A live-streamed Reflective Ministry evening was facilitated by members of the Pastoral Formation team including Sr Grace Roclawska, Donnie Velasco and Bernadette Ho on Tuesday 16 November. The much loved and knowledgeable Biblical Scholar, Sr Michele Connolly RSJ, presented a rich, engaging, and encouraging night with Scripture accompanying our individual and collective stories. Sr Michele’s presentation was broken down into five sections including the general theme of Advent plus the four Scripture Sundays of Advent. Themes from the readings included:
- The times of the end
- John the Baptist I “Prepare the way of the Lord”
- John the Baptist II “Live justly to prepare for the Lord who comes”
- The coming birth of Jesus the Saviour
For many Christians, there can be some confusion surrounding the meaning of the Advent season. People often know that the season focuses on expectation and think it serves as an anticipation of Christ’s birth in the season leading up to Christmas. This is part of the story, but there’s more to Advent explained Sr Michele: “In the Advent scripture readings we are drawn into the life of the trinity. Jesus Christ is alive and active among us, shaping the world into His likeness, drawing us into relationship with God as a loving Father.”
Throughout the evening Sr Michele invited comments and questions which were fed back to the group by the Pastoral Formation team. Some reflections included: “Jesus is present now, not just coming”, “We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ”, “I wonder what Word God is giving me? – I need to be still and listen” and “It’s good to know more about John the Baptist who is such a powerful preacher in the Gospel of Luke.”
We were reminded to say “yes” to the gift that God wants us to experience; that our presence as a channel of God’s love is one of the gifts we can share with others during the Christmas season. Some attitudes and mindsets expressed by participants that they hope to embrace and “gift” to others in this Advent season included: joy, patience, wonder, hope, acceptance, generosity, peace, understanding, welcoming and gratitude.
The evening presented an opportunity to marvel in the truth that God in God’s-self came to live with us in the form of a frail, humble baby. We journeyed to look at what the second coming of Jesus means – that Jesus will return at the end of times. As disciples, when the Son of Man comes, he will come to save us and raise our hearts. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can rise up with joy, raise our heads and know that our redemption is at hand because we are known and loved by God– that we belong to God our Father. The reflection pauses throughout the night were a touching reminder of God’s all-pervading love and mercy and renewed our focus to be people of peace and joy this holiday season.
We were left to ponder a message of hope and possibility for the Christmas season. As we anticipate the lead up to Christmas, through the weekends of Advent, may we be stretched beyond our current imaginings, towards the potential God calls us to be, through our brother and friend, Jesus Christ. May we be filled with a sense of wonder as we ponder God’s radical gesture of entering humanity united with our real hopes and fears. Sr Michele invited us to: “Allow the Word to speak into our minds, to soften our hearts, to enliven our Spirit and help us to sing of God’s joy.”
Bernadette Ho is a Pastoral Formation Facilitator in the Diocese of Parramatta.