For career inspiration, Erin looked no further than her family of first responders and their calling to “help people on their worst days.”
Each week during Advent, Emmanuel’s Office of Mission & Ministry invites a member of the College community to share a reflection. Reflections will be shared here every Sunday throughout Advent.
Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent | December 18, 2022
In All We Face, God is Ever at Our Side
Each Advent, we see beautiful Nativity scenes and hear joyful carols about the coming of a Savior. Amid such signs of the season, it is easy to think of Jesus’ birth as a cozy, inspiring story rather than as a tale of people who were poor, oppressed, and frightened.
In first century Palestine, a woman found to be pregnant out of wedlock likely would have been killed. Yet Mary was no passive, meek, obedient woman, as tradition often portrays her. Rather, she and Joseph were brave and strong and had an amazing faith in their God. They are examples of how God works through the people that society often scorns.
In this week’s Gospel, when the angel tells Joseph not to be afraid, he is not telling him that his faith will wash away all his troubles. After all, it could not have been easy, in the years that followed, to be the earthly father of Jesus, whose radical actions would upset the religious and political authorities of his day. And later, Mary, after already losing her husband, had to watch her son be executed by the Roman government. Yet God was with them both. No matter how deep our despair may go, God does not leave our side. Our sufferings do not reflect God’s displeasure any more than our successes are signs of God’s favor — that is not how God works.
As a theologian, I have often encountered people who have lamented not having a stronger faith. However, faith does not mean an absence of anger, fear, or even doubt. Faith also does not necessarily mean going to church every Sunday, or saying formal prayers, or putting a smile on your face. Faith can look like trying your hardest to find ways to interact with people during a global pandemic. Faith can look like asking someone for help when struggling academically or emotionally. Faith can look like starting to pray, and then asking God, like Jesus did on the cross, why it feels like you have been abandoned.
As human beings, we strive but often struggle to “put ourselves in other people’s shoes” in order to better understand their experience. May the story of Mary and Joseph remind us that faith in God is not a guarantee of a life of ease and pleasure, but rather that God placed God’s self in our shoes and that God is always with us.
Assistant Professor of Theology and Religious Studies
Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent | December 11, 2022
Growing in Patience, Deepening in Joy
The readings for today, the Third Sunday of Advent, invite us to grow in the virtue of patience as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s entrance into the human story and into our own hearts. They also remind us of the deep joy we receive through a faithful and ever-renewing connection with Jesus.
In the Book of James, we read “You too must be patient, make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” With Christmas and the end of the fall semester fast approaching, it is important that we be patient with ourselves and with the people around us. Be open to grace and acknowledge how hard you have worked over the past few months. Being patient with yourself can be difficult, but remember that you have family, friends, and faith to help and guide you.
The Prophet Isaiah, meanwhile, speaks of the “joy and gladness” that will accompany the coming of the Lord. This midpoint of Advent gives us an opportunity to reflect not only on the wonders of the birth of Jesus, but also on the joys we experience in our own lives. I encourage you to reflect on all the joyful moments you have had over the course of this semester. And when you return home for the break, take time to enjoy the company of loved ones and be present with them. Let the joy of the Christmas season live in your heart and help you to be a source of joy for others.
This semester, I have had the opportunity to student-teach at Boston College High School, a school deeply rooted in Jesuit tradition. As I continue to learn more about Jesuit spirituality, I am increasingly turning to a prayer written by the founder of the order, St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Dear Lord teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for reward, save that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.
This holiday season, I invite you to join me in offering this prayer and to continue to show generosity to yourself and to people in need around you.
Claire Hallamore '23
Reflection for the Second Sunday of Advent | December 4, 2022
From Hope to Expectation
Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.
Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man: Epistle I
In this holiday season, the words of Alexander Pope ring all the more true. When we think of hope, we often refer to it in the context of the “I wish” sentiment. Yet I believe that, in this Christmas season, we should shift our focus and think of hope as an expectation of what can be, a positive anticipation of what is to come.
As children of light, our desire should be for all to know the grace, mercy and peace that is Jesus. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness; a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2, NIV). The reason for the season is more than just presents and reindeer. It’s about an expectation of what is to be, greater than what is.
Luke’s gospel (Luke 2:10-11) brings us a message from the angel that states: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” A new hope was born, an expectation.
As we enter further into this holiday season, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the hope of the world. As the first book of Peter (1:13, NASB) reads, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in Spirit, fix your Hope [expectations] completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Let us, dear Lord, stand steadfast in the hope of what is to come, not merely focusing on just what is. My prayer this holiday season, for you and your family, is that the Lord Jesus may bless and keep you, that He may make His face shine upon you, and that He may be gracious to you and give you peace that passes all understanding!
David Duren, PH.D., DAC
Counseling Center, Emmanuel College Center for Wellness
Reflection for the First Sunday of Advent | November 27, 2022
Broadening Our Vision
In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to prepare for a future that may often seem remote but is very real: eternity. The four weeks of Advent, which we begin today, offer a beautiful opportunity to step out of the day-to-day, contemplate our lives within the broadest frame, and ask questions of ultimate significance: What achievements will have the most meaning in the end? What values do I want to be remembered for? What is God’s loving plan for my life?
Our reflections on such questions will prepare us for life’s decisive moments. Often, answers will come by way of the greatest Christmas gift of all: God’s grace. How do we avail ourselves of it? By making a little time each day for silence, meditation, and prayer – and by being attentive to the ways God may be speaking to us in our interior thoughts and through the people, events, and circumstances all around us.
This Advent, I invite all of us to pray in a special way for those lost, hurt, and shaken by the senseless acts of violence we have seen in our country in recent days. Further, we pray for a just and lasting peace for the people of Ukraine and for people everywhere suffering under the scourge of war. We hope for the day when, as the prophet Isaiah foretells in today’s first reading, all nations “will beat their swords into plowshares … one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”
A blessed Advent,
Dr. Mary K. Boyd