Advent Reflections | 4th Sunday of Advent

4th Sunday of Advent

Hail Mary Full of Grace The Lord is with YOU!!
Here I am the servant of the Lord.   Be it done to me according to Your Word!

During this last week before Christmas our thoughts go out to Mary – to what this startling change in her life must have been for her.

So let us look at Mary, this young woman – let us listen to her – let us look into her heart.

Mary must have been startled by the sudden vision of an angel before her, (was she doing her daily chores, was she at prayer?  – we are not put into that picture).

“The Lord is with you”.  We are told the Mary was perplexed (bewildered? afraid?)  The angel reassured her “Do not be afraid”!  There was more to come.  “You will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you will name Him Jesus.”  That message alone must have filled her with very mixed emotions.

Let us now listen to Mary as she queried “How can this be since I am a virgin?”  … and the angel’s reply “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  Therefore, the child to be born will be holy, he will be called the Son of God.”  What an overwhelming statement!  But Mary had listened to the Prophets – and those words spoken by the Angel brought with them the great gifts of understanding and peace.  From her heart she spoke those powerful words “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your word.”  With this reply she entered the unfathomable Mystery – the Incarnation.  What she said was willingly spoken and her total acceptance would bring with it complete self-forgetfulness – a journey of life of faith, love, hope and joy but ultimately great sorrow.

Let us now listen to our own hearts to hear her words once again “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.  Let it be done to me according to your word.”  Would it be wonderful it, this Christmas as we “look” at this Babe, the fulfilment of Mary’s acceptance, we too could say with faith, hop, love and courage “Here I am, your servant, be it done to me according to your word.”

Contributed by Sr Cecilia OP

3rd Sunday of Advent

“I want you to be happy, always happy in Christ Jesus; I repeat what I want is your happiness.” So begins the reading from Paul to the Philippians offered for our reflection on this third Sunday of Advent. Traditionally we light the pink candle of our Advent wreath at this time – representing joy! The Zephaniah reading encourages us to “shout for joy” and “rejoice” because “God is in our midst”. Even the Psalm calls the people of Zion to “sing and shout for joy”.

What is all this joy about? How is it to be real and how does it fit with the Gospel message of John the Baptist who last week was calling us to repentance and the seemingly impossible task of filling in the valleys and making straight the paths?

We could, rather glibly, say our joy is because we look forward to the birth of Christ, which is true, but Luke places today’s Gospel passage well after the birth of Christ and as a prelude to the adult ministry of Jesus. Zephaniah’s call to joy is not because we are expecting God but because God is already “in your midst”. Perhaps we need to be adult about expectations around the coming of the Christ child – and our repentance, or metanoia, needs to be the change of heart that enable us to see God fully present in the here and now. The popular representations and celebrations of the Christmas event seem to be overly focussed around a rather sugar-coated image of the nativity and the quite passive idea that everything is going to work out just fine because Jesus is “re-historically” born amongst us. The danger of celebrating the birth of the Christ child as (almost completely) an historical event brought forward a couple of millenia, is to leave the impact of that birth in the past and avoid the call to change it announces. The Baptist’s message via Luke this Sunday would  suggest that we rediscover the birth of Christ in our midst when we share food or clothing with those in need and  deal in fair and just ways with all.  We celebrate the presence of God ( incarnate) by doing no “violence to anyone” and “accusing no-one falsely”. By a spirituality of enough-ness ( “Be content with your pay!”) we witness to that special birth in first century Palestine as being the occasion when the oneness of God with all creation is made manifest.

Contributed by Bruce Drysdale 

For the Second Sunday of Advent we have asked three young Dominicans to share their thoughts…

2nd Sunday Advent Reflection

From Hannah Lieshout, Verdon College (Invercargill)

It is at this time that students look forward to the holidays after a long year of work and exams. However with all the stress of the year just passed and all of the changes that are yet to come the younger generation often misses some of the more important things in life. Christmas is a time for family and friends, it is a chance to reconnect with the things that may have been neglected throughout the year including faith. As a Year 13 student it is easy to get carried away with the small things that seem to take up so much time. School and work seem to take up so much time and it is easy to lose yourself in what ‘needs’ to be done. Every once in a while take a chance to step back and look at the world in a different way.

Advent is not only a time of preparation for the birth of Christ but also a time of reflection, a time to look back on life and be thankful for what we have. It is a time of giving back to others and re-establishing relationships which may be in need of repair.

From Isa Masae, former student of St Dominic’s College (Auckland):

Advent is a time of HOPE, FAITH and PATIENCE together.   As a tertiary student I was recently reflecting how I would use the tools and talents I have in the future.  I’m studying to be a social worker but is that really what God is calling me to be?  I was trying to figure out all the things that I could do with everything that I have learnt.

When you are younger Advent is more about the physical changes when it comes to preparation. My last lecture was on art therapy.  It was like God switched the light on.  I hadn’t waited in vain.  I had hope and faith.  I had waited patiently.  The answer came.  This is what Advent is like for me.

From Ralston D’Souza, St Dominic’s Parish (Auckland):

Advent is a time to reflect on why God sent his only Son to the world.   It is a time to reflect on what we are preparing for 2000 years later.   Advent is the beginning of a new year.  For me the central focus is on LOVE and how we can make a lasting remembrance of that love in our preparations for the year ahead.   What is something that you can introduce into your life which can continue on for the rest of the Church year?

First Sunday of Advent 2015

It would seem today’s readings were written just for us. Being bombarded with news about greenhouse gasses and climate change, wars, famine and terrorist activities, it would seem maybe time for God to close up shop and start again.  How often in the past 2015 years have these readings seemed written for the day?   Over and over and over again.
So where does this place us in our time, on the first Sunday of Advent; four weeks till Christmas and the celebration of His coming in human form.
We live in a country abundantly blessed with beauty.  For us, Christmas comes when our fauna are bursting into life; the winter debris is clearing from our lakes and rivers; our mountains sparkling in the sun.  We live in a country where all peoples can live together regardless of race, colour, creed, sexuality, social standing or levels of ability.  A wonderful potpourri of humanity.
Today’s readings ask us to  “abound in love to one another”.  To be alert and aware. To not become disheartened, weighed down, and to pray.  We  know that the kingdom of God is among us. Jesus is in all things.
Jesus comes again every moment of every day, if we let Him.  We only need to drive through our country, with an uncluttered mind, to see and sense him in the beauty of it all. I drove through the Kawarau Gorge last week, and there He was in all of it. He was in the people stopped to gaze in wonder at the magnificence of it all. I went to share it with a friend and there He was in the welcome, blessing the visit.
Every person we meet He is there.  Every moment of our day. In the old persons smile; the shower water; in the communion host; in the garden, weeds and all!  He is there.  The child fallen from its bike; the smelly street walker; the shop keeper worried about the price of milk; the family rejoicing over a new birth; or mourning the death of a loved one. In everyone and everywhere. He is coming again. He is here; here for us to take care of; to thank to praise; to bless  In the pohutakawa tree and peonnies; the sun warming us; the rain blessing us, He is come again.
When the “second coming” will occur, no one knows.  It’s not for us to know.   It is for us to live today, being aware of Him in all things and peoples.  To live the kingdom of God here and now.  Be Jesus to our  suffering Muslim brothers and sisters.  Rejoice in the beauty that surrounds us.  Help Jeremiah’s righteous branch spring forth.

Contributed by Colleen Hopwood