Sunday, December 28, 2014

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

Christmas blessings to you and your family! We hope this reflection will encourage and inspire you. If you have enjoyed following these reflections, please consider contributing your own reflection to our Lenten series! 

The Sunday that follows Christmas is celebrated as a feast to honor the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.This feast comes at a time of year when we are naturally thinking about our families. During the Christmas holiday season, we might be merrily enjoying each other’s company, reliving our favorite traditions, or getting on one another’s last nerves - or, the most likely scenario, some combination of all three.

In any case, we might also use this time to reflect more deeply on what it means to be a family united by faith, and how our faith can strengthen us to care for our families more lovingly. This Sunday’s readings provide plenty of inspiration. We hear the story of the day to day life of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in Nazareth. We hear encouragement in the advice of Sirach: “He stores up riches who reveres his mother … Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” We hear inspiration in the exhortation of Paul: Put on … heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another.” The reverence for one another that Sirach encourages and the spiritual gifts that Paul names are essential for harmony in the home. While at times it can be quite challenging to treat one another with compassion, humility, and reverence, at many times the love we feel for our families makes forgiveness and understanding second nature.

In reflecting on these readings, I feel the true challenge lies in extending these graces to those outside our family and in changing the way we define what it means to be a family. How to we extend compassion and reverence to strangers in our communities? As a Fordham community, how do we welcome newcomers into our “Ramily?” We have many opportunities to do this, from offering international classmates a meal for Thanksgiving to explaining Fordham traditions to new coworkers, from sharing a swipe at the caf to becoming acquainted with our off-campus neighbors here in the Bronx.

We can extend our care and compassion even farther. Each year, the Catholic bishops in the U.S. sponsor a National Migration Week around the time of the Feast of the Holy Family. It takes its inspiration from the Holy Family’s journey to Egypt to escape Herod’s persecution. National Migration week provides an opportunity to learn about and to advocate for the many families today who find themselves in the Holy Family’s shoes, leaving their homes to escape persecution or find stability. To learn more about National Migration Week, including how you can pray for and support migrant families, visit the home page.

May you and your families, near and far, be blessed with spiritual graces and great joy this Feast of the Holy Family!

Katie Anderson Kuo
Asst. Director of Campus Ministry for Liturgy

Monday, December 22, 2014

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Every year during Advent, my thoughts turn to Mary and Joseph and my imagination is captured trying to picture all the details of their daily reality - the sights they encountered in Nazareth, the sounds of day-to-day life, the smells of food and sweat and animals that must have been their norm.  Before you continue reading, take a moment to pause and imagine Mary and Joseph in Nazareth for yourself, entering into today’s Gospel reading as if you are there.  Perhaps this song can help: Breath from Heaven (Mary’s Song) - Amy Grant.

It is amidst this nitty-gritty routine that the unimaginable took place.  How must Mary have felt when the angel appeared to her and then told her she is to bear God's very self as her son, as we hear in today's Gospel?  How must Joseph have reacted when he heard the news from Mary and then from the angel?  Both of them, entrenched in the cultural and religious traditions of their time, must have felt a great deal of fear.  How would their families react?  Would anyone believe them?  Would they be welcome any longer in their own hometown?  Yet amidst this fear, they found the courage to say, “yes” to God and to one another.

How did they find such courage? This Advent, this question has been my prayer, which I've directed toward Mary and Joseph directly.  "How did you do it?" I've asked.  "Where did you find the courage and faith to say, 'yes'?"  
I can’t claim with certitude to know the fullness of the source of their courage and commitment, but one potential answer has emerged through my prayer – Mary and Joseph were able to not only say, “yes”, but to live out their “yes” because it came out of a deep sense of authenticity rooted in faith.  Through faith they knew that the only genuine response to this invitation from God – specifically to them – could only be “yes”; that this was the way God was calling them to be their best selves and to meet the needs of the world in their time.  It was their authentic vocation.  In this deep sense of knowing and of faith, Mary and Joseph were able to trust that God would give them the tools, that is to say the grace, they would need to endure the challenges that would lie ahead.

Like Mary and Joseph, living an authentic life does not mean choosing the path of least resistance, but following the path that brings us a deep sense of peace, commitment, and excitement even knowing that there will be challenges.  We say “yes” trusting God will equip us with the grace to endure difficulties and to live our vocation fully and to the best of our ability so that we can help meet the needs of our world today.

