to say Yes to God when things are going alright, but when I face difficulties and struggles, my first response is to do it MY WAY.

God, help me today to respond with love to your call, even during the difficult, challenging times of life.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 17

Genesis 49:2, 8-10; Matthew 1:1-17

Reflection by Sister Helen Jean Kormelink
Human Resources, Mission Advancement, Mail Clerk, Monastery Service

I was somewhat dismayed when I looked at the readings for today. I asked myself, "who needs a genealogy for someone who lived over 2000 years ago?” However, a little further thought and a couple of commentators later I had more ideas than I could use.

To begin with, commentators tell us this genealogy of Jesus was written for a Christian community who probably did want or need to know the lineage of Jesus Christ. After all, these early Christians were being told to put their faith in Jesus and to change their lives to live according to His teachings. They needed to know where he came from. If we love someone, we want to know everything we can about them, just as the early Christians wanted to know everything they could about Jesus.

Still the list of names in Mathew can be somewhat meaningless to us unless we take the time to do the research behind each person listed. (And that, even for these long, dark days of Advent, would be a daunting task.) However, some of commentators I read tell us there are interesting names in this genealogy. For instance, it was customary in early ages that only male ancestors were recorded. It is most unusual that four women were introduced. And such women they were! A pagan, real and pretend prostitutes, an adultress, and a spy were named. We can only wonder why women with such reputations were included. But before we render a judgment, we should remember that these women named were brave and gutsy. They let nothing stand in their way of achieving their goals.

Perhaps the women -- and probably some of the men -- were included because we need to remember that our human backgrounds are often a mixed bag. Like Jesus, we probably have “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in our own lineage. Perhaps, we need to be assured that regardless of who our ancestors are, we can bless God for them.

So today when I read Mathew 1:1-17, I will think of my own ancestors. I will pray for them; maybe pray to some of them. I will thank God for all of them, because for good or bad, directly or indirectly, my ancestors contributed in making me who I am. And for that I will be grateful.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 16

Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a

Reflection by Sister Anita Louise Lowe

In order to better understand the significance of today’s first reading from the book of Numbers, it’s helpful to know who the prophet Balaam is. Balaam is not an Israelite. He is a foreigner, paid by an enemy king to go and curse the Israelite camp. However, as we read in this passage, when Balaam arrives and sees the camp of the Israelites he utters a blessing, not a curse.

Balaam says that he is a true prophet, that is, he cannot say what God has not commanded him to speak. Though he has been sent to curse the Israelites, he cannot do so. God’s voice within him is so strong that it must be spoken. Balaam compares the Israelites to a garden planted beside a stream; they will be fruitful. Balaam continues his oracle speaking of a star advancing from the house of Jacob and a staff rising from Israel. We see in these images the foreshadowing of the Messiah. Christ, the shepherd, rises from Israel, and the star will announce his birth for all the nations to see and know.

As we enter this third week of Advent, our expectation rises. We look everywhere for the signs of Christ’s coming. But, are we willing to listen to those who are “outsiders”? Are we willing to consider that someone who is “not like us” may speak the word of God?

God can use anyone to speak to us, including our enemies, including those who are different from us, those who are “foreign” to us. Our challenge is to be open to recognize God’s voice in the least expected place.

Questions for Reflection: Are there people to whom I refuse to listen because they are not like me? Am I willing to be stretched in order to hear God in the voice of someone I consider to be an outsider or a foreigner?

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 15

Matthew 11:2-11

Reflection by Sister Sarah Cathleen Yungwirth
Teacher, St. Patrick Catholic School (Louisville, Kentucky)

My niece, Emma Cate, likes to ask lots of questions. “Aunt Sarah, why don’t you come to visit with a boyfriend like everyone else? Aunt Sarah, why do you pray from that book? Dad, why do people make fun of other people when they don’t like something about them? Why does Conlyn always know when it is 5pm and it’s time for her to eat?” Those questions show how much she is thinking and trying to understand the experiences in her life. Because she is curious and asks the questions, she has the opportunity to think about things and not just take them for granted.

