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DECEMBER 25 Wednesday, The Nativity of the Lord

The Messiah is one of you

They made known the message that had been told them about this child. Luke 2:17

Monks

The monks in an ancient monastery were becoming ornery with one another. The abbot sought the guidance of a wise hermit, who said, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.”

The monks began to wonder: Who could it be? The abbot who has led us? Brother James, who is always late, yet exudes kindness? Brother Richard, who is so passive, yet always appears when help is needed? Of course, it couldn’t be me; I’m just an ordinary person.

The monks began to treat each other with exceptional respect and kindness on the off chance that one among them might be the Messiah. Because there was the possibility that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect too.

How our world changes when we see everyone as Christ! Today we celebrate not only Jesus’ coming 2000 years ago, but the gift that Jesus is incarnate today – through and in each of us.

DAILY PRACTICE: Each day choose a specific person to treat as though they were the Messiah. They are Christ among us.

ADVENT PRAYER: God Among Us, today is a profound mystery, for which all I can say is thank you. Empower me to do something because of this gift-to be Jesus in my world and to see Jesus in each person.

 

From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications

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DECEMBER 24 Tuesday the Fourth Week

Giving birth to growth

  “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has visited and
brought redemption to his people.”
Luke 1:68

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“Tell me, who made you?” the pastor asked the little boy. The youngster thought a moment, then said, “God made part of me.”

The pastor asked, “What do you mean part of you?”

“Well.” he replied, “God made me little. I grew the rest myself.”

We are at the highpoint of this season of God’s redemption, this season calling us to growth. What new thing has been born in you that has enabled you to continue “growing the rest yourself”? What virtue, what characteristic, what attitude, what practice?

Meister Eckhart (a medieval Dominican mystic) reminds us that “if this birth has truly taken place with you, then every single creature points you toward God.” Because every person, every creature, connects us to God, do the new traits, attitudes, and practices that have been born in us lead us to care for all?

DAILY PRACTICE: As you prepare for Christmas (the 12 days), write your own canticle of thanksgiving (as we pray today Zechariah’s canticle), listing what has been born in you this Advent and how these new things help you to be responsible for others.

ADVENT PRAYER: Birthing God, because of your inexhaustible generosity, you have visited us, calling us to growth. Inspire me to continually give birth to Jesus in my world.

 

From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications

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DECEMBER 23 Monday the Fourth Week

Be a trim tab

  “For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.”Luke 1:66

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Buckminster Fuller often spoke of the trim tab factor. Visualize a large ship. If the crew desired to turn this ship in a new direction, the first step would be to adjust the trim tab, a miniscule rudder along the length of the ship’s large rudder. The large rudder will only change directions when this tiny tab has been moved first.

Even in the midst of the joy of this season, there might be things within ourselves or in the circumstances of our lives that we wish could change. There might be situations in the world that need a change of direction. Living in the midst of these, often we feel we can’t do anything about it. What could one person possibly do?

Perhaps that is exactly the answer: I can’t do everything, but I can do something. I can be the trim tab. The ending of today’s gospel, “for surely the hand of the Lord was with him,” reassures us that we can do something – we can make a difference because the Lord is working in us.

DAILY PRACTICE: Choose one thing you might do to begin to change directions in yourself or in the world: stop worrying or complaining, adopt a positive attitude, reach out to someone with whom you’ve lost contact, write your congressperson, etc.

ADVENT PRAYER: God of Possibilities, with you nothing is impossible. Because your strength surrounds me, empower me to do the thing(s) you have entrusted me to do to keep my direction, and the direction of the world, toward you

 

From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications

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DECEMBER 22 Fourth Sunday of Advent

The wonder of humanity

  “They shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.” Matthew 1:23

I'm Human copy

On a worksheet, the youngsters were invited to finish this sentence: “I am a star because …” One young child wrote: “I just am.”

Being human is a magnificent thing; it’s how God made us. Believing in Christmas, in the incarnation, we proclaim that there is one thing that each of us has in common with God: humanity.

But do we ever negate our humanity?

When someone dies, especially a young person, people tend to say there is another angel in heaven. Not really; we are human; we remain human; we become saints, not angels.

Do we ever say ”I’m only human” and use it to describe our failings, our negative attitudes and responses? Could we say instead, “I listened today to someone who was lonely and needed a friend”? Why? “Because I’m only human.” “I worked at the homeless shelter last weekend.”Why? “Because I’m only human.”

Jesus came among us to teach us the generosity, the selflessness, and the glory of being human.

DAILY PRACTICE: Watch how you use the sentence ”I’m only human.” Use it to describe how you compassionately and attentively respond to life, to people, and to the needs of our world, as Jesus did.

ADVENT PRAYER: Ever-Present God, you chose to be one of us. As I live the challenge-and privilege-of being human, strengthen me to live it with all the intensity and faithfulness of Jesus.

 

From: ADVENT 2013. Daily reflections, practices and prayers.
The Promise of Peace. Janet Schaeffler, OP.
Twenty-Third Publications

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Advent 2010. Thursday of the Fourth Week

Free at last

“Immediately [Zachariah’s] mouth was opened,
his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.”

LUKE 1:64


If you had nine months to think before you spoke, what would you say? No doubt pearls of wisdom would drop from your lips! Many of us don’t reflect for very long at all before we open our mouths in mos situations. This is probably why we spend and inordinate amount of time eating our words.

The priest Zechariah had his lips sealed by an angel. It seems the last time he’d spoken, he asked the wrong question! During the long months of his wife Elizabeth’s confinement, it was a good thing she had her kinswoman Mary to talk to. Otherwise, the house would have been pretty quiet until John the Baptist was born. When Zachariah’s tongue is finally freed by divine decree, he might have said anything: “What an ordeal!” “What was that all about?” or perhaps a string of oaths too hard to print in the Bible.

