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Office of Campus Ministry

Clare Ettensohn
Campus Minister

Mahoney Library, 2nd Floor
Morristown, NJ 07960-6989

Phone: (973) 290-4240

Advent Reflections

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During the four weeks of Advent, we prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth through prayer and reflection.

This Advent, join the SEU Community for a special online experience. Following a traditional Advent calendar format, students, faculty, staff, and Sisters of Charity share personal reflections around the daily Scripture readings to nurture your spirituality at this busy time of year.

We invite you to slow down this season, and take a few minutes each day to discover the moments of Advent hope with these daily reflections.

Daily Reflections

November 29, 2020

Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7
Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Mark 13:33-37

When I was a young adult, it dawned on me that we have two opportunities for new beginnings each year. The first one was January 1, the start of the new year. The second was our own individual birthday. For both new beginnings there is usually some preparation leading up to the day. It's a good time to reflect on how each one of these years will change you and help you be a better person.

For instance, for January 1, there are usually preparations to get ready to celebrate this important day on the calendar. Sometimes we make personal resolutions or promises such as "I promise myself that I will exercise more" or, "I will become more organized." On the other hand, I find for your birthday while there is also some party planning to celebrate one's birth the promises you make may be a little different as you grow and mature. The promises become a little more personal. For instance, "I will try and help out my family and friends more" or "I will study harder to reach my goals."

The Church in its wisdom also offers us the opportunity for a new beginning. The first Sunday in Advent is the beginning of the Roman Catholic Liturgical Year. Advent is the preparation time to get ready for Christmas and to be open to Jesus Christ who once again will offer us the opportunity to embrace and follow Him throughout this liturgical year. I find that for this new year the questions are more spiritual in nature. Such as "How will I walk more closely with Jesus," or "How will I be more Christlike in my actions and attitudes when dealing with others?"

As you begin Advent this year, what are some of the promises you will make to yourself to become a better person?

Sister Maryanne Tracey, SC, '70
Formation/Vocation Team
Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

November 30, 2020

Romans 10: 9-18
Psalms 19:8, 9, 10
Matthew 4:18-22

"Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men." The boys dropped everything and went after Jesus. They left behind all of their security, family and everything they ever knew. They followed Jesus, completely trusting him and are oblivious to where they are going. They were not even nervous or scared! They did not doubt Him or hesitate.

When I see individuals or groups "follow" others without hesitation, I am often suspicious. I am always careful of who I choose to follow or allow to lead me. The gospel shows that Jesus wanted us to follow Him and to help those around us also follow Him. He is calling us to be his disciples and loyal followers. He is developing us and encouraging us to develop others. Furthermore, we follow His principles and the message of the Lord.

Later they would return to their boats, their fishing and their family. It is important we look at the perspective of the boys both before and after they returned. Can we trust Jesus in our day-to-day life to guide us? Do we trust that His hand is guiding us? Do we trust in Him and display the messages of Scripture? In addition to examining who we choose to follow, we should also examine if we are good leaders for those around us. Take some time to think about those around you. Who do you lead? Who do you follow? Are you faithfully following Him?

Strawberry Gallagher, '21
Saint Elizabeth University

December 1, 2020

Isaiah 11:1-10
Psalms 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
Luke 10:21-24

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, 'I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.' ~ Luke 10:21-23

These two verses from today's gospel reading today make more sense when we read the two before:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. ~ Luke 10: 19-20

The 72 disciples had just come back from interacting with people. They were surprised that they were able to do a good job of carrying out Jesus's message. They were beginners, childlike, following Jesus's message of love and caring for others. Simply put, they were learning. How challenging it is to learn and be childlike! In what ways do you hope to learn and grow during this Advent season?

Sr. Elena J. Colicelli, SC, '72, Ph.D.
Professor of Chemistry
Saint Elizabeth University

December 2, 2020

Isaiah 25:6-10a
Psalms 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Matthew 15:29-37

In the reading from Isaiah God tells us that the feast is for "all peoples." God will be there for everyone, rich or poor, strong or weak, black or white: "On this mountain, he will destroy the veil that veils all people." As the sons and daughters of Jesus, we should never discriminate against anyone for any reason, in fact, we should all be working together to destroy the things that separate us like racial disparities and economic inequalities.