In the Gospel reading today, John the Baptist sends his disciples to ask Jesus the question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus honors their question and responds by encouraging them to notice all the things that are happening around them like the blind being able to see, the lame walking, the lepers being cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead being raised, and the poor having the good news shared with them. These are all amazing things that show the tremendous power of God’s presence through Jesus working on the earth. He then takes it a step further, by reminding them that even though they might initially have had different motivations for seeing John the Baptist, he was truly a faith-filled man who had an important message about repentance and preparing their hearts for God.

Because those followers asked that important question, Jesus was able to draw them deeper into the joy and beauty of God working in their world and in their lives. He was able to help them to see beyond their initial curiosity regarding John the Baptist, to see the importance of his message. Hopefully, they left that conversation changed for the better and more able to notice God’s gifts in each moment and each encounter.

As I pray with this, I think I hear God reminding us to bring our questions to him so that he can help us through them. When we pray, can you and I ask God about the things that are puzzling us and keeping us from fully trusting him? When difficult things happen to me, and I don’t think it’s fair or just, or I don’t know what to do to solve a problem, can I take it to God without pretending I have all the answers? Can I get beyond my desire for God to wave the magic wand and make things the way I want them to be immediately? What are some of the questions that I need to ask so that God can enter in and help me to go deeper? What are some of the questions you have in your heart? Are there things you don’t understand? Are there miracles that you have noticed that you can’t quite grasp and walk to talk to him about?

When we ask the questions, God can speak to us like he spoke to John the Baptist’s followers. Then, hopefully, we too can see his presence all around us and all the ways he is working in our lives each and every moment. Hopefully, we will be able to rejoice with grateful hearts for all that God is doing within us, within our community, and within our world.

Advent is such a wonderful time to be thinking about this and asking these questions. Advent is a time of joyful waiting and joyful giving. This is “Gaudete” Sunday, so let us rejoice in the knowledge that God cares about every one of us intimately and wants to know the questions we hold in our hearts. He wants to come and move us beyond our fears and to help us recognize all the ways he is right here among us and wants to be a part of our lives.

An Advent booklet I have been using these last few weeks has some beautiful thoughts about this. I’d like to close with a quote from this reflection. “Only Christ can fill us and if there’s anything we know from the Gospels, it’s if you ask the Lord a question, he will not only answer, but fulfill you. When you ask the question in faith, you will be amazed. Like the blind who regained their sight, you will begin to see the face of God and the good he does in your life. Like the deaf who begin to hear, you will be able to discern the direction where he’s leading you. Like the lame now able to walk, you will stand forgiven and healed from even the most crippling sin. Like the lepers who were cleansed, you will be healed from every offense against you, from the deepest brokenness of your heart, and like the dead who were raised again, you will live in the joy of the Resurrection. Jesus does not disappoint. He does not shame. He just loves. And in this season, he is calling you a little closer to him.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 14

Matthew 17:9a, 10-13

Reflection by Sister Traci Stutz
Director of Flaget Center, Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky

Not tell anyone? In today’s day and age, if someone had just gone up a mountain and witnessed the Transfiguration and did not take an immediate picture with their cell phone or tablet, that would indeed be a second miracle happening in just as many seconds.

It seems to me folks are taking and sharing more and more pictures these days to “capture” moments. Some of these are everyday happenings and others capture their everyday miracles. They probably would not be giving Jesus the opportunity to say, “Tell the vision to no one.” More than likely they would not be giving even themselves the time to internalize what they had witnessed, to feel and comprehend what they had just seen. They would have captured it, though.

But, Jesus companions that day -- Peter, James, and John -- did keep it to themselves, but had a few questions for Jesus when they reached the bottom of the mountain.

Why was he, Jesus, the Messiah, here before Elijah? Did he Jesus or the prophets get the order incorrect? (Malachi 4:5-6) They had probably already “captured” moments of when John the Baptist had been in their midst, but had not realized he was the one to come before the Messiah as Elijah.

