I do not consider myself to be a teacher or leader or spokesperson with authority but this morning, it occurred to me that part of Christian-living means that we are everyday-teachers met with hope. To be Christian is to be hopeful and by our example in choosing God, we become as models and teachers to one another.
Parenthood is a domain in which I find myself living this out. What looks like clutter and a mess of children’s things became for me, an actual encounter with hope. At school, they’ve been learning about Advent. At the shops, they ask for advent calendars with chocolate inside. A few weeks ago I found a neglected plush advent wreath I had bought years ago and decided it was time to mend the broken pieces and make a replacement for the one candle that went walkabout. And today I found rather unassumingly among the mess, a deliberately placed solitary purple candle, with the other three tucked away.
Someone’s little hands had removed the four candles I had put in place so that they would not go astray and rightfully let one stand.
I am continually humbled by the presence of children, for their wisdom and simplicity. But today, it is hope that stands out for me. Children do soak things up, they do listen to what we say and watch very closely what we do. But when we can see the connection that has been made, for me at least, it is a sign of God’s hope in the world, the kind of hope we hear echoed in the words of St Paul to the Corinthians:
I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way…
God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:4-5a, 9)
With St Paul and like St Paul, I give thanks to my God for the graces given to each one of us, especially through children. The FCJ Sisters began from this lived experience of caring for children and always through instruction, formation and education. To be Christian is to be hopeful: not only because we await the presence of God-with-us through Jesus Christ, Emmanuel at Christmastime, but also because of God’s first faithfulness and love for us found in everyday moments.
Now God creates all things but does not stop creating. God forever creates and forever begins to create and creatures are always being created and in the process of beginning to be created. | Meister Eckhart
As we begin this new liturgical year, as we make way to commemorate the beginning of the Jesus story, let us be mindful that wherever we are on life’s journey – young or old, new to the faith or seasoned – by our actions, example and beings, we are teachers to one another, co-creators of life and sharers of good news.
The events of history were controlled
for my coming to this world
no less than for the coming of the Savior.
The time had to be ripe,
the place just right,
the circumstances ready,
before I could be born.
God chose the parents of his Son
and endowed them with the personality they needed
for the child that would be born.
I speak to God about the man and woman that he chose to be my parents
until I see that they had to be
the kind of human beings they were
if I was to become
what God meant me to be.
The Christ child comes, like every other child,
to give the world a message.
What message have I come to give?
I seek guidance from the Lord to express it
in a word
Christ comes into this world
to walk a certain path,
fulfil a certain destiny.
He consciously fulfilled what had be “written” for him.
As I look back I see in wonder what was “written”
and thus far been fulfilled
In my own life,
And for each part of that script,
I say, “Thanks”
To make it holy with my gratitude.
I look with expectation
at all that is to come
and, like Christ,
I say, “Yes. Let it be done.”
Finally I recall the song the angels sang
when Christ was born.
They sang of the peace and joy
that give God glory.
As we travel more closely toward the Feast of Christmas, may we continue to be mindful of all that we have been given in terms of graces, insight and memory. May we continue to strive to walk with God and follow Him, and to do so especially with those who need our help.
Thank you for your support and encouragement, input and contribution. We would like to wish you a happy holy and Merry Christmas, filled with the peace of Christ and the joy of salvation.
The coming of Christ invites a response of hospitality and welcome, something that is present in every journey. We have come to the fourth and final installment in our Advent retreat. This week’s reflection, to use the journeying motif again, looks at the stage of homecoming. In any journey out, we rely on the hospitality of others to give us food, accommodation or company. But when we return, hospitality and homecoming to ourselves are just as important.
Consider for a moment, your identity as a person of faith in God, in light of the following verses from the Second Reading (Romans 1:1-7):
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Keeping this in mind and heart, listen to O Come, Emmanuel as performed by The Piano Guys.
In the First Reading, Isaiah prophesies the coming of the one named Emmanuel. We are told the meaning of the name in Matthew’s gospel – God-with-us. Through the birth of the baby Jesus, God enters physically and bodily into our world.
God wants to be part of our world. God wants to be part of us. How do we welcome God into our homes, into our hearts?
