Fourth Sunday of Advent – December 21, 2014

December 18th, 2014

2 Samuel 7:1-5

Romans 16:25-27

Luke 1:26-38

On Sunday, December 21, 2014 we celebrate the fourth Sunday of Advent and the Winter Solstice.  It is the shortest day of the year and it reminds us that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Each day now will include a little more light to give us hope and direction.

The readings for this last Sunday before Christmas highlight the people God chose to bring hope and light to God’s people:  the boy David who would become king in the first reading and the story of Gabriel visiting Mary to let her know that she has found favor with God and that she will give birth to a son-Jesus, the Son of God, in Luke’s gospel.  Both David and Mary are from humble origins and both of them are open to God’s spirit in their lives.

Here is an excerpt from the writings of Frederick Buechener who reflects on Gabriel’s perspective as he shared the news with Mary:

“She struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he’d been entrusted with a message to give her, and he gave it.

He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. ‘You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,’ he said.

As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl.”

The future of creation hung on Mary’s “yes” to God.  We too participate in God’s creation when we say “yes” to God’s will.   We may not be facing the same pressure she faced but many of us are struggling with difficult issues-rifts in family relationships, physical or mental health challenges, financial pressures. We may not feel that we are special or gifted enough to make a difference in people’s lives.  I hear stories and witness events every day that prove otherwise.  St. Mary’s is blessed to have you as part of our family.  May the love that offers compassion and healing be born in each of us this Christmas.

Elizabeth Keene

Mission Integration

 

Third Sunday of Advent – December 14, 2014

December 12th, 2014

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

Advent is a time for joy, not primarily because we are anticipating the anniversary of the birth of Christ but because God is already in our midst, Emmauel… This Sunday is often called “Rejoice Sunday.” We are halfway through Advent, getting ever closer to the Christmas celebrations, to be sure. But we can rejoice especially because of the saving acts of God, which make us confident of God’s care and unafraid of whatever may cross our paths. We rejoice in the inner peace that God gives us when we trust God in the midst of our difficulties. It surpasses all understanding… Advent joy is the way we live in the tension of “already and not yet.”
In the reading from Isaiah we hear about the Anointed One of God who would “bring glad tidings to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.” How relevant that is still today! We have so many poor in our world and right around us. So many people have broken hearts from rejection, loss of loved ones or troubled family members. Do we turn to God for help, comfort and healing? Are we not also captives and prisoners of our fears and anxieties, our selfishness and our greed for control and material goods? Do we ask God to transform our hearts and free us? We might also ask God how we can be his instruments during this holiday season to bring joy to those who are poor, downhearted, sick, old or lonely? Could we be instruments of joy and peace for someone?
St. Paul is very clear in the second reading about three things: Rejoice always! Pray without ceasing and in all circumstances give thanks. This reminds me of a 94 year old southern lady I met here at the hospital about a month ago. She told me that people ask her for her secret: “I trust the Lord. I pray every day and I thank the Lord every night and every morning.” She was definitely heeding St. Paul’s advice and she was very pleasant and grateful in spite of her heath issue, a true delight to visit and a woman of faith.
In the Gospel of John we see John the Baptist being questioned about who he is and why he baptizes. He is clear and honest. He is not the Christ. He is the voice of one crying in the desert, “make straight the way of the Lord.” Those of us who are of a certain age can remember the call and the melody of the opening song of Godspell: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” It is still a relevant call for us today, to let go of some of our negative baggage and make room for Jesus in our hearts and in our lives. Can we let go of some of the materialism of modern day Christmas celebrations and open our hearts to the real meaning of Christmas? Can we share the real Christmas story with our children and grandchildren? Can we be a presence of Jesus for those we serve here at St. Mary’s and at DYP? May the real meaning of Christmas inspire us and bring us joy during this holiday season as we remember that Jesus is the reason for the season.
Sr. Suzanne Beaudoin, SSCh, Director of Pastoral Care

Second Sunday of Advent – December 7, 2014

December 2nd, 2014

Isaiah 40:1-5; 9-11                               2 Peter 3:8-14                          Mark 1: 1-8

In the Old Testament reading this week, Isaiah prophesies about the coming of John the Baptist.  He says of John, “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!”  Near the end of the passage, Isaiah also prophesied of Jesus’s coming. “With glad tidings, he says, ‘Here is your God. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.’’’

