By Jenee Margo Gonzales, B.A. ’97, J.D., ‘03
Director of Government Relations & Community Collaborations, University Advancement
In just a few days my younger brother will be deployed on his third tour of duty with the U.S. Army, his first in Afghanistan. As I prepare for that day I cannot help but reflect on today’s readings and how each speaks to me.
I can remember back, many years ago, when my brother came to me for my advice as to whether he should accept an ROTC scholarship to St. Mary’s. As an alumna myself, and at the time planning to apply to the law school, I was happy, humbled and honored that he came to me. Being from a military family I encouraged him to accept the offer. However, this was well before 9/11 and the wars that resulted from the tragedy of that horrific day.
Since his commission and graduation in spring 2003, each time he has come up for deployment I look back on that fateful day when he asked me for advice and I wonder if I gave him the right counsel. Knowing my brother I think I did, he already had his mind made up when he came to me for my opinion, but being the thoughtful brother that he is he came to his big sister for words of validation and guidance.
In the readings today the Lord reminds us not to be afraid that he is always with us. Where there is despair, God our Lord brings renewal and hope, that when you are at your neediest God will be there for you. Every day we experience different types of stressors and anxieties in our life from our work to our studies, health and relationship issues, to being miles away from our family, such as this deployment will be for mine. What we must remember is that our Lord God is always with us, in good times and in bad; He renews us with love, bringing hope and peace in our lives.
Our Lord is kind and merciful; I thank him daily for the gift of life, the good and the bad. During this Advent Season which is a promise of hope, hope sprung anew, I am becoming more and more forgiving of myself and accepting of my faith. It is my growing and ever-evolving faith that gives me strength, strength in knowing that my brother will be kept out of harm’s way, by our Lord Jesus Christ, until he is returned safely home.
By: Karla Benavidez
The full formation of my spiritual life must be accredited to my grandmother. My grandmother is the voice that called to me while in the desert. Church was never forced upon me in my home as I was growing up. We believed and worshiped in our own way and on our own time. My grandma was the one that still attended church every Sunday, even if she could barely stand the pain in her knees. Of course, she always “strongly” encouraged all in my family to go with her…strongly meaning she told us!…and like most children, I was hesitant to sit through an hour long service spoken mostly in Spanish. Yet, her persistence was admirable.
When I was about twelve years old, something clicked and I decided to attend church with her. It was as if the Lord himself spoke to me that day. It was actually fun! I went the next Sunday and the next until finally, I was a “regular”. Becoming involved in the church not only brought me closer to our Lord but also closer to my Grandmother. The life lessons I learned with my youth group helped guide my choices and attitude through what were supposed to be the roughest years in life. On the contrary, my teenage years were the best. As I grow older, I understand now that it was God’s plan to fully encompass my life during those years and to help me navigate through the “teen” wilderness.
Without my Grandmother there to be a constant voice for God in my life, I don’t know what my choices could have been or where my life would lead. Her faith in me and in God has led me to grow closer to her and to always remember the Holy Spirit in everything I do. She still hobbles out of the house every Sunday to hear the Word and pray for all of us. She is the leader of my family’s spiritual life and our guide out of that desert.
Reflection by Bob O’Conner, Ph.D. (Theology Department)
The link between today’s 1st reading and the gospel appears to hinge upon the word “rock.” In the first instance, Isaiah describes the Lord as “an eternal Rock” signifying power, stability, and endurance. The Lord accomplishes the unthinkable—the redressing of inequities that accompany the maldistribution of wealth, goods, and power. Isaiah reminds us that peace which we all seek is the result of justice which is not quite so popular an idea, especially for those who may benefit from the injustice.
The prophet reminds his audience that no matter how hopeless the situation appears to be, no matter how unstable the ground, no matter how threatening the authorities may “lord it over” people, no matter how devastating the oppression of bureaucracy, justice will triumph and that triumph will come from the Lord rather than any human agency. Believing these prophetic words would certainly engender hope for those who “call upon the name of the Lord.”
The gospel reminds us that “talking the talk” is insufficient; “walking the walk” is the key to those who “enter the kingdom of heaven.” This sentiment is echoed later in the gospel with the concluding parable regarding those who gave food to the hungry not for a self-interested reward (“when did we see you hungry and give you to eat?”) but simply because the hungry were in need.
