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    Advent 2018 Daily Devotionals

    December 5, 2018

    The Advent Daily Devotional is a project of The Jesuit Center in partnership with University Advancement. It is made possible by the support of many University of Scranton colleagues, friends, families and alumni. Please consider showing your support by making a contribution using the link below.

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    Scripture readings are here.


    December 2 Reflection

    Today, the First Sunday of Advent, marks the beginning of the liturgical year. In the Catholic and mainline Protestant traditions, one of the main symbols used during the Advent Season is the Advent Wreath. These wreaths are often placed in prominent places in the church’s sanctuary so that all can see the colored candles and smell the fragrant evergreen boughs.

    The Advent Wreath, with its humble origins as wagon wheels hung from ceilings when ancient roads were impassible, were used as chandeliers with increasing number of candles as the days grew short and the darkness increased. This circle of evergreens evokes the eternity of a God who has no beginning or end and the truth that Christ is the Light that conquers the darkness in which we walk. The candles may all be white with decorative ribbon: three of which are purple, one of which is rose or the candles themselves may be of those aforementioned colors. If you have the space, some place a white candle in the center, representing Christ.

    As was the tradition in my home when I was a boy, many in our university community place Advent Wreaths in their homes- lighting the appropriate candles during the dinner hour each night. As the youngest of eleven children, it often fell to me to light the candles of the wreath as we said a special prayer and sang a verse from the ancient hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel. (To get a copy of an advent prayer service you can use in your own home, please click here).

    May your home be blessed in a special way during this holy season of expectation. Let us continue to pray for each member of our families and for The University of Scranton family as well. May God’s infinite goodness bring each of you joy and peace this Advent Season.

    Rev. Patrick Rogers, S.J.
    Executive Director, The Jesuit Center

    PRAYER

    We pray, O Lord, for the courage to walk with you as Advent unfolds before us.  May the scent of evergreen boughs remind us of your everlasting love and may the growing light of the Advent Wreath candles scatter the darkness in each human heart.


    December 3 Reflection

    Love has many forms. Friendship is one of the most important. So, today on the Feast of St. Francis Xavier—the most famous of all Jesuits—let us see how he related with his friends.

    Writing from a remote isle in what is now Indonesia, he said:

    So that I may never forget you and ever have a special remembrance of you, I would have you know, dearest brothers, that for my own consolation I have cut your names from the letters which you have written to me with your own hands so that I may constantly carry them with me together with the vow of profession which I made because of the consolations which I receive from them. I give thanks first of all to God our Lord, and then to you, most dear Brothers and Fathers, for the fact that God has so made you that I derive such great consolation from bearing your names.

    And a footnote adds:
    When Xavier died he had a locket suspended from his neck which contained a small relic of St. Thomas, the formula of his vows, and a signature of Ignatius which he had cut from a letter.

    (Costelloe, Letters of Francis Xavier, 141-42)
    May we fruitfully remember and help our friends, most of whom are so much nearer.

    James D. Redington, S.J.
    Jesuit Fellow, The Jesuit Center

    PRAYER

    Lord Jesus Christ,
    we humbly pray on this feast of Saint Francis that all be gathered together at the great banquet in your Father's Kingdom, the Kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world.


    December 4 Reflection

    On this day we remember the life of St. John Damascene. John was an astonishing person having spent most of his life living in Muslim majority places but living near Jerusalem. He was a writer and a poet who used his talents to pay homage to the Blessed Mother. We can all look to the life of St. John Damascene during this Advent season to remind us of the Blessed Mother and her beautiful gift of a child that she shared with the world on December 25.

    Sharing one’s child with others can be very difficult. In fact, my personal journey involves being the recipient of a mother sharing her child with me. My husband and I adopted our children years ago from two loving birth mothers. Giving your children to others is the ultimate sacrifice, yet the most loving one in the case of adoption. Thus, I regularly pray to the Blessed Mother to remind myself of her ultimate sacrifice in giving her Son to save all of us. I try and say a decade of the rosary on a daily basis in thanks for the gift from other mothers to me. I see the rosary as the beads of life all connected together with the love of the Blessed Mother.

    In closing, I leave you with a very special poem and prayer. Reading it always reminds me of the innocence of a child. Enjoy, and have a blessed Advent season.

