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The OP after our names stands for “Order of Preachers,” the formal name of the religious order founded in 1216 by St. Dominic. As Dominicans, we preach with our lives—in both word and deed—guided by a search for truth (veritas) and a commitment to contemplate and share the fruits of our contemplation (contemplate et aliis tradere).
Our Dominican lives are shaped by the interconnecting movements of study, prayer, communal life, and ministry.
Dominic so firmly believed in the importance of study to the preaching mission that he provided a rule of “dispensation” from other responsibilities in the event they interfered with study. We are women committed to study. Through prayer and contemplation we interiorize our learnings and enter into communion with the Source of all truth. Our communal life orients us to the common good of the whole Earth community. And in ministry, our preaching takes effect.
As women of the Gospel, our preaching is also expressed in word. Read reflections on the Word of God posted by Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates on the Praedicare Blog below.
June 5, 2022
The Gospel narratives were written upon the historical memory of the times. Luke in particular would weave into the evangelical story the reality of what was happening historically at the time, whether it was the story of the Incarnation or the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. So today for our reflection I would like to frame it around the historical memory of St. Dominic and Elisabeth and the reality of reaffirming one’s religious vows.
It was on Pentecost Sunday, May 14, 1217, when St. Dominic convened a Chapter at the Church of St. Romain in Toulouse and announced, small as they were in number, he was sending the friars out into the world. Make no mistake, Dominic was imbued with the fire of the Holy Spirit to send the friars out to praise, to bless and to preach the Word that embodied the Holy Spirit. Just as the disciples were gathered in the upper room the Dominican friars were gathered in the upper room in Toulouse and Dominic unlocked the doors for the Holy Spirit to lead them into new adventures.
For Elisabeth the call from her upper room in Vietnam to America happened in 1967. Catholic Chaplain Angelo Charles Liteky, stationed at the army base in Long Binh, contacted his elementary teacher Sister Matthew Ann living in Adrian to ask if there were four scholarships available for four Vietnamese Dominicans to study. Elisabeth was one of those sisters. As the Holy Spirit led Elisabeth from her upper room she wrote, “I had never been out of the country before and to go abroad for school, that sounded so foreign to me.”
August 28, 1968 the four sisters departed for Adrian, Michigan. Sister Rosemary Ferguson and her Council and the sisters welcomed the Vietnamese Dominicans with much joy and enthusiasm. They joined the junior professed sisters living at Weber under the supervision of Shirley Cushing. They lived, prayed and studied with the Mary Mother of Faith Crowd, of which Sister Pat Siemen was a member, and interfaced with the Mary Mother of Hope Crowd, which was my crowd while the sisters studied at Siena.
April 30 of 1975 the South Vietnamese government collapsed and 135,000 refugees were brought to the U.S. Elisabeth’s family was part of that group. This is when Elisabeth’s work of resettling the Vietnamese and other refugees from all over the world brought her to this upper room for many years. The Spirit moved in Elisabeth’s heart to become an Associate and her life continued to be lived beside us.
How appropriate that at our Encuentro gathering of three years ago, Shirley Cushing led Elisabeth over to greet Pat Siemen and Pat asked Elisabeth, “When are you going to come home?” The Holy Spirit took hold of Elisabeth in this upper room of nearly 50 years unlocking the doors for her to reaffirm her vows with the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
The words of the song Gift of Love that Elisabeth chose for our mass today expresses the significance of the vows Elisabeth will profess: “Where the ancient days, you had chosen me as your torch of light and love throughout the world. What return could I make with my life O God, may I love as you have loved.”
Thank you, Elisabeth, for “coming home” and for unlocking the doors of our upper room, where we gather, huddled together with all of our emotions in these troubled times, waiting for the Advocate.
Thank you for reminding us of our own love story and to fall in love again with the God of light, fire and warmth, our Comforter who alone is our inheritance and joy and to enable us to believe in the amazing things that await us beyond these locked doors!