There are a lot of people around the world, some even in our own neighborhoods, who do not have the same privileges as us. We hear "On this mountain, the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines." We are called to be an extension of God's generosity helping those in need. Providing not only the food for the feast, but also working for equity and equality.

Continuing on in the passage from Isaiah, we learn that God will be there for us no matter what, especially in our pain; "The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces." As followers of Christ, we should also be there for our brothers and sisters whenever they are facing hardships; we should be the ones to wipe their tears until God can in the afterlife.

Following God is more than reading the Bible and going to church. We must follow God in our everyday actions. How can you live out the message of Isaiah 25: 6-10an in your daily life this Advent? Katie Buntin, '22
Saint Elizabeth University

December 3, 2020

Isaiah 26:1-6
Psalms 118:1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a
Matthew 7:21, 24-27

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. ~ Matthew 7: 24-25

Lauren Greismeyer, '22
Saint Elizabeth University

December 4, 2020

Isaiah 29:17-24
Psalms 27:1, 4, 13-14
Matthew: 9:27-31

"And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD." ~Isaiah 29:18

I had lost him, lost myself, lost control, and lost the connection with my Catholic faith. I was in a relationship and we had lost trust with each other and it had ended badly. My whole world turned dark and all I felt for days and nights was bad energy, fear, loneliness, and depression. Blinded by the loss, I found myself alone, one night, on a soccer field. I was crying and feeling empty, staring at the night sky and talking to myself.

My self-ramblings turned into prayer and I began to speak to God, hoping that he could hear me. In that moment, I felt peace. "Out of the gloom and darkness" my eyes had been opened. I had found peace and "joy in the Lord." As much as I pushed God away, He had never left my side.

I do not know how but I managed to drive home safely that night. The next thing I remember is being curled up in my moms arms. I still felt a burning loss, anxiety, and heartache, but I also felt the Holy Presence of God surround me. Just as Jesus had opened the eyes of the blind men in the Gospel, Jesus had opened my eyes to His loving presence in the depths of my pain.

What has blinded you to God’s presence? How will you ask God to open your eyes?

Dennise Gamino, '23

December 5, 2020

Isaiah: 30:19-21, 23-26
Psalms: 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Matthew: 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8

Jesus came to die for our sins. For many people, that's the basic summary of Jesus's purpose. He came. He died.

The summary itself may be in part due to the common creeds of Christianity. The Nicene Creed, for example, tell us that Jesus was born to Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and died. He came. He died. (Of course, the Creed also states that Jesus rose again, but even this bit is often left out of the common summary of Jesus's purpose).

I think this summary can be harmful because it misses a central aspect of Jesus's life—namely, Jesus's actual life. Between Jesus's birth and death, he lived a life of miraculous compassion. He proclaimed the gospel ("good news") of the Kingdom. This good news was never reduced to Jesus's death or the forgiveness of sins. In fact, the forgiveness of sins doesn't seem to be the central theme of the gospel of the Kingdom.

So what is?

When Jesus sent out his disciples, he instructed them to heal the wounded and to reach out to the marginalized (the "lost sheep"). He told them to tend to those who were sick and even give life to the dead. In other words, the gospel of the Kingdom met the physical needs of people. It wasn't merely about forgiveness of sins or "spiritual" realities. It was about compassion for embodied people who were "troubled and abandoned."

As we consider the advent of Jesus, we should reflect on how closely his mission was tied to standing with those who were in need. Perhaps, then, following Jesus should entail hearing his instructions to his disciples: stand with those who are troubled and abandoned. After all, if the gospel we proclaim isn't good news for the physical well-being of those who are troubled and abandoned, can it really be the gospel of Jesus?

Ryan P. McLaughlin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Theology
Saint Elizabeth University

December 6, 2020

Isaiah: 40:1-5, 9-11
Psalms: 85:9-10-11-12, 13-14
2 Peter: 3:8-14
Mark: 1:1-8

The Gospel for this day describes John the Baptist heralding that one greater than he is coming. We know this to be his cousin, Jesus, getting ready to start his short but world changing ministry after being baptized by John. We see the scene in our minds; I imagine a burly, somewhat unkempt, earthy, bearded John bringing this bizarre news to ordinary people. In my vision, they aren't so sure what to make of it.

