Living in Hope in the New Year

By Barbara Baker, MHSH

New Year’s resolutions don’t often remain past the first few weeks of the new year, but trying to live life more fully and with greater hope can win us the prize of a grateful heart.

How many times have we said, or heard others say, “I hope the new year is better than last year?” These words may reflect the many losses and challenges experienced by people we know and by the many more that we have never met. What could make life better next year?

Perhaps entering into 2011 with a fresh attitude of hope and the desire to make some necessary adjustments in our lives such as keeping in touch with friends and family. Maybe it will be looking for the positive side of life rather than at what we don’t have. Perhaps we should spend more quality time developing our prayer life and reaching out to others in service. The list of what might make this year a better one goes on and on.

The solemnities of the Nativity and Epiphany, together with the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, are the three “manifestation feasts.” Epiphany was the original celebration of God’s manifestation and included both the birth and the baptism of Jesus.

The celebration of Christmas as a manifestation came later, and in the West it eventually became the principal observance of Jesus’ birth. In celebrating this great feast, we are invited to enter into the great hope of a savior who, out of sheer love for us, chose to become incarnate and live with and among us.

Thank about what excites and invites you into the New Year of 2011.

Ask yourself how you will recognize the manifestations of Jesus Christ in your life circumstance.

What difference will you make in the lives you encounter in 2011?

How will you be a manifestation of Jesus Christ in 2011?

A Christmas Blessing

From Sister Mariel Rafferty, MHSH

In the gentleness of the stable scene, may God grant you quietness of heart.

In the song of the angels, may God grant you peace.

In the star over Bethlehem, may God kindle the fire of hope within you.

In the shepherds in the fields, may God grant you simplicity of spirit.

In the donkey who bore Mary, may God grant you care for all creation.

In Joseph, so steadfast, may God grant you spiritual strength and energy.

In Mary, young mother, may God grant you a prayerful heart.

And in Jesus, the infant, may God’s enduring love fill your being on Christmas…

…and throughout the New Year!

The Sounds of Christmas

By Sister Dolores Glick, MHSH

 …Joy to the World…Glory to the Newborn King…All is Calm, All is Bright…Peace on Earth, Good will to all…Gloria in Excelsis Deo.

Joyfully we celebrate those words, sing those carols and feel the absolute power of the Christmas story in music.

But when the sounds of the angels’ proclamations and the trumpets of joy have faded, what music plays within our hearts? 

For some, it is the somber sound of the death of a loved one, failing health or insurmountable marital problems. For the young, it may be the confusion and pressures of a rapidly changing world. Others hear the discordant music of the Middle East, where loved ones in the military face death daily. Some of us hear the sad song of the daily news, which intones the stories of refugees, terrorist plots, unemployment, foreclosures, hunger and the cold, cruel world of homelessness.   

Where has the music of Christmas gone? 

Here is the challenge: Can you let go of your “real world” song and replace it with the joyous sound of the rebirth of the world? 

For Reflection:

Are you able to rekindle the hope that is Christmas?

Which sounds of Christmas take the lead in your heart on December 26?

Can you embrace the certainty that each new day is a new beginning through the birth of the infant Jesus in Bethlehem?

Reflections for the Fourth Week of Advent–The Grace of God Has Appeared

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

We are drawing near the December date that brings vivid images of a tiny bundle of humanity—a promised child filled with grace who will fill us with hope and joy.  All children are beautiful. All children are filled with promise. But this child fills the desire of nations!

Set to music, our hearts swell with joy as we recall, read, hear and sing the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“For a child is born to us, a son is given us;

Upon his shoulder dominion rests,

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,

Father-forever, Prince of Peace…”

The grace of God has appeared.  During these gifted moments that surround the anniversary of the birth of Christ, memories of many past Christmases crowd the space in our hearts.  We cherish the memory of children who perhaps left our side much too soon, of family members or friends whose love of life and whose strong faith revealed Christ to us.  They fed us with a bread of blessing.  They were Eucharist for us.  We are who we are today because of their joy, their hope, their excitement of life.

