Saturday, December 19, 2015

God Bursts into History

In Advent we are preparing for the celebration of the Nativity, the birth of our Savior.  One of the themes of Advent, for me, the theme is hope. 
The Advent readings remind us of Israel’s long waiting for a Savior, the Messiah.  Israel was unique in that it wIorshipped the one true God.  Granted, there were detours along the way.  Images of false gods made their way into Israel’s sacred temple, and there were some practices that were inconsistent with who the Israelites were called to be.  And, they ignored their prophets and made some very bad alliances with former enemies, refusing to put their trust in God.  However, I believe that in first century Palestine, in spite of these errors in their history, the Israelites, who at that time were called “the Jews”, held fast to their belief in the One True God and held a much higher moral standard than any of their “neighbors”.  
Throughout their history they were dominated by many, to name a few:  the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks.  At the time of Jesus’ birth they were ruled by the Romans. 
Herod the Great was the master, the ruler of Palestine called king of the Jews.  He was not, however, a Jewish king.  He was influenced by the cultural advances of the Augustan age and surrounded himself with Greek philosophers and orators as advisers. He had little interest in Judaism.  He never succeeded in gaining the support of the Jews, who really hated him.  He was Idumean, and was to them a half Jew.  He removed and appointed at will their high priests.  He appointed men steeped in Hellenistic culture and philosophy, most unacceptable to the Pharisees who were steeped in the Law. Twice the Pharisees refused to swear allegiance to the emperor and Herod.  Hence Herod resorted to violence to hold the Jews in check, and fortresses were constructed throughout the land. 
Herod was a man with no scruples.  H e married ten wives and murdered several of them and their children.  Anyone who was perceived to be a threat was assassinated.  We especially know this from his massacre of the infant boys just because one of them might be the Newborn King. 
Rome ruled.  Even though Herod was king, many decisions had to be approved by the Roman emperor.  We know that just before Jesus’ birth the emperor ordered a census and Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem.  There were no waivers for late pregnancies.  All had to obey.
A number of years ago a Scripture professor taught me that context in Scripture is as important as location is in real estate!  And we know in real estate it’s location, location, location! This is the context into which our Savior was born.  It’s at least the political context or climate of the time. 
The Jewish people were waiting, longing for a Messiah, preferably a king who would lead them to defeat their enemies. As we consider their history this is so understandable.  Life under Roman rule was not the brightest or happiest for the Jews living in Palestine in the first century. A king who would defeat the enemy, restore the land they had lost and make them look good in front of the rest of the world would be such a blessing!  God’s idea of a king was very different from theirs.
More than two thousand years later we are preparing for the birth of Jesus.  Yes, he has already come, but we need to prepare to receive Him anew in our hearts.
Image result for advent wreath clipartWhat is the context into which He will arrive in our hearts this December 25?
Just as the Jews and many others feared the Roman government, we fear for the violence that has entered our world, the violence of organized and unorganized terrorism.  While the world does have some good leaders, many are sadly lacking, and some wanna be leaders even more so!
We all have our own personal context as well:  family, economic, health, work situations, etc.
Just as God burst through history through the birth of his Son, God breaks through our history today. 
In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God.   He was with God in the Beginning.  Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.  All that came to be had life in him and that life was the light of men, a light that shines in the dark, a light that darkness could not overpower. ( John 1, 1-4)

In spite of all the darkness in our world, we know there is the Light that will not be overcome.  We pray that whatever our “personal context”, the light of Christ will burst through.  And it will, just as it did more than 2,000 years ago, in the most unexpected way!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Coming to the End!

Image result for christ the king iconIt is hard to believe we are at the end of the year.  You might say, “Wait, we have at least six more weeks!” It’s not even Thanksgiving!  However, I’m talking about the liturgical year which culminates with the solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe or simply the Solemnity of Christ the King.  The following Sunday we begin the new liturgical year with the first Sunday of Advent.

When our secular year ends on December 31 most of us are recovering from the Christmas rush of parties, gifts, (probably returning some!), perhaps cooking and baking, busy visiting family and friends and maybe with an eye to some resolutions we’d like to make for the new year. However, in the midst of such busyness, it's not always easy to think about changes we might like to make in our lives.

Preparing for Advent is a more opportune time put aside all the “noise” in our lives and reflect on our interior life. How have we grown spiritually?  How is our relationship with our Best Friend coming along?  Have we grown closer throughout this past year?  Does my life truly reflect my relationship with Him?

