Advent

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18

by Catherine Heinhold
returned Maryknoll lay missioner

Isaiah 7:10-14 | Romans 1:1-7 | Matthew 1:18-24

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Advent is a season of waiting – waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. As people of faith, we believe that God will be faithful. We know from experience, however, that this does not mean we will not encounter difficulty, defeat, and suffering. So what does God’s faithfulness actually mean?

The people in today’s readings find themselves in difficult situations. Ahaz, the king of Judah, under pressure of attack from would-be allies, found himself tempted to rely on an earthly power (Assyria). Isaiah relays the word of the Lord, that Ahaz should trust in God’s faithfulness, and that he may even ask for a sign from the Lord. Ahaz does not want a sign, but God, through Isaiah, gives him one anyway – that a young woman would conceive, bear a son, and name him Emmanuel. Today’s reading ends here, but the story continues: Ahaz refuses to trust in the Lord and instead trusts in Assyria, placing his kingdom under subjugation. So then what happened to God’s promise of faithfulness?

In today’s Gospel reading, Joseph also finds himself in a sticky situation. When Mary’s pregnancy is discovered, he believes that the right thing to do under Mosaic law is to divorce her. He wants to do the right thing, but he does not want Mary to suffer. We can imagine his anguish at the situation. Like Ahaz, Joseph receives a message from God, this time from an angel in a dream who explains the situation and promises that the child to be born will save the people from their sins. Matthew connects this message to the message Isaiah gave to Ahaz – a promise given that in fact has not been broken (despite Ahaz’s lack of faith), and is about to be fulfilled in a new and more complete way. And the promise is this: God with us. Emmanuel. Not God-who-will-fix-every-difficulty-and-prevent-all-suffering-right-now. God who will be with us, who will live with us, who will rejoice with us, who will suffer and die with us. This is God’s solidarity with God’s people…

Click here to read the rest of this reflection on the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns website.

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This reflections was prepared by Catherine Heinhold, a returned Maryknoll Lay Missioner, for the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns Advent reflections series.

Advent

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent, December 11

by Janice McLaughlin, MM
African Forum for Catholic Social Teaching

Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10 | James 5:7-10 | Matthew 11:2-11

“Be patient and stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.” (James 5:8)

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Advent is a time to be patient and to stand firm, not losing hope even if the situation looks hopeless – as it does in war-torn countries such as South Sudan. This past week Pax Christi International held a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on the theme “Nonviolence in Africa – Creating a Future of Hope.” The participants came from 12 countries on the African continent, all of which have suffered war or violence at some time. Each of the participants is working for peaceful change and has not given up hope in a better future.

Bishop Paride Taban, who attended the conference from South Sudan, is himself a sign of hope. After retiring as bishop of Torit Diocese, he founded a peace village in his country that brings together people from various ethnic groups and political persuasions, showing that people can live together in peace, regardless of their differences.

At 80, he still plays soccer with the youth and spreads the message of nonviolence near and far. “I have always done my best to be a sower of peace and a bridge maker, despite all the violence and evil surrounding me,” he says. Like John the Baptist, he is a prophet preparing the way for the Lord’s coming and proclaiming God’s message of love and peace.

Each one of us, like Bishop Taban and John the Baptist, is called to be a sower of peace and a bridge maker. We may not live in a war zone, but we can find people in our families and in our neighborhoods or work places who need a word of encouragement or a sign of forgiveness. Let us create a future of hope, wherever we are!

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Janice McLaughlin, MM was a participant in the Pax Christi International conference “Nonviolence in Africa: Creating a Future of Hope,” held this past week, 5-9 December, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Advent

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent, December 4

by Judy Coode
Project Coordinator, Catholic Nonviolence Initiative

Isaiah 11:1-10 | Romans 15:4-9 | Matthew 3:1-12

“There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain, for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of God.” (Isaiah 11:9)

adv4Today’s reading from Isaiah is one of my favorites – it gives us the promise of the peaceable kingdom, with the lamb lying down next to the lion, and the wolf and the leopard, everyone relieved of fright since “the earth was filled with the knowledge of God.” In other words, ignorance breeds fear, but opening our minds and hearts to the “other” — dismantling that ignorance that stifles love — will give us the security God promises. It is our responsibility to do this, even when the effort to remain open to God’s work in all things is sometimes challenging.

As we enter this second week of Advent, the reading from Romans assures us that God will give us the necessary patience and encouragement to make this peaceable kingdom happen, but we need to embody both fidelity and mercy – the former valued by the Jews and the latter by the Gentiles – to fully respond to God’s call. And how might this look? Matthew’s Gospel then introduces the fantastic prophet John the Baptist, a wild man whose deep faith in the Messiah is thrilling and a little scary. We almost pity the poor Pharisees and Sadducees who John slams as a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7). What would he call us? Do we have John’s clarity of purpose? Are we ready for what – or who – is coming?

“Oh come, thou rod of Jesse, free your own from Satan’s tyranny. From the depths of hell your people save and give them victory o’er the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you, oh Israel.”

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Judy Coode is the project coordinator for the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, a project of Pax Christi International.

Advent, Peace Spirituality

ADVENT 2016: A reflection for the First Sunday of Advent, November 27

by Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN
Pax Christi USA

Isaiah 2:1-5 | Romans 13:11-14 | Matthew 24:37-44

“And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.” Romans 13:11

adv4Who or what do we wait for?

Advent is a strange time. We wait for the One who has already come. We wait for the One who is in our midst struggling and living among us. We wait for the One who beckons us from an unknown and unimagined future.

We wait, sometimes quietly, sometimes perched on tiptoes, sometimes in the midst of frenzied activity, sometimes not sure what we are waiting for, but always with the expectation that something will happn that will give our waiting purpose and meaning.

The Isaiah reading has the people climbing a mountaintop waiting to be instructed in the ways of God. In Romans, we read that the people are waiting for the dawn to reveal how to live honorably. In the Gospel we are told to anticipate the unexpected and to be prepared to find the Promised One in the most unlikely places.

In the ebbing time of 2016, where are the unlikely people and places where the Promised One is to be found?

  • In the neighborhoods that we tell our children not to go into…
  • In the people we ignore because fear holds us hostage…
  • In those who dress differently and speak with an accent, who we claim have no right to be in our country…
  • In communities that challenge us to confront our privilege…

The swords and spears of our time are drones, military hardware, and systemic racism, along with malicious gossip, judgement towards others. back-biting, grudge-holding, and bullying.

What is these swords were turned to acceptance, respect, trust and peace-with-justice activities? Advent would no longer be a strange time.

For reflection

What are the swords and spears in my life that need conversion?

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Sr. Anne-Louise Nadeau, SNDdeN is the program director for Pax Christi USA. This reflection is from the booklet, Journey towards Justice: Reflections for Advent and Christmas 2016.