As we visit the crèche in our churches or place the small figure of the infant Jesus in the manger under the tree, we recall the birth of Jesus and all that He did for us.  It is a good time for recalling the joy and blessing of other births – of sons and daughters who gave their lives unselfishly for others; family members whose kindness let us grow in freedom as children of God; friends and teachers of our childhood or adulthood whose lives were transparent with honesty and truth and made a difference in our journey of life.

We rejoice.  We celebrate.  We are so grateful for the lives of the many who touched our lives during their journey to God.  In celebrating the birth of the ONE who was the face of God, we celebrate all the births of those loved ones who gifted us with the grace of the Babe born in Bethlehem.  Their birth was a Christmas gift to us that will last our lifetime.  We pray our Christmas praises and, in joy, give thanks!

During this last week of Advent, allow some time to reflect on the gift of Christ in your life.

What difference does He make in your life?

Who brings Christ to you today?

To whom do you bring Christ?

Reflections for the Third Week of Advent – Joyful Anticipation

By Sister Joanne Frey, MHSH

Hallelujah!  Hallelujah! At concert halls around the world, doors swing open.  Thousands in holiday array gather to celebrate, for “unto us a child is born.”  Whether in Vienna, Stuttgart, Milan or at New York’s Lincoln Center, all nations listen for the glad tidings.

Jill Robertson, Calligrapher

At Lincoln Center, David Foster introduces Andrea Bocelli and a chorus of small children singing “Santa Claus is coming to town,” because, as David accounts, “Christmas is for children.”  Where else is there such joy, anticipation, wonder and delight, for truly, “unto us a child is born.”

Are you one of God’s children, alive with longing for the coming of Emmanuel?  Has Baptism taken you into His incarnation within you?  His incarnation is everywhere, always.  Mystery replaces the magic of childhood.  Mystery envelopes the wonder, the awe in adult friendship with the human/divine person of Jesus.

Our Baptism into His life opened a potential for a union with him that enables the actualizing of Jesus alive in us—speaking, listening, urging, unifying until the world sings anew, “It came upon a midnight clear…”

For reflection:

Do you relate the incarnation within you to the suffering, war-torn world in which we live?

Do you experience Christ growing within you, thrusting strong roots deeper and deeper into the soil that is your life?  If not, do you want to ask him to gift you in this way?

Can you create times of solitude and silence that will draw down a rain of mercy and the sun of love to warm the roots within the soil that is your spirit?

Reflections for the Second Week of Advent – Isaiah’s Dream

By Judy Allison

The young mother sat in a pew a few rows ahead of me with an older toddler snuggled between her and her husband and an infant no more than six months old in her arms.  She rocked gently so as not to disturb the others seated close to her. She looked down at the infant with a gentle love, and he looked back at her. Their gaze locked for a long moment.  Then, for no apparent reason other than that love must express itself, he smiled up at her.  And for that moment, all of us who saw it were touched by love as if by starlight and angel song.

It was the stuff of which dreams are made.

On the second Sunday of Advent, we hear from the prophet Isaiah, whose vision dreams of a new and powerful king who comes to save the people – God’s people.  This king’s power emanates from the spirit of the Lord.  Different from all earthly kings, this “good” king will possess wisdom, understanding, good counsel, right judgment, knowledge, strength and he will “delight in the Lord God.”

Under the reign of this “good” king, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the lion and the calf, the bear and the cow “shall browse together – with a little child to lead them.”  This, too, is the stuff of which dreams are made.

We long for an era of peace where love is abundant; where neither animals nor people prey upon each other; where no one goes to sleep in fear; and where home is more than a cardboard box or a tent or a 10’ x 12’ FEMA trailer; where drinking water is clean and plentiful and bread is everywhere broken and shared.

As we enter more deeply into this season of Advent, let us remember that we are called by our Baptism to help bring about the dream that is revealed through the life, mission, death and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ.  We are called to dream the dream.  We are a people of the Covenant.

Sometime during this week, find a quiet spot to rest, take a deep breath and let it out slowly.  St. Augustine asked, “What good does it do for Jesus to have been born in a stable so long ago, if he is not born anew in our hearts today?”  Sit with this for awhile.  What words and images come to mind?

Judy Allison is a long-time friend of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.