Advent is so much about the anticipation one experiences when a baby's birth is imminent. I see the cousins, Elizabeth and Mary joyful in their anticipation. I hear the Magnificat sung so beautifully by choirs over the years:

"My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior. For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his handmaiden: For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath magnified me: and holy is his Name."

While a lovely thought, I can't imagine a young Jewish girl who found herself pregnant out of wedlock thinking these thoughts. I think we have romanticized the challenges she faced because of her rightful status in Christianity and out of respect. I appreciate this, but I prefer to think of her, like us, experiencing human emotions and fears….fear of not meeting expectations, fear of being ostracized,fear of going through childbirth and trying to understand what this would mean.

Yet Joy also, preparing to be married, bearing a new life and perhaps feeling this child ... this child would change the world. Not knowing then what John would say and how it would send her son on his way to demand of us, love for one another. To show us a new way.

May we find a way in this very unusual Advent to demonstrate love to one another.

Kathleen Carozza, MA, RDN, FAND
Director, Dietetic Internship
Saint Elizabeth University

December 7, 2020

Isaiah: 35:1-10
Psalm: 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14
Luke 5:17-26

In a broken world of empty, corrosive rhetoric where even the breath of life is poisonous, the readings for today are hard to absorb. Flowers are blooming, water flows in the parched desert, peace and justice abound. Even the paralyzed man is on his feet again, walking home.

Yet the readings call us to be healers. Our trust and belief in God's goodness gives us the faith and hope in the healing power of our hearts. The power of renewal is unstoppable. Suffering is not the end of the story; love is.

This is the time to be a carrier of hope and healing. After every great hardship life refreshes itself. Spring showers cleanse the land within us. It is time to burst out with love. The human family needs this medicine. Our response to the suffering around us is to bring strong, healing energy into the world with our hearts of compassion, connection, and care. Let us listen to the call of Jesus: "'Rise, pick up your stretchers'" and walk … spreading healing love for ourselves and for the world.

Margaret Roman, '72, Ph.D.
English Professor
Saint Elizabeth University

December 8, 2020

Genesis: 3:9-15, 20
Psalms: 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Ephesians: 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke: 1:26-38

What a different Christmas we may have this year. Family gatherings? Holiday travel? Festive parties? More likely, (and hopefully, to stay safe), we'll be having short meetings outdoors. Maybe in limited backyard spaces or parks, for hot cocoa and cookies and then back to our own warm homes, with just our households.

We are in an in-between time and space, waiting for healing of the pandemic yet trying to see the specialness of the season regardless. Can we see our limited gatherings as a short visit to the stable where Jesus was born? Can we take our indoor Zooms as ways to connect and share our love with family and friends in a new way?

Somehow, we have to continue to celebrate the Incarnation, the presence of God newly born on earth. The message and hope of new life is even more true and beautiful this year, and like Mary, we are all called to say "yes!" to God's invitation to welcome Jesus into the world.

How will you say "yes!" to new ways of finding joy? Of creating peace? Of giving to the stranger? Of sharing hope?

May God's creative and life-giving Spirit bless you and yours this Advent season.

Erin Lothes, Ph.D Associate Professor of Theology Saint Elizabeth University

December 9, 2020

Isaiah 40:25-31
Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10
Matthew 11:28-30

We currently live in a world plagued by violence, disease, betrayal, hatred, poverty and inequalities where many of us desperately seek rest for our soul. The call of God is precisely for us, that is, people burdened with sin, anguished by the injustices of life, frustrated by failures and in general everyone who is tired of struggling with their problems.

This Gospel speaks of how in the world we will only find anguish and burdens. No human method can bring to our lives the peace that we long for. However, God offers us rest. We only need to go to Him and submit to His yoke, that is, his Lordship, to find true peace.

In what ways are you looking for peace this Advent?

Dayanna Vera, '23

December 10, 2020

Isaiah 41:13-20
Psalms 145:1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab
Matthew 11:11-15

This reading reminds me to have faith in the Lord, always, in good times and bad. Often we see Jesus as the administer of hardship or reward. But Jesus, instead, is that loyal friend who stands by you no matter what. On days when you are ugly inside, he is there. On days when you are gracious and kind, he is there. He laughs with you and he cries with you. We can rely on him and should rely on him--Jesus is the one steady force in our lives. We can count on Jesus, and that is immensely comforting.

