Finding God Everywhere / ALL is Gift
Saturday March 25, 2017
Presenter: Sr. Janice Kennan, OSF
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate
On March 25th, we met in Marian Hall after Mass. At the beginning of our Associate Group day, we heard a reading from Thomas Celano's Life of St. Francis. Referring to St. Francis, Celano wrote, "In every work of the artist he praised the Artist, whatever he found in the things made he referred to the Maker." St. Francis of Assisi saw God everywhere and in everything and gave praise to Him.
We had time to reflect, write and share with the people at our table about where we have experienced God in His creation of nature, in other people and in Scripture. Several examples came to mind when I was thinking about experiencing God’s presence in another person. A couple of weeks before our group day, my parish held its reconciliation service. The priest who heard my confession took a few minutes to talk to me before giving absolution. His message about forgiving myself and starting over stayed with me. It reminded me of how loving and forgiving God is to us.
Sr. Janice showed us a presentation of images corresponding to the reading of A Good Day by Brother David Steindl-Rast. It was a helpful reminder of how many gifts we receive every day starting when we open our eyes in the morning and are able to see the beauty of the world around us. When I think of gifts in my life, being able to flip a switch for light or turn on a faucet for water don’t often come to mind. The presentation reminded me of things I take for granted that people all over the world are lacking.
Sr. Janice asked how we felt when we were writing about the gifts in our life. Two words from the group were gratitude and blessed. Also mentioned were things we don’t normally think of as gifts. Sadness, tragedies and difficult times in our lives sometimes bring about growth and other blessings.
At the end of our group day was a short prayer service, including the intercessions below. It was a good way to conclude our day by praying that we continue to recognize the gifts in our life and reminding us that we are gifts for the people around us.
Woman at the Well: Stories of the Women in Scripture
On February 25th, we met in Marian Hall after Mass to begin our Associate Group day. The topic of the presentation was Woman at the Well: Stories of the Women in Scripture. From the very beginning, Dawn caught my attention. She said that Scripture is a window into the story and it’s a mirror back at us. This wasn’t just going to be a presentation about women of the Bible. I might learn something from these stories.
First Dawn explained the familiar story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Samaria wasn’t the kind of place you’d want to travel through. Often people went across the Dead Sea so they wouldn’t have to travel through Samaria. Being a good Jewish man, Jesus made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, traveling through Samaria.
At the well in Samaria, Jesus revealed him himself as the Messiah to the Samaritan woman. As Jesus helped the Samaritan woman, sometimes we need to seek the wisdom of others when we need help. After talking to Jesus, the woman left behind her water jar and went to tell the people in town about Jesus. The Samaritan woman leaving her water jar behind is the part of the story that stayed with me the longest. When we follow Jesus, we are asked to leave something behind. What does Jesus ask us to leave behind as His followers?
Next, Dawn explained the stories of some of the women who appeared in Jesus’ lineage. Women didn’t appear in genealogy of that time, but in the book of Matthew, there are women in Jesus’ lineage. They may be there to show us that God works through brokenness. One of these women is Tamar.
Tamar’s story was interesting. Joseph’s brother Judah had 3 sons. The oldest son (Er) married Tamar, but died without having any children. As was the custom, Tamar married the 2nd son (Onan), but he also died without having children. Tamar was supposed to marry the 3rd son (Shelah) who was too young to marry. Judah banished Tamar thinking there was no way he would allow her to cause the death of his only remaining son.
Tamar dressed as a prostitute found out where Judah was going to be. Not recognizing her, Judah requested her services and promised her a goat as payment. He gave her his staff, cord and ring to secure his payment. When Tamar’s pregnancy was made known Judah planned to have her killed, but she had proof that he was the father. Tamar had two sons of Judah’s lineage. Tamar was willing to die to get what she was owed. From Tamar we learned that sometimes we need to seek out justice.
Another familiar story Dawn explained to us was the parable of the lost coin. Jesus told two other parables with this one. One is the parable of the lost sheep. The other is the parable of the prodigal son. These stories are about making things whole.
I can relate to the story of the lost coin because I lose things in my house fairly often. However, the story isn’t just about losing things. Sometimes, the missing piece in our lives is another person, like a brokenrelationship among our family or friends. At times, the only thing we can do is pray and hope that someday, the brokenness will heal. As with the woman who found her missing coin, we see that it’s good to share the joy when something lost is found and everything has been made whole again.
How are we living a life of mercy following the example of Jesus?
Before we can have mercy, we need to experience joy. Joy is foundational for mercy. Being a joyful person doesn’t mean being happy all the time. Everyone experiences heartaches in their life. We need to find a way to move through the sorrows of our life and find joy in the world around us.
