Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Psalm 45, 46
Isaiah 35:1–10        
Revelation 22:12–17, 21        
Luke 1:67–80

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;  for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways. To give God’s people knowledge of salvation, by the forgiveness of their sins.  Luke 1: 76 – 77 

Daily I recite the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1. 67 - 80) at Morning Prayer.  The words have sunk into my heart over the years.  I can imagine when I’m speaking them that I’m looking intently at a child held in my arms.  I don’t often stop to think who the child is.  The child could be those we are trying to nurture in the faith or Religious Life, or our family, community, or this fragile earth. The child could also be me.

Most of us by this time have much if not all of our preparations done for Christmas.  We’ve baked and cooked, cleaned and polished, bought or made gifts and wrapped them, sent cards and loving thoughts to friends and family members near and far.  All these preparations tell us that we are ready for the coming of Christmas, at least outwardly.  But what about our inmost preparations?

If I hear those same words of the Song of Zechariah as if they were addressed to me personally, then  I am the one who is to prepare God’s way, here and now.  I need to prepare God’s way in my heart and life.  If I know that my sins have been forgiven, then I can forgive others as our Saviour, the Messiah for whom we wait, taught us.  May we make our inmost preparations with as much attention as we do outwardly this Christmas.

- Sr. Elizabeth Ann Eckert, SSJD

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Psalm 93, 96
Isaiah 33:17–22      
Revelation 22:6–11, 18–20    
Luke 1:57–66
What then is this child going to be? Luke 1:66

Two more sleeps! A lot of children are getting excited about Santa visiting their homes tomorrow night and hoping for gifts to miraculously appear under the tree. A great deal of preparation and expectation goes into the weeks and days leading up to Christmas Day. During Advent, we have been preparing our hearts for the expected birth of the Baby Jesus. Indeed two births have been heralded by an angel, sent to announce to two unsuspecting families that each will welcome a son. These will be no ordinary sons, but special men, who will promote God's kingdom here on earth. In our Advent readings, John has now been born, to the delight of Elizabeth and Zechariah. This boy, ordained by God to play a key role in the drama of the ages, will grow “to be called a prophet of the Most High.” He will “go on before the Lord to prepare a way for Him”. Indeed, John will be first to call Jesus the Messiah. 

Along with youngsters counting the “sleeps” until Christmas, we too are excited as we prepare for the birth of Jesus.  Over the ages, has there ever been anything awaited with more anticipation than the birth of a baby? I think of Mary, in the throes of labour, arriving in Bethlehem, jogging along on a donkey to find that there was no available room where she might be delivered of her baby in some degree of comfort. I compare Mary's journey with my “in labour” trips, being driven in a comfortable car to the pristine sanctuary of a Toronto hospital. Jesus entered this world in a dirty, uncomfortable byre. Will He find a more welcoming place in our hearts this Christmastide? Have we prepared a pure and loving space for Him? Will we heed Zechariah's prophesy as he spoke lovingly of his son John, ”for he will go before the Lord to prepare the way for him.” Come, Lord Jesus.

   – Carolyn Madeley

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday, December 22, 2014

Psalm 80
Isaiah 29:13–24        
Revelation 21:22—22.5    
Lk 1:39–48a(48b–56)

God listens and God responds. The pulse of the peoples’ pain and desire in Psalm 80 was so palpable; a psalm of remorse and lamentation, repentance and petition. Restore us, O God; Make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved. Psalm 80: 3,7,19

A cry for forgiveness; for God to hear and to rescue them as they acknowledge their weakness and waywardness of spirit and beseech God for another chance; for new life! And because God so loves us he sent his only son into the world, not to condemn but to save the world through him and that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16-17

I identified with our ancestors as I thought about how many times I myself have strayed.  Can you? How many times in my own life have I, with wayward spirit, wandered off track as I followed the devices and desires of my own heart?  The many times that I have prayed:  Make haste O God to deliver me, O Lord make haste to help me! (Psalm 70:1) or Create in me a pure heart, O Lord; renew a right spirit within me? (Psalm 51:10)

I recalled the times God has restored my own life. I think about us
collectively, and how we need to continue to pray Restore us, O God; Make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved when we consider the chaos of the world in our time.

