These comments on Scripture and on events of our time
flow from the prayerful reflection and rich experience
of our Sisters, Associates and colleagues. We are happy
to offer them to you,
and pray that these words will open your heart
to the living Word of God.
Reflection for December 8 and 15, 2013 ~ Second and Third Sundays of Advent
by Sr. Regina Bechtle, SC
What does God want? Advent reminds us that God has great dreams -- for people, for nations, for all creatures, for Earth itself. In the Advent Scripture readings we find powerful images of the desires of God's heart.
First, God longs for justice and peace. The Responsorial Psalm for the Second Sunday of Advent tells us that "justice shall flourish in God's time, and fullness of peace forever." (Ps. 72) What does this look like? Isaiah describes a realm where even natural enemies live in peace: "the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and…the calf and young lion shall browse together." (Is. 11:6-8) Pure fantasy? Impossible dream? Listen to the story of James, a homeless man living in Boston. Recently James found a knapsack with over $40,000. He brought it to the police, saying, "I don't need it. I live in a good shelter with 3 meals a day. I have all I need." Amazed, the police asked him, "Isn't there anything we can do for you?" Without hesitation, James told them his wish: "No more war." James' desire echoed God's own: follow the way of justice, and peace will flourish.
Second, God is passionate about caring for those in need. Our God, we hear, is one who shall "rescue the poor when they cry out, and the afflicted when they have no one to help them." (Ps. 72) In his day St. Vincent de Paul worried, "What will become of the poor and where will they find bread? I confess that this is a weight on my mind and source of great grief."
In our day, many are concerned about the growing numbers of people who are hungry in our nation and world. Pope Francis and faith-based organizations like Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, and Bread for the World, are calling for a massive campaign to end hunger. The Pope will launch the campaign on Tuesday, December 10, 2013, with a global "wave of prayer." On this day, people of faith will pause at noon in each time zone around the world to pray for an end to hunger.
(You can find a prayer at: https://support.catholiccharitiesusa.org/images/CARITAS%20HUNGER%20CAMPAIGN%20PRAYER.pdf
and more information at http://support.catholiccharitiesusa.org/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=12414 )
Pure fantasy? Impossible dream? Not if we believe the angel Gabriel's words to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you….for nothing will be impossible for God." (Luke1: 35-37)
God also desires unity and communion in all creation. Rev. Gregory Gay, Superior General of the Vincentian Fathers and Brothers, reminds us, "Advent is the ember of a fire stoking the hearth of the soul to a deeper reality: God is at work in our world, no matter what time or season." Fr. Gay continues, "Advent is a time for transformation to a way of love that shows itself in solidarity with others….The donation of self in love of God and service of neighbor is the greatest gift we can give at Christmas, or at any time of year." God is indeed at work where people of good will and compassionate hearts reach out to help others. Pure fantasy? Impossible dream? Not if we believe that we have already received the greatest gift possible in Jesus the Christ, one of us, one like us, the sign and pledge of God's own ever-present bending down to us.
May the deep desires of God's heart – for justice, peace, care for the poor and hungry, unity and communion - find a home in our hearts this Christmas and throughout the year to come!
Sr. Regina serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity
of New York. A retreat leader and spiritual director, she gives presentations
to lay and religious groups about St. Elizabeth Seton
and our Vincentian-Charity heritage of spirituality.
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