Prepare your heart for Christmas by reading the Gospel reflection’s written by seminarians from the Mundelein community.
First Sunday of Advent | November 29, 2020
Advent is a time of expectant waiting. We wait to celebrate the Nativity of the Lord on December 25, and we wait for the second coming of Christ at the end of the world. Either way, what we do with this waiting is important. We can allow it to pass by unnoticed or choose to deepen our dependence on Christ who is our Savior now and forever. As Jesus clearly advises in the Gospel reading from Mark: “Be watchful! Be alert!”
The First Reading from the Prophet Isaiah is a powerful reminder that we need to deepen our dependence on Christ during this time of Advent waiting. “Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways…Return for the sake of your servants…Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.” The prophet voices the pain of the Lord’s chosen people, crying out from the depth of his heart for the Lord to come again. We learn from Isaiah an important first step to deepen our dependence on Christ this Advent – humbly acknowledge that we need a Savior and re-commit ourselves to please Jesus in all we do, trusting as St. Paul says in the Second Reading, that we are “enriched in every way…not lacking in any spiritual gift as we wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
This has been my experience all through seminary. Seminary is not a time to just wait for ordination, letting it pass by unnoticed. It has been a sacred time to deepen my dependence on Christ and be enriched by his grace. There is a lot of self-examination – “Be watchful! Be alert!” – humbly acknowledging that I need a Savior to truly conform my life to Jesus Christ as his servant now and for my entire ordained life.
Deacon Martin Coolidge
Archdiocese of Dubuque
Second Sunday of Advent | December 6, 2020
As we read and hear today’s Mass readings, we can listen to the beautiful message of Advent: of preparing the way for the Lord to come into our lives, to repent, and make our path straight. We were awaiting the Nativity of the Lord when God humbled himself to assume our humanity. Jesus fulfilled the words of Isaiah, and God personally came to guide and care for his flock. God is always ready to enter into our lives and teach us personally on the right path and to care for each one of us, but each person needs to welcome God into his/her life personally and to let Him dwell within it.
How do we prepare our hearts for the coming of the Messiah? First, we need to orient our heart toward God’s love, not just to try to understand it, but to dwell in it. We need to let that divine love become a personal love for each one of us. When we allow the divine love to reign in our hearts, it tames all other loves: purifying all good loves (i.e., fraternal, friends, etc.) and controlling the bad loves (i.e., egocentrism, carnal, etc.). Divine love is able to manage all our natural emotions and affections to God’s plan of love and enables us to become servers of love to our neighbors. All of our movements in life are to become comforted in this holy love.
This is the primary and fundamental education that I have found in Mundelein Seminary, where we are encouraged to welcome God personally into our life and to dwell in His love with both mind and heart. Once we have been taught to dwell with God and the divine love, then we are sent out to the people to invite the people to come and dwell into the divine love, and become beacons of light that will orient the hearts of the people toward God’s love.
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception | December 8, 2020
The Gospel reading from Saint Luke (1:26-38) for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception beautifully expresses Our Blessed Mother’s pure devotion to Our Lord. Though this solemn Feast certainly ought to draw our hearts and minds to the Divine Christ-Child for whom we are preparing in hopeful anticipation this Advent, it also ought to draw us into a deeper and more joyful relationship with Our Lady herself. Indeed, there is no greater human or angelic creature than Our Lady, for only she was chosen from before all time by the Father to bear forth our Savior Jesus Christ. It is precisely for this purpose that God preserved her from original sin. From the very first moment of Mary’s conception in the womb of her own mother, Saint Ann, the Holy Spirit preserved her from all stain and blemish to be the immaculate tabernacle in whose womb God would become man. Indeed, Mary did and could not desire anything other than God.
Mary’s Immaculate Conception freed her up to be singularly devoted to the holy will of God in all things. It is how she could exclaim to Saint Gabriel the Archangel (even with normal human fears and concerns), “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word.” The goal of priestly formation is to form men who seek always to proclaim, along with Our Blessed Mother, her fiat, her let it be done unto me according to thy word. The Saints prove this holiness is possible for us all! As candidates for priestly ordination, who better to form seminarians in Jesus Christ’s priesthood than His own Immaculate Mother, our seminary’s holy Patroness? May we always receive Christ Jesus with Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, bear Him forth to the world and become great saints!