God hears and God responds. So as we reflect on the readings this Advent season may we also sing and pray Mary’s love song: My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

May the God of all fill us with love, and the joy and peace of believing through the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit.

- Sr. Rhonda Cross, SSJD

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Psalm 72      
Isaiah 28:9–22            
Revelation 21:9–21       
Luke 1:26–38 

And in the spirit he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal.  Revelation 21:10-11

Last spring our congregation started something new. Twice a month we put a sign up on the sidewalk inviting our neighbours to “Come visit the Open Door today 2 – 4 pm: FREE”. We’re located across the street from a psychiatric hospital and the homes around us are mainly care facilities for adults who cannot live on their own. We set checkered cloths on card tables. The counter is laden with food. Many people say they come for the fresh brewed coffee. One day about 30 guests were gathered. There was lots of chatter while music played on the radio. A man wearing a helmet came in, head and shoulders above the crowd. That’s when we noticed he was wearing inline skates. Effortlessly, he skated around the perimeter and went out again. Minutes later he returned – this time with a man he’d just met on the street. “I told him he should come,” the skater said, “Told him he’d be welcome.” The two sat down, ate something, drank something else. Though new acquaintances, their heads were bent in seemingly serious conversation. Then the skater got up and skated off. A volunteer wondered who he was. Another asked how he knew they’d be welcome. The man he brought in said, “That’s simple. He told me you knew him.” One of the regulars said, “Yeah. You guys know Jesus.” 

Does Jesus wear roller blades?? Today’s reading invites us to open our hearts and see a new kind of city, where all are welcome; a rare jewel indeed.

– Frances Drolet-Smith

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Psalm 66,67       
Isaiah 11:10-16    
Revelation 20: 11- 21: 8     
Luke 1: 5-25

Today’s Scriptures offered me little inspiration until I realized that I was resisting the vision in Revelation of those souls who had not measured up so their names were not recorded in the Book of Life – they were thrown into the fiery lake.  My whole instinct cried “NO”.  Where was forgiveness?  This is not the God of love that I know. I remember Kathleen Norris saying we should not cut out the nasty bits in the Bible we don’t like; should rather look at them as reflecting our human condition. I found this helpful. If we are really honest, can we really say that we would not find satisfaction in seeing those people who despitefully use us get their comeuppance, or understand God’s forgiveness in the violence happening in our world? People often ask why people who have lived their lives doing evil should be given the same forgiveness as those who try to love their neighbours. The parable of the workers in the vineyard tells us God’s ways are not our ways.  

This brought me to consider the Child whose birth we are awaiting
and what followed.  The essence I found here was that God came into our world; in Jesus, God lived our human life, challenging our assumptions of how we should live.  After the Resurrection he returned to earth to spend time with his disciples, teaching them how to continue his work.  This underlines the view of the Kingdom of God being on earth, not in some far off place, removed us. The passage following the fiery lake reassures me of this.  The Kingdom will not remove us from earth, but God will come among us, and the earth will become the place God created it to be.  This is a message of hope. As we approach Christmas, I will open my eyes and heart to those moments when we see God’s kingdom working, not just in the future, but here and now, when God working in our human weakness can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine and I will sing with joy Thank you O my Father, for giving us your Son, and leaving us your Spirit, till the work on earth is done.

- Jean Gandon  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Psalm 61, 62
Isiah 11:1–9        
Revelation 20:1–10        
John 5:30–47

Hear my cry, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I will cry to You,
When my heart is overwhelmed;
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
Psalm 61:1-2 (NKJV)

The Messiah—the one for whom we wait, is the most commonly known uniqueness about the Jewish religion—and also my heritage.  Yet, through turns of events over the years, God called me to conversion through the yearning He put into my life to seek Him, many times since my adolescence—only to end up disillusioned.

By mid-life I began to question if Jesus really was who Christians claimed, the Son of God—very difficult for me to fathom. Not until my serious journey through to conversion when I read and re-read the Gospels—as advised by a qualified person to help me with my search—did I grasp that Jesus was the Messiah. To this, I could relate.