We have had such great example from Pope Francis.  During his visit to the United States his prayerful spirit  was obvious.  He certainly showed through his actions his concern for the poor, the lowly, the infirm and those most at the margins of society.  Our pastor in Mexico City has frequently mentioned how when in Washington Pope Francis chose to eat with homeless rather than with the most powerful body in world, the U.S. Congress.  For Padre Pedro that was quite a testimony!

As we approach Advent we might take stock and ask ourselves how we have done.  Are we closer to Christ now than we were last year at this time?  How and with whom do we spend our most precious resources, especially our time?  Self-reflection is not always easy, but the results are out of this world!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pardon the Hiatus

Three years is a long time but can pass quickly.   In one of my last posts I mentioned that Sister Olivia and I were looking for a house in Mexico for young women seeking to learn more about our Community and enter the process to become Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity.

We searched and searched. Most houses were too small, too expensive, too far from classes, too...  Finally Divine Providence took over.  Our brother community was moving their post-novitiate to Columbia and the house would be vacant.  They graciously offered us the use of the house – a ready-made formation house!  In January we will celebrate three years at Cenáculo Misionero San José (St. Joseph Missionary Cenacle).
We have been blessed to be able to offer retreats for women discerning their vocation, and we have been especially blessed to now have four wonderful young women in the formation process.  God is so good! 
It has been three years of learning the ropes of Mexico City, dealing with the maintenance of a large house, finding electricians and plumbers, getting our immigration documents, opening a bank account, etc. all in a new country and in our second language!

There probably could have been some really interesting blogs sharing some of these adventures, but with limited time something had to give, and unfortunately, it was the blog!

Hopefully, I can be more faithful to this blog and share more of our life here as well as the life of the Missionary Servants. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

An Encounter of the Best Kind

After a long hiatus I have decided to resume this blog.  There have been just too many interesting things not to share them.

The first thing I'd like to share is that this summer I had the privilege of a lifetime experience, a thirty day retreat at a beautiful Jesuit retreat house overlooking the Atlantic in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  As one friend said to me, "you couldn't have found a better to place to hang out with God"! This is definitely true.

The timing was perfect.  This has been a year of "running":  from Columbia to Costa Rica, to Mexico (several times!) as well as various parts of the U.S.  The good news is that we have young women from Latin America who are interested in joining us.  So my co-worker, Sister Olivia and I have been looking for a house in Mexico where they can live with us and discern their vocation. I am grateful to have had this retreat opportunity before beginning the next "phase".

Back to the retreat.  It was the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, a tried and true method for encounter with God that has been in existence over 400 years. One thing St. Ignatius wants people to understand is God's unconditional love for us, so gazing over the Atlantic certainly reinforced the knowledge of God's unfathomable love.

Besides basking in God's love, we pondered the life of Christ in the Gospels during 5 different daily prayer periods.  I came to understand why this retreat is called the "Exercises".  It truly was an exercise in spiritual growth.  This was such an impressionable experience that I'm sure I'll be sharing more as time goes on.  In the meantime to see some photos of this beautiful place, click the following link:

Please know you were all in my prayers during the retreat.  God's love is reflected to us in all those people who love us and share their lives with us.  Thank you for that.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

God delegates!

Today’s Gospel contains St. Luke’s version of the Our Father. In this version we hear, “Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come…” St. Matthew says, “your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven, reminding us that the Kingdom is not totally other worldly. The kingdom begins here and now. A priest once shared that while on a plane the person next to him told him he was an atheist. He said he couldn’t believe in a God, who with all the suffering and sorrow in this world would leave his work to human beings. But, yet, isn’t it wonderful that God would trust us so much that he would leave the building up of the kingdom to us. He did, after all, leave us the example of his Son. We get into trouble when we don’t follow that example!

Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, I have chosen you to go and bear fruit that will last.” (John 15,16) Of course in John 15, 5 he says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.”

A friend of mine who is an avid NCIS fan said she noticed that when they answer the phone they identify themselves as “Special Agent…” What if we all thought of ourselves as God’s Special Agents, entrusted with the building up of God’s Kingdom here on earth NOW? We don’t have to do it alone!

What are you going to do today to build up the Kingdom?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Feast of Feasts!