Nicole Yanoso, '04, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
Saint Elizabeth University

December 11, 2020

Isaiah 48:17-19
Psalms 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
Matthew 11:16-19

The comparison to the "children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another" intrigues me. To us, it reads as a trivial distraction, a random "oh, look, it is a squirrel" moment. And yet, to Jesus the "children who sit in the marketplace" offer an image of life. Sometimes we overlook these images in our lives. I know I do. Sometimes we miss their importance: happiness, friendship, love, loyalty. The list goes on. This Gospel challenges us to take the time to notice the small things in life — the incidental happenings — and in turn, listen to what God may be saying to us through His "images".

We have an image of God; John and Jesus reveal what God is like, but they are misunderstood and cruelly rejected. How many times do we reject this image in our own lives? Oftentimes, we are too distracted by our own devices: cellphones, computers, tablets, social media. Jesus' message may seem too unexpected and too much of a challenge, and yet, we learn that He cannot despair of humanity. He knows what we are like, yet he also sees what we can become.

This Gospel reading allows us to question the areas in our lives where God is calling us beyond our comfort zone. Are we willing to put ourselves out for others as John and Jesus did? Are we going to be imprisoned by our own comfort zones? Are we going to allow ourselves to meet God like the "children who sit in the marketplaces" do?

Maria Capozzoli, '18
Adjunct Professor
Saint Elizabeth University

December 12, 2020

Zechariah 2:14-17 or Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Judith 13:18bcde, 19
Luke 1:26-38 or Luke 1:39-47

Many nations shall join themselves to the LORD on that day, and they shall be his people, and he will dwell among you, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. Judith 13:18

Today, the Americas celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her appearance to the poor peasant, Juan Diego, symbolizes the love and compassion of God for all people, through the intercession of Mary the mother of Jesus and our spiritual mother. They say that the understanding, love and compassion shared in her eyes is what led to the conversion of the indigenous people to Christianity. Her loving gaze opened and changed hearts.

In today's violent and intolerant world those of us who claim to be Christian need to reach out to the patroness of the Americas, Our Lady of Guadalupe, to help us be open to God's grace that leads to compassion and care for our brothers and sisters. We need to pray to open hearts and change behaviors. Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe I pray that we never again have to experience another year like 2020.

Sr. Joan Repka, SC, '71
Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

December 13, 2020

Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Psalm: Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

As a Sister of Charity for 56 years I have been called by God and sent throughout my lifetime to serve in various ministries in the USA. It's been a wonderful journey and privilege.

My years in the hills and hollows of West Virginia brought me daily into the lives of some of the poor in our nation. Visiting a young pregnant mother, Sandy, living with her mother in an old, abandoned school bus remains vivid in my mind. They were outside cooking with twigs next to the bus. The inside of the bus was far from a welcoming home for a newborn. Working with Sandy and her Mom we were able to find better accommodations for the family when the baby arrived. My ministry in Morris County,NJ with the HIV population gave me a greater understanding of stigma and needs and struggles of men, women, and teens infected with the virus. In prayer I depended on the Spirit of God to be with me and trusted that God was there guiding my steps.

Isaiah challenges us in today's scriptures with his statement and conviction that "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has anointed me ..."

Do you believe God's Spirit is upon you?

Each of us has been "anointed" by God's love and desire for you. Each of us is created with a DNA, so to speak, of Goodness and Godliness. In the time of Covid-19 we are all vulnerable (poor). By protecting ourselves and others on campus by wearing a mask and being mindful of social distancing we let others know we care about them.

How else is God's Spirit working within you for others?

Sr. Roberta Feil, SC, '68
Coordinator of Community Life
Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

December 14, 2020

NM 24:2-7, 15-17a
Psalms 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus is challenged by the chief priests and the elders of the people to tell them where he has the authority to teach in the Great Temple of Jerusalem. Jesus knows that they want him to say by God Himself so they can say that Jesus broke Jewish Law. Jesus turns on them by saying, I will answer your question if you answer mine first. Tell me who gave John the Baptist the authority to baptize in the River Jordan? When they could not offer an answer, Jesus said that he would not answer the question.

Authority can be misused, even among people close to God. Jesus used his divine authority not to dominate, but to serve. Whatever authority Jesus has, he uses in loving service to those around him.

