Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Reflection for Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday of the First Week in Lent
JON 3:1-10
PS 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
LK 11:29-32

The psalm for today calls back to the time of the great leader, King David, and asks for the second chance of a clean heart. “A clean heart create for me, God; renew within me a steadfast spirit. A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn (PS 51: 12, 19).” What does it mean to be a humble leader?
The first reading tells of a story from Jonah, in which he was sent to give a message of impending doom to the people of Nineveh, a city depicted as a wicked and worthy of destruction. After walking about the city for a full day, the people of Nineveh heed Jonah’s warning and humble themselves to ash and sackcloth. When the news reaches the king, he too sheds his royal attire and begins a fast. The city is ultimately spared due to the humility of its people and the piety of its king. The second reading from Luke goes one step further and applauds the people of Nineveh for acting upon their faith in God’s message, rather than requiring a spectacular sign or miracle. This message is especially significant considering that Nineveh was an enemy of Israel, and their leadership was being praised for heading the warning of Jonah, a foreigner to them.
As community members of SLU, we are called to be servant leaders in our communities. Whether we serve as CSO executive board members, team captains, staff members, administrators, or faculty members, we are called to lead; but no one said leadership was easy. Many times, we are caught wavering between decisions, discerning which path will lead to the greater good. Sometimes we make mistakes, but through humility – and in solidarity with the people we lead – we might be offered a second chance.
So, how will you lead? Who will you look to for support and mentorship in your path to becoming a humble servant leader, in a society that seems to reward arrogance and flattery? How will you ask forgiveness and grow from your mistakes, when it seems like there’s so much at risk? Will you wait for a divine sign, or trust unexpected advice?

Jeff Godowski is the Residence Hall Coordinator for Marguerite and Fusz Halls.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Reflection for Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tuesday of the First Week of Lent
IS 55:10-11
PS 34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
MT 6:7-15

As we enter into the first week of Lent, the Gospel today reminds us about forgiveness.

When was the last time I forgave someone?

Many times, we forget to forgive each other and ourselves. It can be easy to fit into the mold where we swiftly apologize and go about with our day without recognizing the other person. Other times, we let ourselves get too caught up in the day and with other people, that we forget to forgive ourselves for working so hard or for being exhausted. Remind yourself that it is okay to take time for yourself or to be with others.

The Gospel also reminds us of the power of prayer and forgiveness. How many times do we go to mass and repeat the same prayers every time without thinking of the meaning of the words? Many of us have grown up with the Our Father and the Apostle’s Creed, but many times we just recite those words without knowing what those words really mean.

While you read the Gospel today, think of the meanings and intentions of the Our Father in the way that Jesus intended for us to read these prayers, and also contemplating how each of these verses continues to serve us in our daily lives. Think about the “Daily Bread” that exists in your life and how that influences the ways in which you view Jesus. Think about those words of the Our Father--what/who is the “Daily Bread” in your life? How do the ways in which this person or thing act that reminds you of the bread that is broken? Who has trespassed us this day, and how do we go about reconciling that relationship? How do you stay out of evil and temptation this day?

As this Gospel is sitting with you, take the time to think and reflect on the ways that Jesus intended us to understand the Our Father, about forgiveness and caring for both ourselves and others.

Kathryn Jabek is a junior studying social work and is involved in both Labre homeless ministries and Christian Life Communities.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Reflection for Monday, February 19, 2018

Monday of the First Week of Lent
LV 19:1-2, 11-18
PS 19:8, 9, 10, 15
MT 25:31-46

How do I find God? What does he/she/they look like? Sound like? I’ve personally struggled and grown and struggled again with this concept over the last few years. Prayer takes many forms and I didn’t quite understand that for a long time. It always seemed complex and formal. However, the readings today align well with your relationships.
In the first reading, God tells Moses to speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them to be holy, because I, your God, am holy. It’s a call to action. Action, is where we should focus. Living a life of action that deserves to be called holy. Let that sink in. A life of action that deserves to be called holy. That sounds like a big task and many days I have no idea where to start.
            As members of the SLU community, we have often, and maybe too often, heard to “find God in all things”, or something similar. Personally that phrase has gone over my head many a times. It seems overused if don’t understand and choose to see the true meaning. In the Gospel today, Jesus says, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Think about that. What stands out to you in that short passage? By seeing God in everyone and everything, it can start to make sense. God is in your best friend who had a bad day. How do you help them work through it? Your professor that assigned a paper due the same day as an exam. How do you make the most of the educational opportunity you have been given? God is in you. How do you care for yourself on those good days and bad?
            Prayer is living a life of compassion for yourself and others. It is thinking about your relationships and taking action knowing there is no immediate reward. Prayer with God is not always kneeling in a church. Be creative. Think back to how you will live a holy life of action. Where does it begin for you?