April 17, 2022
Together we celebrate this day which has changed everything, for Jesus and for us! As for Jesus, the resurrection is the complete fulfillment of his humanity. The Jesus of history has truly become the Christ of faith, the Cosmic Christ, who includes the whole sweep of creation and history joined with him, and us too.
As for us, we have learned that we are members both of the Body of Christ and the Cosmic Christ. Contemporary theologians remind us that all of us take part in the evolving, universe-spanning Christ Mystery. In preparing for Chapter, we’ve been asking God for months to “awaken us to love,” as we strive to do our part to co-create the future; to make our contribution to a universe in evolution, always birthing love into greater unity, in the manner of Jesus of Nazareth.
When we describe the mystery in these terms, we can easily be tempted to think of the resurrection experience of the followers of Jesus as a time of wild exaltation and triumph. Yet today’s gospel describes it as a staggering challenge that confronted the disciples upon their discovery of the empty tomb. Imagine Mary Magdalene approaching the tomb. We’re not told for sure, but she may have been intent upon ever so gently and tenderly anointing the body of Jesus, only to find it gone! What must have been her very visceral experience of this? I’m sure her heart began to race and her body tremble with confusion and terror, as she set out running breathlessly to inform Peter and “the other disciple’ whom we assume is John. Must she not have felt robbed of the opportunity to show her love one more time? Must she not have asked herself, why this last horror? Wasn’t it enough that the Romans executed her Master with consummate cruelty? And now this?
When Peter and John receive her message, they too set out running. This passage is filled with small details that bring it to life for us, from John‘s deference to Peter, waiting for him to enter first, to the description of the burial cloths, rolled up in one instance and folded carefully in the other. Have you ever wondered who did this? Might it have been the angels? Or did Jesus do it himself? Not that it matters; it’s just a little homely detail.
Finally we have the assertion that both the disciples entered the tomb, but the beloved disciple ‘saw and believed.’ What an incredible moment this must have been for him, and how his faith has nurtured ours for centuries.
We all know the old maxim, “Seeing is believing.” But we also know that it isn’t necessarily true. Jesus knew this well, since throughout his public life, his preaching, his healing miracles, and even his raising the dead to life bore witness that he was truly the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Yet his opponents dismissed all of this and were without faith. This must have been not only sad, but incomprehensible to Jesus, as today it’s sad and incomprehensible to us, as we observe so many people confronted with proven facts who simply refuse to accept them as true.
But the beloved disciple “saw and believed,” and through his belief and that of the earliest disciples of Jesus, the faith has been transmitted to us, so that we, without seeing, believe. Next we’re told, in a very flat, unadorned statement, “Then the disciples returned home.“ It can feel a little anti-climactic.
But the story goes on, and we know of one person who did not return home. She remained in the garden weeping. As she wept, Mary Magdalen met a stranger, and when called by name, she recognized him in what may have been a record of the most ecstatic moment in salvation history. She probably would have loved to stay at the feet of Jesus pouring out her love for him forever, as any of us would have, and it may have been a little disconcerting to her to be charged with a mission and sent away immediately. However, Jesus entrusted her with the best news that appears on any of the pages of Scripture, or anywhere else, for that matter: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead; life has triumphed over death, good over evil, joy over sorrow, and God’s new creation has begun!
This is what we believe. But sadly, it’s not what we experience right now. We need not enumerate all the terrible choices made, all the horrendous violence and injustice drenching the world in pain, to realize that we identify more with Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem than his rising in triumph from the grave. We sing “Alleluias” yet may feel more at home with laments.
Yet we cling to hope. Our deepest conviction is that the resurrection is real; God’s reign has begun, and some day it will be fully realized because Jesus is risen and alive among us in his Holy Spirit. This is what we hold to be true; this is the truth we are called to preach, in season and out of season.
Poet Irene Zimmerman describes Easter hope ever so briefly this way:
And so it does. Years ago, in my studies at Weston, we took a wonderful class in Christology from a German Jesuit named Joseph Sudbrack. Because his first language was German, his attempts at English were often amusing and sometimes really dear. And he would often assert, “We will always, always have hope, because Jesus stood up from the dead!”