In these remaining days of Advent, what is God inviting you to say "yes" to?  What graces do you need to overcome the fear and resistance that hold you back from giving your full "yes" to God?  If you’re not sure where to start, perhaps you too can ask Mary and Joseph for some guidance.

Let us pray…

Erin R. Hoffman
Assistant Director of Campus Ministry for Spiritual Programs

Monday, December 15, 2014

Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday)

Why is it so dark in here?

Last night, as we gathered in the University Church (in unusually dim light) to celebrate the Third Sunday of Advent—Gaudete Sunday—many asked this question.

Why is it so dark in here?

And isn’t that the same question Advent asks of us? As the sun sets earlier and earlier, leaving us literally “in the dark,” this season leaves us waiting for the light, longing for the light—for the coming of Christ, the true light, into our world.

And truth be told, sometimes our world is dark. Really dark. Wars rage. People are shot and killed on our streets. Friendships, relationships, and marriages fall apart. Most often, we persist in the little sins, the drama and little hurts that tear us apart.

Take a moment, right now, and call to mind those things. Call to mind those darknesses that you’re dealing with right now.

Name them. Face them. Hold them in your heart.

Why is it so dark in here?

But this Third Sunday of Advent—this Gaudete! Sunday—calls us to REJOICE!

Because even in darkness, we invoke the light that has come into our lives! We symbolize that ever-growing light with candles—one, then two, then three, then four—that symbolize our growing hope, our anticipation of the coming of Christ.

That for which we long has come and will come again

But don’t get me wrong—that doesn’t mean everything is okay. Quite the opposite.

Why is it so dark in here?

Christ, the true light, dwells within and among us. And although those are words we say a lot, we need to consider the full depth of their meaning. These words are a command! Because Christ is present in us and through us, we are called through prayer and action to make our joy known to the world, that all “may have life, and have it more abundantly!” (Jn. 10:10). 

The First Reading gives us pretty specific ideas of what it means to bring this light to the world:

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the LORD
and a day of vindication by our God.

To ask, “Why is it so dark in here?”  is to ask “How do I make it light?”

Rejoice, People of God, and work to make it light!

Paul J. Schutz
PhD Candidate in Systematic Theology, Assistant Director of Music for Campus Ministry

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Second Sunday of Advent

Advent is a time of joyful anticipation – a time when we await the coming of the Lord and the beginning of the fulfillment of the new covenant with the birth of Jesus. With joyful voice, we hear that anticipation proclaimed over and again in today’s readings. We hear of God’s comfort and forgiveness, compassion and care and a deep, patient and resounding love.

In the Gospel, John the Baptist speaks of one who is mightier than he who will come after him – one who will baptize not with water, but with the Holy Spirit, which will pour out into the world.

As we prepare for the birth of Jesus, God’s magnificent outpouring of love into the world, we are invited to “prepare the way” – to purify our hearts - to level the mountains and fill the valleys, making a highway through the wasteland - and to proclaim from the highest mountain – God is near!

How do we prepare the way today? Worldly preparations for the Christmas season seemed to have started early this year, with decorations and carols making their appearance in stores and shops well before Thanksgiving. Yet I wonder if the real preparation, or perhaps the preparation for the preparation, doesn’t begin earlier, in the quiet moments of our lives; those moments when we are invited by God to know God’s love and compassion, God’s forgiveness and God’s overwhelming desire that no one be excluded from the banquet of the Lord. Advent is a time to prayerfully acknowledge our own mountains and valleys, and joyfully make even the inner-road. In our preparations, we are equally invited to turn our gaze outward as well. Just as the Israelites waited in eager anticipation for the coming of the Messiah, there are many in our world today who today also await in anticipation – those on the margins who look to be brought into the center, those who have suffered pain who look to be healed and those whose hearts cry out for God’s mercy, justice and love. God was welcomed into the world in a humble manger. As we prepare to welcome God into the world today, what kind of world do we prepare?

In the birth of Jesus we are invited to experience an outpouring of God’s love that is so generous, so powerful and so wholly gratuitous that the only truly appropriate response is to continue to pour out that love. In Advent we are invited to let God’s love pour into our hearts, our lives, our labor and our world and prepare the way for a world where God’s love reigns supreme.  We glimpse that world in the today’s psalm:

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

Indeed Lord, we pray, in this time of Advent as we prepare the way, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation. Amen.

