Category Archives: Faith

10 Ways to Celebrate Holy Week

This week, Christians celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a special way. Above all holidays, this week is the most central to Christian life. Here are 10 ways you can observe and celebrate Holy Week!

  1. Serve someone in need.
    Pope Francis has declared this the Year of Mercy so that all may “grow stronger and more effective” in mercy. Like the Good Samaritan in the gospel, we show mercy when we decide not to walk past someone in need. This exemplifies the life of Jesus.
    Example: Help serve a community meal at First Presbyterian Church in Leavenworth or in Kansas City Kansas with USM students. Meet at 4pm on Tuesday or 9:30am on Saturday respectively in the Office of Campus Ministry. Contact S. Rejane Cytacki (rejane.cytacki@stmary.edu).
  2. Read the Gospel.
    This is a great practice for Holy Week and a great way to revisit stories and words with which you might be familiar and others with which you might not be familiar.
    Example: Take an hour and read the Gospel of Mark from beginning to end reflecting on this question: how are the followers of Jesus continually challenged in the Gospel? OR Spend twenty minutes each night reading the Gospel of Luke reflecting on this question: who are the poor in the Gospel of Luke and how does Jesus serve them?
  3. Celebrate with a worshiping community.
    Many Christian churches come together to celebrate on Palm Sunday (the Sunday before Easter), Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil (Saturday night), and Easter Sunday. This is a great way to experience the richness of these holy days and share them with others.
    Example: The Sisters of Charity are celebrating Holy Week in 2016 with the following services in Ross Chapel (Mother house) open to any in the USM community: Holy Thursday 7:00pm, Good Friday 3:00pm, Easter Vigil 7:30pm Saturday, Easter Sunday 10:00am.
  4. Visit someone who needs a visitor.
    Show love and appreciation to someone who needs it. This could be a family member or friend you haven’t seen in a while, someone who is sick, or perhaps someone in prison.
    Example: Visit Sisters of Charity in Ross Hall with students from Rotoract Club. Meeting in the office of campus ministry at 3:15pm on Thursday March 24th.
  5. Plant a seed.
    Planting a tree, flower, or other plant is a beautiful symbol of resurrection used by Jesus in the gospel. The seed “dies” to become something new-a beautiful work of God’s creation. This beauty reminds us of the need to care for our common home.
    Example: Plant a tree in your yard at home OR go to a local park and find a tree or flower-spend some time appreciating it and the gifts it brings to our world.
  6. Fast (and “slow”!)
    Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something (food, smoking, etc.) in order to set the mind toward something else. That is why fasting should always be accompanied by “slowing”- taking some time to refocus on what is important.
    Example: On Good Friday, give up eating between meals. When you find yourself wanting to grab a snack, think about something good in your life and express thanks for it.
  7. Enjoy sacred art, music, film or literature.
    The life, death and resurrection of Jesus has been explored in many and varied ways through the arts. Experiencing these works of art opens our minds and hearts to new meaning of age old themes.
    Example: Go with a friend to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art to contemplate and discuss sacred art and other art as well.
  8. Give to a charity.
    We often think about giving to a charity or cause we support, but we often forget to do so unless the opportunity is right in front of us. Take some time during holy week to take that initiative and give to an important cause.
    Example: Grab a CRS rice bowl from campus ministry to put in your home or office for loose change. Proceeds will be sent from campus ministry to Catholic Relief Services.
  9. Pray.
    The gospels are filled with moments where Jesus goes off alone to pray or prays with the disciples. There are many ways to pray. Reserve some time in the morning, noon, afternoon, or night just for prayer. Discover how you pray best and how to make prayer a part of your life.
    Example: Set a chair or location in your home where you will go for ten minutes when you get up and before you go to sleep. Speak a prayer aloud or quietly, read a sacred text, write in a journal, or simply rest in silence.
  10. Spend some time with family and friends.
    The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is a story of life in its fullness. Do something fun with family or friends over this holy week to share good memories and reconnect.
    Example: Invite friends or family to dinner. Find a moment to express to each person something about him/her that you appreciate and for which you are grateful.

The Christmas “Tree”

Genealogy

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac,… Jesse the father of David the king.