Lastly, the values by which we consistently orient our lives (how we behave “when no one is looking”) is the “rock” upon which the man built his house. In contrast is our behavior guided by peer pressure or convenience and which might be seen as the “sand” which will shift and ultimately cause the house to collapse.
As we approach the end of the semester it may be useful to reflect for a moment on whether we are building our lives on a rock or sand.
By: Portia Gresham (B.A. ’12) Psychology major
As I sit quietly in the courtyard of Adele and think about who has called me out of my despair, my darkness and my bewilderment, I think of those few people who recognize me spiritually. It’s those few people who can see past my brave face on a dark day, or recognize that something is wrong through subtle changes in my voice. It’s those few people who acknowledge the aspect of life’s strife that is both seen and unseen. The voices I hear while I wait in the wilderness are those people who help me step outside of my crazy schedule, to refocus and know that God has a plan, it is divine, I am his vessel and everything will be fine.
We are now on our third week of Lent, also known as Laudate, signifying the mid-point of our waiting season. How are we growing in our faith as we prepare for the death and resurrection of our Lord? One thing that may be difficult during Lent is fasting and abstaining. According to the Catholic definition we are obligated to fast and abstain from eating meat every Friday of Lent. We are able to eat one full meal on Friday and very moderate snacks in the morning and in the evening. Beginning this fasting and abstaining process may be a difficult challenge for many but when we understand how it develops our life spiritually; we are able to transform and unfold a deeper faith in our prayer life with God.
Fasting and abstaining represent a form of penance as we are preparing for the Lord’s resurrection. These practices are supported in the Old and New Testament. When we practice these traditions we are seeking the Lord in a way that truly opens our prayer life. For example, when it is Friday, we start off the day with a light snack just enough to provide us with the energy we need. We may still have the desire to eat when we hear that rumbling in our stomachs. Our first thought as humans is to fulfill that desire. Instead when we feel hunger in that moment, this is the time to bring it to God. This is the moment when we should begin to pray. We can praise God for whatever it may be, life, food, shelter, personal growth, concern, etc. Whatever it may be, and God will listen and he will understand you. While we are practicing these actions of abstinence and fasting, we are imitating Jesus. This reflects the time when Jesus was being tested in the desert for 40 days. So Jesus knows your pain. He knows your suffering. There is nothing he has not gone through that you may face.
I ask you my friends to really take the Lenten season and apply your practices to all your queries, happiness, struggles, thirst and hunger. As these moments occur, praise God for what he has provided with you and ask questions. Jesus will provide for what he has planned for you. Before you know it God will have manifested in your life and impacted it in a way that you may not have thought.
Trivia Answer: The Feast of the Annunciation
By Lent 4.5
“What is e- n- o- u- g- h?” my refugee friend asked me. I pantomimed eating a very large meal and then having a very full stomach. He laughed and repeated after me: “That’s enough!”
We spend our lives, it seems, trying to understand this concept. From the time our children are very small we try to help them to recognize it also – enough chocolate, enough play, enough fiddling, enough time awake, and enough toys.
Our culture, though, encourages “more” as the operative attitude. Super-sized drinks and burgers, generous houses regardless of family-size, a second and third vehicle, the newest technology, smart phones that are more efficient than many computers.
Maybe we need to examine how “more is better” impacts the way we care for our Earth and how we see our neighbors.
The 1972 Apollo 17 image of our planet from space – the first time we clearly “saw ourselves” fully illumined and beautiful – has shaped us in profound ways. Before this we had only mental images of our planet. But with photo proof we can no longer doubt the essential unity of our world. From this great distance our “Blue Marble” shows no country demarcations, no highways, grand cities or garbage dumps. What we can see, though, is that what happens in one area is sure to affect the other lands in a great chain of interconnectedness. To continue reading from original site…
Today’s Tip: Get a mug shot!
Coffee has become an indispensable part of the working day, but why not dispense with disposable cups? Life-cycle analysis of the energy and waste from producing. transporting, and disposing of cardboard or polystyrene cups shows the ceramic coffee mug to be far more eco-efficient — even taking into account the water needed to wash it between uses. Over it’s life span, a mug will be used about 3,000 times, resulting in 30 times less solid waste and 60 times less air pollution than using the equivalent number of cups. Most take-out coffee shops will be happy to serve your favorite brew in your favorite mug — after all, it saves their business money.
