Reflection For January
For most of us, the boxes are packed up, the presents put away, the decorations taken down and the tree and candles recycled or put into their rightful containers for next year. The preparations for the holiday seasons, be it Advent, Hanukkah Christmas or Kwanzaa seem to give us such joy. Our outer spaces take on a new look, and with the Scripture Readings, our cultural heritage, and our own personal prayer and reflection and family traditions set around these celebrations, new life seems to manifest.
And we move into another new year: 2019. The new calendar year tells us that time is moving ahead; does it really mean that all that we pondered over this past month will carry forward as well? Do we forget our learnings and the call of God within us at the time? I think not. Because I believe as Howard Thurman once wrote in his famous poem, “The Work of Christmas,“ - that it is now the time for the Work of Christmas to begin.
Howard Thurman was an African-American theologian, educator and civil rights leader. His poem, “The Work of Christmas, “ is one of my most favorite poems that has always given me meaning when we move past the holiday season and into a new year.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
(The poem “The Work of Christmas” is from Howard Thurman’s The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations
and is used by permission of Friends United Press. All rights reserved.)
So now, in the middle of January, is when the Work of Christmas should be beginning.
How do we carry through on the mandates Thurman proposes? They really are the works of mercy to be lived out in modern times.
The words are both spiritual: a call of the gospel and somewhat political when looked at through the lens of today's world. My purpose in bringing the poem forward is to remind us how relevant the words and mandates actually are as Christians and good people of a world community, and look at how we try to respond to them here at Cormaria.
The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, who founded Cormaria 70 years ago, have been responding to the mandates in Truman’s poem by offering retreats, prayer experiences, family gatherings for all faith traditions of people, no matter income level or race as they answer the call of their God through their mission of hospitality for all. Since I joined the Staff in September, and being a Sister of Mercy, I can only attest to the faithfulness of this mission, since an aspect of the mission of Mercy is hospitality as well.
Hospitality is a call for us to keep our eyes and hearts open constantly to the needs of the people not only in our own areas but in our world community. It is a gift to share openly and freely. When we take time to go away and rest awhile, we are strengthened to be hospitable and respond to the needs of others with generosity of spirit. To sustain this ability, we have to do our own personal reflection each day.
I would like to offer these three steps for each of us to do every day. I believe if we do this, we will be able to carry out the mandates in Thurman’s poem more effectively. This is called “The Blessing Way,” taken from the work of the late cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien, from Sausalito, CA.
THE BLESSING WAY
1. Set a sacred intention everyday.
2. Give gratitude everyday.
3. Take a Life affirming action everyday.
If we do not take time for personal reflection which will lead to transformation, we will not be able to respond as effectively to the needs of God's people. If this does not happen, then, will the wonderful wisdom of Howard Thurman come to fruition in today's society? Will hospitality, time for reflection and performing the Works of Mercy continue to develop in the world today? I'll leave that up for your reflection this month.
Sister Maureen Roe, RSM
January 13, 2019
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