The Fourth Sunday of Advent: What Are We Really Waiting For?

William Ockham:

Very thoughtful and personal reflection from Katherine Greiner, Doctorate Student in Theology at Boston College. Here is an excerpt:

“Their stories remind us that each of us is called in our own unique way to participate in the unfolding of God’s mysterious plan. What makes David and Mary so special is not their superhuman capabilities, but their courageous capacity to participate in God’s creative mission, to make room for God and give space for God’s creative actions to take place. They each lived into their relationships with God, eager to see what God will bring about in their lives. This ability to say yes and then to risk all in order to participate in God’s life reveals their deep trust in God’s love and grace. What both David and Mary show us is the promise that with God’s mercy and love, we are enough. They lived their lives in a posture of trust and love. Perfectionism, on the other hand, indicates a life lived in a posture of fear—not trust.”

Originally posted on Daily Theology:

advent candlesThe fourth and final candle is lit. The stockings are hung. The trees are up. The planes have landed.

In the words of Joni Mitchell:

It’s coming on Christmas.

They’re cutting down the trees.

They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace.

And I do wish I had a river to skate away on. Personally, it has been a difficult Advent this year. Like many of our Daily Theology contributors as well as many of its faithful readers I am in the middle of The Dissertation. Currently The Dissertation stands as the central symbol of all my personal anxieties and struggles. Working on this seemingly unconquerable tome as brought me into a different kind of Advent experience than I’ve ever had before. It has been more visceral and liminal. And, unfortunately, no amount of Christmas carols, stocking stuffers, or spiked eggnog is going to bring it to…

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Sunday Reflection, Fourth Sunday of Advent (December 21, 2014): Letting God Embrace Us

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My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. — Luke 1:46-47

This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. The readings can be found here. This is a very busy time of year for many of us and it is easy to get caught up in the pressures of daily life. For me, it is stressful as it is the busiest time of year at work. This tends to result in guilt of being away from my family, not to mention physical, mental and emotional fatigue.

I was pleased to find this week’s reflection comes from John Predmore, S.J. which helps put me at ease.  You can read the full reflection here but set forth below is an excerpt:

In our daily prayer, we often look for God and we sit and wait and hope for a clear response. These two Advent sequences flip things around for David and Mary. Perhaps we have to toss things around in our prayer so that instead of directing our attention at God, we simply notice God directing attention at us. This shift in direction is crucial. When we let this happen, we let prayer be accomplished along God’s initiative. It is not that we search for God, it is that God has already found us and is seeking us. We have to notice that God is gazing upon us the way we marvel at the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree. God’s dwelling is already within us; we do not have to look on the outside anymore.

Some of us get uncomfortable when someone stares at us because we know we are desired in some way. What if we just showed up to prayer and realized God’s stare is riveted upon us because God warmly desires to be with us. We do not have to do anything but to let God come closer – something we both want. Even God’s most intense gaze is enough for us to handle because God’s parental care is communicated so thoroughly that we just receive what God extends to us.

Sometimes we do not want to show up to pray because events as not going so well. Though we try to be a loving person who follows the road of discipleship, we are left feeling beaten down by the tactics of others who tell us there’s something wrong with us. Others can make us feel miserable and we begin to diminish our self worth. These are the times when we avoid prayer at all costs because we figure God might not like our ways either, but these are especially the times that we have to sit before God in prayer – just to have God look upon us and heal us because of the many ways others have sinned against us and beaten us down. Allow God to be a loving parent to that part of you that is raw and unhealed and needs a blessing. Know that there is nothing wrong with you and that God just wants to bless you with love and grace. The gaze is gentle and tender and is a balm for all the world’s ills. God wants you to become strengthened by God’s compassion so that you may bring the gift of yourself to others – with warts and freckles, dimples and birthmarks. God finds it beautiful. We need to discover the beauty God sees within us.

In Advent, we find ourselves being blessed by God, similarly to the way Mary was. Within her grew the Christ-child, who would be given to others as a gift. Let the rest of this Advent be about receiving God’s breathtaking stare of every single graced moment of your day. Allow God to delight in you as you gracefully respond to God’s watchful eyes that glimmer and sparkle brighter than those Christmas tree lights. Know that you entrance God with you goodness, even in your struggles. God had promised to make his house within yours. God promised us Emmanuel – that God is with us. Now it is time to let him grow so he may delivered for the world’s salvation.

Read Full Reflection

Other Resources:

Living Space
Creighton Online Ministries

 

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James Martin, SJ On Being Interview

James Martin

One of favorite authors, James Martin, S.J. is on the latest show of On Being with Krista Tippett.  Not surprisingly, the title of the show is “Finding God in All Things”, which is a summary of Ignatian Spirituality.  Fr. Martin’s writings, especially his book “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything” were very instrumental in my adult move from agnosticism to Catholicism.