- Less energy use
- Lower carbon emissions
- Less waste
From True Green by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin
So much about our world goes unseen, not the least of which is environmental degradation. However, as Catholics we are called to be aware. Aware of the poor, the widow, and the orphan, yes, but we must also have an awareness for something as basic as our relationship with nature. The health of the earth not only affects us, it also affects the daily lived experiences of the impoverished world-wide. The GO GREEN Lenten Challenge invites us to begin the important task of becoming aware of HOW we are in relationship to the earth, and HOW we can then move in loving action for/with our brothers and sisters across the world.
If you are ready to begin the GO GREEN Lenten Challenge, click below to take a quick quiz about your current understanding of greening efforts.
And return here each day throughout lent for tip on how to Go Green!
Today’s Tip: Turn off the lights!
Banish your daily interior gloom with a natural light source that lets you leave the lights off until the sun goes down. Sky lights, reflective materials, and pale colored walls help make the most of natural light.
- Lower Carbon Emissions
- Lower Energy Bills
From True Green by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin
Self reflection, self giving, and self awareness play a role in our daily prayer life. It’s all about you. At least it begins with you, through your decision and actions. During the Lenten season we are encouraged to seek God in all that we do. Through the development of our prayer life we place our hearts in God’s hands as He reveals to us what we should do and where we should be headed in our faith journey. If we listen thoughtfully and earnestly, God will speak. We have to come to know who we are. T
hrough our personal time with God, He reveals to us how to use our skills and talents so that others may see God working through them.
As the 40 days of Lent is now underway, we reflect on what we have decided to give up or what we have decided to work better at.
Based on our decision, we may face the act of struggling through temptation and the possible lack of will power. We get a taste of what Jesus went through when he was being tempted in the desert. When we face the trial of being tempted this is our time to turn and seek God for guidance and understanding. When we seek God for anything at all, whether it is in thanksgiving, repentance, guidance or a basic conversation about life, God is always there to listen. It is only through him that we are able to seek truth and build our relationship with him.
Within this relationship that we are working to build and strengthen with God, we get an understanding of who we are and the gifts that we hold. We become more aware of the things that we have done and have failed to do. Our relationship with God becomes much more intimate and clear through the amazing gift of prayer. Remember, a little quiet time with our heavenly dad goes a long way.
Trivia Answer: Pretzels!
By Selena Rangel
This Sunday’s Gospel ( Mark 1:12-15) kicks off our Lenten season. The Gospel quickly leads us into the desert of temptation and begins our reflection upon what we must overcome to stay close to our God. We begin to see how Jesus struggles and battles against Satan in order to return to proclaim that the “time of fulfillment” has come. We are all reminded that we must “repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Even so, it is the first words that caught my attention.
The Spirit drove Jesus…
It dawned on me that it was not Jesus who entered the desert of his own will, but he was actually forced to begin his journey. This reading shows the innately human side of Jesus, how he may not have wanted to begin, but obeyed when he was summoned. Although he was driven into the desert, it was of his own will that he remained and lasted through the temptations.
I think that God may do the same to us sometimes. He sends his Holy Spirit down to push us, to force us to deal with obstacles that we may have normally turned away from. But these very struggles we later see as some of our greatest accomplishments and rewards in life. It is with great faith and hope that Jesus survives his time in the desert. We must do the same; we must focus on our God when we see that “wild beasts” are among us, and instead see how the angels minister to us. Let your Lenten journey be a true voyage, let it be filled with ups and downs, but know that our God is with us with every step waiting for us to reach our “time of fulfillment.”
Readings of the Day
Grace and God’s love are wonderful gifts. No matter what we do, we cannot lose these gifts, otherwise they would be conditional. In addition, to these gifts, we discover that God’s love is merciful and compassionate. In the reading from Micah we hear that God will cast our sins into the depths of the sea. And in the gospel from Luke Jesus tells that Pharisees and Scribes, the Father rejoices when his children are found again.
Repentance of heart involves right action. When we learn how to fully accept God into our lives, God will be able to share grace and love with us fully. Today, let us consider what could be holding us back from such fullness.