Dominican reflections for Advent from Aotearoa New Zealand

4th Sunday of Advent | 21 December 2014 | Listen to His message

Luke 1:26-38

Our Advent journey is nearing its end.  Christmas is just a few days away when the Word becomes Incarnate. The Gospel from Luke for this Sunday tells us of Mary and the news that she is to bear a child. The Gospel begins

“The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen!”

As I contemplated the gospel this week, I was drawn to two lines, “Mary was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean” and then Gabriel’s response, “Listen!”

These two passages leapt out at me as I reflected on the year that is drawing to a close and as I look forward to the New Year and what it may hold for my loved ones, my family and me.  In my silent contemplation looking back over the year and all that has transpired in my life I can recall more times than I would want to admit when I too was disturbed by God’s word calling me to conversion, calling me to hear his call and follow Him more closely.  How many times did I  “Listen!” to His call to be a sign of His presence in our world today?  Giving one’s life over to God is easier said than done.  Yet Mary, in spite of being disturbed at the message delivered to her by Gabriel, trusted God and gave herself over to God’s will.  Why can’t I follow the example of Mary and give my life over to God’s will?  In my humanity, that need to be in control is quite strong. It becomes a conscious effort to quiet the noise in my head, to let go of my desire to control all things, and to let God speak to me, and I in turn to “Listen”.

Each moment, each hour, and each day is an opportunity to quiet the busyness of our lives, to quiet the noisy distractions of our minds and to “Listen”.  I look forward to Christmas Eve, sitting in the quiet of the evening; the lights in the room are switched off, leaving only the lights on the tree, contemplating the gift of the birth of our Savior, and turning an ear to my God, to “Listen” to his message to me, to hear his call, and once again promising to give my life over to God’s will.

Contributed by Norman Gray, Wellington 


The Third Sunday of Advent | 14 December | Make straight the way of the Lord

Readings: Isaiah 61 1, 2, 10-11 | 1 Thessalonians 5 16-24 | John 1 6-8 19-28

I first pondered these readings on a glorious spring day, in Invercargill’s Queens Park – a day when the words from Isaiah seemed to sing out from creation – a day when all was possible through the God who caused it all to be.  On that day I knew that if I were to be open to the Spirit, I would be who I was made to be; do what was asked of me (even putting these words together).

Thessalonians gives us the recipe for our daily living, with the assurance that our creator is always faithful.  I use the idea of a recipe because there’s a parallel between my efforts in the kitchen, and my walk with Jesus – sometimes spot on, but often a degree of chaos.  Sometimes I wonder if by tea time there will be anything to eat; sometimes I have to give in and go to Subway.

“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John”.  Dear, special John.  He knew he was on a mission, and knew what that mission was.  He seems unsure of his own person, but knew who he was not.  He was the voice crying in the wilderness.  “Make straight the way of the Lord”.  A voice crying in the wilderness is only heard if it’s carried on the wind.  How often do we feel like this when we’re walking with someone imprisoned, or ill, or simply struggling to survive, when we wish to be a blessing in someone’s life, when that person has no self-worth, and is not easy to love; when we stand up for minority groups but no one wants to listen, it is like crying in the wilderness.  The way of the Lord will touch them by the breath of the spirit, even if we don’t see it.

Last week Queens Park was thrashed with wind gusts.  Today it’s simply wonderful again.  The trees have recovered, and the scent from the blooms and song of the birds sing songs of praise.

Last week was like my chaotic kitchen and “Christian” walk.  Today reminds me of Thessalonians 24, that our God is faithful, always.

John baptised with water, preparing for the Messiah.  Today children are playing in the fountain, and looking towards Christmas; splashing each other with excitement, pouring water over one another.  Baptism?  I believe so.  Laughter – sparkling eyes.  Loved.

We are waiting for Jesus birth but why wait for Christmas?  Surely Jesus is born whenever a person cares for another; whenever someone comes to believing in Him, where a dirty old tired face becomes beautiful with a smile because someone cares.  Isaiah today, alive and well.

Special blessing on you today whoever you are, and with the assurance of Thessalonians 24, Let’s all keep crying out, no matter how vast the wilderness as our Sister Catherine said “cry out as with a million voices, it is silence that destroys the world”.

