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The Scripture readings for this First Sunday of Advent reflect longing, gratitude, and watchfulness. While the text from Isaiah recognizes that Israel had sinned and turned away from God, their creator, and redeemer, it concludes with the people’s beautiful recognition that they are clay in God’s hands. We, too, are clay in God’s hands! What an incredible image!
Quite a few years ago, I had the delight of participating in several courses where I “played” at the potter’s wheel. Once I learned to center the clay (which was a marvelous achievement), I then learned how to raise the clay into a cylinder. Though never terribly accomplished at the wheel, becoming sensitive to the clay became a meditative experience. Each week, I looked forward to being able to feel the clay in my hands. And whenever I had the opportunity to watch a skilled potter, mold a ball of clay into beautiful shapes, I was filled with awe.
When I try to imagine that I am clay in God’s hands, I must pause and reflect on what this might mean. Am I willing to let God “center me?” Mold me into something new? Am I ready to let myself be transformed, regardless of my age, into whatever vessel God might desire me to be to help bring about God’s justice and peace?
This Advent may each of us recognize that people everywhere “…are all the work of God’s (your) hands,” (Isaiah 64:7c), and may we allow ourselves to be centered and shaped into instruments of God’s loving presence on Earth.
Nosotras somos el Barro y tú el Alfarero
Las lecturas de las Escrituras para este Primer Domingo de Adviento reflejan anhelo, gratitud y vigilancia. Aunque el texto de Isaías reconoce que Israel había pecado y se había alejado de Dios, su creador y redentor, concluye con el hermoso reconocimiento del pueblo de que son barro en las manos de Dios. ¡Nosotras también somos barro en las manos de Dios! ¡Qué imagen tan increíble!
Hace bastantes años tuve el placer de participar en varios cursos donde “jugué” al torno de alfarero. Una vez que aprendí a centrar el barro (lo cual fue un logro maravilloso), aprendí a elevar el barro hasta formar un cilindro. Aunque nunca fui una gran experta en la rueda, el volverme sensible al barro se convirtió en una experiencia meditativa. Cada semana anelhaba poder sentir el barro en mis manos. Y cada vez que tenía la oportunidad de ver a un alfarero experto moldear una bola de barro en formas hermosas, me llenaba de asombro.
Cuando trato de imaginar que soy barro en las manos de Dios, debo hacer una pausa y reflexionar sobre lo que esto podría significar. ¿Estoy dispuesta a dejar que Dios “me centre”? ¿Moldearme en algo nuevo? ¿Estoy lista para dejarme ser transformada, sin importar mi edad, en cualquier recipiente que Dios desee que sea para ayudar a lograr la justicia y la paz de Dios?
Durante este Adviento, que cada una de nosotras reconozca que personas en todas partes “… son todas obras de las (tus) manos de Dios” (Isaías 64:7c), y que podamos permitirnos centrarnos y convertirnos en instrumentos de la amorosa presencia de Dios en la Tierra.
Bendiciones de Adviento,
One of the things that I appreciate about my current community is that I live with avid bird watchers. I had no idea that such a variety of birds, from blue jays and robins to rose-breasted grosbeaks lived in my corner of southeastern Michigan. Watching the birds as they nest in the bushes and trees surrounding my home and gather at the bird feeder, has given me a different perspective on Matthew 6:26-27, when Jesus reminds his followers that, if God will care for the birds of the air, how much more does God care for us human beings!
This knowledge provides a firm foundation for our discernment. During the process of making a decision, so much can be up in the air, as we let go of preconceived notions about where we should be and what we should do to ask, where is God inviting us next? Knowing that God is caring for us throughout our discernment, in fact, that God cares for us at all times, allows us to let go of the anxieties that hold us back from making a decision.
In your own discernment, you might find it helpful to reflect on this passage from Matthew and pray with these questions:
1. When has God provided for you today?
2. What gifts has God given you today?
3. How is God asking you to shift your perspective about what is important?
El Tierno Cuidado de Dios
Una de las cosas que aprecio de mi comunidad actual es que vivo con observadores de aves apasionadas. No tenía idea de que tal variedad de aves, desde arrendajos azules y petirrojos hasta picogordos de pecho rosa, vivían en mi área del sureste de Michigan. Ver a los pájaros mientras forman sus nidos en los arbustos y árboles que rodean mi casa y se reúnen en el comedero de pájaros me ha dado una perspectiva diferente de Mateo 6:26-27, cuando Jesús les recuerda a sus seguidores que, si Dios cuidará de los pájaros de el aire, ¡cuánto más Dios se preocupa por nosotros los seres humanos!
