Tuesday, November 29, 2011

According to Your Word - Wednesday of the First Week of Advent

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

(Is 25:6-10; Mt 15:29-37)

Our readings present us with a look at what is to come in our lives. They tell of the Messianic banquet and that period of time when there will be peace and tranquility. The future holds grace and hope for us.

Isaiah mentions this hope and Matthew’s gospel has Jesus curing those who are ill. He gives bread to those in need in order that they will not grow faint. We are those in need. God gives to us in great measure.

The season of Advent is a time of reflection and expectant prayer. We see the direction of our lives and prayerfully seek change and improvement. Jesus will feed us and direct us as we proceed on our Journey.

This journey is filled with God’s graces and blessings. God’s Word is our way. We cannot help but be moved to greater spiritual longings and directions. Our lives will be full because they look forward to each day being a time of grace and fulfillment. We long for what is to happen in the present and in the time to come.

Let us pray in this season of preparation and expectation to be instruments of God’s will. May each of us follow in the path of the expected Savior.

– Fr. Vianney Cunningham, T.O.R.

Monday, November 28, 2011

According to Your Word - Tuesday of the First Week of Advent

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

(Is 11:1-10; Lk 10: 21-24)

A philosopher once said: “Walk straight into the peace of God; don’t look back; don’t ask if you are there yet; just keep walking.” We live in a world that seems to question everything. I believe we question so often, that we don’t take time to enjoy the possibilities for our lives. One possibility is that God’s peace is with us in this season of Advent, and can grow within us, if only we are open to that peace.

Isaiah reminds us that “the spirit of the Lord is upon us,” and the promise of that spirit is a kingdom of peace. This is a message of hope, in these days of war and ongoing terrorist threats. Luke reminds us that in the same way Jesus’ disciples are blessed, we too are blessed with the peace and hope that comes from knowing that God loves us so much, that He sent His only Son to be with us: to teach us, heal us, love us, and be a part of our daily lives, if only we ask for His presence.

But, if we continue to question the possibility of peace, hope, and what Jesus can do for us, then we speak only with our minds and not our hearts. It is the response of the heart that says: “I need the peace and hope that only the Savior of the world can give me. I don’t have to understand it; I just need it.” We can discover that peace and hope in this season of Advent. Before our minds question the possibilities, may our hearts embrace these gifts, each and every day, so that this will be our best Christmas ever. God bless you!

– Fr. Brad Baldwin, TO.R.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

According to Your Word - Monday of the First Week of Advent

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

(Is 2:1-5; Mt 8:5-11)

(poem by Jean Burden)

Before you come
old springs flower
in the silence of my earth
and rivers locked for seasons
in my cold
flow with longing
toward the hour.

And this is love, I know:
to wait
composed as stone
while ancient nativities
tremble in my darkness
gathering a violence
of their own.

– poem offered for reflection by Bro. Didacus Wilson, T.O.R.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

According to Your Word - First Sunday of Advent

(Image of the Advent wreath is from ImageVine/courtesy of www.imagevine.com. All rights reserved.)

Cycle B
(Is 63:16,17,19,64: 2-7; I Cor 1:3-9; Mk 13:33-37)

Watchfulness is the word that fills the Scripture reading and begins this new Liturgical Year. For the community of Israel listening to the prophetic words of Isaiah, it is a watchfulness for the actions of God who is the “faithful Father.” For the community gathered to hear the Good News according to Mark, it is a watchfulness for the actions of Jesus Christ, God’s faithful Son.

While the community of Israel was enjoying a respite from enemy attack and exile, their relative ease found them forgetful of the God who is their very life. Verse 5 of chapter 64 remarks: Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways! They were losing sight of their true identity, which was always to be a reflection of God’s just and loving ways. Yet because God is always the “faithful Father,” faithful men and women, like the prophets, were sent to remind them. Advent is the time when Christians are reminded to keep a faithful watch for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the liturgy, whose spirituality is really about remaining watchful for the Lord in all the aspects of our lives, helps us to remember that God is our very life. How can we do this? St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians pays tribute to the many gifts that infuse the church and tells them that these gifts flow from God. Such gifts, whatever they are, should be used to build up fellowship with one another and, therefore, with the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Advent summons will bring us to incarnate the ultimate gift that Paul will later address in Chapter 13: Love. Incarnate Love: the feast that we prepare to remember as the first Christmas and the feast that we will live eternally as the last.

– Fr. Carl Vacek, T.O.R.

According to Your Word - Reflections for the Advent & Christmas Seasons

The Coat of Arms for the Province of the Immaculate Conception bears the inscription, “According to Your Word.” The text is from the Gospel of Luke and comes from the story of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she is to bear a child. Mary, moving beyond her incredulity and her fear, acknowledges her dependence upon God, assents to the request, and utters words that changed the course of history, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

This radical assent to God marks the lives of the friars of our Franciscan Province of the Immaculate Conception. Following Mary’s lead, we have vowed ourselves to live in a stance of a daily turning in faith to God, fostering hope in God’s promises, and living love enfleshed in generous service.

The seasons of Advent and Christmas are especially dear to Franciscans. The following reflections were originally released in According to Your Word, a three booklet series featuring some of our friars’ reflections on the cycle of scripture readings for the Advent and Christmas season. We offer these brief reflections to you in a spirit of faith, hope and love: faith in God’s power continuing to manifest itself in today's world through weakness; hope, that as you pray through the readings and reflections a prayerful bond will be formed between you and our friars; love, knowing that only through acts of love will our lives be formed according to God’s Word.

The following reflections are offered as one way to sustain a prayerful focus through what is very often the hectic seasons of Advent and Christmas. The friars of the Province were invited to prepare a brief reflection on the daily scripture readings of the Church’s liturgy. The fruit of these meditations is reprinted in the following blog posts.

Part of the beauty of the Province of the Immaculate Conception is the diversity of the men who have committed themselves to following the Franciscan way of life. That diversity is reflected in these writings. No attempt has been made to reconcile the various writing styles or theological viewpoints. What you will find in common in these reflections and among our friars is a very human approach to the great mystery of the incarnation. Franciscans are noted for their popular and accessible preaching. This fact is evidenced in these prayerful reflections provided for your daily meditation.

We invite you to prayerfully enter this season of incarnation. Take a few moments each day to read the assigned scripture readings. Ask the Holy Spirit for insight and wisdom to guide your personal reflection. Afterward, read what the friars offer for reflection on the scripture passage assigned each day. Because this is a season when we ponder the implications of what it means that the Word became flesh, on some days the written reflection is replaced with an activity. You are invited to participate in that activity or to choose some other way to allow your prayer to find expression in action. Finally, we ask that you take a moment to say a prayer for the friar whose reflection you have read. As Franciscan Friars, we are men who have dedicated our lives to helping others discover and grow in love for the Word made flesh. Pray for us that we may remain faithful to our vows, farsighted in our vision, and courageous in our response. For our deceased Friars, pray that they may enjoy God’s eternal embrace of peace of love.

May these seasons of Advent and Christmas be a time of great grace so that your heart and ours may respond daily to the mystery of God-among-us with the life-changing assent, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”

Be assured of our heartfelt prayers. With a share in the love that God has for you.

– The Franciscan Friars,
Province of the Immaculate Conception, USA