On the second Sunday in Advent this year, I will have celebrated the 25th anniversary of my conversion. I marvel that Jesus, the Great Physician, through faith and prayer, brought healing into every area of my life—especially from the pain of my childhood, that I carried into and through adulthood for many years.

Each Advent my relationship deepens as I reflect on my life’s journey and purpose as a beloved child of God. While discovering my true self in the context of the second half of life, I’m learning “to be” instead of “to do.”

In these latter years my disposition has evolved from living “overwhelmed,” to becoming more calm, peaceful, and loving; resulting in an increase in joy—beyond what I could have asked or imagined.   To God be the glory!

- Phyllis Beauchamp

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Psalm 24, 29  
Isaiah 42:1–12        
Ephesians 6:10–20        
John 3:16–21

What is the joy of the incarnation except that God took flesh, was born of a woman, and became one of us? But, why do we celebrate His nativity? Because "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

The love of God was revealed to humankind and manifested in the person of Jesus Christ. We ought to rejoice and be glad. Let us "Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth . . .” (Isaiah 42:10-12)

Who is He who was incarnate for us? He is the King of glory, strong and mighty (Psalm 24:8). . . who gives strength to his people; and blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:11) . . . who created the heavens, and stretched them out; (Isaiah 42:5).

What is His plan for us? He supports the bruised reed and does not break it.  He does not quench the smoking flax. He judges the earth with righteousness. He holds our hand. He keeps us. He renews the new covenant . . . He opens the blind eyes. He brings out the prisoners and those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:2-7).

I see Christ in those who support every soul which is bruised with trials, burdens, illness, poverty, oppression and injustice. I see Christ's compassion in those who try to rekindle the love of God in the hearts of the weary. I see the face of Jesus in those who look upon others with total acceptance offering His forgiveness and proclaiming the good news: "He that believeth on him is not condemned" (John 3:18). When we believe that He loves us and forgives us we are no longer condemned by our consciences, here nor on the day of judgment.
"Blessed is He who made our flesh a dwelling place for his mysterious being. Blessed is He who declared to us His mysteries in our tongue. Let us worship Him who has enlightened our mind with His teaching and laid down a path for His word in our hearing. Let us give thanks to him who has grafted His fruit in our tree…. Praise to Him who invisibly cultivates our spirit. Blessed is He who attuned the senses of our spirit, that it might ever play songs of exaltation to Him on its lyre." (St. Ephraim the Syrian, Spiritual Psalter, .188)

– Mervat Iskander

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Psalm 119:49-72
Isaiah 9:8-17
2 Peter 2:1-10
Mark 1: 1-8

Today John the Baptist speaks to us, telling us of the coming of the Messiah and how he is just a harbinger of this joyous news. It brings to mind the people in my life who have shone a light before me, bringing joy to my path, hope for both the present and the future – Elders. Not just First Nations Elders, though I have been blessed by some, but any older person who has aged gracefully, joyously, and in faith – certainly not “grumpy old men”(or women).

These “Elders” have shown me what is possible both now and in the future. They have shared wisdom, faith and joy gleaned over a lifetime despite, or perhaps because, of suffering. They have never given up hope and thus shine the light of Christ in the world, and to me. I look to their example as I age. Certainly, our society shows no respect for this stage of our lives, pushing youthfulness at the expense of wisdom, not realizing the deeper joy that can come with age.

At Christmas we celebrate Christ as a child, but I see Christ in the eyes and hearts and faces of our “Elders” who are so much more than elderly. May we all be a joy to the young in our old age, bringing hope and preparing the way.