Este conocimiento proporciona una base firme para nuestro discernimiento. Durante el proceso de tomar una decisión, puede haber muchas más preguntas, mientras dejamos de lado las nociones preconcebidas sobre dónde debemos estar y qué debemos hacer para preguntarnos, ¿dónde nos está invitando Dios a continuar? Saber que Dios nos cuida a lo largo de nuestro discernimiento, de hecho, que Dios nos cuida en todo momento, nos permite dejar ir las ansiedades que nos impiden tomar una decisión.
En su propio discernimiento, puede resultarle útil reflexionar sobre este pasaje de Mateo y orar con estas preguntas:
1. ¿Cuándo le ha provisto Dios hoy?
2. ¿Qué dones le ha dado Dios hoy?
3. ¿Cómo le pide Dios que cambie su perspectiva sobre lo que es importante?
Most of us probably wouldn’t think about embarking on something important without any planning and, perhaps, talking with another person who had already done what we’re going to do.
If we needed to learn a complex computer program for a job and everything depended on us having details correct, we’d seek advice from others who know the program or from a supervisor or IT person.
The same is true when we’re embarking on a spiritual journey. If we seriously want to commit ourselves to learning how to listen to God, how to pray or how to understand Scripture better, we can seek out others who have gone on this journey before us.
The person could be a friend or might be a “spiritual director” or “spiritual companion.” These titles cover a select set of men and women who have studied how the spiritual life develops. They are aware of the stages of spiritual growth that can be expected and what it takes to commit oneself to this kind of an inner journey.
Their well-honed skills in listening can help us develop our own abilities to listen, while helping us grow in our relationship with God. When sensing a desire to deepen our spiritual life, finding a spiritual director can be invaluable. Most retreat centers have people who specialize in this service. Some parishes have them as well. It can be a key decision we make to nurture our spiritual growth.
Blessings on the journey,
A line from Scripture jumped out at me today: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” Once in a while, people come to explore a vocation with an unhealthy spirit of sacrifice. They may think, “I’ve sinned so much; I have to make it up by giving my life to God” or “I made a promise to God that if he got me out of a situation I would become a nun.” The thing is, there is no joy or freedom in this approach. God always invites, and does not demand. Of course any life commitment involves sacrifice, but it’s not supposed to be a resentful, begrudging sacrifice. It’s a willing sacrifice that is also graced by mercy, by compassion, and by love.
That’s an important piece for discernment. Are you free? Could the decision go either way and you could still trust that God is walking with you and guiding your life? If you say, “I just have to be accepted by this congregation” or “I’ll just die if he doesn’t marry me” you aren’t free. God wants our love, not our sense of obligation. In whatever you are discerning in your life, where do you find yourself most drawn to make a healthy sacrifice in a spirit of love?
In order to make life decisions with God’s help, we need to learn to dialogue with God about the things in life that matter most to us. By developing intimacy with God through prayer, our ability to share life with God grows slowly and steadily. Praying with Scripture is foundational to this growth in intimacy with God.
In my own journey of developing an intimacy with God, I benefited greatly from a book by two Jesuit priests, Dennis and Matthew Lynn, called Healing Life’s Hurts. Using St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer of imagination with Scripture, I learned how to identify imaginatively with different figures in Scripture who might be feeling the same negative emotions I was feeling. I then learned how to encounter Jesus in this prayer and experience his response to me.
So in my anger and resentment, as though with stone in hand ready to punish the one who hurt me, I hear Jesus saying, “You who are without sin may cast the first stone” (Jn 8:7). Or to overcome with my fear of failing, as if I am about to go overboard in the storm at sea, I hear Jesus saying, “Get hold of yourself. It is I. Do not be afraid” (Mt 14:27). Or in my guilt and remorse, I find myself as the penitent woman washing Jesus’ feet with my tears and drying them with my hair, and I hear Jesus saying, “Your sins are forgiven …Your faith has been your salvation. Now go in peace” (Lk 7:48-50).
Through such encounters with the living Word, I began to realize that the Bible included me. The biblical story and our story become one story that mediates God’s unconditional love for us! As St. John of the Cross so beautifully states it, “The gospel has eyes – the eyes I so long for. The gospel has eyes; they reach to the heart and change it.”
Does your spirituality include praying with Scripture? Have you experienced God relating to you through the biblical story? What are some of the different ways in which you have grown in your intimacy with God?
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Adrian Dominican Sisters
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Adrian, Michigan 49221-1793
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