It seems we are in the midst of a “feast of feasts”. Tuesday was the feast of St. Vincent dePaul, a very important part of our spirituality because our Founder, Father Thomas Judge, CM, was a Vincentian priest. We call the Vincentian priests and Brothers and the Daughters of Charity our “cousins”.
Yesterday was the feast of the Archangels, Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. Today is the feast of St. Jerome.
St. Jerome has become a favorite of mine. My first mission in Mexico was in a town called San Jeronimito. St. Jerome was the church’s patron and a large image of him hung in the front of the Church. The patronal feasts are celebrated with gusto in Mexico. Our arrival on the mission coincided with the feast. The people of San Jeronimito had never had Religious in their parish, which consisted of well over 50 chapels spread out over a large area. We received a grand welcome from them and the pastor. The Bishop even drove from Acapulco to celebrate and also welcome the new Sisters. This feast always brings back the memory of that wonderful day.
San Jeronimito, in the state of Guerrero, was a place in peril in many ways. It was touched by drug trafficking. While the town is on the coast, nearby mountainous areas were the scene of marijuana crops. I often heard the cry, “grow marijuana or starve to death”. I met many people who made courageous choices; the ones who chose not to grow marijuana as well as those who spoke out against the trafficking and ensuing violence. Some outspoken priests and religious as well as others lost their lives. All this happened close to 20 years before today’s drug-related terror and publicity.
San Jeronimito was in peril also because there was another war going on, the war against Catholicism. This may sound like a dramatic statement; however, San Jeronimito and the surrounding areas were dominated by religious sects. Catholics were a minority and were bombarded by visits from proselytizers holding Bibles and pointing to verses to prove that Catholics were wrong about just about everything. I might add that some of these groups had their own bibles. The verses in these bibles were and are changed regularly to accommodate their teachings.
The people were bewildered and would approach us asking us to teach them about the bible. I felt so inadequate with my very limited biblical knowledge. Around the same time I had been invited to study theology and wasn’t sure which area to choose. That quickly became a no-brainer. My desire to know more about the bible was fueled by these people so poor they had to scrimp and save to purchase one, but did so with such love and desire for the Word of God.
Returning to school was not easy after being away so many years. But, I became a highly highly motivated learner. Besides, I had my patron! In my first semester when I became acquainted with the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, I saw the quote: “Love the holy Scriptures, and wisdom will love you. Love wisdom, and she will keep you safe. Honor wisdom and she will embrace you.” (St. Jerome) St. Jerome also said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” An assiduous scholar, he is known for his translations of the Bible, particularly translating the Old Testament from the original Hebrew to Latin as well as for his work correcting some of the Latin in the New Testament. He is also known for his sometimes irascible nature and even had the chutzpah to take on St. Augustine when he didn’t agree with him. That didn’t diminish Augustine’s respect for him. He said, "What Jerome is ignorant of, no mortal has ever known."
He was also a great supporter of women in their desire for knowledge and holiness. His own quest for holiness is also inspiring.
St. Jerome is called the Father of Biblical Science. He is the patron of biblical scholars, researchers, translators, librarians, and probably more, including those of us who have occasional grumpy days! I’m really grateful he was the patron of San Jeronimito.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New Beginnings

It is incredulous, almost overwhelming, to think that we are in a new month. It’s not just a new month, but for many a new year as they return to school. September 1 also says summer is just about over.

Summer is a time for refreshment and renewal, a time when supposedly things slow down a little. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how we are living our lives. Things were anything but slowing down for us. Among many other things I was getting set to return to Mexico for a mission week with young women interested in our Community as well as other vocation promotion work. Then suddenly my life came to what seemed like a screeching halt. I needed several tests and ultimately a biopsy, I soon learned how interminable a week can be when you are waiting for results realizing that your life could change dramatically.

I didn’t get to go on vacation or retreat this summer. That will have to wait. But I did get some time for reflection. Health crises can remind us of how much we take for granted.

I have always been grateful for my good health, but will now be even more so. I also had a chance while waiting in hospitals and doctors offices to think about how many people don’t always get good results. Their lives do change dramatically. Not only theirs, but their loved ones as well. I also thought of how many people have neither adequate health care nor the insurance to pay for it.

In some ways I begin the Fall with a sense of newness. Thank God my biopsy was negative, and I have a whole new sense of gratitude for my health and for the support I received.

I’m also beginning this new month by having been able to return to Mexico. This weekend we’ll have a discernment retreat with our ST brothers at their novitiate in Huitzila, possibly a new beginning for the young men and women who will be attending as they discover their calling in life. Please keep them and the Team in your prayers.

There’s so much to be grateful for.