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Extravagant Love – a reflection by Fr. Mike DeTemple

April 14, 2014

Reflect with Fr. Mike DeTemple, University Chaplain, on the passion narratives read on Palm Sunday.

The Passion narrative we read every year on Palm Sunday reveals Jesus’ moment of glory, when the full truth about him as Messiah and King is made known: he is the crucified King, suffering and dying on a cross for the salvation of all. He is the Suffering Servant, who is with us in our suffering. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down his life to save his sheep – and does it ironically at the moment of his greatest powerlessness and shame.

This Holy Week we remember what Jesus, out of love, has done for us and we are urged to follow his example by expressing our love for him and all our sisters and brothers in profound and radical ways. In their letter, “To the Ends of the Earth” (1986) the Bishops of the United States expressed it in these words:

Had Jesus merely said that his mission was to set people free from sin and all forms of oppression, his words would have fallen on deaf ears. He had to work at this task of liberation. He not only talked about freeing the poor and oppressed but, undeterred by criticism, actually welcomed the poor and sinners to share at his table. Like Jesus, we must be able to accompany others in their suffering and be willing to suffer with them.

We do this to imitate our Savior “who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This week we remember his sacrifice and enter into it more deeply, that we may grow in our love for him and for the people of God; and we express that love concretely in the way we live our lives. In doing so, we fulfill one important aspect of the nature of the Church, as Pope Benedict XVI expressed it in his encyclical letter, “God is Love:” For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is . . . an indispensable expression of her very being. As a community, the Church must practice love, for “If you see charity, you see the Trinity.” (Saint Augustine)

The Raising of Lazarus – a Gospel reflection by Diana Hernandez

April 7, 2014

Diana Hernandez, a freshman in the student leadership program in University Ministry, invites us to think about the areas that God is calling us to come to life. Read this past Sunday’s scripture (John 11: 3-7, 20-27, 33B-45) and reflect on it with her.

In this Gospel, Jesus speaks to us and challenges us to believe in the presence of God. When Jesus was notified that Lazarus was ill, he responded by saying, “the illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God.” When Jesus returned to Judea, he found that Lazarus had recently died. Lazarus’ sister, Martha, tried to blame Jesus by saying that if he had been there with them he could have saved Lazarus from death. This made me think about how sometimes we lose faith in God when we feel that he does not answer our prayers. Then, Jesus told his people that Lazarus would rise from the dead and live again. Jesus asked Martha if she believed that he was the resurrection and the life and whoever believed in him would live and never die.

This made me think about the time when my aunt passed away after fighting breast cancer for three years. Her husband blamed God for allowing her to die. I feel like sometimes we distant ourselves or fail to have a relationship with God because we feel like we are not given clues of God’s presence in our lives.

Those who loved Lazarus confronted Jesus and said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” Even today, many seek for visible evidence of God’s existence in order to believe that he is there with us – listening to our prayers. We believe when we feel and see a response.

The people of Judea needed visual evidence of God’s existence, so Jesus called out to his father and asked to help him give them a sign. Jesus visited Lazarus tomb and brought him back to life. Seeing this visible sign, the people started believing in Jesus’s words. They saw him as truly the Son of God.

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So I invite you in this time of lent to quiet yourself and listen within – to feel God’s presence in your calmness and peacefulness, accept the invitation of extended life. Where is God calling you to come alive? Take a moment and think to yourself, what relationship do I have with God? When have I felt the closest to God? When have I felt the most distant to God and why?

Look Truthfully by Sheila Bauer-Gatsos

March 30, 2014

Professor Sheila Bauer-Gatsos reflects on this Sunday’s Gospel, John 9:1-41. All are invited to immerse themselves in the story and see how God is calling each to “see” in a new way as we RETURN throughout the season of Lent. 

“Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart.”

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The scripture readings this week all focus on sight—on the need to watch carefully, to see clearly, to look truthfully.  It is more difficult than it sounds.  There are many things that impair our vision, that keep us from seeing what is real and what really matters.

In our media-saturated world, we are confronted every day by false images that focus entirely on appearance.  We see and accept as “real” images that have been distorted in ways that create false standards of beauty and unrealistic, indeed often unhealthy, expectations for our bodies.  We are encouraged to place greater emphasis on superficial ideals of beauty, on appearances, rather than on ideas, values and beliefs.  The sheer volume of images we see can cloud our sight.

We’re not just blinded by what we see, though, but also by what we do.  We live busy and hectic lives.  We rush from the work on our desks to our classes to meetings and back to our piles of work.  We see what’s right in front of us, what we must do next, what is in our way, but again, that is sometimes not what matters most.

