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!”

Retreat in 2016 Anyone?

I am en route to the Jesuit Retreat House in OshKosh, where I will be giving a weekend Ignatian retreat to the faculty and staff of Marquette University.

While I don’t really have time to write a thoughtful post this morning, since I am grinning with anticipation at my impending arrival in OshKosh, I thought it useful to let people know that the retreat house now has its 2016 schedule of retreats – both preached retreats and summer directed retreats on their website (here).

As I often tell my directees, there is never a good time to do retreat. But the benefits of taking time to get away are enormous.

This particular retreat house is one of my “happy places,” whether I’m giving a retreat or being a retreatant. For those who haven’t been there, here is a picture of the new Annunciation chapel:
2015-06-01 15.15.55

The retreat house is on the shore of Lake Winnebago.
2015-06-10 07.13.58

Check out the schedule. Maybe put aside a weekend or a week for some retreat.

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 Beatitudes

Today was the second 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 Beatitudes. Pope Benedict XIV wrote that “the Beatitudes express the meaning of discipleship.” They are meant, not as a series of sweet platitudes, but as ways we ought to orient and live our lives.

Since I have given so many talks on the Beatitudes, I decided to do something different today. For each of the Beatitudes, I invited the participants to share something of their understanding before offering some thoughts of my own. It was a rich discussion and I think broadened how many (including myself) thought of some of the Beatitudes.

At the end of our discussion, I distributed prayer material on the Beatitudes participants may want to pray with this week. You can find a copy of the that handout material is here.

If you wish to hear a recording of a talk I have given on the Beatitudes, you can find one here.

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