One of the elderly sisters in my religious community used to ask a younger sister that question every day at breakfast. The senior in question didn’t have dementia. She was challenging the other to dig deeper into her own identity, to discover and articulate who she really was. The younger one started with her name and went on to other words which described the relationships that called her forth: sister, daughter, friend, etc. Some answers had an overtly religious tone while others could include such varied roles as a swimmer and a Cardinals fan.
Spiritual Reflections: If you think that hearing another part of the Christmas story as late as Jan. 8 is stretching it out too much, just imagine what those Magi felt.
Spiritual Reflections: If you are presiding at the liturgy on Jan. 1, try this: Ask the assembly what we are celebrating today. Most people will look at you as if you just emerged from hibernation.
Spiritual Reflections: The Gospel of Christmas invites us to reexamine our expectations. Where do we seek God? For thousands of years, God has been in the habit of appearing among us in the most unobtrusive ways.
Spiritual Reflections: There's a real danger to sung prayer in the Advent season. Beautiful music can lead us to sing petitions that we might not let so easily pass our lips if we had considered the implications.
We tend to think that the trial of Jesus happened only at the end of his life, before the rulers of the people, Pilate and Herod. In reality, Jesus was on trial for the entirety of his earthly mission. Every time he did or said something, it raised implicit questions, like, "Who does he think he is?" and "Is this the one to come?" Response to those questions depended on two basic sources for discernment: the religious tradition of Israel and the openness of each individual to accept or reject the challenge of Jesus' person and message.
Look at your Advent calendar. Can you spot John the Baptist with his 100 percent organic outfit and odd, non-vegetarian diet? Although he hardly fits the cute calendar images, he's a key character of the Advent season. His warning that it's time to change our behavior may sound a bit like "You'd better watch out ... you'd better not pout ..." but the reward he promises for conversion is not at all like a tinseled tree surrounded by toys and electronics.
Spiritual Reflections: We begin the season of Advent with readings that direct our gaze to the ultimate and the immediate realities of our lives.
Spiritual Reflections: The inscription explaining Jesus' execution, "This is the King of the Jews," has the power to indict everyone who contemplates it.
Spiritual Reflections: Although the desire to assign places for others in the afterlife is tempting, the sacred texts summon our attention and our energies elsewhere.