Our ability to see may be impaired, but we are also lucky.  Here, through its mission and its vision for education, Dominican University helps to counter the messages and the madness of our daily lives.  We are given frequent reminders of what matters, opportunities to return to what is truly important, and calls to look into our own hearts and the hearts of others.

We can always do more.  When I read these lines from the scripture, I am reminded that my vision is faulty.   “Not as man sees does God see because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”

How can I try to see more clearly? How can I focus on what truly matters? How can I learn to look through God’s eyes?   How might my life be changed if I do?

Impressions From the Field: the Sinsinawa Mound by Molly McGrail

March 26, 2014

Senior Molly McGrail attended the Mission to the Mound Retreat over Spring Break. While in Wisconsin she enjoyed learning about Dominican history, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters, and spending time in prayer and contemplation. Here Molly reflects on the adventure, reflection, and all the wonders that the Sinsinawa Mound brought her.

I was one of the chosen few asked to help with two horses on the farm at the Mound, having previously been hunted down by Sister Ruella and informed that I should finish breakfast by 7:45. Since breakfast was generally ready at 8AM, this meant I was in for cold cereal and, conversely, the challenge of drinking steaming coffee that even the most avid coffee drinker would have sympathized, given that I had about ten minutes. Thus, during the roughly three-day trip, which included two actual mornings at the Mound, I was fortunate enough to spend roughly one hour each morning outside knee-deep in snow looking out across the gently rolling hills of Wisconsin, feeding two horses more vegetables than I usually see in a week. I learned how to separate hay barrels and, using a curious combination of shovels, rakes and a broom, rescue fallen hay out from under the palettes and barrels so that they fresh hay wouldn’t rot due to the snow and rain. I also learned how to sweep (not shovel) snow in a field.

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Is this what my idea of Dominican living was before I went to the Mound with all of my fellow companions? Hardly. I wasn’t expecting a 21st-century version of The Sound of Music, either, but what ultimately surprised me the most was––and is––how active and engaged the Dominican Sisters are. In addition to tours by Sister Jeri and seeing Father Samuel’s impressive command of languages (and consequently, lamenting the lost art of good handwriting), group prayer and meditation are activities that I am happy to have participated in while at the Mound. However, just as important is taking what is gleaned from those silence-filled, reflective moments and utilizing them in our other, perhaps less overtly pious and more strenuous, day-to-day actions, be it feeding horses while becoming increasingly aware of the loss of circulation in your fingers, or a lovely conversation over Snickers bars and a Mardi Gras lunch with a Sister.

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The Pursuit of Everlasting Water by Miguel Ortiz

March 21, 2014

Senior Miguel Ortiz spends time looking at the 3rd Sunday of Lent’s Gospel reading from John 4:5-42. Dive deep with him and explore the pursuit of everlasting water. 

 “whoever drinks the water I shall give, will never thirst”

In today’s gospel of John, Jesus is thirsty and asks the woman at the well for water. While Jesus is asking for water, he begins to explain to the Samaritan woman of everlasting water, water that will make it so she never thirsts again – water of eternal life. He recognizes that she is a sinner yet still offers her this water. The woman goes back into town telling everyone who Jesus is and that he is at the well. The people of the town of Sychar are so inspired that they come out to see Jesus.

During this Lent it is important to realize that we can all have eternal life. The woman at the well is indeed in need of healing; but Jesus still goes to her for water and offers her water of eternal life. We are all offered this eternal life, but like the woman at the well, we yearn for healing, so that we may receive the grace of relationship with God. Lent is a perfect time to receive that water from God so that we may never thirst for things that can’t fill us up.

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So what is the “water”? The water that Jesus offers is – for me – happiness. We sometimes may “thirst” for more money, more things, better grades, etc. we continue to want more and want better. But we can’t quench our thirst for happiness with those drinks. The water from Jesus, will bring us wholeness and happiness in a new way. A way that opens us up.

During Lent many of us decide to “give up” something and this, for many, can become the biggest challenge of lent. We begin to immediately thirst for it. After Lent is over we drink and drink what we have given up, but we never can fully quench that thirst. We give up those things so that we may find the drink of everlasting life, so that we can find the water that will quench all thirsts.

How is what you are doing for Lent helping to prepare you for the water of everlasting life?

Dear God, in this Lenten season we ask you to walk us to you so that we may acknowledge our brokenness and cleanse us. Help us to realize that the water we drink will never quench our thirst, and give us a taste for your water—the water of everlasting life. Amen.