– Nancy Scott

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Psalm 45 
Isaiah 9:1–7
2 Peter 1:12–21
Luke 22:54–69

So we have this prophetic message more fully confirmed; you would do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Peter 1:19-21

Snow blankets the darkening
city of their dreams,
stark, unforgiving now,
swaddled shadows trundle,

spilling plastic bags,
dodge clanging street cars,
swerving police cruisers,

alert for small kindness,
comfort in greeting,
heat on supper platters,

splashing water, blankets,
cling again to 
Out of the Cold solace,
Bright sun spills out

women, men, sporting
replete bellies,
faces of eternal Christ

urging into new day
city of their dreams, 


– Janice Barnes

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Psalm 41, 52 

Isaiah 8:16,–9.1 2 
Peter 1:1–11 
Luke 22:39–53

“I trust in the steadfast love of God for every and ever . . . . I will proclaim your name for it is good.” Ps 52: 8- 9

As I write this reflection, I am sitting in Scarborough Hospital at the bedside of Br. Dunstan, SSF, a Franciscan from Little Portion Friary on Long Island, N.Y. Br. Dunstan, age 92, had come to St. John’s Convent for ten days of holiday. He had been thoroughly enjoying the peacefulness of the convent and the delicious food, but something he had eaten for supper two days ago had badly upset his fragile digestive system. Yesterday afternoon I had accompanied him to Emergency. Throughout the past 28 hours, Br. Dunstan has never lost his inner joy or sense of humour in spite of extreme pain, dehydration and long waits. When he wasn’t keeping us chuckling at his jokes, he was sharing his faith and telling me about his guardian angel, Duniel. I asked him when he first became aware of Duniel. He described a terrifying incident from his time as a pilot. The plane he was flying stalled and suddenly went into a downward spin. He thought the end had come. Then
Brother Dustan bidding farewell to Sr. EA
Dunstan clearly heard the words: “You know how to spin!” Dunstan suddenly remembered the training he had had as a cadet. He had learned many manoeuvres, including how to spin left, how to spin right, how to go into a dive from a spin and how, ever so slowly and carefully, to pull the plane out of a dive by finding a straight road or railway line below and flying parallel to it. Duniel had enabled him to deal calmly in a paralyzing situation. When the plane landed safely, the crew leaped out and kissed the ground in gratitude for their lives. Br. Dunstan had trusted in the steadfast love of God.

 – Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe Thomas, SSJD

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday December 14, 2014

Psalm 63:1–8(9–11), 98 
Isaiah 13:6–13
Hebrews 12:18–29
John 3:22–30

Shout your praises to God, everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band!
Round up an orchestra to play for God, Add on a hundred-voice choir. (Psalm 98:4-5, The Message)

By now we've been bombarded with “holiday” music
everywhere we go. “I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus”
while we are grocery shopping, “Jingle Bell Rock” while sitting in the dentist's chair and if we're really lucky, we might hear dogs barking “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” while we’re pumping gas. (I wish there was a font to indicate sarcasm . . .)
My collection of Christmas recordings is quite large, everything from Pub Carols (you can almost smell the sheep as the shepherds watch their flocks by night) to the most traditional Christmas music. The only problem is: it's still Advent. Honouring the Advent season and its music is one of the hardest parts of 'waiting' in a world that starts playing Christmas music in early November. If a radio station offers me a good recording of Handel's Messiah
while I'm driving to work tomorrow, I won't turn it off; in fact I'll roll down the windows and turn up the volume, but I won't dust off my Christmas music until next week when we start the transition from Advent to Christmas. By mid-afternoon on Sunday the cathedral will be decked out in most of her Christmas finery for Lessons and Carols, fresh candles and blue hangings changed to gold and red. The choir in their freshly pressed surplices will enter and the procession will slowly move to the west end of the church. This is the moment for me, on the edge of my seat waiting, we stand and the treble sings “Once in Royal David's city, stood a lowly cattle shed.....” A single voice joined by the choir and then on the third verse we all join in as the procession moves east.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth

For that moment of joy, it was worth the wait!

 – Chris Hooker

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Psalm 30, 32
Isaiah 8:1–15        
2 Thessalonians 3:6–18        
Lk 22:31–38

Simon Peter, sure-footed and confident, is ready to follow Jesus anywhere, even die for him! I just can’t imagine what he must have felt like when Jesus says that Peter will deny knowing him 3 times before dawn!  Put down?  Gob-smacked?  Afraid?  Offended?  Guilty?  Jesus is the one who knows the reality, not just of Peter, but of all of us.  We usually have good intentions to ‘follow’ Christ but how present are we to the Presence within ourselves?  How often do we really listen to the God within, put on the face of Christ and act from that Presence?