Matt Ramsey is a Senior studying Occupational Therapy.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Reflection for Sunday, February 18, 2018

First Sunday of Lent
GN 9:8-15
PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
1 PT 3:18-22
MK 1:12-15

The scripture for this Lenten reflection speaks to us about covenant.  It is a familiar story about God’s covenant with Noah and his sons and their descendants who come after them.  God declares God’s covenant not only with Noah, his sons and descendants, but also with every living creature.  God’s covenant is to never again use the waters to become a flood destroying all mortal beings.

What is interesting about this covenant in our scripture is that it is unilateral.  It is a covenant that only goes one way.  The covenant flows out of God to God’s creation.  How incredible God’s relational love is that there is no expectation in this passage for Noah, his sons and descendants to covenant back to God. 

As I sat thinking about this relationship God has with creation and God’s unilateral covenant, I began to think about how I might have that kind of love, living a unilateral covenant with others.

My mother Cay Hartmann who is now deceased, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Not being able to live in her own home, she came to be a resident in the Alzheimer’s unit at Laclede Groves Senior Living Community.  Because my brother does not live in St. Louis, I was the one who visited with her several times a week.  I was the one who collected her clothes and washed and ironed them and returned them to her.  I was the one who fixed her hair and put on her make-up before taking her to her doctor’s appointments or to a family gathering.  I was the one who nervously went to the women’s departments trying to buy bras and underwear which I had no clue what size to ask for.  I was the one who each month was present at the Social Work/Nurse meetings as they discussed my mother.  I was the one who sat for long periods of time as she reminisced about a time long before I was born since her recent memory was so often shadowed by the fog of Alzheimer’s.

One could say I was obligated to do all these things because I was her son.  After reading this scripture passage and thinking about this incredible loving unilateral covenant that God is showing us, I began to erase from my memory the obligatory mindset.  Yes, I guess one could say as her son, I was obligated to care for my mother who no longer could care for her own needs.  But now I believe I made a unilateral covenant with my mom.  I expected nothing in return from her.  I wanted no promises from her.  I wanted no tit-for-tat.  I simply unilaterally covenanted with her because I loved her that much. 

What would happen to our biological, work, church, and/or neighborhood families if our mind-sets – our hearts expressed our relationships in a loving and compassionate unilateral covenant.  Would our lives be different?  Would our communities be different?  Would our country be different?  Would our world be different?  Thank you, God, for showing us yet another way to express love.

Rob Hartmann is Manager of Pastoral Care Services at SLU Hospital.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Reflection for Saturday, February 17, 2018

Saturday after Ash Wednesday
IS 58:9B-14
PS 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
LK 5:27-32

We love to be invited places. Whether it was to a birthday party as a child, a wedding of a friend or family member, or simply to grab lunch, invitations make us feel valued and loved. Sometimes a simple invitation can lead to something much greater, even life changing. For me, an invitation to sit at a friend’s lunch table the first week of high school led to finding a group of friends I can’t imagine my life without. Simply being invited to hang out in the dorm room of a new college acquaintance led to one of the strongest friendships I have today. However, the reason these invitations all had such incredible outcomes was due to one reason -- I said yes.

In the Gospel today, Jesus invites Levi, a tax collector, to follow him. This invitation leads to a “great banquet” with others celebrating in community with one another. This undoubtedly joyful celebration only came about because of Levi’s “yes” to Jesus. Whether we realize it or not, we are given the same invitation by Jesus every single day. Accepting this invitation to actually live, with Jesus by our side, is life-changing. Yes, there will be hardships, we will be challenged, and we may question our faith from time to time, but there will also be more joy than we have ever dreamed of. Accepting the invitation to live a life with Christ leads to a “great banquet”. This banquet exists both here on earth with the people we encounter and ultimately in heaven with Love itself. Jesus invites each of us specifically, waiting desperately for our “yes” to the Greatest Invitation. Our yes allows us to experience the “great banquet” life with God truly is -- a life full of selflessness, peace, and overflowing joy.

