by Michelle Khawam
There is no doubt that Tuesday’s first reading from Isaiah (found here) is about the Word of God. In verse 11 God says: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth…” The word of God comes to us from heaven. The word of God is also the seed that plants itself here on earth and it is up to us to water it, to “make it fertile and fruitful” so that others may be nourished by it.
We not only learn from reading Scripture but we also gain life. Lent is the perfect time to dive into Scripture. Sometimes as Christians we can to forget to pick up our Bible, read, pray, and study with Scripture. Sometimes people are intimidated by the Bible; they get confused and are not sure how to read and pray with it.
Consider starting a Bible Study with your friends, co-workers, or family members. Pick up a commentary book or find a commentary online to help you understand the readings a bit more. Try different Scripture reading methods like Lectio Divina. Pick up a daily devotional book from the book store! Whatever makes you most comfortable! Reading and praying with Scripture should not cause you stress or anxiety, but rather hope and joy.
God sends us his Word to reveal Himself to us, to bring us to faith, and to bring us to eternal life so that we may have fullness of joy. How will you pray with Scripture during this Lenten season?
Michelle Khawam is a Campus Minister at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY.
If you want to go deeper with this reflection, check out our Going Deeper page
In today’s first reading from Joel (found here), we the Lord says “return to me.” We are asked to return with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Later on we read “Blow the trumpet in Zion! proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people”.
As we begin Lent today and receive ashes, we begin a season of penance. This can be lived out in a variety of ways. The well known ways include not eating meat on Fridays, and giving something up for Lent. Allow me to suggest some other ways we might observe this season.
“Gather the people”… Nothing, especially everyday life, is easy alone. Consider connecting with people you have not connected to in a while… reach out! Find a Lenten buddy who you can talk with about your experience of God or pray with during the season. Maybe start a small group where you are!
“Proclaim a fast”… giving something up for Lent can be a practical symbol of your dedication to not only “fast”, but to look more deeply at your relationship with God. In Lent we seek penance, but this time can be an opportunity to come to God with other prayers (not just asking forgiveness). As we give something up, let us consider adding extra time for prayer to our schedule. Prayers of thanksgiving, special petitions for those around us, a walk with God outside, or silent mediation.
“Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people”… God’s relationship with the his people in the First Testament was a covenant relationship. Let us remember that God is merciful to us in this relationship. Lent is not a “beat yourself up” season. It is a season to remember that relationship with God is based on love, commitment, and reflective prayer. We do our part and try to be mindful of ways we can better enter into this relationship.
What is Lent to me? How will I approach Lent this year? Include more time to pray this Lent. Can I reach out to somebody this lent?
If you want to go deeper with this reflection, check out our Going Deeper page.
“Don’t feel bad!” “Its okay don’t be upset.” “Look on the plus side!” I’ve heard these and other “consolations” many a time. I call these “consolations” because they are oftentimes a genuine attempt on the part of a listener to make someone feel better... but they don’t always help! In my opinion, a listener should let the feelings exist.
Feelings are very real. Something that I’ve come to lean on in the last couple of years is the reality of what I feel. Staying with a feeling or emotion is a tall order sometimes. The most important phrase there is “staying with”.
One way that I examine what is going on inside is by reviewing my day, from morning to night. A lot of times this has been called an “examen” or “recollection of the day”. In the context of prayer, I consider “Where was God today? Where was I today? How did I respond to the events of the day? What was good, what wasn’t so good?” You can make this your own.
I find that sometimes I didn’t make a connection during an event of the day, or I didn’t realize how important a small occurrence was. Making this a habit has made it easier for me to offer my day to God and not just focus on my own plans for it.
In this way, we can be a little more aware of the place of certain feelings on a given day, and what they may tell us. They can be beautiful or ugly, but acknowledgement of them is a primary step to honesty with ourselves, those around us, and our God.
Feel what you feel, let it speak to you, and offer it to God!
“At our own birth, the child of Christmas is born in us. He is our spiritual potential. But we have to let that birth find its fulfillment in a life that rises above the ordinary. You might say that we have to keep the promise of that child alive in us always. Christmas is a reminder that the child is always being born, always in the manger, and always being welcomed.” Thomas Moore in The Soul Of Christmas
Best wishes for a a blessed, merry and meaningful Christmas!
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In today's gospel from Luke, we read about the Annunciation. The angel Gabriel appears before Mary and gives her life changing news. She will bear the Son of God.
A striking line from this gospel reads: "But she was greatly troubled at what was said
and pondered what sort of greeting this might be."
When we receive a message from God, it can be frightening. This is especially so when we think that what is told or asked just can't happen. By the end of this reading Mary responds "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word."
Could you respond the same way? I think many of us might respond "No." The availability of Mary to respond generously to God's call is what makes her such an important model of the Christian life.
How can you respond generously? Jesus is coming. We have waited all this time, and Christmas is almost here. What can you do to better listen to and respond to the call Jesus gives to you?
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“He will be called John." What, you are not naming your son Zechariah after his father?
“So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called.” You, too, say he is to be called John? And now all of a sudden you can speak? “Then fear came upon all their neighbors, ‘What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.’” Surprise! Astonishment! The unexpected can happen. Things change.
What change has taken place in you during these Advent days? Remain open to seeing the unexpected. Be surprised and astonished! Live in hope!
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Mary’s Magnificat is not just a model of prayer but a map for a way of life. In the canticle Mary gives thanks to God, praises God, acknowledges that God is just, and appreciates God’s role not only in her own life but in all of human history. What a great way to live life!
Today, pray the Magnificat. Sing out your praise to God. Give thanks for all you have. Work for justice. And appreciate God’s hand in all of life - past, present and future.
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“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." In accepting the will of God through the words of the angel , Mary is transformed from one of the voiceless to a prophet, from one of low stature to a woman of action.. She goes quickly to take care of her older cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant, and the presence of the Spirit of God is evident when they meet.
How are you being transformed this Advent? How has God been revealing your purpose? Where are you being led to act?
Be aware of the Spirit’s presence in your interactions today. For nothing is impossible for and with God.
Photo by Br. Tony Leon - The Marist Brothers
"Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Mary, an insignificant young woman from an insignificant place discovers her significance in those words: God has looked on you with favor. And God looks on each one of us with favor, even in those times when it’s hard to see our own worth despite our gifts and riches. Imagine how much more difficult it can be for those whom we might consider “least favored” to see their value and worth?
See yourself as God sees you and look with favor upon yourself. Look with favor upon someone whom you do not often see favorably and see him or her how he or she is seen by God.
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Do not be afraid! Once again we hear the angel, Gabriel, speak these words, but this time the words are spoken to Zechariah, the husband of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth . And this time the outcome is different. Fear leads to distrust and disbelief and Zechariah is left without the power of speech. Imagine what it would be like not to be able to share the incredible news with your spouse. - not to be able to tell all of your family and friends that your elderly wife who was thought barren will become pregnant with the one who will prepare others to accept the Messiah. Even if we were not struck dumb, we would probably be left speechless by the enormity of the Angel’s proclamation.
When has fear paralyzed you? When has an experience of God left you speechless? Tell your story to someone and notice how God is present in the spoken word.
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