Wednesday, November 23, 2011

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