Perhaps to engender and sustain our hope, we might do well today to listen to the message of one of our minor prophets of hope, the prophet Habakkuk. In Chapter two, God speaks:
Write down the vision …
For it is a witness for the appointed time,
a testimony to the end; it will not disappoint.
If it delays, wait for it,
it will surely come,
it will not be late.
Some verses later, the prophet describes hope in agrarian terms, but it’s our hope, hope that is to endure, no matter what:
For though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit appears on the vine,
Though the yield of the olive fails
And the terraces produce no nourishment,
Though the flocks disappear from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
and exult in my saving God.
God, my Lord, is my strength;
God makes my feet swift as those of deer
and enables me to tread upon the heights.
Indeed, “We will always, always have hope, because Jesus stood up from the dead!”
*“Resurrection” from Incarnation: New and Selected Poems for Spiritual Reflection by Irene Zimmerman (Cowley Publications, 2007).
April 16, 2022
Holy Saturday is the in-between time of our lives. Similar to burying a loved one, there’s the reality of death and the truth of the Resurrection and the silence in between those two realities – the days, weeks, months and years.
The Gospel of Luke reveals the women disciples living like us in that time of silence where one’s life continues – goes on – never in the same way, but it goes on. After hearing the message of the angel, “they hurried away from the tomb, confused and half fearful” until, as we will hear in the next Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus stood before them and said “peace.” The silence is ended.
This narrative memory lives on in us. But we stand in a different place this day than any other time as we hear this story. The land we stand on in front of the empty tomb is dry, cracked, clay-like. It is as hard as racism, violence, a pandemic, and the destruction of war. It is a parched, thirsty land that has no voice. Martin Carter, a poet of the Caribbean best known for his poems of protest, resistance and revolution, expresses well our narrative memory of the resurrection today when he wrote:
I bent down
listening to the land
and all I heard was tongueless whispering
as if some buried slave wanted to speak again.*
This Holy Saturday Christ’s wounds are imprinted in us with each step we take toward the tomb. These are not romantic stories we step upon. Our steps are upon the heart-breaking memories that cry out in lament of the broken body of Christ.
We stand with Anastasha Shevchenko outside of her shell of an apartment building listening to her say, “I hear the bombs. I hear the windows breaking. What is left for me to do?”
We stand with Leticia, an African American high school student preacher who paraphrases the words of Martin Luther King and says to us, “In the end I will remember not the words of my enemies, but the silence of my friends.”
We stand with Katherine Beebe from Texas who writes, “My mother passed away in June 2021. My family endured furloughs, and contracting Covid. I didn’t think I would enter my senior year of high school motherless. I’ll miss not being able to tell her about my first date, her helping me pick out a dress for prom or waving goodbye as I leave for college. How will I know how to get stubborn stains out of my clothes? I’m scared. How will I get through the rest of my life without her?”
This is the tomb we peer into with the women of Galilee and it is our faith that takes us beyond the finality of a cold, lifeless tomb. Our faith reassures us we can go on – that from that dry clump of clay and dirt, blocks of stone, new life has appeared – in the smallness of flowers of compassion, understanding, love, wisdom and friendship.
Like those women, we too will retrace our steps back to our brothers and sisters in our world …the Anastashas, the Leticias and the Katherines who wait for us in hope of a different life because we have seen and believe in Jesus resurrected, awakening us to love, transforming us for the good.
*From "Listening to the Land," in Poems of Succession, 1977 New Beacon Books.
April 15, 2022
We have just listened once again to the Greatest Love Story ever told, with an “ending” that is a beginning and is on-going. “The Scriptures do not give us words to explain away pain and death,” says Thomas Reese, “rather, they give us the Son of God who is willing to descend into the trenches and suffer and die with us.”