Fr. Tom spoke about his aunt when he was talking about joy. Fr. Tom’s aunt lost two sons. One son was a teacher. At the age of 41, he was murdered by a 13-year old with a gun. The other son died by suicide. Prayer and faith carried Fr. Tom’s aunt through the terrible times. She knew she’d see her sons again someday. After she moved through the heartache of her sons’ deaths, she was able to find joy again in her life.
Most of us have known sadness in our lives; the death of a loved one, illness of a family member or good friend, a job loss, etc. Fr. Tom asked how we were joy-filled people. Reflecting on Fr. Tom’s words, I wondered about my thoughts and actions when I experience misfortune in my life. Do I turn to prayer during those times? Do I remember that Jesus is always with me? When the difficult period of my life has passed, am I able to experience joy again?
We need love in our lives to be able to show mercy. One question from Fr. Tom was how does love propelyou? He gave us an answer to that question shortly after with St. Augustine’s Love Sermon. Love should bereflected in everything we do.
If you speak, speak with love.
We take a risk in loving someone. Fr. Tom told us a story about a young man whose love-of-my-life broke up with him. The young man asked Fr. Tom for guidance. Breakups hurt, but this was not the “one” for the young man. The love of his life was still out there. If he gave up and stopped looking, he might miss her. That’s good advice for anyone. We can’t give up on love because we’re afraid of being rejected.
We heard the familiar story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. People despised tax collectors in Jewish society and didn’t associate with them. Tax collectors worked for the Roman Empire and were often corrupt, but Jesus sought out Zacchaeus. Jesus went to Zacchaeus' house, ate and drank with him. Jesus showed mercy towards Zacchaeus. Because of Jesus, Zacchaeus turned his life around and made amends to the people he cheated.
Fr. Tom read us the poem Pretty Good by Charles Osgood. The poem is about a pretty good student in a pretty good school, taught by a pretty good teacher who always let pretty good pass. When the student went to look for a job, he discovered that pretty good might not be good enough. Most of us are "pretty good" at showing mercy towards others. But, do we want to be “pretty good” or do we want to strive for better?
The Infancy Narratives - December 10, 2016 - Fr. Robert Carroll, O. Carm
On December 10th, we met in Marian Hall after Mass to begin our Associate group day. Fr. Bob’s presentation compared the infancy narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
There are common elements in both infancy narratives. Both Gospels take place during the reign of King Herod and are set in the same two places: Nazareth in Galilee and Bethlehem in Judea. The characters we’re familiar with are in both Gospels: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, Angels and the Holy Spirit. Both Gospels refer to Jesus with the titles Christ and son of David. Both Gospels also tell us that Jesus came from the house of David.
There are also many significant differences between the two Gospels. As a child, I remember hearing about Angel Gabriel who came to Mary to announce the good news that she would be the Mother of Jesus. Angel Gabriel is in Luke’s Gospel. In the Gospel of Matthew, it was an unnamed angel who announced Jesus’ birth to Joseph in a dream.
One of the more memorable parts of every Christmas play in grade school was when Joseph and Mary journeyed to Bethlehem to be counted. When they got to Bethlehem, there was no room for them at the inn. The journey to Bethlehem for the census is in Luke’s Gospel. In Matthew’s Gospel, there’s nothing about Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, only that Jesus was born there.
One favorite character of every school’s Christmas play was the shepherds who got to visit the newborn baby Jesus. Luke's Gospel tells of the angels appearing to the shepherds and the shepherds visiting Mary, Joseph and the infant lying in a manger, but the shepherds aren’t in Matthew’s Gospel.
Another focus of the morning part of Fr. Bob’s presentation was how Moses symbolizes and foreshadows Christ. There are many parallels between Moses and Christ. Some examples:
The afternoon part of Fr. Bob’s presentation was focused on the Infancy Narrative from the Gospel of Luke. The major emphasis in Luke’s Gospel is on the Blessed Mother.
Fr. Bob gave us an image of Mary the pilgrim, which was something I hadn’t thought of before. His presentation showed us where Mary traveled from her birth until she was taken up to Heaven. Just looking at the time around Jesus’ birth, Mary started from Nazareth (Annunciation), visited her cousin Elizabeth (Ein Kerem), came home (Nazareth) then journeyed to Bethlehem with Joseph where she gave birth to Jesus. Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem for the purification then fled to Egypt to avoid King Herod’s persecution.
My favorite part of the afternoon session was how we can look to Mary’s life for inspiration. One example was Expecting setbacks and obstacles. Mary is told that a sword will pierce her heart. Mary understands our worries and troubles because she experienced much heartbreak in her life. Another example was On letting go and traveling lightly. Mary and Joseph did not plan to become the parents of the Savior, but they let go of their plans and followed God’s plan.
Every Christmas season, we hear the story of Jesus’ birth The infancy narrative is a very familiar story from the Bible that we listen to knowing what comes next. After Fr. Bob’s presentation, I realized that new insight can be found in even the most familiar stories.