David became the father of Solomon,…Solomon…at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah…Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations…

“Behold , the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.”

                Matthew 1:1-17, 1:23

 

I never got much from this genealogy.   But, it would have been bursting with meaning for first-century Jews.  To them, the names weren’t just names:  each name told a story and recalled important places, events, and historical periods.   Matthew strategically constructed this passage to show that the climax of Israel’s history was in Jesus.

“Genealogy” can be translated as “genesis ” or “beginning.”  The title “Son of David” linked Jesus to David and Solomon.  This recalled Israel’s glory days when God promised an everlasting dynasty to David.  Also, dividing the generations into 3 sets of 14 would recall David’s name.  The Hebrew consonants in “David” had number values:  d=4, w=6, d=4, totaling 14.  This subtly proclaimed that Jesus was the “thrice-Davidic Son of David.”

Then the genealogy turns somber.  It lists the generations of the Babylonian deportation and exile, a result of Israel sinning and breaking their covenant with God.   This period wasn’t just a painful memory to first-century Jews.  They still continued to feel the loss of their kingdom, land, and the Ark of the Covenant (God’s presence in the temple).

Then, the genealogy turns hopeful, showing that the Davidic line had NOT died out.  As “Christ” (“Anointed One”), Jesus would be a new Davidic king.  As “Jesus” (“God saves”), he would bring about the New Covenant era of forgiveness of sin.  As “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”), he would dwell among the Jews like the old Ark of the Covenant, and he would also be a blessing for the whole world.  This is what first-century Jews would have been longing for.

(Taken from Mystery of the Kingdom:  On the Gospel of Matthew and Dawn of the Messiah:  The Coming of Christ in Scripture, by Edward Sri)

Reflection by Cathy Sullivan, Applications Coordinator

Fear Not!

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of glad tidings,
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!

Fear not to cry out
and say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!
Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
and leading the ewes with care.

Isaiah 40: 9-11

After reading this small passage, the line that stood out the most for me is “fear not to cry out” that the Lord is coming. This is important to me because this is a problem that I had to overcome. During the second week of classes this semester, I walked into Campus Ministry knowing that I wanted to be involved with Bible study. I would soon be asked to lead Bible study and I knew that this was important because I believed that it was my duty to spread the word of God.

So, I walked into it with my head held high and with great expectation that the Lord would lead me through. Then, a couple of days before the first Bible study I froze up. I no longer had any confidence in myself. I began to tell myself that I mess up too much to spread the word of God; I will say something that will mess everything up, and I am useless. The night before Bible study I stayed up late reading over the material because I just wanted everything to go right.

I remember walking through the doors of Maria Hall and feeling relieved. I prayed that the Lord remove every sense of fear and anxiety and, because he is a mighty God, he came through. I am not perfect, but I serve a perfect God and I believe that he will soon return; I want to be ready on the day he comes. I have decided to stop living in fear of anything because I believe God; I believe that whatever he places before me is for me. I encourage you to do the same.

Reflection by Cenyeaa Williams, Junior Business Major

Immaculate Mary

“In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one!  The Lord is with you.”  But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.  Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.   He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  (Luke 1:  26-33)

Why was Mary “greatly troubled” by Gabriel’s words?

She would have been familiar with the Old Testament.  No one else had been honored by an angel with such an exalted title as “favored one” or “full of grace,” so she wouldn’t have known the expression.  The Catholic Church has interpreted this to mean Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the belief that Mary, at the moment of her conception, was preserved by God from original sin.  This was so that she would be an unblemished vessel, or “Ark of the Covenant,” in which to conceive and bear Jesus.

“The Lord is with you” (usually said by angels) or “I will be with you” (said by God) was used in the Old Testament before people were given a very important and difficult, if not dangerous, task.  This was said to individuals like Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and David when they were commissioned to serve God’s people.

And Mary DID receive a very important task:  She would be the mother of Jesus.  Although she probably didn’t understand at the time exactly what this would mean, she was given assurance:   She had found favor with God, and the Lord was with her.  So, Mary was able to say “yes” to her task.

Let us, like Mary, say “yes” to the task God has put before us today!

(paraphrased from Dawn of the Messiah:  The Coming of Christ in Scripture, by Edward Sri.)