We all have some authority. Even in a simple conversation between two people, each one exercises some influence or some authority depending on the topic. How do you plan on using your authority?

Viviana Onari
Secretary for EOF
Saint Elizabeth University

December 15, 2020

Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13
Psalms 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 and 23
Matthew 21:28-32

In today's Gospel we hear the story of two sons. When asked to work, the first son responded to his father, "I will not, but afterwards he changed his mind and went." When asked the same question, the second son responded to his father, " yes, sir, but did not go." Their responses display two different attitudes.

The first son's response represents the journey towards living a Christian life: At first an individual might see walking with Christ as too much responsibility. So, the individual continues to live their worldly life. Then the individual realizes that the only way to truly live is to live through, with, and for Christ. The individual realizes the freedom and joy that comes with following God's instructions and they have a change of heart.

The second son's response represents a fake relationship with God. This reminds me of Jeremiah 12:2, "you are near in their mouth but far from their mind." It seems as if there is a relationship present between the individual and God but there is not. The individual might go around talking about God and acting holy but they do not believe in God and they are disobedient to God.

Sometimes we believe that we can identify who is worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven based on what we see a person doing. Jesus' words in the Gospel today, " Amen, I say to you, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the Kingdom of God before you" tell us clearly that we cannot judge who is righteous and worthy of the glory of God based on the lifestyle that is portrayed to the world. Judgment is granted based on the purity of the heart. Just because you put on a show of piety does not mean that you will enter the Kingdom of God. It is not about what you portray; it is about what is in your heart.

What we have to remember is that Jesus came for the sinners. He came for the tax collectors and the prostitute. If you are already holy and righteous, you have no need for Jesus. Therefore, he did not come for you. He came for those who are going to respond, who like first son, are open to growth and change of heart.

During this Advent season, this Gospel calls us to reflect on our lives. We are asked which son we most identify with. Are you the first son who has a change of heart and ultimately does the will of the father? Or are you the second son who puts on a good front, but is disobedient? Reflect on your life and be the son/daughter that God has called you to be.

Dyna Anderson, '22

December 16, 2020

Isaiah 45:6c-8, 18, 21c-25
Psalms 85:9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14
Luke 7:18b-23

In today's Gospel, Luke is explaining how "[Jesus] is and there is no other." Jesus is the chosen one and all His good works attest to this.Jesus cured diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. Jesus provided examples on how he was the one in many ways, Jesus cured diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits; he also granted sight to many who were blind. Jesus sent the disciples back and told them go tell John what you seen and heard, in references to all his works he has done. In the ending, the Gospel stated, " And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me." Jesus is saying that we should accept him for all that he can do, and it is for the greater good of the people.

In connection to my life, I connect to this Gospel in ways that Jesus is always present and making a way in my life. I will forever be grateful and accept all that he has done for me. I did not personally lose sight, but I lost sight in terms of where my next step in life will be. Jesus spoke to me and shined that light right back into my life to keep moving forward. For this reason, I will never be one to take offense of him, but I will be a witness of him.

E-Nijah Murphy, '22

December 17, 2020

Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Psalms 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17
Matthew 1:1-17

When I was in my early teens my father came home one day and said with pride, "Today someone referred to me as John's father." For my dad it was the moment that he realized that in some definable ways, that I was becoming my own person. I was no longer just Rocky and Mary Ann's son. At the time I remember smiling and saying something like, "ok that's cool." I didn't get it.

Today's Gospel is kind-of strange. There are no words of comfort, lessons to be learned, or parables for wisdom. Just line after line of the genealogy. The writer seems to go through a good bit of trouble to establish who Jesus was. He wanted to show us that Jesus was legit. For a long time, I thought, "ok that's cool." I didn't get it.

My family of origin is great. Far from perfect but always supportive and loving. But over time I added a family of choice. My family of choice are those friends who have been there. We celebrate together. We cry together. We call each other to be the best person we can be, and we challenge each other to be who God is calling us to be.

One of my faith heroes, Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman often said, "Remember who you are and whose you are." Today when I hear this reading, I hear something different. I hear God speaking to me though my family of origin and my family of choice, and how each call me to grow and to remember who I am and whose I am. I hope I never stop growing into who I am, but I surely know whose I am. Now I get it.