    Catherine Lovecchio, Ph.D.
    Department Chair, Nursing

    PRAYER

    "Heartprints"
    Whatever our hands touch…
    We leave fingerprints.
    On walls, on furniture,
    On door knobs, dishes and books.
    Smudges, showing we were there! Oh Lord, please,
    Wherever I go today…
    Help me leave Heartprints…
    Heartprints of compassion,
    Understanding and love.
    Heartprints of kindness
    And genuine concern. I shall go out today…
    To leave Heartprints…
    And if some one should say…
    “I felt your touch!”
    May that one feeling be…
    Your loving touch, Lord,
    Through me!
    May my heart touch
    my lonely neighbor, with a smile,
    a worried mother, with peace,
    a runaway child, with safety,
    a homeless person, with warmth,
    and my dear friends, with love.


    December 5 Reflection

    In today’s gospel reading, Jesus fulfills a prophecy from Isaiah by ascending a mountain. “Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them.” It doesn’t say how Jesus cured them or what He said, if anything, but it does mention that “the crowds were amazed,” and that they glorified God. Jesus does reveal what he was feeling, however: “my heart is moved with pity for the crowd,” he says to his disciples, “for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry.” Jesus then blesses the scant bread and fish they had with them so that it fed everyone with baskets to spare.

    It wasn’t enough that Jesus cured the people; he had to make sure they were also fed. I hear echoes of my grandmother: “sit down, you’re not going anywhere until you’ve eaten something.” Preparing food for another and eating together with them fosters intimacy. Jesus wants that intimacy with the people gathered there on the mountain. It wasn’t enough for Him to “fix their problems.” He wanted to prepare and share a meal with them, to bond with them, to befriend them.

    The prophecy from Isaiah speaks of the Lord on a mountain providing for all peoples “a feast of rich food and choice wines.” Then comes the healing: “on this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all people, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…” What a beautiful, moving image! One can’t help but wonder if Jesus wiped away anyone’s tears as He healed them that day in Galilee.

    Jesus gave the people bread and fish that day on that mountain, but very soon He would also give them His life: His very flesh and blood, sacrificed on the cross. It is through this sacrifice that the God of life destroys death once and for all. And so in receiving Jesus’ body and blood at the sacrifice of the Mass, we are also fulfilling that prophecy from Isaiah by sharing in the feast that saves us from death. As Jesus tells us, “anyone who eats my body and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person on the last day” (Jn 6:54).

    Patrick Clark
    Associate Professor, Theology & Religious Studies

    PRAYER

    Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who became the Lamb of God, born as a child in Bethlehem. Lead us to Your holy mountain, to verdant pastures and restful waters. Gather us around the table you have prepared for us, where we might feast on You, Who are the fulfillment of all good things. And grant that we might dwell in Your presence all the days of our life, and be raised up with You on the last day.  Amen.


    December 6 Reflection

    The true story of Santa Claus begins with St. Nicholas, and on this sixth day of December, we celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. While many of us visualize a fantastical Santa, it’s comforting to recall that the real St. Nicholas, who was born to wealthy parents in the third century, obeyed Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor." St. Nicholas used his entire inheritance to help the needy, sick, and suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was known for his generosity to those in need and his love for children. In his true form, St. Nicholas points us to God’s most special gift; the sending of a Savior for the most ordinary of people.

    As we walk this Advent journey, let us pray that we act as St. Nicholas did and remember the words of Jesus; to give all that we can to the poor, needy, and sick. May we live our faith and share our love, compassion, and abundance during Advent, and carry it with us throughout the entire year.
    "The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic Gods giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves."

    - St. Nicholas of Myra
    Tara M. Seely
    Administrative Assistant to the Board of Trustees

    PRAYER

    Gracious God, open our hearts to be like the poor children who were cared for by St. Nicholas and knew your generosity first hand.  By St. Nicholas’ example, and through his intercession, give us the courage to care for the needy in our communities.


    December 7 Reflection

    I have always welcomed the Advent season as one of celebration. I was born on the seventh day of December, so each year, the weeks before Christmas are literally a new beginning for me, filled with anticipation and joy.  In addition, the fourteenth day of December is my wedding anniversary, which marks another milestone.  For these reasons, I think of Advent as a sequence of events that fulfill a promise and look forward to early winter as a time of positive growth and change.

    During my childhood, my parents were active in our church Sunday School, so Advent was also a time of decorating parties, caroling groups, and holiday pageants. At many of these events, my father would say an opening prayer, passed on to him from his grandfather.  Its clarity remains with me, so I will share it with you today.