Contributed by Colleen Hopwood, Invercargill


The Second Sunday of Advent | 7 December | Prepare the Way of the Lord

Readings: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 | 2 Peter 3: 8-14 | Mark 1: 1-8

In the opening of Mark’s gospel we read what is written by the prophet Isaiah:

Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way.

A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make

straight his paths.”

The voice of the one crying out is John the Baptist, heralding the coming of Jesus and His ministry. Mark goes on to tell us that John was baptizing those who acknowledged their sins with water. We then read that John proclaims “I have baptized you with water”, and that the one to come, Jesus the Christ will baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

As I reflected on the passages in Mark’s gospel I am mindful that God continually calls us out of darkness into the light of the good news of Jesus Christ. I wonder who the prophets are crying out to our world today, “Prepare the way of the Lord?”  Who is calling us to prepare to encounter our Savior, our God in a loving relationship?  Is it Pope Francis, our church leaders, or our parish priest who are compelling us to prepare for the presence of Jesus in our lives, in our world today?  I wonder how do I, given I am called by my baptism and by the Dominican charism to preach to our world today, cry out to those I encounter in my life to prepare to encounter Jesus as He comes closer to each us.  How do I, in my everyday ordinary life preach the message of being prepared for and aware of the embracing presence of Jesus in our lives?  Does the way I live my life truly speak to others by my example? Do the conversations I have with others I encounter in my everyday ordinary life sharing my faith in a loving God compel others to want to know Jesus too? Does the way I interact with my work colleagues in the business of our work speak to them of an inner peace that comes from my relationship with God? Does the way I approach the business of our work speak of the compassion I experience from a loving, forgiving God?

John’s words of preparing for the way of the Lord, for Jesus coming closer to us also speaks of change. Change that we should face, but avoid to make due to fear; change that we want to make but lack the faith and hope that will carry us through the change process; change that is coming upon us if we are open to it during this Advent season.  I have to ask myself, in my humanness, how do I need to be changed to enter into a closer relationship with Jesus, my God? In my everyday ordinary life, do I have the faith and hope that I need to carry me through the process of change that welcomes Jesus into my life more deeply?

This time of Advent, as well as John’s message to us today is the opportunity to reflect on the changes that we want to make in our lives that prepare the way of the Lord as He comes closer and closer to us, as we encounter Jesus and enter in to relationship with our God.

Contributed by Norman Gray, Wellington 


The first Sunday of Advent:  30 November 2014 | Are You Awake?

Readings: Isaiah 63:16-17, 19, 64:2-7 | 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 | Mark 13:33-37

This week several people have reminded me … only a month until Christmas now.  More often than not that statement is followed by one of two questions … either “have you started your Christmas shopping yet?” or “are you going away for Christmas?”  Not once have I been asked are you ready for the coming of the Lord?

My ministry is with young people in the Auckland Diocese.  October and November are such busy times for young people with the vast majority focused on exams and then either the stress of finding summer jobs or for many heading home or overseas for the summer holidays.   It was in October that I met with a group of young leaders from South Auckland to plan how we would celebrate our final Auckland Diocesan Youth Mass for 2014… you guessed it on the First Sunday of Advent.

After reflecting on the readings there was agreement that the theme of the readings was to prepare for the coming of the Lord.  The leaders gathered were concerned about their young people.  Was this coming of the Lord the focus of our young people?  Are they attentive to God and firm in their faith?  Many are slumped over tired and drained after a busy year.  Others are caught up with the consumerism that is Christmas shopping, parties and dinners to celebrate the end of another year and the long-waited summer holiday.   One of the leaders came up with the image of a zombie … a person who has no energy, seems to act without thinking and does not notice what is happening in the world around them.

As Dominicans we are called to prayer and contemplation, to community and to preaching.  We are called to think, reflect and discuss with others before we act.  We are called to notice what injustices there are in our community and in the wider world.

Take a look at the image designed for the poster that advertises our Diocesan Youth Mass.  This poster was created by Isa, a past-student of St Dominic’s College in Auckland who is now part of the Auckland Youth Ministry team.   Danielle who is featured in the photo is slumped over the chair, tired and lacking energy.   She is certainly not awake.  Now look at the image in the mirror.  Danielle is alert, conscious of the world around her.  She is ready and she is AWAKE!   Place yourself in the image.   Would you be slumped in the chair or would you be the image in the mirror?

– Contributed by Teresa McNamara, Auckland