The Christmas rush is upon us but there is still time to throw off the cloak of darkness and put on the light, which is to live according to the gospel of love. There is still time to bring about the peaceable kingdom where justice and peace reigns. In this Sunday’s gospel, we hear that Joseph wanted to divorce Mary quietly (because she was pregnant by another), that is, in private and out of the public eye, sparing both of them too much humiliation. Are we courteous with one another, especially our next of kin? What about the people we welcome into our homes over the Christmas season? And what about those we include even after the festivities have wound down?
Recall the apprehension of Mary in the reflection for the First Sunday. Though unnerving, Mary and Joseph set out on the journey, modelling for us to do the same, while with the assurance of following in the light of God. Now in the Fourth Week, the name and nature of God is proclaimed. God is with us, God is for us and God wants to remain with us for eternity.
As we end this retreat, we do so with gratitude for our time together in prayer and sharing. We continue to ask for God’s graces throughout the coming days as we prepare to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord.
Thefollowing quotes come from a recent interview with Pope Francis (10 December 2013):
What does Christmas mean for you?
“It is the encounter Jesus. God has always sought out his people, led them, looked after them and promised to be always be close to them. The Book of Deuteronomy says that God walks with us; he takes us by the hand like a father does with his child. This is a beautiful thing. Christmas is God’s meeting with his people. It is also a consolation, a mystery of consolation. Many times after the midnight mass I have spent an hour or so alone in the chapel before celebrating the dawn mass. I experienced a profound feeling of consolation and peace. I remember one night of prayer after a mass in the Astalli residence for refugees in Rome, it was Christmas 1974 I think. For me Christmas has always been about this; contemplating the visit of God to his people.”
What does Christmas say to people today?
“It speaks of tenderness and hope. When God meets us he tells us two things. The first thing he says is: have hope. God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the father who opens doors for us. The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church, that loses its sense of direction and is held back by ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you. I become fearful when Christians lose hope and the ability to embrace and extend a loving caress to others. Maybe this is why, looking towards the future, I often speak about children and the elderly, about the most defenceless that is. Throughout my life as a priest, going to the parish, I have always sought to transmit this tenderness, particularly to children and the elderly. It does me good and it makes me think of the tenderness God has towards us.”
How do you show tenderness? How do you bring hope?
Prayer: God of love, hope and tenderness – help me to always be generous in loving, in acts of tenderness and words of hope. Amen.
3rd Sunday of Advent: The Coming of the Lord is at Hand
Written by Geralyn Tan for Keeping Company. 2013.
We’ve been on the journey for some time now. We began our Advent journey by walking in the light of the Lord. We looked at what that means in restoring right relationship in the example from Isaiah, yet the readings from the Third Sunday of Advent – Gaudete Sunday – remind us that although our journey is well underway (and we cannot turn back), there is much more to come in the promises of joy and light! This is the dynamic of light and shade, of in-between time, where we live in hope for what is to come.
Time has been an underlying theme. The coming of the Lord is at hand, but we are not passive players. The waiting that we doinvolves that we wait patiently, as in the exhortation of the Second Reading:
Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
We are given some indication of how to wait patiently and productively by reflecting on the ways in which God deals with his people. In both the psalm and the gospel passages, we hear that God is merciful, just and compassionate. The God of the Old Testament and the coming Christ we read about in the Matthew’s gospel is one and the same, whose presence in our lives is not impartial. In other words, the action of God is very much at work in our lives.
And so too are we are called to care for one another.
We ought to remember that Mary and Joseph, for all their holiness, were also like us in their waiting. It’s not as though the baby was fully formed inside of Mary and she waited till she got to Bethlehem to give birth. Jesus, fully human as we are, but divine, would have gone through the same process of development all humans go through. And this period of gestation has particular elements of selfless giving and relating, one to another.
Before Jesus is born, a hidden world of interactions takes place inside his mother’s body. Whatever she eats, he takes in. Whatever she hears, he will also hear. And whatever she experiences, he is able to respond, in a kick or stretch here and there. Imagine the role of Mary as nourisher, protector and carer of the unborn child.
Note again, what the scripture says about God looking after us. His people are uplifted, the hungry are fed and justice is secured for the oppressed. And so too are we called to do for others in their favour, to look after them.
Mary and Joseph are also messengers of God. Inside her body, Mary carries the Word Incarnate.
How are we messengers for God? And in what ways do we carry this good news, this message in our lives?