    Darlene Miller-Lanning
    Hope Horn Gallery Director
    Adjunct Faculty, Art & Music Program and Women's Studies

    PRAYER

    Dear Lord
    Our Heavenly Father,
    Thank You for this day and the many blessings
    we have received.
    Bless us, protect us, and be with us now
    and forever more. 
    In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen


    December 8 Reflection

    Today in the Church we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast reminds us of the beautiful connection between Mary and the season of Advent. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote: “The Virgin Mary perfectly incarnates the spirit of Advent; this spirit is one of listening to God, of profound desire to do his will, of joyous service to our neighbor. Letting ourselves be guided by her, so that the God who comes does not find us closed and distracted, but can, in each one of us, extend a part of his kingdom of love, of justice and of peace.”

    From the beginning, Mary embraced the wonder of her newborn child. She was totally attentive to this experience of the mystery of God’s salvation. In the Scriptures, we hear: “Mary treasured all of these things and pondered them in her heart.” Mary’s “yes” gradually unfolded in her life, and thus her memory, those things she treasured and pondered in her heart, remained close to her.

    To identify with Mary in faith during this season is to be open to listen and to receive what she received and to experience a profound sense of gratitude for the warmth of God’s love given to us in His Son. Mary would remain attentive to God’s graces in her life, even though His coming would disrupt her own plans. At every turn in her life, she remembered God’s promise to her and treasured it and pondered it.
    During this Advent season, we are also challenged to remember; to reflect on God’s goodness to us even during those times that we don’t see God’s presence so clearly. With Mary, we desire to listen, to treasure, and to follow.

    Rev. Herbert B. Keller, S.J.
    Rector, Scranton Jesuit Community
    Special Assistant to the President

    PRAYER

    O God,
    during this Advent season,
    may we, like Mary,
    be open to your Word
    and respond in love, gratitude and service.
    May we, too, listen,
    treasure and follow.
    Amen.


    December 9 Reflection

    John the Baptist always introduces us to the Advent Season. For me, he is one of my personal heroes and an exemplar of what it is to be a person of faith.

    Everyone was convinced that John was the Messiah. The crowds followed him everywhere. But instead of hogging the spotlight, John turned everyone around to follow Jesus. And they all soon forgot about John as he languished alone in Herod’s prison awaiting his eventual beheading. I think John teaches us that the essence of sanctity is not striving to be more extraordinary than others, but turning the spotlight on others so that they can discover just how extraordinary they are, too.

    When I arrived at Scranton 35 years ago, there was a remarkable Jesuit in Campus Ministries, Fr. Bill Tome, SJ. He spent most of his ministry in India and was an advisor to the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. Here, no one knew of his exploits as a younger man; he was just an old, nearly blind Jesuit taking up a desk. What I found remarkable about him was that whenever he chanced to make a new student friend, he always introduced him or her to other Jesuits, even if it meant he would probably see less of that student as a result. It didn’t matter to Bill; what mattered was his students benefitting from other wisdom besides his own. He was as selfless as John the Baptist himself!

    Fr. Ronald McKinney, S.J.
    Professor of Philosophy

    PRAYER

    John the Baptist spent his ministry pointing his followers to the true fulfillment that only the Messiah could bring.  May our eyes be open to the eternal love of God so that we are not distracted by those things that are merely passing.


    December 10 Reflection

    In today’s readings we hear about a holy highway that is “for those with a journey to make, and on it the redeemed will walk.” This holy road is set in a place that reflects the glory of God in lush nature; it is a comforting place to walk, where journeys are undertaken with confidence. Who wouldn’t want to travel there? Contrary to what we hear about life as a road, the road in Isaiah 35 is the destination.

    Perhaps the journey of your life has taken you (or your loved ones) on paths crossing city limits, state lines, and country borders. We worry about others when they travel, do we not? We usually think to ourselves, what if they run out of money? Will they be able to find their way in a place where they don’t know anybody? What if they trust the wrong people? This concern, as we well know, is a sign of love; it is what makes us wish that the roads on this Earth could be as safe and welcoming as the holy highway.

    I want to ask you to follow me in an exercise of imagination: consider whether God could have been asking similar questions as the ones above when Jesus traveled to this world, much like a parent would ask them about her or his beloved child. Could Joseph have asked them, too, when the Blessed Mother visited her cousin Elizabeth? And, further, could these be the questions that the families of migrants and refugees all over the world ask when they see their loved ones leave their homes for a future almost certainly seeded with indignities, abuse, loneliness, and fear?

    In this season of Advent, we accompany the Blessed Mother to welcome Jesus and prepare for His birth. I would like to invite you to consider how we can ease her journey by welcoming others in the name of Jesus her son, that is, in the name of Love. Let us reflect on how, united as a community inspired by Ignatius, we can make the holy highway a reality “for those with a journey to make.”