As we move through this last week of Advent toward the expectation of the light of Christmas, take some time to think about who you are and to celebrate whose you are. I hope you get it.

John DiMucci, MA
Director of Sponsorship and Mission Services
Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth

December 18, 2020

Jeremiah 23:5-8
Psalms 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19
Matthew 1:18-25

Since childhood, I have always had tremendous admiration for Saint Joseph; indeed, I have been somewhat in awe of him. I imagine the remarkable pressure that he must have felt to disavow Mary when he learned that she was with child prior to their marriage, and knowing that it could not be his own.

It is clear that at first he struggled with this, but ultimately, and without question or hesitation, he placed his trust in God, and his commitment to Mary and to Jesus above all. In this way, he serves as an outstanding model of faith, humility, obedience, courage, and commitment. He is an archetypal servant of God, as well as an exemplary husband and father.

I sometimes ask myself: would I have the strength to do what Saint Joseph did? I hope so, but I am not sure. And then I realize that everyday each of us is asked to follow Saint Joseph's example, at least in some small way, i.e., to set aside strong negative feelings and what might seem like our own better judgment, and instead to trust in God's will and providence.

Anthony B. Santamaria, Ph.D.
Dean, School of Arts and Sciences
Saint Elizabeth University

December 19, 2020

Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a
Psalms 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17
Luke 1:5-25

In today’s Gospel, the angel Gabriel appears to Zechariah telling him that his family’s wish to have a child would be fulfilled. Not surprisingly, Zechariah questioned how this could be possible. I cannot help but think of the times I questioned God’s plan for my life.

Far too often, we don’t allow ourselves to trust. Maybe it’s because our trust has been betrayed too many times in the past, or maybe we are just very independent people. Even so, it’s so critical to learn to trust in God. It is easy to get stressed-out and run-down trying to make your life work, but God’s plan is always better than our own.

Often, we want God to be our life coach instead of our lord and savior. We want someone to give us the secret on how to live an easier and fulfilling life. We expect God to reveal his minute by minute instructions for our lives and spell everything out. We crave comfort in knowing and living our lives exactly how we want it instead of trusting God’s plan for us. We forget that faith will look messy and we might not have our entire life plan unveiled to us immediately. We must step forward with both confidence and uncertainty.

This advent season, I urge us to trust in God and his plans for us; trust things will always have a way of working out and we will find ourselves exactly where we need to be.

Angelica Marie Villatoro, ‘21

December 20, 2020

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

When Gabriel visited Mary and told her of God's plan for her, I would imagine she was afraid of what was being asked of her, an unmarried, teenage girl. What would people say about her? Was she up for the task of raising the son of God? Mary knew she could not do this on her own and had faith in God, faith that He would guide and protect her. He would never ask her to do something she was not capable of doing.

In life, we are often asked to take on responsibilities that we didn't ask for or do not want to do. It might be leading a committee, presenting a group assignment in class, or watching a sibling while a parent is at work. When we take on unfamiliar tasks, we push ourselves out of our comfort zone, hone a skill and better ourselves.

What are some responsibilities that you have been asked to take on that you didn't want to?

What did you learn about yourself?

Patty Devlin
Director of Conference and Event Services
Saint Elizabeth University

December 21, 2020

Song of Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah: 3:14-18a
Psalms 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21
Luke 1:39-45

As I read the scriptures for today, I hear the story of new life repeated. In the first reading, the story is about the earth coming to life after a period of hibernation. In the Gospel, it is about Elizabeth's infant in the womb "leaping" at the sound of Mary's voice, something we are led to believe Elizabeth has not felt before.

New beginnings call to mind the events of the weekend of November 7th and 8th. As I watched the news all week long leading up to November 7th and 8th, it felt like an endless wait – a time of rising COVID case proclamations and a wait for the results of the election. In both cases, I found myself extraordinarily pensive. What is God trying to tell me? Learn more patience, pray more often,learn to deal with that which is uncomfortable for you! By Sunday morning I felt like I was starting to get God's message. The message for me was "things are going to change, there will be a new beginning." Regardless of whether you have been affected by the events of our time – there is always time for new beginnings, new life.