The gospel reading has the same message for us.  Mark writes: As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “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.’ “Further on in the gospel, Mark quotes John as saying, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In the final reading, the second letter to Peter, we are once again being exhorted to preparedness: This time for the Second Coming of Jesus. We are encouraged to conduct ourselves in holiness and devotion while waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. He goes on to write, “Since you await these things, be eager to be found without blemish (sin) before him, at peace.”

As we live out our season of Advent, let us take some quiet time to look inward and examine our relationship with God. How do we welcome God’s presence within us each day?  Will we be ready to meet him face to face when our moment is here? Our time on earth is short.  How  are  we preparing  the way of the Lord? What should be the focus of all that we are? To borrow a few in lines from “Godspell” : “To see thee more clearly, to love thee more dearly, to follow thee more nearly day by day…”

As we prepare ourselves during this time of Advent, let us go forth and continue to serve all those in need with a renewed spirit and a renewed faith in God.

Dan Doyon

Pastoral Care

First Sunday of Advent – November 30, 2014

December 1st, 2014

Isaiah 63:16b-17

1 Corinthians 1:3-9

Mark 13:33-37

The Catholic Health Association offers this reflection for the first Sunday of Advent:
“Advent arrives as the whirl of activity from our Thanksgiving celebrations comes to a close. We have celebrated with family and friends, enjoyed our favorite foods and many of us, perhaps, engaged in the American pastimes of football and Black Friday. The holidays are upon us and the Advent calendar countdown begins.

When we were young, the days seemed like weeks as we scanned the catalogs and watched the commercials, longing for the next best toy or electronic entertainment gadget. As adults, we wish we could stretch the days into weeks, so we can get everything accomplished we have on our lists and still have time to breathe.

What Advent is in today’s world and what Advent is meant to be took a divergent path long before most of us were even born. There was a time when Christmas trees did not get decorated until Christmas Eve, when decorations did not appear in the stores before Halloween. There was a time when Advent really was a time of waiting.

How to bring the true meaning of Advent back into the hectic pace of our days can be more than just a desire. Advent is not what happens around us; Advent is what happens within us. No matter where we go or how fast we are traveling through life, we can center ourselves on God. Standing in unending lines, stopping at countless stoplights, with one deep breath we can be in Advent. In the midst of a long to-do list we can find the peace of God, the promise of Jesus and the hope of our world.”

Here’s a good way to stop and pay attention to what’s going on within us this season: join us for an Advent prayer service on Monday, December 1, 2014 at 3 pm in the chapel for “The Light Shines On In Darkness.”