We recall in Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, “When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.” Calvary must have seemed that “opportune time” as those around the cross cried out: “If you are the Son of God, save yourself!” Once again, Jesus remained steadfast in LOVE. As Richard Rohr put it: “The cross is not the price that Jesus had to pay to convince God to love us. It was Jesus’ voluntary acceptance of undeserved suffering as an act of total solidarity with the pain of the world.”
And it is that pain of the world, seen on our TVs each evening. that we witness the Body of Christ being Crucified. As rarely before in the lifetime of most of us, have we had to face such depth of pain and agony, trauma really, in our personal lives, our family, congregation, nation, and, yes, Ukraine, and the world. Pain on so many different levels.
No matter what we suffer or with whom we suffer, Jesus the Christ is in solidarity not only for us but with us. I have found that when I am in pain or suffering, I am inclined to get very self-preoccupied, self-absorbed. Jesus, however, in his incomprehensible suffering, continued to be loving and caring about others. He cries out: “Abba, forgive them. They know not what they do.” He shows concern for his mother. He assures a thief that he doesn’t have to steal heaven; he’s already assured a place in the Kingdom.
And Jesus can finally say of his mission: “It is finished! He bows his head and hands over his spirit.” He has fulfilled his mission of witnessing through his life and death God’s Infinite Love, forgiveness, mercy, and compassion for all creatures and creation. Nothing – not the deepest suffering of a heart wound by the betrayal of a dear friend, injustice, false accusations even by religious leaders, physical torture, or seeming abandonment by his God – nothing could overpower his trust and steadfast love for his Abba and all Abba loves, including you and me.
A few years ago, Ireland sponsored a contest for the best thirty-word short story. This won first place:
“Welcome home, Son.”
“It is good to see you.”
“It was hard. Hard as nails. Hard as wood.”
“I know. What was the hardest?”
“The kiss, Father, the kiss.” (long pause)
“Yes. Come in and let me hold you.”
(quoted by Megan McKenna in Lent: The Daily Readings)
Thank you, Incarnate Word of Love. Grant us each the grace to endure in love and in trust, no matter what, until “it is finished” in each of our lives. Amen.
April 14, 2022
This evening as we celebrate Holy Thursday, we recall the final meal that Jesus had with his friends before his crucifixion. This is implied rather than explicitly mentioned. There is no actual breaking of bread and pouring of wine in John’s gospel. What we do have is Jesus washing the feet of his closest friends.
I would like to reflect on this intimate gesture from two perspectives: First, from the perspective of receiving love and being served; second, from the perspective of giving love and serving others.
As we heard in Tuesday’s gospel reading from John 13, Jesus knows Judas will betray him and that in the coming hours each one of his closest friends will fail him. And so, Jesus is not surprised when Peter first refuses to have his feet washed. Peter is bewildered, unprepared to receive this generous act of love.
He may have been out of his comfort zone to accept such a powerful expression of Jesus’ love for him. Like Peter, the disciples feel unworthy of Jesus’ unconditional love, but it is not theirs to deserve. Despite their shortfalls and inadequacies, Jesus freely gives them the gift of his love.
The only time we usually let someone else wash our feet is when we can’t do it ourselves: we’re too young, too old, or too sick. To wash another person’s feet is a very intimate act. In her poem “God in an Apron,” Macrina Wiederkehr describes Jesus’ actions with these words:
…He touched my feet
He held them in his strong brown hands
He washed them.
I can still feel the water
I can still feel the touch of his hands
I can still see the look in his eyes.
Many people are not comfortable with this degree of intimacy with another person, or do not feel “good enough” to have others show them this much love. We often are accustomed to seeing the face of Jesus in others that we serve, but it is difficult sometimes to see Jesus’s face in those who wish to serve us. We need to be open to receive Jesus’ love through the hands, and feet, and hearts of others. They have been called by Jesus to be servant, to be Jesus for us.
Holy Thursday has deep roots in selflessness, a call to service and putting the interest of others first. As scripture often does, John’s words invite us to go deeper into the spiritual quest that is ours.