Deacon Nathaniel Resila
Third Sunday of Advent | December 13, 2020
The third Sunday in Advent is also known as Gaudete Sunday, from the Latin gaudere, to rejoice. Unlike many past years, 2020 has been and is still a difficult year for many of us. At the Seminary, we left the campus early and had to finish our semester online, consequently missing the warm fraternity we usually have, as well as facing other challenges. And I know that among you are individuals who have struggled with this year, too, from the financial difficulties to health problems, from political unrest to the personal problems you may have suffered. The question we, as humans, ask this Sunday is therefore, “What is there to rejoice in this year?”
Surprisingly, there are a lot of reasons to rejoice. The first reading from Isaiah announces a prophet sent by God to bring the good news to the poor and to proclaim a year of favor and cause for rejoicing among people. In my lifetime, there has been no year that has manifested ‘human poverty’ as much as 2020. But, bogged down by all the difficulties that have occurred this year, we have been and still are called to stand with confidence before God, whose mystery we adore, because He is our number one friend and we can count on Him. This year I think has reminded us more than anything else we are God’s servants; we belong in His Kingdom because we constitute God’s people.
Therefore, our rejoicing should stem from this year of favor that proclaims the coming of the Lord. The canticle we heard in the Psalm should not be for Mary only, but for all of us, the poor ones of the Lord. When Paul calls us to rejoice in the second reading, he simply reminds us that Christian joy is rooted in hope and is unshakeable. No matter what happens, we need to stay in prayer and give thanks for what is going right. John the Baptist’s words in the Gospel that, “There is one among you whom you do not recognize,” speaks to the reality that we should always joyfully be prepared to recognize and receive Christ in our lives, while allowing the Lord to reveal Himself to us. This Sunday, let us pray that God, by the coming of His Son, may inaugurate His reign in our lives which will help us overcome all the adversities confronting us. And for the constant goodness of the Lord, let us rejoice.
Deacon Peter Walusimbi
Fourth Sunday of Advent | December 20, 2020
The four themes for each Sunday of Advent have been: Hope, Peace, Joy, and now Love.
There is Hope in remembrance of the prophets’ expectation and anticipation of the coming Messiah, the birth of Christ – Jesus. There is Faith as a reminder of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. There is the Joy that Mary and the world experienced at the birth of Jesus, as well as the joy that we have reached the midpoint of Advent.
In this last week before Christmas, we focus on God’s Love, coming to us in the flesh as Jesus, born of Mary.
The story of the annunciation (announcement) by the angel to Mary in this Sunday’s Gospel reading contrasts greatly with the same angel’s earlier appearance in the Gospel to Zechariah announcing the birth of John the Baptist. The appearance to Zechariah took place in the Jerusalem temple, where Zechariah was serving as a priest. The appearance to Mary, a young, humble woman of no apparent significance, takes place in Nazareth, a simple town far north of Jerusalem and the Temple. And Zechariah had doubts, while Mary trusted.
The angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” Nothing is said of Mary’s faith or character—nothing that helps us to understand why God chose her. But, as with Abram, Isaac, Jacob and David, God chooses whom God chooses – including us.
“And you shall name him Jesus,” which means “savior,” the equivalent of “The Lord saves” or “Salvation comes from the Lord.” “Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”
“Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary is not chosen because she deserves favor, but is favored because she has been chosen. Mary’s response expresses her humility and her acceptance of God’s call, even as mysterious as from the appearance and message of an Angel. She models the kind of trust, faithfulness, dedication, and perseverance that all of us can follow.
Above the altar in the Saint Pope John Paul II Chapel at Mundelein Seminary is written the phrase Nolite timere, “Do not be afraid,” and Duc in altum, “Go out into the deep.”
This is a great reminder to me and other seminarians, and for all of us, in answering and following God’s call. Since God chooses us for whichever vocation we have in life, however uncertain or unprepared we may feel, even when we do not fully understand the full implications of our response and self-surrender, we should not be afraid. We can go out “into the deep” of the world, with all the challenges and difficulties, to be vessels of peace and love in this waiting and wailing world, because we have favor with God, because Emmanuel is with us, because God saves… and because, as another inscription above the altar of the Deacon Chapel at Mundelein Seminary says, Caritas Christi urget nos, “the Love of Christ urges us.”
Deacon Christopher Landfried