One last thing about this invitation -- it has no limits. Levi was a tax collector, and tax collectors were stereotyped as thieves and traitors, marking them as unworthy of Jesus’ attention by His dedicated followers. However, Jesus chooses Levi, an “unworthy” tax collector, to come follow and dine with Him. With this action, Jesus is saying, “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, or how you decide to live your life -- my invitation is still there.” His love has no boundaries, no requirements, no attachments. It just is, given without hesitation to each one of us. There is no such thing as unworthiness.

This Lenten season, let us be more aware of the daily invitations we are sent to engage in our communities, in our relationships, and in our conversations, and let our “yeses” be shown through the love we share between one another.

Madelyn Ennis is studying Occupational Therapy.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Reflection for Friday, February 16, 2018

Friday after Ash Wednesday
IS 58:1-9A
PS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 18-19
MT 9:14-15

In today’s readings I am reminded of the multitude of voices that exist, even if there is one clear one to which we should listen. I am reminded that there are competing ideas of what is good and true, even if the message from Jesus is clear.

Lately, I have trouble making sense of all the voices I hear throughout the day. Sometimes it does feel like they are voices in my head, because I consume these voices without the context of others. Whether it is reading email or the news on my phone, zoning out by looking at pictures on Instagram, listening to the radio or to podcasts, I hear these voices when I am alone. While solitude can be refreshing and invigorating, solitude makes it more difficult to discern what is real and true. Our interactions with others confirm our reality, but when there are so many voices that I am hearing on my own, I struggle. It is too much to decipher alone. In thinking of the multitude of voices, inaction becomes an easy choice. When there is too much to do or too many choices to make, inaction is the easiest choice. Further, listening should be actionable, and thus relational. Listening can be the feeding of the poor or the sheltering of the homeless. 

The idea of fasting during Lent can be interpreted many ways. It can be a literal fast or a change of habit, and I use it as an opportunity to reevaluate a part of my life and to hit the re-set button. I’m hoping that this Lent I can be mindful of the many voices I hear every day, and that I can practice discerning the truth from them. I hope I am open enough to hear others, to engage with them, and I hope I listen more carefully to the clearest message we have, to love God and to love others above all else. I hope I evaluate how I enact that love, as I do think it is literal and actionable. My fast can be an evaluation of to whom and how I listen to people, how I make my listening an action, and to engage in a community through listening.

Julie O'Heir is the Program Coordinator for the SLU Prison Program.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reflection for Thursday, February 15, 2018

Thursday after Ash Wednesday
DT 30:15-20
PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6
LK 9:22-25

Art and literature are fascinated with the consequences of our choices. For example, the Broadway musical If/Then and the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors both explore how a young woman’s life might proceed differently based on one simple choice. Science fiction writers—and some theoretical physicists—go much further, positing that every choice we make bifurcates reality into an infinite multiplicity of parallel universes. Today’s readings present us with three big “if’s,” along with some consequential “then’s,” that encourage us to make some choices about how we will live out the Lenten season, and really, how we will live out our lives.

Moses’ challenge to the Israelites culminates a sweeping recap of the Exodus and the establishment of the covenant and the law. It follows a long exposition of the blessings that flow from fidelity to the covenant and the curses that result from infidelity. The choice is stark and seemingly a no-brainer: “Choose life.” But, as U Penn psychology professor Angela Duckworth notes, “The problem with human beings … is that they repeatedly make decisions that undermine their own long-term well-being, even when they know full well they are eating the wrong thing, that they are spending their money on the wrong thing, and they are spending their time in an unprofitable way.” Even though the option of following the covenant is highly incentivized, we know that the Israelites will repeatedly turn away from God—just as we do ourselves.

In the Gospel, Jesus presents an “if” that gives a deeper, more challenging context to our choices. If we wish to follow him faithfully, then we must deny ourselves and take up our own individual crosses, repeatedly and consistently. The expected incentives are inverted: our gain is found in loss, and the truest living is achieved through dying to self.

At the outset of Lent, we are reminded of the high stakes before us. We can choose to abide in the covenant, or to turn away. If we seek to follow, we must be prepared to choose every day the path of self-emptying love. Incentives and reasoned argument may not be guaranteed to result in good decision making, but we’re not without aids. St. Ignatius encourages us to prayerfully imagine the “then’s” of our “if’s” in order to discern the best course of action. And through the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we can respond to God’s invitation to each of us to choose life and experience it abundantly.
David Brinker is Assistant Director of the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art (MOCRA).