In her poem Macrina continues her reflection of Jesus’s actions with these words:
…He then handed me the towel and said,
“As I have done so you must do.”
Let your tenderness encircle everyone you meet.
Wash their feet
Not because you have to,
Because you want to.
As people of the Eucharist, you and I are called to be people of the basin and towel. Jesus hands us the apron, the towel and water basin. We are invited to emulate this Jesus through lives of loving service to others. We wash feet when we make a phone call to a friend. We wash feet when we smile at someone and wish him or her a bright “Good Morning.” We wash feet when we write to our Congressperson to support a proposed bill to enhance human welfare.
Bread and Wine, basin and towel. These symbols are at the very center of our identity as followers of Jesus. They are countercultural because they challenge the “Me First” thinking that often prevails in our society. They signify an approach to life different from the one that tells us to look after the needs of others only after we have taken care of our own needs.
Jesus asks us to love each other as he loves us. Love is not simply an emotion or feeling; it is a decision. Our love for each other calls to be seen and experienced practically and expressed through the quality and actions of our daily lives. When we love and serve each other, we do it in memory of Jesus.
On this first day of the Triduum, we recognize God’s unfailing gift of undeserved, unconditional, and unifying love for us. Let us ask for the grace to respond to God’s call to love and serve one another and to let others love and serve us. Let us do this in memory of Jesus.
April 10, 2022
Luke 22:14 - 23:56
As we celebrate this Palm Sunday, with a bright sunny day marking the final days of our Lenten journey, our readings from Luke’s Gospel reflect the pivot we are again about to take.
We entered the chapel waving palms in a joyful procession. After hearing the Passion, we are now left in the shadow of an excruciating death that devastated all the hope that Jesus had inspired through his radical love and Way of being.
Jesus himself intuited what lay ahead. He prayed that God would “remove this cup from me” – yet accepted what seemed inevitable precisely because of his Way. He emptied himself, as Saint Paul wrote. Humbled himself.
It would not become clear until the women returned to the tomb after the Sabbath that a much larger story was at work here, in the shadow of this gruesome death. It is a story that is as alive today – in the shadow of gruesome deaths in Ukraine – as it was then. It is alive today in the shadow of whatever anguish we each might carry in our hearts.
English mystic Julian of Norwich put it this way: “There is a force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.”
Etty Hillesum, a Jewish girl in the harrowing misery of a Nazi concentration camp, spoke of a feeling that soared “straight from my heart – like some elementary force – … that life is glorious and magnificent, and that one day we shall be building a whole new world."
Twentieth century African-American mystic Howard Thurman said in his Lenten prayer: “Listen to the long stillness. New life is stirring … Humankind is forging a new mind. God is at work. This is the season of Promise.”
As we step into this Holy Week, let us turn our hearts to one another, emptying ourselves, humbling ourselves, readying ourselves to feel – and to be – the force of love moving through the universe.
It is holding us fast and will never let us go.
January 2, 2022
Happy feast of the Three Kings – Feliz dia de los reyes – Kapistahan ng Tatbng Hari
Throughout history, different countries have expressed the revelation of God Incarnate through their particular culture. For example, in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic the children cut grass and put it in a small box under their bed the night before for the camels to eat and also water for them to drink. And the next day they find the presents the Three Kings brought for them.
The Three Kings came bearing gifts. Gifts reveal something of the person giving it. It reveals a sense of what that person thinks you would like or need, often based on their relationship with you. And then of course there always is the reaction to the gift by the recipient… sometimes spoken out loud and sometimes spoken with an inner voice. And the reaction can vary with the age of the recipient. For instance, a small child with wonder in their face and eyes might say, "Wow I was hoping I would get this!" Or an adolescent might react with the words, "What were you thinking? What am I supposed to do with this?" Or an adult might say, with deep gratitude, "This is beautiful. It means so much to me."
