Reflection for the third week of advent

Sunday, December 17, 2017

in News

No Time To Stifle Ourselves

Many will know of the 1970’s television series, All In The Family. The two main characters were Archie Bunker and his wife Edith Bunker. Archie was a crusty, unfiltered blue-collar guy who expressed opinions on race, religion and other social topics in a way that would make people cringe today. Edith, though sometimes ditsy and confused, could take on Archie with surprising wisdom and strength. When Archie didn’t like what he heard from Edith, he would dismiss her with a brusque “Stifle yourself, Edith!”

Edith didn’t always stifle herself. When Archie challenged her most deeply held thoughts and feelings, she let him know he had finally crossed a line and pushed him back into his place.

The Third Sunday of Advent has traditionally been called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word for rejoice. In the past when our observance of Advent was more akin to a Lenten discipline, this Sunday was a time to take a breather and celebrate the nearness of Christmas. The scripture selections for this Sunday still reflect the theme of rejoicing, calling us to “rejoice heartily in the Lord.”

Henri Nouwen wrote of joy as an internal orientation that is not dependent on external circumstances, whether they are good or bad. Joy is rooted in the sense of unconditional love—love that comes from God and is experienced in those around us.  

Joy requires confidence and trust that this love is real, reliable and never ending. Reflecting more deeply on the scriptures for the Third Sunday of Advent, we see Isaiah’s confidence at work as he describes his sense of purpose: to bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted and bring release to prisoners. This confidence is rooted in his relationship with God, in what he calls, “the joy of my soul.” Similarly, John the Baptizer knows his place in relationship to Jesus, he says: “I am not the Messiah … I am a voice in the desert crying out: Make straight the way of the Lord!” Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to live from a sense of joy because God’s love for them has been expressed in Christ Jesus.

This week of Advent is less about seeing Christmas near at hand, and more about renewing our sense of purpose and our unique place in the unfolding process of bringing about God’s reign. The work continues and we have a part to play.

We experience pressure from many sources that tell us to stifle ourselves, sometimes draining energy from our unique mission as a health ministry and our own sense of purpose as individuals.

The confidence of Isaiah, Paul and John in their relationship with God and purpose in the world models what a deeply held conviction can do for us.

This week of Advent may be a time for us to guard carefully against those influences that would tell us to “stifle ourselves.” Like Edith Bunker, may we find the right time and place to draw the line. May the examples of Isaiah, Paul and John give us the wisdom to know when that is.

Copyright 2017 Catholic Health Association of the United States. Reposted with permission.

Reflection for the second week of Advent

Sunday, December 10, 2017

in News

In the Meantime

There was a post on Facebook commemorating a person who recently died. It read simply: “Born 1932. Died 2017. In between, amazing human being.” It was a very simple way to sum up the life of the person. The sentiment it represents is echoed to some extent in the exhortation in the Second Letter of Peter, one of the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent. Peter writes, “ … what sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God!”

Peter reflects the early church’s belief that the end time was not far off, and that believers should be faithful at every moment, ready to welcome the Lord in his second coming at any time. He suggests that we may indeed have a part in bringing about the second coming by living lives of holiness, as he writes, “ … he shows you generous patience, since he wants none to perish but all to come to repentance.” In other words, God is willing to wait until we are ready to accept and love Him as He has already accepted and loved us.

Advent is considered a time of waiting for the Lord to appear in our lives. In this view, it is we who do the waiting. But if we reflect carefully on these words of Peter, perhaps we should turn that around and reflect on the possibility that it is God who is waiting for us.

In reality, there is no waiting for God, for God has already given us the gift of his son Jesus, who lived among us, died at our hands and rose again to reveal for us the promise of eternal life. This is the core belief of Christians. In a sense, the ball is now in our court to plumb the depths of that mystery; to understand what difference it can make in our lives. God is waiting for us.

If we take this view, Advent becomes a time for us to reflect more deeply on the shape of our “in between” time.

How does the conduct of our health ministry reflect God’s reign to those we serve beyond the day-to-day business concerns we must address?

What difference does it make to our manner of conducting the business of health care when we think of our work as hastening God’s reign?

More personally, if I am willing to accept that God is waiting for me, how does that change the priorities of my “in between” time here and now?


Copyright 2017 Catholic Health Association of the United States. Reposted with permission


Reflection for first week of Advent

Sunday, December 3, 2017

By Turning, Turning, We Come ‘Round Right
Most of us are aware that as we begin this season of Advent, we begin a new year, a new cycle in our liturgical observance. We begin to tell the story of God’s action in our history by turning back to promises of old, promises fulfilled in the person [more…]

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Reflection for the fourth week of Advent: Protectors and teachers of the young

Sunday, December 18, 2016

(This reflection is reposted from Catholic Health Association.) As we mark the fourth week of Advent, while the world goes about preparing to celebrate Christmas, let’s take some time to consider the children in our communities and around the globe who can only hope to have a home, to live and be healthy. Let’s also [more…]

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Reflection for the third week of Advent: Caring for the next generation

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Midway in Life’s Journey: Caring for the Next Generation
(This reflection is reposted from Catholic Health Association.)The cycle of the liturgical year begins as all long journeys begin, with fear, dread and hope in the discoveries to come. It is the third week of Advent, and we are mid-way in our journey toward the joy [more…]

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Advent reflection: hope fulfilled

Sunday, December 20, 2015

“O Radiant Dawn, come and shine on those who dwell in the darkness of the shadow of death.” O Antiphon – December 21

Have you ever been told not to get your hopes too high? The kind admonisher is trying to protect you. But you, like all human beings, still hope for everything, no matter the odds!
What [more…]

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Advent reflection: finding joy

Monday, December 14, 2015

“The Lord, your God … will rejoice over you with gladness.” Zephaniah 3:17
Is there a difference between happiness and joy? Walking through the Med-Surg area, the chaplain juggled that question. He had just left Betty whose test results had proven benign. Her reaction still echoed in his mind. Like someone waking from a bad dream, she [more…]

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Advent reflection: A channel for holiness

Sunday, December 6, 2015

“From you rose the Sun of Justice, Christ our God.” Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Lectionary: 690A
There are a few places where nature offers an experience of darkness so absolute it can be terrifying. Assateague Island lies along the barrier coast of Virginia. On a winter night, darkness there feels complete, enveloping. As evening [more…]

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Advent reflection: Transforming humanness into glory

Sunday, November 29, 2015

“On that day, the Lord will bind up the wounds of his people.” Isaiah 30:26
Christine is a beautiful woman, inside and out. She is as vital as fresh air or summer sun. She is successful, strong, sincere and faith-filled. But her heart is a fragile, hidden glass, ready to break at any moment, from a family member’s [more…]

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Spirituality and You: Beginning Advent

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sister Valerie Sweeney reminds us that this week we begin the season of ADVENT. The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning COMING. The Lord is coming. It is a time of expectancy and joyful anticipation for the feast of Christmas. During Advent Christians recall the history of God’s people, and reflect on how [more…]

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