Service in the Streets by Tori Goodman

March 19, 2014

The following reflection originated as a personal Facebook post from SLAMer Tori Goodman to her friends and family. The fruits of her experience were so inspiring that we asked if she would be willing to share with our community. Thanks, Tori, for your story and service! 

Story Time! Gather ’round, children!

Tonight as I was coming back on the Green Line from a presentation/panel/discussion about Maafa in Chicago at the DuSable Museum of African Americans, I remembered that I needed to get salt and toothpaste, so I got off at Randolph and Wabash to go to the Walgreens. As I’m walking into the store, I saw a man standing on the corner with a sign in his hands asking for help. I went over to him concerned because, usually, homeless people are off the streets by six or seven. Mind you it was only 15 degrees out, not counting the wind-chill. As I got closer, I realized that it was an older man named Kevin Jackson*, whom I had met earlier this month during one of my Service in the Streets outings. I called out to him and smiled, saying “Hello, Mr. Jackson! How are you? Why are you out so late?” He answered and we started talking. After a while I asked him if he needed anything in Walgreens because I was going shopping anyways.

We went shopping together and I bought him a sandwich, peanuts, and a large hot chocolate with whipped cream on top – along with my salt and toothpaste. He was so very grateful and told me how exhausting it is being out on the street every day for the last five years. Keith has never been married or been a father, so when his apartment caught fire, he lost everything. Thankfully, his story is on a positive route, since he now is with a shelter that is taking very good care of him (something that is very surprising and a far cry from what others have told me; bedbugs, theft, and physical and verbal abuse being a few examples). He has no criminal record, so they’re figuring out how to get him a job and an affordable apartment. He’s hoping to be off the streets in a month or so.

I was getting ready to leave when he stopped me and thanked me for everything. My remembering his face, let alone his name, touched him so deeply that tears started welling in his eyes and his voice started choking up. Even if for a moment, we got to explore the different levels of a store that neither of us had been to before – we shared a common every experience of shopping and he didn’t feel lonely anymore. Not only that, but he was reminded that someone cares about him and his well-being. It was then that I not only felt the endless privileges and opportunities shaping my life, but the fact that he isn’t as privileged. I also was reminded that it’s not my feeding Kevin or giving him bus fare that was important, but my spending time with him. When I finally left, I gave him a couple of warm hugs and well wishes. It broke my heart to leave him all alone again. It always does.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve been discouraged during the last couple of Service in the Streets. I have felt hopelessly small and insignificant. I know that what we are doing something good and important, but it sometimes it feels pointless. Does was giving out one meal and five or so minutes of conversation help to solve things? The answer is, NO. Money is just paper, and buying Kevin food or bus fare isn’t going to change his life. However, reaching out to those less fortunate, whether the person asking for help on the corner – homeless or not – is essential. By overcoming feelings of apathy or fright, we take the first step in spreading love. And sometimes, all it takes to give people a little hope or sense of self-worth is to remember their name.

THAT’s why I do Service in the Streets.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of Tori’s encounter.

The World Begins Again by Katie Fox

March 17, 2014

Student leader Katie Fox writes our second Sunday of Lent reflection on the process of RETURN.

“I am grateful to God—whom I worship with a clear conscience, as my ancestors
did—when I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. Recalling
your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy.” -Timothy 1:3-4

I think that sometimes it’s easy to put our faith on the back burner, or to turn away from God when our lives get hectic and worrisome. This lent we are called to return, in whatever way you need to, whether it be to your family, to your friends, to God.

Although I am in SLAM, and active in our faith community I have recently found myself in the same situation as many, needing to revisit my faith after a period of doubt brought on by a few challenging months. Something that I have been reflecting on as I think about the idea of “return,” is that although I sometimes feel that God has left me, that has never been the case in the end. As I think about my life, the trying times, the times filled with joy I am able to see God in those places. I firmly believe that we are given different challenges in our lives in order to strengthen, not test our faith. That is something we can all remember when we are in our own places of doubt.

So I guess this brings about the question “how do we return after these times of doubt?” I think we just have to do the best we can. I like to think that God is understanding, and that when I am ready to move forward or return to my faith that things will resume where I left off.

I often find myself expressing my thoughts through music. The link below is for a song called “Better Days,” by the Goo Goo Dolls. The chorus goes “so take these words, and sing out loud/’cause everyone is forgiven now/’cause tonight’s the night the world begins again.” So what are you waiting for? Go trustingly in yourself and in your faith, and make your return.

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