This morning let us imagine that the Three Kings are represented in God’s image and likeness... a God who encompasses the image and likeness of all cultures and all languages. And our gifts surround a very large tree called General Chapter of 2022. We have been gifted with three lovely wrapped packages and we have been invited by one another to unwrap them.
The first gift is of awakening.
The second gift is of encuentro.
The third gift is of transformative change.
What has been your response as you hold the first gift of awakening? Holding it gently, wondering what does this new way of thinking mean? New words that I may not be familiar with connecting God, creation and myself. A new consciousness.
Our second gift of encuentro is quite large and inside there are three smaller boxes of people we know, people in need, and our Earth. It’s hard to embrace because of it’s size and weight. We gaze on it and ponder who will we be with each other? How will we be with each other after our prayer-filled encuentros during these months?
Our third gift of transformative change is a curious looking box, that opens our eyes to discover new things. It’s difficult to open and find we need help from others to unwrap and find what lies inside.
Our Incarnate God is made manifest to us in these gifts. Holy Mystery gifts us with what we need at this time. And our responses as women of faith we now say, “I was hoping this is what I would receive, it’s what I needed," or "I wonder what this means for me in my life?" Or we simply turn our face to God and say with deep gratitude,
Divine Love, we receive these gifts with our desire to live a fully authentic, loving life. Who and how will we be with one another? What is our Epiphany? What Epiphany does the world await from us?
Enkindle our creative fire.
Awaken us to Love – to your love, our love for one another, and our love for this created world we live in.
Post script: One of the humble privileges of being called into servant leadership in the Congregation these five and a half years is the gift we are given to preach and to pray with you. I was struck yesterday in listening to Elise’s homily how each of us has gifted you with reflections this Christmas season that hopefully have enabled you to deepen your understanding of the Incarnation. Pat and Fran spoke to the light we bear to others, Mary Margaret talked of the many families we are a part of, Elise spoke to the contemplative silence of our ponderings, and our thoughts today on our awakening prayer will continue to provide more reflection on who and how we want to be with each other in 2022.
For this we say: Thank you – Gracias Señor – Maraming Salamat.
January 1, 2022
Happy New Year! ¡Feliz Año Nuevo! Manigong Bagong Taon! Sana Saeeda!
I think we are all – all of us around the world – more than ready for this new year. One we hope and pray, among many other things, will mark the end of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
It is a rarity that people throughout the world experience the same hardship. The whole Earth is groaning under the weight of this pandemic, now entering its third year. And it has become clear that until we start seeing ourselves as a whole-Earth community, a single people of God – interconnected and interdependent – we will continue to be susceptible to new variants and continue to prolong this historic pandemic.
How good it is then that on this first day of the new year our Church throughout the world honors Mary, the Mother of God. A day when most of us, no doubt, are, like her, pondering many things in our hearts.
In today’s Gospel, we are drawn into an intimate touching scene: A humble stable in a small town in Judea – a distant outpost of the Roman empire – out of which a speck of Divine light shines into the vast darkness of space as Earth makes its ambling orbit.
As the shepherds enter the stable and share the good news of great joy that an angel had proclaimed to them, all were amazed. “But Mary,” as Luke tells us, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
That’s a vibrant image for us to hold in our hearts: A young Mary, in deep contemplation of an amazing event that filled her heart with joy but also, perhaps, tinged it with an inchoate sense of the crushing sorrows to come.
I have been reading Carmelite Sister Constance Fitzgerald’s extraordinary essays1 and talks2 on the dark night and contemplative prayer, our “inheritance from the mystics.” Suffering is at the core of it, she says – whether our own suffering or that of others or of the world. It is in this contemplative prayer, in the darkness of our experience of suffering, of impasse, that we can open ourselves to the “secret inflow of God’s love into our lives.” An inflow of God that Connie says “changes our identity, changes our consciousness.”
Are we not witnessing, in Luke’s story, the inflow of God’s love changing Mary’s identity, changing her consciousness? An inflow of love that, over time, begins to change the world through the power of the Divine light she birthed into being that is also alive in each one of us.