On this day in 1920, the UN established the International Court of Justice in The Hague.  This day in 1993 was the deadline for the Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza.  Twenty-one years later this has just happened.  Do we dare to hope for peace between Israel and Palestine?

We can feel powerless when we think of the nearly 90 conflicts happening in the world today, yet in the end, God/Love will prevail.  Jesus assured Peter that He had been praying for him; and his faith, although it would falter, would not be destroyed.

I need to remember that each time I falter, forgetting to acknowledge Christ’s presence, it is a chance to return to God’s love.  It is only with God’s love strengthening me, that I have a chance to breathe peace into a world full of conflict.

Consider the difference in our actions and God’s actions.                                

We often ask, “Why did you do that  
or “Why did I act like that?”                                          
We do act. And yet everything we do                              
is God’s creative action.   - Rumi

- Doreen Davidson

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday, December 12, 2014

Psalm 31
Isaiah 7:10–25        
2 Thessalonians 2:13—3.5        
Luke 22:14–30
You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me. Psalm 31:3

In the later ‘70’s I was stationed at Great Falls, Montana and my brother, Denis, lived and worked in Calgary, Alberta. One day I talked to Denis on the phone and told him that I had a few days off and thought that I would come up to Calgary for a visit, which he agreed to.

The next day I headed north and arrived in SW Calgary and drove through the city as if I had driven the route before. Left here, right here, and eventually I arrived at a set of condos in NE Calgary. I pulled up to a door and rang the bell. Denis opened the door, welcomed me, dug through some packing boxes and made us some coffee. Since my arrival, his behaviour seemed a little strange. On the second cup of coffee he finally spoke his concern and asked me how I had got here. I asked him what he meant and he asked me how I knew where he lived. I said “You told me.” He said that he did not tell me that he was moving to a different part of the city and in fact, he did not even know what unit he was going into until the previous evening. He had been expecting me to phone for directions. We were both left stunned by the situation.

This and other similar occurrences reveals to me that God does not need words to talk to us. We only need to be at peace and He will guide us through our hearts.

- Nora Bottomley

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Psalm 37:1–18  

Isaiah 7:1–9        
2 Thessalonians 2:1–12        
Luke 22:1–13

These readings bring back memories of my decision to go forward for Life Profession. Like the Israelites, I was over-whelmed with fear; the fear of trusting God with what was happening at the moment. Like the Thessalonians, I was shaken. I was confused and distressed by what I was hearing and feeling. The Israelites, Thessalonians and I were unable to stand firm in the faith when chaos reigned. We were unable to welcome God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit into our lives or to rest in their power and wisdom.  Peace with God, self and others was absent.

God instructed the Israelites to breathe – calm oneself, have no fear, take care and take courage. This occurred for me when I was reading Psalm 37. It was in the paraphrasing of Psalm 37 in song and dancing to it that taught and helped me quieten my heart and mind so I could believe once again in God’s love for me –  and to welcome Christ, once again, into my life with delight. It is the “take and eat and drink” of that Last Supper that sustains me today.

Today, I am more aware of welcoming Christ and others as a disposition or a way of being rather than an action, although to welcome someone requires action.  Welcoming is a response of love and gratitude to Christ who welcomes us into his life at the Eucharist. We will then know the peace that passes all understanding.

- Sr. Brenda Jenner, SSJD

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Psalm 38      
Isaiah 6:1–13        
2 Thessalonians 1:1–12        
John 7:53—8:11

But it is for you, O Lord, that I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer. Psalm 38:15

After reading through all of today’s scriptures, I must say how comparable in nature our cries for peace in our time are to the cries of the Hebrew people of long ago.  I chose Psalm 38:15 because of the heartfelt love and quiet trust that the psalmist so eloquently expressed.  The psalmist's telling of his woes brought to mind an image of someone standing in pouring rain yet feeling sufficiently sheltered to express his yearnings to God.  Such a person waits for God's peace just as the psalmist yearned and waited to be filled with God's peace. 