Jesus’ companions had the gift of His personal presence and the time to ask the questions. We do not have that gift. During these last few days of Advent may we find the time to be quiet with our questions and ponder about how Jesus is with us and around us. May we, too, take the time to be fully present, to feel, and to question what is happening right around us rather than “capture” them.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 13

Isaiah 48:17-19; Matthew 11:16-19

Reflection by Sister Agnes Weinzapfel
Community Health Services

After reading the Gospel for today, I thought about times when I have been in a group and someone points their finger at someone else. That is, they call attention to some wrong another person is doing. For example they might say, “What does she think …spending all that money on vacation when her Tommy needs braces?” Or, “What’s Joe thinking… to wearing old blue jeans to the party.” And on it goes.

Matthew tells us in Chapter 11: 16-19, “…for John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The son of man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.” Both John and Jesus withstood lots of criticism for not eating, for eating too much, or for eating with the wrong people. It seems that today is not much different. Many people follow the same critical practice with their friends and neighbors.

During this Advent, what can you and I do to promote a more accepting attitude toward our friends, neighbors, and co-workers? What can we do when someone in a group starts to point fingers or to make a critical comment or judgment about another? Perhaps we could bring up a good point or say something kind about that person.

Jesus, it is my prayer today that I may become more accepting of all God’s children.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 12

Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab (690A); Luke 1:39-47

Reflection by Sister Mary Alice Schnur
Prayer Ministry

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Mary, Our Mother, the Virgin of Guadalupe walks with the people. Many of our sisters and brothers in faith think of Advent as the month of Mary more than May or October. With confidence let us turn to her to show us how to prepare for the coming of her Son this Christmas.

Let us pray:
Accept, O Lord, the prayer we present to you on this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Grant that this prayer may strengthen us to fulfill your commandments as true children of the Virgin Mary. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 11

Isaiah 40:25-31; Matthew 11:28-30

Reflection by Sister Jeana Visel
Director of Assessment and Order Documentarian at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology

“He gives strength to the fainting; for the weak he makes vigor abound.”

Many of us at this time of year know what it is to be weary. For those who study or teach, the end of a semester brings pressure to get everything done in time. Single parents and low-wage earners struggling to manage multiple jobs race to keep up with the demands of children, commuting, the daily grind. When life is pressing, rest usually is the first thing to be sacrificed.

There is another kind of weariness that too many of us know, as well. The weary soul is tired from worrying about not being good enough, tired of hiding from the truth, tired of always having to wear the happy face. Though we can cover things up and pretend that life is fine, sin saps life like nothing else.

To all those growing faint with weariness, Jesus speaks words of peace. Come, he says, and find rest for your soul. Stop being divided of heart, and know the strength that comes from being single-hearted. Know that my mercy and forgiveness are greater than any sin that might worry your soul. Know that my abundant providence is more generous than anything your scraping, scrounging efforts might be able to produce. I am enough, he says. Keep your eyes on me, he says, and I will be your strength.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 10

 Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18: 12-14

Reflection by Sister Maura Beckman
Chaplain, Memorial Hospital (Jasper, IN)

This season of waiting in hope, known as Advent, invites us to listen deeply to the Word of God. Today’s readings from Isaiah and Matthew offer words of comfort but also of challenge.

Above all the clamor of advertising, the seeming endlessness of preparation, gifts, decorating and food to prepare, can I hear this Word of God? Comfort, give comfort to my people. Can I allow myself to enter into God’s time and wait expectantly, let go of my need for perfection, trust this gift of comfort and peace as I prepare for the coming of Christ? How do I wait in hope as the pressure mounts to get it all “right?” Do I believe that God calls me His own child and His Beloved?

If this is not enough challenge look at the Scripture, “build a highway for our God.” Building a highway requires groundwork. Leveling mountains, filling valleys, making rough ways smooth! What mountains need to be leveled in my life. How about pride, the drive to “do it alone,” get it perfect. Then those rough ways to smooth! What needs to change in my way of relating to family, friends and strangers? How can I smooth those rough edges of speech and action. Building a highway for my God sounds like a lot of work!

From both scripture readings for today we can take comfort in the assurance that God is with us as a gentle shepherd who feeds his flock, gathers the lambs in his arms, and leads the ewes with care. This shepherd gets “down and dirty” with his sheep. As I endeavor daily to level those mountains and smooth the rough places in my life, I can call on the gentle shepherd for help. Otherwise I shall fail in this effort to tread with courage this call to “challenge” and “comfort."