    Ileana Szymanski
    Philosophy Department

    PRAYER

    Mary, Mother of God,
    pray for us.
    Saint Christopher, patron Saint of travelers,
    pray for us.


    December 11 Reflection

    Today’s reflection comes from Aba Amon-Kwafo, a junior neuroscience major in the College of Arts and Sciences.  Aba was raised in New Jersey and has family ties to the West African nation of Ghana.

    Fr. Patrick: Welcome to the Jesuit Center, Aba.  What kinds of things do you like to do during Advent to prepare you for Christmas?

    Aba: Well, for me it’s all about music and food!  I really like listening to Christmas music, so as soon as Thanksgiving arrives I’ve got it on 24/7.  I’m a particular fan of Michael Bublé and can listen to his Christmas album over and over again.  I also like “old school” Christmas classics like those sung by Nat King Cole!  Because Advent is a time for preparation, my family also likes to sing Ghanaian songs that remind us of our cultural heritage and of family members we love and miss.

    Also, since my family is in a celebratory mood during the holidays, my mother cooks a lot of traditional Ghanaian food during Advent and Christmas.  For example, when my dad and I are outside decorating the house to get ready for Christmas, my mom is inside cooking her awesome “light” soup.  Let me tell you, there’s nothing like coming in from the cold and being greeted by that incredible aroma; especially since I know it’ll soon be warming up my bones!

    Fr. Patrick: What about Christmas?  How does your family celebrate the nativity?

    Aba: We usually sleep in because we’ve gone to the Midnight Mass.  When we are in Ghana for the holidays, Mass won’t end until 3:30 or 4:00 a.m. so we like to get our sleep. My mom makes a special Ghanaian delicacy for Christmas that I can’t wait for.  It’s a pound cake with currants, cherries, raisins and lots of other types of fruits. It is delicious for sure.  We save this special cake for Christmas because it reminds my parents of Ghana and family.

    Mostly though, we spend the day relaxing and enjoying each other’s company while listening to great Christmas music and eating terrific traditional Ghanaian food.

    Fr. Patrick: Thanks for sharing your Advent and Christmas traditions with us, Aba.  Have a blessed Advent and a terrific finals week.  I hope your Christmas is a special one, and if you’ve got any of that cake left over, please be kind to Fr. Patrick and bring him a slice!

    Aba:  You got it Fr. Patrick!

    PRAYER

    Good and gracious God, continue to bless each and every person in the human family.  Turn our hearts towards You and to that peace and joy that only your Spirit can provide.  Help us to follow you more closely.


    December 12 Reflection

    Today the Jesuit Center staff wishes to share the following story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, retrieved from LoyolaPress.com:
    On December 9, 1531, a 57-year-old Aztec, Juan Diego, saw the Blessed Mother on a hill in Mexico City. She told Juan to have a church built in her honor. When Juan went to ask Bishop Zumarraga about this, the bishop did not understand the Indian dialect—and he did not believe in the vision Juan described.

    Three days later, on December 12, Mary appeared again to Juan Diego, and this time she gave him a sign for the bishop. “Take these roses to the bishop,” she said, as she arranged in his cloak beautiful roses she had Juan Diego pick from the hillside although it was winter. When he was admitted into the bishop’s room, Juan Diego opened his cloak, and out dropped the roses. On the cloak there remained an image of Mary as she had appeared to Juan Diego.

    The image of Mary on the cloak is known as Our Lady of Guadalupe for an interesting reason. On that same day, Mary appeared to Juan’s uncle and cured him, giving him a message for the bishop, saying that she would “crush the serpent’s head.” The bishop did not understand the Indians’ language. The Indian word for “crush the serpent” sounded to him like “Guadalupe,” the name of Mary’s shrine in Spain. Thinking that the Virgin wanted the new shrine to have the same name, the bishop called her Our Lady of Guadalupe.

    Mary appeared to Juan Diego dressed as an Aztec woman to show her love and compassion to an oppressed group of people. Mary had heard the prayers and pain of these people, and she came to give them hope.

    Mary’s visit to Guadalupe is a reminder that God will remember his mercy for all people. In Mary’s song of joy, the Magnificat, she praised God because he has put down the mighty, exalted the lowly, filled the hungry, and sent the rich away empty. People honor Our Lady of Guadalupe because they recognize her motherly concern for them.

    PRAYER

    Dear mother, we love you. We thank you for your promise to help us in our need. We trust in your love that dries our tears and comforts us. Teach us to find our peace in your son, Jesus, and bless us every day of our lives.  Amen.

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