Connie says that today we are called to enter into a new consciousness – what she calls a “Christ consciousness” – that our troubled world urgently needs. It’s a consciousness that arises out of the dark night in contemplative prayer. A silent prayer in our hearts that opens space for the inflow of God’s love, uniting us with Christ and his way of being – one with God, one with Spirit, and one with every person and creature on Earth.
Entering into a Christ consciousness is an awakening that enables us to see our whole Earth community as one body, emerging from the same speck of Divine light. It’s an evolution of consciousness, Connie says, that humanity needs in order to address racism, white supremacy, climate chaos, the extinction of species, and all the divisions that are tearing us apart. It’s the awakening we need to ensure that all people in our Covid-infected world, north and south, have access to life-saving vaccinations.
We Dominicans have dedicated our lives to reflection, to contemplating and sharing the fruits of our contemplation, to following the Way of the one Mary brought to life. That Spirit-filled vow continues to deepen in each of our hearts, even as with age or unexpected circumstances our eyes and ears, our minds and bodies fail us in challenging ways. Each of us is uniquely suited, as Connie beckons us, to be pioneers of the evolution of human consciousness in our time. To let the inflow of God’s love permeate our lives for whatever time we have remaining, and to illuminate that love for the good of the whole Earth community – into the distant future.
Holy Mary, Mother of God. Pray for us, as we bring the Christ light that was first illuminated in your humble heart deep into ours – on this day and throughout this sparkling new year.
1 See Laurie Cassidy and M. Shawn Copeland, Desire, eds. Darkness and Hope: Theology in a Time of Impasse, Engaging the Thought of Constance Fitzgerald, OCD (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2021).
2 Notes from “Conversation with Janet Ruffing, RSM, and Constance Fitzgerald, OCD,” in Transforming Spirituality in a Time of Plague, online presentations sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters of Baltimore, Maryland, November 12-13, 2021.
December 26, 2021
1 Sm 1:20-22, 24-28
The Feast of the Holy Family is an essential part of the Christmas Season. It makes clear that the Incarnation means not just that the Divine Word assumed a human body, but entered into every aspect of human life.
Today we hear the stories of the awakening of two prophetic leaders to their Divine Call.
The first reading recounts an old story of Samuel, the prophetic leader who anointed David as king. The Old Testament story is a legend that serves as an introduction to a collection of historical traditions in which Samuel plays a key role. Well, one of the interesting things is that in Jewish tradition – not the Bible, but in Jewish tradition – the boy Samuel was 12 years old when he went into the tabernacle and was called by God, heard the voice of God, and began to prophesy.
What some scholars have suggested is that one of the reasons Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old is because he wants to reveal to us that Jesus, likewise, is coming into his own and into his role as priest and prophet and king. What Luke offers is a glimpse of Jesus beginning to make the break from his family life in order to commit himself more closely to God. Jesus is bringing to light his divine vocation. He has found his voice and taken his place. That voice and place is “in his father’s house.”
The setup for Jesus’ coming out and entrance into the religious community is a family trip. On this particular trip, the twelve-year-old and his parents became separated. Since children in ancient times transitioned into adulthood around the age of thirteen, the disappearance of Jesus may not have been all that traumatic, young as he was. It would have been typical for a twelve-year-old boy, who was coming of age, to be with the men of the group, rather than his parents. It would have been natural for Mary and Joseph to believe that he was with relatives or friends elsewhere in the caravan returning home. Entire villages were known to make the pilgrimage together.
When the Mary and Joseph finally realized he was not in the caravan, they went back in haste to Jerusalem, and after three days, were astonished to find Jesus in the midst of the temple rabbis. When Mary speaks to him, there is great distress in her voice: “Son, why Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."
Jesus replied, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary struggles to make sense of her young son’s response and just as she pondered in her heart the inspired events of Bethlehem, Mary chooses to keep these temple events in her heart as well. In this, we recognize the ongoing fidelity of Mary, as she came to accept and identify with the response of her Son, as the first of all his disciples. She begins to know the ‘sword’ Simeon foretold would ‘pierce her soul.’