I see the events of November 7-8th as a rebirth and a call to action. We, each of us, has the choice every day to look at the events of our lives as a time of new beginnings or as a continuation of the present. Do you see every day as an opportunity to embrace a new beginning? Or is it just another yesterday? How do you think God wants us to look at every day? As just another yesterday or a new beginning?

Helen J. Streubert, Ph.D.
Saint Elizabeth University

December 22, 2020

1 Samuel 1:24-28
1 Samuel 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8a-d
Luke 1:46-56

This reflection has been summarized from original author, Judith Jones, with permission.

The blessedness that Mary celebrates in these passages stands in stark contrast to our culture's attitude. By our standards, Mary does not look at all blessed. God has chosen her to be the mother of the messiah, but in practical terms what does that mean for her? She is not from a family that can afford expensive food or clothing. She is a nobody, a peasant girl from a small village. Her friends and neighbors see her as a disgrace because she is unmarried and pregnant. She will bear the unspeakable grief of watching as her son is rejected, shamed, and crucified: Despite this, Mary praises God for honoring her.

Mary sings about the God that does not just point people to heaven, but also his work on earth. God fills the hungry not only with hope, but with food. Mary's God lifts up the marginalized, granting them dignity and honor, a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation. At the same time, God shows strength by disrupting the world's power structures, dethroning rulers, and humbling the mighty.

When God empties the rich of their excess and fills the hungry with good things, could the result maybe be a "social leveling"? The rich and powerful could be stripped of their arrogance and taught to love their neighbors as they love themselves. God could provide for and honor the poor and humiliated. Every person could have access to enough of the world's resources. Could all of God's children be treated with dignity and respect, instead of using power to disrespect?

Mary's song magnifies the Savior who loves the whole world with a love that promises to make us whole. God's message brings us down from pride that hides God and our neighbor. His message brings us up from shame that distorts our worldview and convinces us that we are unloved. The mother of the Messiah, Mary is not #blessed. Her blessing, like ours, is a cross-shaped blessing, "a condition of complete simplicity (costing not less than everything)" as T. S. Eliot so memorably said, yet bringing true freedom.

"He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has come to the help of his people for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made."

Curated by: Jayne Murphy-Morris
Director, Volunteerism and Service Learning
Saint Elizabeth University

December 23, 2020

Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24
Psalms 25:4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14
Luke 1:57-66

I believe that whatever is written in heaven, no one has the power to change. Often we do not understand God's plan, but we are called to trust in God's direction for us. In today's Gospel we hear about the birth and naming of John, and see several examples of deep trust in God's will. Elizabeth, John's mother, was over 60 years of age, well past child bearing years when John was born. Yet, she had so much faith in God that she chose to name her son John which literally translates to YHWH has been gracious. Zechariah, John's father, was mute because in the past he had doubted God's will. Despite his circumstance of being mute, he still chose the name John, YHWH has been gracious.

The neighbors did not understand the name. There was no one in the family named John and perhaps to the neighbors, it did not look like God had been gracious. Elizabeth was over 60 years old and Zechariah could not speak! But Elizabeth and Zechariah put their trust in God's divine plan. God spoke through both Elizabeth and Zechariah, telling the neighbors that the child's name was blessed.

As we come closer to Christmas, let's remember to put our trust in God's plan.

Moses Awuah, '22

December 24, 2020

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Luke 1:67-79

"Guide our feet into the way of peace." (Luke 1:79)

Zechariah's contemporaries, and the contemporaries of Luke, were overwhelmed by all kinds of oppression. They were in danger of seeking release by following the many false directions offered to them. Their unique hope was to place their trust in God and to prepare for the journey on which God would lead them.

We, too, are living in challenging times. On the one hand, we are cornered with a tenacious and enduring virus, and on the other hand, we are hit by another even more pernicious epidemy; the epidemy of hate. We need healing.

But there is hope. Zechariah's song is a long thanksgiving: "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel" (v.68), ushering in this new time when the Lord God came in the flesh to visit his people. God came to visit Zechariah, to inhabit him with his Breath. We are in the presence of a visitation. It is indeed by the coming of God, his birth, his visit, his presence that we are saved. And it is this salvation offered to each one of us that can "to guide our feet into the way of peace."

On this Christmas Eve, let us pray that the peace of Jesus' Visitation will flood and heal the hearts of around the world.

Father François Diouf, OSB, '21