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 9

Genesis 3:9-15, 20 (689); Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12; Luke 1:26-38

Reflection by Sister Helen Jean Kormelink
Human Resources, Mission Advancement, Mail Clerk, Monastery Service

The three readings for today speak of destiny, and God’s blessing and favor. In Genesis we are told that Eve became the Mother of all the Living. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds them they have been blessed with every spiritual blessing and are destined for adoption by God. In Luke, the Angel tells Mary she has found favor with God.

How lavishly, God, with amazing generosity seems to bestow good things on his people. We, like the Ephesians, Eve, and Mary have only to reach out and accept what God wishes to give us. So today open your Advent hands and heart. You will be pleased with the gifts you receive.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Advetn Calendar, December 8

Isaiah 11:1-10 (4A); Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12

Reflection by Sister Barbara Lynn Schmitz

The teaching of the church tells us that our Blessed Mother was born without the stain of original sin. For many of us this language is confusing and difficult to understand.  What is the stain of original sin? Is it our human condition which urges us to seek self over God? Is it our inability to live our lives surrendering our very beings to God's loving embrace?

Answers to these questions are mere human attempts to explain the mystery of our faith. Perhaps today reflecting on the birth and life of Mary is a call to reflect on the ways that our loving God is calling us to let go of the pain and anguish of our human weakness.

Isaiah tells us from the stump of Jesse, a shoot shall sprout and a bud shall blossom.  New life will come to those who listen to the word of God. Mary listened to the word of God. She shows us the path to take. Her life exemplifies a faith that proclaims that all things are possible with God.

Mary's whole life points to Jesus. With her whole being she embraces a life where mystery calls for faith and faith calls for action. From the first moment of Jesus stirring in her womb to the cross, Mary knew joy and anguish. A sword pierced her heart but she also saw the glory of Resurrection.

Our lives today may be a series of dyings and risings, certainly we must carry our cross, but  Mary's witness has shown us that we need only to look to Jesus. Jesus loved his mother Mary. Jesus loves each of us and calls us closer to himself through  this mystery of faith.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 7

Isaiah 30:19-21, 23-26; Matthew 9:35-10:1, 5a, 6-8

Reflection by Sister Jean Marie Ballard
Monastery Treasurer, Bakery Supervisor

In today’s Gospel, we hear of Jesus curing every disease and illness and that he gave the apostles authority over unclean spirits to cure every disease and every illness. This strikes me today because of the huge world of medicine and the great efforts that health care professionals make to cure every disease and every illness. What training did Jesus and his disciples have?

Jesus saw the crowds and was moved. And he instructed the twelve: Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. At times this directive of Jesus seems impossible to fulfill. But we, like Jesus, are moved with pity for those in need.

The words of Isaiah give me hope. The Lord “will be gracious to you when you cry out, as soon as he hears, he will answer you. The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst.”

How will you respond to Jesus’ instruction to cure the sick today?
How will you receive God’s graciousness today?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 6

Isaiah 29:17-24; Matthew 9:27-31

Reflection by Sister Catherine Marie Duenne
Music Minister for St. Ferdinand, St. Anthony, and Sacred Heart of Jesus in Schnellville

Both of today’s readings mention the blind being able to see. In Isaiah, we read “And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see.” In the Gospel of Matthew, we hear of two blind men who call out to Jesus for pity. Jesus touches their eyes and says, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” Their eyes are then opened.

When I hear stories like this, I think of my own spiritual blindness. Am I aware of the ways in which I am blind? At the end of each day, how do I answer the following questions?

Have I followed the Gospel?
Have I been Christ to those around me?
Have I recognized Christ in all people and all creation?

If I have failed in these areas,I too am spiritually blind and am in need of Jesus’ healing. I too need to call out to Jesus for pity.

I recently heard an interesting story and will do my best to retell it.

A rabbi asked his students, “How do you know when night has ended and the day has arrived?”

One student answered, “The night has ended and day has arrived when you can look off in the distance and see an animal, and you know if the animal is a sheep or a goat.”