Reflection by Cathy Sullivan, Applications Coordinator

Silent Night, Enchanting Lights

Many a cold, dark night growing up were spent in the car driving around in an anticipated search of those pretty, warm, sparkly things people like to see displayed outside around Christmas. I was so drawn to these pretty lights in their various forms: strands around homes or trees, Christmas and winter symbols illuminated in different sizes and colors all craving my attention. Just like any other kid (and still guilty of the same pleasure) “ooing and awing” at the lights in neighborhoods, or Christmas light driving displays, I was captivated by what I saw. I treasured those brightly chilled moments with my family and friends. It was a time to enjoy the companionship and the quiet. I will admit, I am still not great with silence. I often have music or something on in the background while working, at home and especially in the car. But every now and then I stop the music and let the silence in, even if just for a brief moment.

Such a simple thing has so much power and recognition during a season: lights. However, this got me thinking that the light of the Lord is not as simple a concept, yet infinitely more powerful. It is His light that should have the “ooing and awing” from our captivated attention. Christmas is a wonderful time of year that seems to promote being easily distracted by the shiny, loud things and the busy time that accompanies the season instead of a time to pause, reflect and focus on the light that has enabled us to be where we are today and never burns out. Take pleasure in the lights and festivities, but use those lights as a reminder that we have nothing to fear with Christ’s Light on our side. I invite you (myself included) to steal a moment to soak in the lights and silence of the season and let that moment be a reminder of God’s light and the message of Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple.

Reflection by Kaela McWherter, Student Success Coordinator

Advent: A Time of Watchfulness

Friends,

We have arrived at the first Sunday of Advent.  Happy New Year!  In the church calendar, this marks the beginning of a new year in the great journey of sacred time.  But what is sacred time?  What does it mean for time to be holy?

Time is holy when it has meaning.  July 4th, for example, is not just another day in the United States.  It is a day when we celebrate our independence.  Our birthdays too are not just another rotation of the Earth at a point in its orbit, they are days when we celebrate who we are.  But the interesting thing about sacred time is that it doesn’t just signify where we have been, it signifies where we are going.  In the great journey of life we are caught somewhere in the middle of “already” and “not yet.”

During Advent, our liturgical life (our life of prayer and worship together) centers around watchfulness.  It is a time when we are preparing ourselves, as if we are awake in the early hours of the morning before an exciting day, breathless as we await the sunrise.  We await the coming of Christ; we are in the “not yet.”

But Jesus already came!  Jesus has already been born.  So what are we waiting for?  The answer lies in our understanding of sacred time and the Christian journey.  It can be heard in today’s gospel reading.  In chapter 13 of Mark’s gospel, which takes place just before the account of Jesus’ passion and death, Jesus tells the disciples that the Temple—the most sacred place in the whole world for them—will be destroyed in the days to come.  He goes on to describe hardships and troubles that they will have to face in their generation, but that Christ will come again.  Then he gives them this instruction: “watch.”  They never know when the time will come, so they must be ready.

In the time of the early church, it was thought that Jesus would triumphantly return within the lifetime of those who had followed him.  Mark’s gospel was written around 70 a.d., when the Temple was indeed destroyed and great hardship was falling on Jews and Christians alike.  They, like all of us, were caught in a time between “already” and “not yet.”  Jesus had already come!  He had risen and conquered death!  But the story hadn’t ended.  His followers still struggled and still pressed on to the vision Christ had weaved into their hearts and minds: the kingdom of God.

In the great progression of sacred time, we continue in this journey between “already” and “not yet”, glorifying in the coming of Christ but forever running toward the vision of God’s reign. Christ showed us through his life, death, and resurrection that we don’t need to be afraid, and that we can live in God’s love.  He has already shown us the way.  But we have not yet run the race!  In all our daily work, in every celebration, in every heart, at every moment throughout time, we move toward the kingdom of God, seeking to bring it about for all those around us.  We chase after it ceaselessly in every age—the promise of a heaven that is “not yet,” but will surely come.

And so, Advent is a time when we remember where we have been and where we are going.  We remember that as Christians, we forever seek to bring about God’s good work in the world.  So let us be watchful!   We do not know when the time will come for us to do God’s work in the world.

Reflection by Bob Killion, Campus Minister