Today is the Feast of the Holy Family. Is this story the reason for the feast? Or is it that Joseph, Mary and Jesus each possessed a unique identity, but together they experienced God’s eruption into their lives? Opening their hearts to God interrupted and changed the course of their lives radically. Mary became a contemplative at heart. Joseph became deeply attuned to the silence within. And Jesus incarnated the presence of the compassionate God-with-us.
Jesus fully enters into the human experience, with all its peaks and valleys. And a part of that human experience, with more than its share of peaks and valleys, is family. The Gospel story ends with these words: “He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God.” Jesus discerned, understood and embraced his divine vocation as he lived each day with his family.
St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians reminds us that we are God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved. Pope Francis wrote in Gaudete Et Exsultate, “The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts. Like Jesus, how many of us discerned our own path in life and the most personal gifts that God has placed in our hearts in the environment of family?
So on this day, I invite you to pause and think about the “Holy” families that have been an integral and precious part of your life. For me this list includes my Family of Birth, my Family of Faith, my Family of Choice, the Adrian Dominican Congregation, my Family of Dominic, my Multi-cultural Family in our world, and my Family of Earth. I also include the families of friendship and support that were part of my life during my many years in ministry.
In each of these precious families, I discovered and grew in my unique identity and call in life as God’s chosen one, holy and beloved.
In these families, God was and continues to be revealed to me through the heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness of my parents; my siblings; you, my religious sisters; my friends and co-ministers; the people of other nations, especially South Africa; and my family of Sacred Earth. I am also thankful for the times and ways I offered these same gifts to those in each of my families.
So on this day I invite you to reflect on the list of “holy” families you have come to treasure in your life. Give thanks and praise for the many ways God was revealed to you in each family and for the many ways you revealed God to them. Today we celebrate the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and our Holy Families. Let us rejoice and be glad.
December 25, 2021
Good Morning and Happy Christmas Day!
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” These are the opening words of today’s Gospel and the opening words of the Gospel according to John. Scripture scholars indicate that the author was probably embellishing an old liturgical hymn of the day in order to awaken us to something new: that God, the Creator, from the beginning, was becoming one with humanity.
John continues, “What came to be was life and this life was the light of the human race.” Theologian Elizabeth Johnson commented in an interview that this unimaginably gracious Creator God was not confined and that we human persons were the recipients of Christ, the light. And, for me, to think that the Creator chose a woman, Mary, to be a partner in this endeavor is a gift in itself.
We use lights in many different ways. And I propose to you on this Christmas Day: Who is Christ the Light for you? Is your Christ light the one that guides you out of the dark into new insights that enable you to live a life focused on the other, as Jesus learned from the Samaritan woman? Has the Christ light turned on and awakened you to a new appreciation for the other?
Is your Christ light the one that is bright and shiny and multi-colored, that enables you to bring joy in the simplest of ways as Jesus did at the wedding in Cana? Or is your Christ light the more natural one that awakens you in the morning and gently puts you to sleep in the evening? Has this Christ light awakened you to be less stressed and as beautiful and trusting as the birds of the air or the lilies of the field?
Or perhaps your Christ light is like those little emergency lanterns that enable you to bring healing of body, mind or spirit by your listening or reaching out, as Jesus did with the lepers or being with Martha and Mary as they mourned their brother or as he welcomed Zaccheus.
I know that our experiences of Christmas are different with words like nostalgic, heart-warming for some, heart-wrenching for others, joyful or sad, crowded with people – or alone and lonely. But, on this Christmas Day, we are together in this chapel, in these buildings, on our livestream. We are a community unique to this day. We celebrate, as John wrote, that what came to be was life and this life was the light. Let us be true gift-givers this season as each of us shares our unique Christ light with those who most need to see it.
word.op.org - International Dominican Preaching Page
Preach With Your Life - Video series by Adrian Dominican Sisters