But Zechariah was no fool. Nine months of the celestial silent treatment was plenty for him. As soon as he could talk, he uttered a blessing. Maybe it was as simple as “Thanks God!” And when the neighbors got past their wonder that he could talk at all, he cleared his throat and sang a song he’d probably been composing in his head the whole time. When in doubt, sing a song of praise!

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION How much of your prayer time is intercession, and how much is given over to praise and thanksgiving?

TIME TO ACT Get into the habit of praise. Don’t wait just for dedicated prayer time. Praise God all day long for pretty things, peaceful hours, sudden insight, and good companions.

OFFER A PRAYER Dear God thank you for today! For waking me up! For giving me the story of Zechariah to make me laugh – and to make me a little bit wiser.

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications

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Advent 2010. Wednesday of the Fourth Week

Sharing in the feast

“He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty”

LUKE 1:53


I know a woman who has always hated Christmas. Every signal that the dreaded day loomed ahead was difficult for her. Each bit of tinsel brought anguish. She couldn’t bear to receive cards or send them, to buy gifts or accept them. Some ancient wound caused a cloud of depression to settle over her heart every year at this time. As the world celebrated, she withdrew and waited for it all to blow over. In struggling to identify the problem to her husband, the word “gratitude” bubbled to the surface. Gratitude is essential to the spirit that encompasses this season. If you don’t feel grateful, it’s hard to give or receive anything. Because the holidays have always fallen like a leaden obligation on her – to smile and be joyful, to gather and share in the feast-the burden of requirement weighed her down and so she opted out.

Last year was different, though. Last year this woman found an opportunity to explore her talents in a new career. Dong what she loved, offering herself on a profoundly deeper level than ever before, she felt enlivened and fulfilled. When the holidays came, she could embrace sitting by the fire, singing songs, drinking eggnog, donning a little sparkle. This “joy to he world” stuff wasn’t so bad. This time, it was nearly – nice.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION Do you know someone who’s struggling to get through the holidays this year? How can you accommodate them in their inability to celebrate?

TIME TO ACT “Joy is like the rain”, as songwriter Miriam Therese Winter says. But nos everyone can feel it this year. Support someone on the margins of the season.

OFFER A PRAYER You are the source of our joy, O Lord, while remaining ever mindful of those who mourn. May we seek to share with the mourner what we have to give.

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications

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Advent 2010. Tuesday of the Fourth Week

The Visitation

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken
to you by the Lord would be fulfilled”

LUKE 1:45

This is the year I finally met Sister Grace Regina.  She and I have been pen pals for years, brought together by a common love of words and the things of God.  Being 3000 miles apart, meeting face to face seemed a slim hope.  Yet here we were, in each other’s arms, long lost friends finding each other at last.

We were wearing the same shade of blue and we both have whitened hair.  But there the easy similarities end.  Sister Grace is twice my age, nearly a hundred years old to my half-century.  She’s a Dominican, and I’m just me. And as I got to sit together with my friend after years of sharing heart to heart, I realized there’s something else that distinguishes us greatly: She bears no ill will toward any person or idea.  To have a heart that pure is very special.  Maybe it takes a century of living to get there.

I suspect my friend has taken a good long look at the world in all those years.  I think she’s heard it all before and knows how each story ends after the few first lines.  Perhaps she tried a few alternatives to love before realizing it is always and everywhere the best approach.  Since I’ve met my sister Grace, all I want is a heart like hers.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Have you every encountered someone with a pure heart? What are the obstacles that make your love less pure than it could be?

TIME TO ACT “Seek counsel from every wise person,” Tobit tells his son (Tobit 4:18). This is good advice.  Can’t stop at collecting holy cards. Collect holy people.

OFFER A PRAYER Gentle God, though you are all powerful, you chose the way of tenderness, meekness, and surrender through which to redeem the world.  Make our hearts like yours.

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications

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Advent 2010. Monday of the Fourth Week

Perfect love casts out fear

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favor with God”

LUKE 1:30

Little Jane was the timid sort. She never ran out to play with the other kids at recess. She didn’t speak. From the time her father dropped her off at Sunday school until the moment he retrieved her, she sat at her desk, staring at her paper, the crayons, or nothing at all. Sometimes she just cried.

Her teacher had tried kindness, cookies, everything she could think of to get Jane to come out of her shell. One day when the tiny girl’s face was soaked in silent tears the teacher could stand no more of it. She lifted the child out of her seat, took her to the rocker, and just held her as she wept. She held Jane all morning while the other kids had the longest recess ever.

After that summer, the teacher didn’t see Jane again for many years. Then one day, walking down an unfamiliar street, a ten-year-old ran up to her and called her name. Her eyes were shining, and her face was wreathed in a beatific smile. No doubt about it: As strange as it was to see her happy, that was Jane. The girl held out a white stone, just and ordinary rock of no special interest. “For you”, she said breathlessly. “For you.” The teacher has kept that stone these thirty years since.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION How do you combat fear in your life and its resulting paralysis? What gives you courage?

TIME TO ACT The First Letter of John tell us that “perfect love casts out fear” (4:18). Make those five words a prayer mantra for the times when fear makes it hard to act.

OFFER A PRAYER Loving God, you are the perfect and final reason we need not fear anything in this world. Guard us through our darkest fears into the light of your presence.

From: Advent 2010. Everyday reflections, actions & prayers. OPENING OUR HEARTS TO GOD by Alice Camille. Twenty Third Publications

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