Advent Retreat In Daily Living: Calls and Responses to Invitations

Yesterday was the final session of the three-session Advent Retreat in Daily Living I offered at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this year. The theme of our first session was Creation and Fall, and in our second session last week we considered Promise in the Old Testament. The subject of today’s session was God’s Invitation and Responses to that Invitation.

After giving the participants time to share about their prayer with the reflection material I had distributed this week, I offered a reflection on God’s invitation for us to participate in his plan for salvation. I talked about God’s calls to Abraham, Moses, and other Old Testament figures. Then I talked about the God’s invitation for human participation in God’s entry into human form, addressing Joseph, Mary and Elizabeth.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 20:59.) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here.

I hope some of you have been able to participate in our retreat as we have gone along. If not, you can always return to the podcasts and/or the posted prayer material. And remember that if you go to the Podcast link at the top, you can find other Advent podcasts and prayer material.

Many blessings to all during this holy season.

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Advent Retreat in Daily Living: Promise in the Old Testament

Yesterday was the second session of the three-session Advent Retreat in Daily Living I am offering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this year. As always, we began by giving the participants time to share some of the fruits of their prayer this week with the material I distributed after our first session (Creation and Fall).

The subject of this second session was Promise in the Old Testament. In my reflection, I talked about the writings of three of the prophets – Isaiah, Micah and Malachi, although I spent the most time talking about Isaiah, one of the great prophets of Advent.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 20:06.) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here.

Advent Retreat in Daily Living: Creation and Fall

Yesterday was the first session of the three-session Advent Retreat in Daily Living I am offering at the University of St. Thomas School of Law this year. As I’ve shared before, Advent is my favorite time of the liturgical year, and it is an important season that often gets slighted as so many seem to move directly from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Thus, I always offer some kind of Advent reflection series at the law school, even if it is a busy time of the semester for students. (End of classes, reading period, exams.)

The subject of our first session was Creation and Fall. In my reflection, I talked about the creation story, the entry of sin into the world (including how we might understand the nature of that first sin), and God’s plan for salvation. We ended with a guided meditation on creation.

You can access a recording of my talk, which includes the guided meditation at the end, here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 27:09.) You can find a copy of the prayer materials I distributed to participants here. Note that before I began the recording, I asked the participants to introduce themselves and say a few words about what Advent means to them; that is what I am referring to in the opening lines of the podcast.

I opened the session with Henri Nouwen’s Advent Prayer. Since it is not on the podcast, I share it here:

Lord Jesus,
Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”

Jesus Speaks: The Great Commissioning

Yesterday was the final session of the Fall Reflection Series I am offering this fall at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.  As I’ve already shared in my posts following the first three sessions, the reflection series is titled Jesus Speaks and it is designed to deepen our appreciation of fundamental Christian teachings drawn from the words of Christ. Each session includes a talk, time for individual reflection and some sharing of the prayer experience. In earlier sessions we considered the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, the Eucharist, and the Great Commandment.

Today our focus was on what we refer to as the Great Commissioning: Jesus’ command to his disciples to “proclaim the gospel to all creation,” a charge found (using slightly different words) in at least two Gospels and in Acts.

In his Apostolic exhortation, Christifideles Laici, Pope John Paul II wrote: “The entire mission of the Church, then, is concentrated and manifested in evangelization. Through the winding passages of history the Church has made her way under the grace and the command of Jesus Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” …and lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age”…. “To evangelize,” writes Paul VI, “is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her most profound identity.””

That raises for us the question: what does it look like for us to evangelize today? How do we proclaim the Gospel in the world in which we live today? In my reflection, I shared some thoughts on those questions.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 28:21.) Although this was the final session of the series, I did give participants some prayer material; you can find it here.

Jesus Speaks: The Great Commandment

Yesterday was the fourth (and penultimate) session of the Fall Reflection Series I am offering this fall at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.  As I’ve already shared in my posts following the first three sessions, the reflection series is titled Jesus Speaks and it is designed to deepen our appreciation of fundamental Christian teachings drawn from the words of Christ. Each session includes a talk, time for individual reflection and some sharing of the prayer experience. In the first three weeks we focused on the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes and the Eucharist. (And we began our session today, as we usually do, by inviting the participants to share about their experience this past week reflecting on the Eucharist.

Today our focus was on Jesus’ response when he is asked which commandment is the greatest. Jesus responded,

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

I began my talk by pointing out that neither aspect of this twofold commandment was new to the people of Jesus’ time; both are rooted in the Torah. I then offered some thoughts about each of the two aspects, including what is challenging to them in us. I ended by talking about a precondition to our ability to grow in our adherence of the command to love God and love one another: our embrace of God’s unconditional love for us.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 27:01.) A copy of the the handout I distributed to participants for their prayer this week is here.

Our series ends next week with a focus on our commissioning to proclaim the Gospel.

Jesus Speaks: The Eucharist

Yesterday was the third session of the Fall Reflection Series I am offering this fall at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.  As I’ve already shared in my posts following the first two sessions, the reflection series is titled Jesus Speaks and it is designed to deepen our appreciation of fundamental Christian teachings drawn from the words of Christ. Each session includes a talk, time for individual reflection and some sharing of the prayer experience.

We began our session with a rich discussion of insights participants gained from their reflection this past week on the Beatitudes. Then we moved on to the focus of today’s session: the Eucharist. In my talk, I shared some implications that flow from the belief of Catholics and some Protestants that the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ, some thoughts about why that changes everything about who and what we are in the world and in relation to each other.

I also invited participants to reflect on the Eucharist as an agent of transformation – of us and of the world. In that context, I quoted something Michael Himes wrote about the Eucharist in his book The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to Catholicism (a small volume which I frequently recommend to people). Himes writes

Not only does the Eucharist make us who we are, it tells us where we are going….[If bread and wine] can be transformed into the fullness of the presence of Christ, and therefore the fullness of the presence of God in human terms, then why not the whole material universe? And that is, of course, precisely the point….The whole universe is destined to be transformed into the presence of Christ, the fullness of God in the flesh. The whole universe is destined to be transformed into the presence of God in Christ…That is the destiny that the Eucharist reveals to us now: the transformation of the universe into the presence of God, so that the presence of God may be everything in everything. The Eucharist makes us who we are and reveals to us where we are going. That is why we are a Eucharistic people; because we are made into a people by the sealing of the covenant in the Eucharist, a people who know what the destiny of the world is.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 25:29.) A copy of the the handout I distributed to participants for their prayer this week is here.

Our session continues next week with a focus on the “Great Commandment.”

Jesus Speaks: The Lord’s Prayer

Yesterday was the first session of the Fall Reflection Series I am offering this fall at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.  The reflection series is titled Jesus Speaks and it is designed to deepen our appreciation of fundamental Christian teachings drawn from the words of Christ.  Each session includes a talk, time for individual reflection and some sharing of the prayer experience.

The focus of today’s session was the Lord’s Prayer, perhaps the most well-known prayer in the Christian tradition, although as i shared with the participants the prayer comes almost verbatim from the Talmud. After giving a brief introduction to the series, I offered some thoughts about the various petitions of the prayer.

You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 25:44.) A copy of the the handout I distributed to participants for their prayer this week is here.

Our session continues next week with a focus on the Beatitudes.