Another student answered, “The night has ended and day has arrived when you can look off in the distance and see a tree, and you know if it is a fig tree or a peach tree.”

A third student answered, “The night has ended and day has arrived when you can look off in the distance and see a person, and you know if the person is a friend or an enemy.”

The rabbi was not satisfied with any of these answers. He corrected them by saying, “The night has ended and day has arrived when you can look at the face of any person and see the face of a brother or a sister. Only until then has the day arrived. If you look at someone and cannot see the face of a brother or sister, you are still living in darkness, and no matter what time it is, for you it is still night.”

How is my spiritual sight? Am I like the two in the Gospel who called out to Jesus, “Son of David, have pity on us!” Am I in need of healing? Will I allow Jesus to open my eyes as he did the two in the Gospel so that I too can see with the eyes of faith?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 5

Is. 26:1-6 Mt. 7:21, 24-27

Reflection by Sister Michelle Mohr
Liturgical Assistant, Ferdinand, Indiana

At times I read Scripture and find it perplexing. This is one of those times. Both the Old Testament reading from Isaiah and the Gospel reading from Matthew leave me in a quandary. I realize that the image of a house built on rock or sand or whatever type of earthy material is the foundation for a building does not indicate a material dwelling. However, I can’t turn off the images in my mind of the many natural disasters that tear through structures, wash out foundation and leave families destitute. My mind wanders to the various weather reports, warnings to evacuate or to find a safe shelter, and once again I think that the type of building doesn’t matter. Therefore, should I conclude that this passage from Matthew is irrelevant? Do I close my Bible and put it on a shelf? No, because I hear a voice within me say, “Go deeper”.

Perhaps the house is my life and the question is, “What values do I hold as my foundation, as my rock”. The passage from Isaiah gives us a few building stones. We are urged to keep faith, be of steadfast mind, and trust in God. The prophet reminds us that in God we have an everlasting rock.

Regarding the storm warnings, I believe we do experience storms in our lives and, yes, I think we do receive warnings of impending storms. They come to us in the form of stress, or fatigue, or loneliness, or a sense of unrest. An unsuspecting illness certainly falls into this category as well. Awareness of storms or oncoming storms in our lives need to be recognized in order that we remain open and steadfast to our God who is our shelter and our rock.

What are your storm warning signs?
What are your foundation stones?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Calendar, December 4

Isaiah 25: 6- 10a

Matthew 15: 29-37

Reflection by Sister Anita Louise Lowe
Liturgist, Ferdinand, Indiana

Today’s reading from the Book of Prophet Isaiah provides us with rich images portraying the day when God returns to dwell among the people of Israel.  Isaiah tells us that, on that day God will feed the people with “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-matured wines.” God will also “wipe away the tears from all faces,” and will “swallow up death for ever.” On that day, creation will be returned to its origins, to the way life was when the first humans lived in the Garden of Eden. There they were with God, walked with God, and talked with God. There they were given to feast on the bounty of the garden. The vision of Isaiah is that one day humanity will dwell again with God and feast in paradise. 

This prophesy foreshadows the ministry of Jesus shown in today’s Gospel passage. Jesus went up to the mountain where great crowds came to him. There he healed them and wiped away their tears of pain and sorrow. There he fed them with bread and fish. Jesus’ call to his disciples to cure the sick and feed the hungry continues to be our call today as his followers. We are called to be the body of Christ for those around us, for our neighbors, and for our world. During this Advent season may we recognize that we are the presence of Christ for others, and may we answer the call to be Christ, to reach out with hands of healing, to speak words of peace and reconciliation, to feed those who are hungry — physically and spiritually.

In the words of Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ must look out on the world. Yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good. Yours are the hands with which He is to bless His people.”

Questions for Reflection: 
Who has been Christ for me in the difficult times of my life?
To whom am I being sent to be the presence of Christ today?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent Calendar - December 3

Isaiah 11: 1-10

Reflection by Sister Briana Elisabeth Craddock
Ferdinand, Indiana

“Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.”