You can find links to the episode here, including podcast information and information on when it is being played on your local NPR station.

Link to Episode Information

James Martin Book “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything

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The Magi and the Internal Journey Through the Desert

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I received this reflection from a member of our prayer group and thought I would pass it on:

If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things and again with things,
if we consider ourselves so unimportant
that we fill every moment of our lives with action,
when will we have the time to take the long slow journey
across the desert as did the Magi?
Or sit and watch the stars, as did the shepherds?
Or brood over the coming of a child, as did Mary?

For each of us there is a desert to travel,
a star to discover
and a Being within ourselves to bring to life.

Author Unknown.

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The Incarnation and Evolution

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Last Friday the London, Ontario Free Press had a good article by Bruce Tallman on the meaning of the Incarnation in an evolutionary world. These ideas are consistent with those of Teilhard de Chardin although Teilhard would also emphasize that the Risen Christ (or the Omega Point) is continuing to attract each one of us and all of creation towards greater Unity with Him. You can find the entire article here but set forth below is an excerpt:

How does one integrate the theory of evolution with Christmas and with the apostle Paul writing that “In Christ all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1: 16-17)?

* * *

When Paul refers to “Christ Jesus,” it is not a case of dyslexia in the Bible. Paul is simply putting things in the right order, that is, the “Cosmic Christ” came first, and then Jesus of Nazareth. By the Cosmic Christ, I mean the one Christians traditionally think of as God before God took on human form.

* * *

There is . . . a clear direction to evolution: through natural selection, evolution creates beings of greater and greater consciousness and excellence, and therefore more capable of love. Animals are obviously more capable of love than plants, and humans are far more capable of love than animals. A dog might love its master and puppies, but humans can love God, others, themselves, and everything in the universe.

The same Cosmic Christ who created the universe also inhabited it. The Christ who was incarnate in the universe was constantly working through the evolutionary process, directing it by his love, and waiting for the perfect time to be born as a human being.

Thus, the whole direction of evolution found its fulfilment in the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the most conscious, excellent, and loving being of all. The entire purpose of the universe came together in Jesus the Christ, or Messiah, which means the Anointed One, that is, God in human form.

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Teilhard de Chardin Quote of the Week (December 15, 2014): Suffering as a Means to Union with God

Monkey Head Nebula

“I like to think that gradually, instead of being weighted down by your external cares, you’ll find yourself to some extent carried by them towards God, by the need you feel, in your love, to do something for him and your inability to do anything worth while except in close union with Him. Prayer and action should nourish one another — that goes without saying.” (emphasis in original)

–– Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Making of a Mind; Letters from a Soldier-Priest (p. 206)

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Sunday Reflection, Third Sunday of Advent (December 14, 2014): Rejoice!

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“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.” — Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

This Sunday is the Third Sunday of Advent, or Gaudete Sunday (Rejoice!).  The readings can be found here. The theme a call to rejoice and celebrate God’s presence even in this Advent Season of waiting.  As Pope Francis said in his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel):

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience. Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no longer room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt, and the desire to do good fades. This is a very real danger for believers too. Many fall prey to it, and end up resentful, angry and listless. That is no way to live a dignified and fulfilled life; it is not God’s will for us, nor is it the life in the Spirit which has its source in the heart of the risen Christ.”

This week’s reflection comes from Sacred Space 102fm in West Limerick, Ireland (and is attributable to St. Louis University).  The reflection is short but powerful as it captures the essence of being joyful in the presence of God even a bad situation. You can read the full reflection here but set forth below is a summary:

“Henri Nouwen was once asked: “Are you an optimist?” His reply: “No, not naturally, but that isn’t important. I live in hope, not optimism.”

Teilhard de Chardin once said the same thing in different words when he was accused of being overly-idealistic and unrealistic in the face all the negative things one sees in the world. A critic had challenged him: “Suppose we blow up the world with a nuclear bomb, what then happens to your vision of a world coming together in peace?” Teilhard’s response lays bare the anatomy of hope: “If we blow up the world by nuclear bombs, that will set things back some millions of years, but eventually what Christ promised will come about, not because I wish it, but because God has promised it and, in the resurrection, God has shown that God is powerful enough to deliver on that promise.”

Hope is precisely that, a vision of life that guides itself by God’s promise, irrespective of whether the situation looks optimistic or pessimistic at any given time.”

Read Full Reflection

Other Resources:

Reflection for Gaudette Sunday Last Year
Living Space
Creighton Online Ministries

 

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