As I contemplated further, I thought of such grace-filled moments that can be so easily overlooked, whether one is alone or surrounded by a crowd.  I have experienced a homeless person passing on her greeting to me, saying 'Peace, Sister'.   Such a gesture makes me wonder whether the Lord is more with her than with me. 

I believe the Lord shows us many ways to build a more solid foundation of peace within ourselves.  Peace can be shared with love, not only within our own family but with everyone we meet. I wish a couple of seconds of silence could be inserted into our worship services prior to us physically passing 'the Peace'. It may make us more aware of the meaning of God's Peace when our hands touch each other, as we more gracefully acknowledge one another. There is usually great anxiety within us while waiting on our petitions for God’s Peace.  With the psalmist, we cry out 'when Lord, when'?  Meanwhile, God’s Peace is gently tapping on the walls of our chests, competing with the angry roaring of our woes.   With this longing for God's peace in every aspect of our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we can physically sense a deepening of His loving Presence. 

During this Advent season, may His breath, which we see in the movement of falling leaves, strengthen our hearts as we wait to give thanks for His precious gift. May we become more sensitive to the feel of our brother's/sister's hand in passing the peace as we worship our God together.                                              

 – Beulah Walcott

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Psalm 26, 28
Isaiah 5:13–17, 24–25        
1 Thessalonians 5:12–28        
Luke 21:29–38

Jesus warns us in our reading today to be watchful for the potential of our hearts being weighed down by both poor choices and daily pressures.  They can trap us into a deep or perhaps careless unawareness of God’s presence and actions.

Isaiah warns of his own people whose history reveals to us God’s story of grace and love in their midst.  Yet their response is described as one of spurning, despising, rejecting and disregarding God’s actions and will.  King David reiterates this in the Psalms for today.  How might we be called to respond to these warnings and readings as part of our Advent preparations?  

The word that resonates for me is ‘honour’.    I have ‘sat’ with it for a while and it brings an important reminder to my experience of Advent this year.  This is a season when adoration, wonder and awe sing out from our mouths and lives.  Honour invokes gratitude and earnest respect; it encourages us to nurture the cherished treasure of God’s presence; beckoning us to ‘lift our hearts’ to the Lord, and humbly welcome the God who loves and delights in us.    

Paul’s letter today reflects how we honour God through our love and care in communities of worship, families and neighbours.  

While Advent wreaths our celebrations of God’s story with heightened alertness and anticipation, we may seek to also offer honour in a time and space of quiet recollection,  refreshing our souls again with the Good News of Jesus’ birth; opening our hearts in a calm and certain knowing of his glorious return; resting our ‘tattered and scattered’ lives in a humble willingness of faithful waiting to welcome The Gift.

May the peace of Christ embrace you today as you honour him in your hearts.

- Dorothy Dahli

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Psalm 25
Isaiah 5:8–12, 18–23        
1 Thessalonians 5:1–11        
Luke 21:20–28

How are we to find the Messiah in these readings?  The psalm speaks of treachery, guilt, violence; Isaiah of greed, falsehood, arrogance, the Gospel of siege, desolation and vengeance.  These readings – thousands of years old – remind us all too vividly of the world we live in today.

The brutality of ISIS, the civil war in Syria, the death-toll of Ebola; the greed that leads to shrinking aquifers and global warming; terrorism and gang warfare; the hunger of the homeless, the children trapped in poverty. Where is the Messiah in the barbaric realities of our world?

And what of our own lives?  The lives of those we love?  Is there greed?  Desolation? Guilt? Falsehood? Where is the anger we feel or fear?  Even as we do our best to live our lives as Christians, there are times when we walk not in the light but in the dark.  Where is the Messiah?

An atheist once asked a chaplain “Where is your God for that child
dying of leukemia?”  The chaplain replied  “Jesus is lying in the bed with her, holding her in his arms.”

The Psalmist says: To you, O God, I lift up my soul.  O my God, inyou I put my trust.  Paul tells us: you are all children of light and children of the day.  And the Gospel says: stand up and raise your heads because your redemption in drawing near.

In the worst of times, let us remember that child with leukemia:  The Messiah is with us, holding us in His arms.