Elizabeth Keene
Mission Integration

Feast of Christ the King – November 23, 2014

December 1st, 2014

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17

1 Corinthians 15:20-26,28

Matthew 25:31-46

This is the last Sunday of the liturgical year. The theme is of tender solicitude for the vulnerable. We speak of Christ the King and realize that the kingdom of God is an inclusive one. We may sometimes think that criteria for membership is based only on obedience to the commandments or on conformity to ritual obligation. That may be part of it but it certainly is not what we hear today in these readings. The real criteria are based on bonds of love and concern for one another and most especially on compassion and help for the most vulnerable.
In the first reading we are given the metaphor of God as the Good Shepherd, the one who seeks out those who have strayed, the one who guards, protects and nurtures all the sheep, but especially the most needy and vulnerable. We do not live in an era of shepherds and sheep but let us be clear about the message. God watches over us and takes care of our needs in a very personal way. God is with us 24/7 and has our back. There is no need to fear. We can pray with confidence and experience God’s comfort as expressed in Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd…
The second reading reminds us of the beginnings of time, the saving action of Jesus, his rising from the dead and the fulfillment of the kingdom in the end time along with the final judgment. When will that be? We do not know; however each of us will have our own end time. It is described in the famous passage of the Gospel of Matthew where we will clearly be judged on love as described in the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
Some Christians take this passage very seriously and, I dare say, we must. We will be judged not on having done a phenomenal feat, on ritual worship every single Sunday or on following the letter of every law. We will be judged on whether or not we meet the very basic human needs of others. According to this Gospel, Christ the King will say to each of us:
“I was hungry and you gave (or did not give) me food, I was thirsty and you gave (or did not) give me drink, a stranger and you welcomed (or did not welcome) me, naked and you clothe (or did not clothe) me, ill and you cared (or did not care) for me, in prison and you visited (or did not visit) me.”
The question remains for each of us. Will it be did or did not?
Let’s be concrete and practical. As the holidays are upon us we will have many opportunities to do something for others, especially the most vulnerable. When your local church asks for donations for food baskets, what will you do? When donations are requested for St. Mary’s Food Pantry, when you get a request from Hope Haven Gospel Mission which feeds the hungry and gives shelter to the homeless, what will you do? When you are asked for a donation for Coats for Kids or you hear the Salvation Army bell, what will you do? When you look at your overly full clothes closet, will you bring the surplus to the Goodwill store? When there is a discussion about the immigrants in our country, is your stance one of welcome? When a neighbor or family member is ill or homebound, will you take time to visit them and maybe bring them homemade soup or flowers? For those of us here who care for the sick and the elderly, is it just a job or is it a caring mission? Remembering the most vulnerable around the holidays is a popular and generous thing to do, but how about the rest of the year…?
I pray that we who work in St. Mary’s Health System will hear at the end of our lives Christ the King say: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” That will depend on what we have done or not done during our lifetime.
Sr. Suzanne Beaudoin, SSCh, Director of Pastoral Care

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

December 1st, 2014

Proverbs 31:10-13,19-20,30-31 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 Matthew 25:14-30 Whenever we hear about a person who has done a good deed for someone else at some risk to themselves, we all admire that person very much. We realize that they did not have to take the risk of assisting the other person, “sticking their neck out,” and that they, by doing so, they had much to lose. Yet knowing that they had a lot at stake, they went ahead and did it anyway without counting the cost to themselves or even considering what the outcome might be. In contrast to this, we have also heard of people who do see someone in difficulty and to whom they could be of genuine assistance, and yet they refuse to become “involved”. Such a person may have witnessed a crime but when called on to give testimony to the police, they may refuse to do so, either because it is too much trouble or because it might entail some kind of risk or inconvenience for themself. So, they deny having seen anything. This idea of risk is, among others, one of the keys to today’s Parable about the Talents. One man was given five talents and another two talents, and they went out and invested their money and doubled it. They were praised by their master. He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a little. I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” But the man who was given the one talent “played it safe” – he hid his master’s money in his fear of losing it. He is the one who is condemned. One might rightly ask here, “But what if the man who had received the five talents and the one who had received the two talents had invested their money and lost? What then? Would not the master perhaps have condemned them also?” We are obviously not talking about taking foolish risks. Whatever we do must be thought out and arrived at through our prudential judgment. But even after this judgment, one still cannot be absolutely certain. Life is fraught with risks and uncertainties, and to hold back totally from them is to misuse the talents that God has given us. There is a risk in everything we do. We can never know absolutely the outcome of each action upon which we embark. At some point, we must realize that there is no way around an element of this risk. To wait until we are absolutely sure about what we must do would be to remain inactive, to be paralyzed by fear. If we are, then we allow our talents to be wasted. Because there is no way around all risk in life, even after one has weighed all the alternatives under the virtue of prudence, the true Christian does not ask the question, “What if I take a risk and lose? Wouldn’t that be far worse than if I played it safe and didn’t take any risk at all?” Rather, he or she asks, “Is this the decent thing to do?” or “Does this need to be done?” And if the answer is, “Yes,” then one goes ahead and does it without counting the cost to oneself or considering the results. This is the challenge we are all faced with from time to time. In responding actively to the challenge, we, too, like the men given the five talents and the two talents, will hear the master say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.” Rev. Joseph Manship Pastoral Care