As human beings, we rely on our five senses to gather information about the world around us. The images that we see and the sounds that we hear make particular impressions on us. From the experiences that we have related to the sights and sounds, we make judgments. We may exclaim over the beauty of a sunset over the ocean or smile when we hear certain Christmas carols. Someone may hear or see the same thing that we see or hear but evaluate it differently based on associations to past experiences. The sunset over the ocean might be seen as a harbinger of darkness and fear. A person might feel grumpy when he or she hears Christmas carols because loved ones have died and there is a feeling of loss associated with Christmas.
It is very difficult, at times, to separate our judgments about people or events because we have seen or heard something that sways us to believe one way or another. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will not judge based upon appearances or on hearsay. The Messiah will judge with justice rather than unethical means.
What would happen if we chose to live today without judging others through appearances or hearsay? Perhaps instead of passing along gossip we could let the harsh words stop with us. Perhaps we could receive all as Christ, even those whose ideas or appearances differ from our own.
Questions for Reflection:
How easy is it for me to pass along gossip?
How do I react when someone else does not see eye-to-eye with me?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent Calendar - December 2

Isaiah 4:2-6

Reflection by Sister Briana Elisabeth Craddock
Ferdinand, Indiana

“Then will the LORD create,
over the whole site of Mount Zion
and over her place of assembly,

A smoking cloud by day
and a light of flaming fire by night.
For over all, the LORD’s glory will be shelter and protection:
shade from the parching heat of day,

refuge and cover from storm and rain.”

Today’s reading from Isaiah calls to mind the story of the Israelites’ journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land. During the Exodus, God led the Israelites to freedom by means of a column of smoke during the day and a column of fire by night. These elements served to protect and to guide the people on their journey.

In the same way today, God is with us, leading us and guiding us. Unlike the Israelites or like the Mount Zion of which Isaiah speaks, we do not have the benefit of a smoking cloud or of fire to guide us. Upon what can we rely now to know where God is leading us?

The answer to this question lies in the person of Jesus himself. The Gospels tell us of Jesus’ words and actions, thoughts and beliefs. Through Jesus we are guided to be people of compassion, patience, kindness, and love. Through Jesus, we come to know God’s shelter and protection even in the darkest times.

Questions for Reflection:

How am I aware of God’s presence and guidance in my life?

To what does God seem to be calling me?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Advent Calendar - December 1

Isaiah 2:1-5

Reflection by Sister Briana Elisabeth Craddock
Ferdinand, Indiana

“They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks;
one nation shall not raise the sword against another,
nor shall they train for war again.”

When I read today’s passage from Isaiah, I get that all-over “warm fuzzy” feeling that Advent brings. An end to violence seems possible. Peace seems to be on the horizon. Advent is a season full of promise, and with it come the hope and expectation that things will finally be different.

Today’s passage is more than just a “feel good” passage, however. Isaiah juxtaposes the sword, which is an instrument of death, with a plowshare, which is an instrument of life. The sword rends the body and causes the body to die, while the plowshare creates a furrow in the soil so that seeds can be planted and new life can begin. Likewise, a spear is a weapon that is meant to harm a person, while a pruning hook is used to cut back fruit trees so that they can become healthier and produce even more fruit. Isaiah tells us that in order to walk in God’s ways, we must beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. In other words, peace does not just happen; we have to make the conscious decision to change our death-dealing ways into life-giving ones.

While we may not wield swords in our everyday lives, we do things that are in opposition to creating an environment for life and growth. We gossip. We make “snarky” comments. We choose to remain silent instead of offering a word of encouragement or a listening ear. We roll our eyes, sometimes just internally, when “that person” does “that thing” that we cannot stand. If we really want peace, though, we have to make the choice to choose life in all that we do. Peace is on the horizon, but we need to change our lives so that we are helping to bring it about in this time and in this place.

Questions for Reflection:

What swords do I use that I need to beat into plowshares?

What is one choice that I can make today to help bring about new life?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

God's Presence in the Holidays

I hope amidst all the holiday bargains and Santas everywhere that we also remember Thanksgiving and the many ways God has blessed us.  I'm always reminded, especially during this time of year, of the many people who are lonely, depressed, unemployed, struggling in any way, and those who are grieving a loss of any kind, whether it be a loss of a loved one, a loss of a physical ability, a loss because of a natural disaster, or any kind of loss.