Conor L. O'Kane
Associate Director, Campus Ministry

Director, Interfaith Ministries

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent Reflection - First Sunday of Advent

Readings from the First Sunday of Advent:

Today marks the first day of Advent - the beginning of the church’s liturgical year. For many centuries, it was understood as a penitential season, akin to Lent, in which fasting and abstinence were its chief features, as the church prepared for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.  Although increased fasting and prayer are still encouraged, and purple vestments are worn to signal the penitential overtones of this liturgical season, many of us get lost in the secular and commercial nature of this time.

In the first reading we hear Isaiah wishing that the people of Israel might be caught doing what is right, but more often it seems that is not the case. So they blame God for giving them too much freedom and for not coming through with awesome signs, which would make doing the right thing so simple! They sound like a pathetic lot!  If we are honest, we can recognize some of our own projections onto God.  How easy it is to blame others or to blame God for moving away from us and for hiding from us.  The Psalmist pleads, like a child, “Lord make us turn to you”.  (I can almost hear myself or a sibling plead to our parents, “Make her do this. Tell them to do that.”)

Paul reminds us that we don’t need to blame others or God. Through Christ we already have the grace we need to live in fidelity to the covenant. We are invited, not forced, to do what is right. The message is this: Wake up, people!  Wake up to your potential! Wake up to your calling to live in the light.

Advent is about presence, not  presents. Instead of rushing about searching for presents, we are invited this Advent to take seriously the quality of our ‘presence’ to one another and to God. May we be fully present to the One who longs for us to take seriously God’ presence revealed in Jesus’ incarnation.

Joan Cavanagh
Director of Campus Ministry, Westchester

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday, April 20, 2014- Easter Sunday

Today's Word:

We rightfully look on Easter morning as a day of supreme joy.  And that is as it should be.

But those who experienced that first Easter morn were confused and astonished.  Mary of Magdala approaches the tomb before dawn on that Sunday, and is horrified to see the tomb open.  She rushes back to Peter and John, the beloved disciple, with the news that someone has taken the body of Jesus, the one whom they so loved.  Peter and John rush to the tomb.  John arrives first but awaits Peter before entering the tomb.  And Peter is as confused as Mary.  It is John who first understands.

The resurrection is not a resuscitation of the crucified Jesus.  His death was just as real as our own shall be.  But our transformation shall be just as real.  The apostle Paul likens it to a small seed—our present lives—which shall fall into the ground and die.  But from that tiny seed a great tree shall emerge, as different from the seed as we shall be from whom we are today, to whom we shall be in the resurrection.

Peter and Mary, of course, came to understand.  As we hear this morning from the Acts of the Apostles, we “ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.”  And so we too do, each time we gather for the Eucharist, and recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread.  Alleluia!

Fr. Robert Grimes, S.J.
Dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014- Holy Saturday

Today's Word:

“He has been raised from the dead!”

Tonight, Catholics all across the country, after braving through seven long readings from the Old Testament, each with their own Responsorial Psalm, and an epistle, will finally rejoice at hearing the Good News we have been waiting all of Lent to hear. That is what today is about: waiting. No masses are celebrated commemorating Holy Saturday, it is a time of quiet reflection and anticipation. 

Everyone in the City can identify with this sense of waiting. Through a particularly difficult and bitter winter, every day in February and March I would wake up and check the weather app on my phone, hoping for a promising change in the weather forecast. Each day, as disappointment would come, I would nostalgically recall the warm spring days of years past, renewing my excitement for the inevitable turn in the weather. 

In a similar way, I think that is what today is about. After the disappointment and heartbreak that comes with Christ’s passion, remembered on Good Friday, we spend Holy Saturday waiting for His return in the Resurrection. As we do we recall God’s infinite goodness.  The plethora of Old Testament readings read tonight, that anticipate the Gospel of Jesus’s resurrection, detail some of the most famous moments of God’s goodness in the life of the Israelites: creation, God’s promise to Abraham, God’s liberation of the Israelites from the Egyptians, etc. These readings are supposed to remind us of the many times that God has been good to His followers, culminating in God’s greatest act of love and redemption found in the resurrection. As we spend today prayerfully waiting, anticipating the Good News of Easter, take a moment to recall a time you have felt God’s blessing in your life, and offer it up in thanksgiving of God’s greatest gift of all: His son.

Greg Pfeiffer
FCLC 2014