- Sr. Sue Elwyn, SSJD

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Psalm 148, 149, 150    
Isaiah 5:1–7        
2 Peter 3:11–18        
Luke 7:28–35

Nevertheless, we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.  2 Peter 3:13

The call for inner transformation to a new level of individual human consciousness is heard in the voice of Christ during the Advent season. The wisdom of Christ is seen in the parable of Matthew 25 that talks of the wise and foolish bridesmaids. The story talks of a wedding feast and ten bridesmaids waiting for their bridegroom. When his arrival is delayed, the wise bridesmaids prepare themselves by ensuring they have oil for their lamps, the foolish bridesmaids do not. Like most parables, this story has a deeper meaning one dealing with enlightenment or the “lumen superius” so named by St. Bonaventure. Why did they not share the oil? Enlightenment evolves as part of our own spiritual commitment, not easily shared and useful only when you are ready to receive it.

The inner transformation of your own spiritual vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7) will take a lot of work and cultivation. If driven by ego our lives become a vineyard of wild grapes and lack integrity of purpose and meaning. We must pursue a mindful approach to our life that leaves no chance of being left behind when it comes time to be a true witness to Christ. We must believe that we are part of the birth of a new heaven and earth that we envision and co-create. Advent is a season dedicated to the transcendent energy of the love of God becoming Christ becoming the Holy Spirit, shared with us in the eternal circle of renewal, transformation and ultimate peace.

- Kathryn Tulip

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Psalm 20, 21:1–7(8–14)          
Isaiah 4:2–6 
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18        
Luke 21:5–19

Encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

These words from the appointed readings were not just for our ancestors but for us today. What came to mind immediately as I was meditating on the passages, were the words that we hear at this time of year, “Love came down from Heaven”.

Hope for me is believing that the Messiah has come into my world to show me how to Love. Invites me to receive that love into my heart, to see and feel how that love blesses and nourishes, and then encourages me to share that love with others - an invitation to have an open heart and to wholeness.
  • What does it mean to me now, today, to welcome the Messiah?
  • What distracts me from welcoming the Messiah?
  • How will I be with the Lord forever, now and for eternity?
  • What are my fears – what are the shadows within that cause me to doubt that love has come down from heaven and offers love and joy that love and justice might reign forever?
I am asked to hold firm and trust in the radical Love of the Messiah present in and around me right now. To encourage one another in that love, and the gift given is that we will be with the Lord forever – to stand firm in my faith and gain life to the fullest now and for eternity. I am called to be a witness to this Glory. How will I witness to God’s Glory through the birth anew each year of Jesus in my heart?

For all that has been, thanks be to God. For what is, thanks be to God. For what will be, thanks be to God!

– Sr. Dorothy Handigan, SSJD

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Psalm 16, 17  

Isaiah 3:8–15  
1 Thessalonians 4:1–12 
 Luke 20:41—21:4

Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling… Isaiah 3:8

In June I landed in Beijing, hungry for a sense of this city. Walls of people rose before me as I grabbed my pack. My taxi raced into town. The famous breakneck pace, heat, humidity and air pollution were all, as warned, extreme.

Beijing also held surprises. Every street was lined with gracious trees and beneath them, I glimpsed signs of Old China: mops and twig brooms used vigorously past their “best-before” dates; hand-washing slung between windows and doorways and across worksites. Elders beside teeming thoroughfares perched on little folding chairs, surveying, discussing. Drivers, oblivious, napping in their busses and moto-rickshaws.

At Tiananmen, pounded by heat, I knew I must turn back to the hotel, or quickly find air-conditioning. First I had to brave the souvenir sellers clustered outside the massive Square. Parasols, hats, trinkets, ice cream: please buy, please buy! I struggled through, clutching my water, making for a seat in the shade.

After a time, a woman sat down beside me. Speaking quietly in Mandarin, her meaning was: “Look. You are hot, and I can help. See my excellent fans (pulled from plastic bag, demonstrated). Buy one. I will give you a deal.”