It's not always easy to approach the holidays.  Society tells us to be cheerful during this time, but depending on the circumstances in which we find ourselves that may not always be possible.  Hopefully, for those who find the holidays difficult, there can be comfort in knowing that God is always present. 

Christ knows how we feel for he too suffered, but rose again.  Our suffering in this world, no matter how great, is only temporary.  We are never alone for God is embracing us and continually showering us with love.  Are we open to feeling God's embrace and receiving God's love?

Whether we look forward to the holidays or find these times difficult, let us pray that we may grow in awareness of God's love and presence here with us always.

May you be blessed this Thanksgiving holiday.

Friday, November 15, 2013

John 15:1-8

Reflection:  Feast of St. Gertrude

            There are some things in our world that are so connected that it is hard to think of one and not also think of the other.  Like salt and pepper, macaroni and cheese.  The two are closely connected and are a pair.  People are like that too.  When you think of someone, you may immediately connect them with the work they do or a product they have made.  Bill Gates is connected with Microsoft, Steve Jobs with Apple computers, and the Manning brothers with football.

            When I was growing up, we had a priest in my hometown who helped us renovate our church.  We would have always connected him with the renovation if it weren’t for the fact that when he left, he said he did not want to be remembered as the priest who painted the church, he wanted to be remembered as the priest who loved.  He did not want his connection to be to a certain action in his life, but rather to a way of life, a way of being. 

            When we think of ourselves, with what do we see ourselves connected?  Are we so connected to Jesus that the Gospel passage rings true, “Remain in me as I remain in you.”  St. Gertrude whose feast we celebrate today, knew this connection well.  She said to God, “I can find no pleasure in anything on earth save in yourself alone, my sweetest Lord.”  To this, God responded, “And in the same way, I find nothing in heaven or on earth which could please me without you” (The Classics of Western Spirituality, Gertrude of Helfta:  The Herald of Divine Love, 1993). 

When people see us and speak with us, do they see Christ?  Is Christ so alive within us, and we are so connected with Christ that it is impossible to tell where I end and Christ begins?  St. Paul knew this connection well when he wrote in Galatians, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).  John the Baptist was also aware of this connection.  “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  When people see us, do they see the work we do or the products we make or do these things lead them to something greater than ourselves?  Do they see much more in our words and actions?  Do they see Christ?  Do they experience love?    

            There’s a story of a man who went to the doctor and was told he had 3 years to live.  You can imagine the shock he experienced.  He decided he was going to live life to the fullest.  He was kinder than he had ever been before.  He was gentler.  The things that people said or did that would bother him in the past did not bother him anymore.  He saw people in need and helped them.  He gave away all the nonessentials in his life.  People noticed a huge difference in his personality and behavior.  They were drawn to him.  He was now connected to Christ.  He saw Christ in the people around him, and people saw Christ in him.  Christ remained in him.  He lived in such a way that Christ radiated through him, through his words and actions. 

            After some time, the man went back to the doctor, and the doctor said, “Great news!  We have found a cure.  You will have a complete recovery.”  This was great news to the doctor, but it wasn’t for the man.  He began to cry.  He was afraid he would slip back to his old ways.

            Christ is always with us, all around us, ready for us to bear much fruit if we remain in him and allow him to remain in us.  Remaining in Christ is like a fish remaining in water.  Water is the life source for the fish.  Christ is our life source to God.  We remain in Christ as Christ remains in God.  Without Christ, we can do nothing. 

            To remain in Christ, we cannot just stay at the surface level and be satisfied.  There’s a story of a little boy who fell out of bed.  When asked why he fell out, he said, “I guess I just stayed too close to where I got in.”  We continue our journey to God, not satisfied with staying at the surface level, but growing more fully aware of God’s love and presence with us and around us. 

The priest in my hometown did not want to be remembered as the priest who painted the church, but rather as the priest who loved.  When people see us, what do they see?  Do they see the Gospel passage being lived, “Remain in me as I remain in you.”  Do they see Christ so alive in us that they no longer see us, but Christ who lives within us?