All Soul’s Day

December 1st, 2014

Wisdom 3:1-9

Romans 6:3-9

John 6:37-40

Our soul is the essence of our being. Formed in the image and likeness of God, it is unique to each one of us. There is not another one like us, nor will there ever be. If we live a life of love – loving God with our whole hearts and beings and loving our neighbor as ourselves, our souls will return to God when we die. However, in living our lives, it does not mean we won’t experience struggles of all kinds. Jesus showed how to live and die.

The Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera once said in a homily, “Jesus, himself, experienced life as we do. He was a good, innocent, loving man who very unfairly faced a cross and suffered and died. I suppose God could have chosen to save the world in any way he wanted, but specifically chose to have Jesus walk our world, live our lives, suffer and die with and for us…so that we, in our suffering, would have a God who understands-because through the incarnation, he became one of us.

Our faith also tells us that death was not the end for Jesus. Three days after he died, he rose and in that event promised the same life and gift of resurrection to all who live and die believing in him.

Our faith, connected to the resurrection, won’t necessarily take away the pain that comes with grief, but it does have the power to help us make sense of why we feel the presence of our loved ones, even in their passing – why we choose to gather in prayer for them on this day. It affirms what all of us believe, even if we cannot understand – that there is more to this world than we can see and touch.”
On this feast day, we remember all the holy souls, all those who are dear to us who have been woven into our personal lives and our professional lives here at St. Mary’s and d’Youville – who have passed from this world to the next and now journey with God.

Dan Doyon
Pastoral Care

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 26, 2014

December 1st, 2014

 
Exodus 22:20-26 1

Thessalonians 1:5-10

Matthew 22:34-40

The theme this week is clearly LOVE: Created love, Love of God and neighbor, the witness of Love. I did a little research and I am inspired this week by a scripture scholar named Dianne Bergant. Our Judeo-Christian tradition is founded on love. Our universe came into existence out of nothing by the loving generosity of our God. Our own life was called into being and is sustained for no other reason than God’ s unbounded and undeserved generosity. We may not always feel loved, but if we honestly reflect on life and look into our hearts we will find it is true. “We come from God who is love, so it is in our very nature to love and be loved,” says our Scripture scholar.
It is no wonder we hear Jesus in today’s Gospel answer the question of a scholar of the Law who asks about the greatest commandment, with the famous double injunction about Love. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Have we heard this so many times that it no longer touches our very soul? Imagine what love and joy would exist in our families if we took this to heart? Imagine what our world would be like if we all lived this way… Would there be so much violence, so many wars, so much prejudice, so much greed and pettiness? In the first reading from Exodus we are exhorted to care for widows, orphans and aliens. Jesus would have us feed the hungry and visit the sick. We could include those on the margins with AIDS, with mental illness, those children on our borders trying to escape death and violence. We who have so much, why isn’t our love more generous and more expansive similar to God’s love? What is our problem? Why can’t we provide a decent living for people trapped in poverty? Why don’t we work to ensure clean water and air and a healthy world for those who come after us?
We need to ponder and to act on these two greatest commandments of God. Then we could be true witnesses of God’s love for us and for all. The compassion we show others is a measure of our own love for God. Our religious tradition goes so far as to say we really do not love God if we do not love others. Loving like God loves is something we cannot do entirely on our own. We must pray “I love you, Lord, be my strength to love others as you love them.” It could be our prayer as we begin work each day in St. Mary’s Health System no matter where we work or what we do.
Sr. Suzanne Beaudoin, SSCh, Director of Pastoral Care

Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 19, 2014

December 1st, 2014

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6 1

Thessalonians 1:1-5

Matthew 22: 15-21

Sometimes it is difficult to see a theme in the group of Sunday readings. For me, this is one of those times. In the first reading from the Old Testament, the phrase that strikes me is God’s saying: “I have called you by your name…” Many people believe in God as Creator, someone who is in charge and sees the big picture. But many are not sure that God is a personal God, who God knows each of us by name and loves us and cherishes us a unique individual. That implies knowledge, closeness and even intimacy. So when we are feeling alone, it could be comforting to remember these words from Isaiah and ponder them for their true meaning.
The second reading speaks of the power of the Word of God. We have come to know God and Jesus through the power of the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit who helps us understand the Word of God. St. Paul also thanks God for those in his church community who do works of faith and labor with love as they endure all things in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ. God works through all people to accomplish good in the world. Are we cooperating with God to allow this to happen? Do we do our work here in St. Mary’s Health System with faith, hope and love? It’s something to ponder and answer in the depths of our heart.
Often in the Gospels, we see the religious leaders initiating a battle of wits with Jesus, trying to entrap him. Many of the people and their leaders did not appreciate the oppression of the Romans nor the taxes they demanded from them. There were some others who accommodated and went along with Rome. So this hot topic could cause people to take sides. The religious leaders set a trap for Jesus asking him if it is lawful to pay taxes to Rome. If he says no he could be accused of political insubordination but if he says yes he could be accused of not upholding Israel’s boast of being a people bound only to God. Jesus sees their ploy. He responds with a question: “Whose image is on the coin?” It is Caesar’s image. So Jesus says: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Clever answer…
What is the message for us today? Jesus is suggesting that we can be both loyal to a religious tradition and to secular power. We can both be good Christians and good citizens. We have duties and responsibilities to honor our God and the Commandment of Love and duties and responsibilities to our nation and to government as well, such as paying taxes, serving on juries and engaging in military service. Sometimes people pay more attention to secular laws than to God’s laws. It’s not either/or. It is both/and. Which of these duties and responsibilities in your life need more attention? Are we dedicated Christians and loyal citizens as well?
Sr. Suzanne Beaudoin, SSCh, Director of Pastoral Care

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

December 1st, 2014

Isaiah 25:6-10a

Philippians 4:12-14

Matthew 22:1-14

My cousin has 11 children (he himself is one of twelve.) When I went for a visit, we had dinner. It included two chickens and an entire bag of potatoes. Enough food for a feast, yet it was one meal for them. The readings today are about banquets-feasts with lots of wonderful food. I’m not sure these readings touch us the same way they touched Isaiah’s audience or Jesus’ followers. Other than a few special occasions, such as wedding receptions and holidays, our society tends to shy away from banquets, opting instead for convenient meals in a box that people can eat on their own. Most banquets then were either ceremonial (a way for the host to show solidarity with the guests), or ritual (a way to celebrate some sort of transformation like a battle that ended in victory or an enemy that becomes an ally.) The banquet Isaiah describes in the first reading is both: God shows solidarity with the Israelites by calling them back from exile in Babylon (ceremonial) and celebrates victory over suffering and death (ritual.)
Lynn Ungar has a poem about salvation: “By what are you saved? And how? Saved like a bit of string, tucked away in a drawer? Saved like a child rushed from a burning building…or like a car part-the one good door when the rest is wrecked?”
She goes on to describe salvation not as being separated away or salvaged but “salved, anointed by gentle hands where you are most tender.” And perhaps this is why salvation is compared to a banquet in Scripture: God wants to throw a party to celebrate solidarity with us (ceremonial) and heal us from our woundedness (ritual.)
At St. Mary’s Health System, sometimes we are literally using gentle hands to heal people where they are most tender. Monday, October 13 begins Mission Week-a way for us to celebrate solidarity with each other (join us on Friday, October 17 in Lepage for lunch, raffles, a silent auction and some fun!) and a way to experience the ritual of healing at the Mass in honor of St. Marguerite d’Youville on Tuesday, October 14 at 6 pm in the chapel. We will present four employees with the Marguerite d’Youville Awards for living our core values of respect, compassion, excellence and stewardship in extraordinary ways. Come celebrate with us!

Elizabeth Keene
Mission Integration