Did I buy because I was too hot? Because she followed me? Because her eyes held kindness, or because she, like me, was no longer young? Certainly she saw me truly: in need. Beneath those gracious trees, beside that plaza of ceremony, bloodshed and power, I welcomed Messiah in this fan-seller, and, as my yuan became her yuan, I felt her welcome Him in me.
 – Julie Poskitt

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Psalm 18:1–20   

Isaiah 2:12–22

1 Thessalonians 3:1–13
Luke 20:27–40

If you ever feel that you have lost hope, take comfort in the Compline liturgy as I have over the past eighteen months. There is a prayer in that liturgy which begins "Lord, it is night . . .", and there is a profound sense of hope in its conclusion: "The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.” That prayer has been an inspiration for me. It has been a hope-filled inspiration through some very dark times.

The Gospel of Luke for today speaks to me in a very different way than it will to most of you. Certainly the Sadducees wanted to make the concept of the resurrection look ridiculous by posing their question concerning the one bride and the seven brothers. Jesus put the Sadducees in their place having proven to them that their argument about the resurrection was wrong, and reminding them that God is a God of the living not of the dead. He is emphasizing God's promise to share with us His unending love and life eternal, an incredible promise which allows us to live right now in the joy and hope of the age to come. But it was also the message in verses 34-36 that resonates with me, where Jesus clearly states that the human relationships of marriage do not exist in the same way beyond death. However, I have a deep sense of hope and expectation for the God-defined relationships of the resurrection which I believe will transcend those of this age.

– Sandy Austin

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Psalm 119:1–24  
Isaiah 2:1–11  
1 Thessalonians 2:13–20      
Luke 20:19–26

They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. 
Isaiah 2: 4

Advent season has begun. Every year at this time, I resolve to bear witness to God’s peace that passes all understanding. I wait for the birth of Jesus—Prince of Peace. I wait hoping that my saviour will help us overcome the human-made storms, terrorism, and wars of life, as well as the personal problems which have caused us so much heartache. 

HOPE   I remember the story of Saint Ann’s Church in London, England during World War II. The altar guild prepared the church for Harvest Sunday 1940. There was fruit, corn and beautiful flowers decorating the altar. Shortly after the women had gone home, Saint Ann’s Church was hit by a bomb and demolished. 
When spring came and then summer, a passer-by noticed that where the altar had stood, there was a patch of corn—proof that life is stronger that death; that there is a power stronger that humanity’s wrong-headedness. 

The prophet Isaiah gives us words of comfort and reminds us that all humanity shall someday live in peace. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Amen

 – Lynne van der Hiel

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Psalm 5, 6 Isaiah 1:21–31 1 Thessalonians 2:1–12 Luke 20:9–18

In love is patience always found, for love kind hearts make common ground; from love conceit and pride take flight and jealously is banished. Love keeps no score of what’s wrong nor sings a pessimistic song nor lets regret or guilt prolong for love expects tomorrow. (from “Should I Rehearse with Human Voice” by John Bell)

In today’s parable Jesus reveals something of the risk of loving. The owner of the vineyard sent one, two, then a third servant to his tenants. They were beat up and cast out. Then he sent his son—and they killed him. God’s human creatures have thus responded to such love from that time until this.

The God of love and hope refuses to let go or give up. God keeps loving even those who reject all Godly overtures – even until they break and destroy themselves by their own resistance. God loves men and women at their worst; “…while we were yet sinners Christ died for us,” wrote Paul (Romans 5.8) “I will send my beloved son,” said the owner of the vineyard, “perhaps they will respect him.”

The God who took such a risk on our behalf has every right to expect us to take some risks on behalf of our fellow beings. We have a position of trust and responsibility in the vineyard of our God; it is to love our brothers and sisters in the human family. This is our primary vocation, regardless of our various avocations. There’s a risk to this kind of loving. There are times when those we love are not able to understand, receive or assimilate such love. Then we are hurt and frustrated; we pull back and become cautious about extending our love to others.

Loving others does involve pain and suffering, discomfort and inconvenience. At the same time, the very effort to love serves to stretch our souls and enlarge our capacity for enrichment. At least we are truly alive when we reach out in love and hope—whether that love and hope is responded to or not.

Sue House