An Advent Reflection for December 20 by Madeline Longacker
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. “ Is 7:14
Immanuel – God is With Us
Jesus’ title Immanuel means God with us. God was with Mary in a special way. In spite of uncertainty in this change in her life she said yes. In her visit with Elizabeth, Mary rejoices in Jesus’ presence in her and in God’s plan unfolding in her. As a result, she became an instrument of fulfilling God’s promise to men and women to be with them as savior and deliverer. Jesus lived out this title of Immanuel –God was with him. He did not stay in the synagogue, but he searched out those who were pushed out to the edges of society. He revealed God’s love, help, and presence to them. Jesus embraced the joys and sorrows of His own life holding onto to the knowledge that God was with Him and He was with God. Jesus promised that God would be in His disciples today and that we would be in God by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I started thinking about how I had experienced God with me in my life. I remember being in a small church up north and feeling a deep peace and a feeling that many people had come here over generations to bring their lives to God and God was with them. I felt that God was with me in that moment of peace. Even longer before that, I remember rocking my two month old baby at two in the morning. She was hurting with an earache and I was feeling very tired and worried. Then the thought went through my mind that she wouldn’t be this small for long and I just needed to hold her. That thought helped me to be at peace and she quieted and fell asleep. I bet God was with us that evening
These last four years I’ve been dealing with the death of my mother and brother. For a while I got stuck in the ‘Why?’ and the” Where are you God?” I have found in looking back that I now can see the presence of God in my family and friends who gave love, compassion and companionship as I moved through that time. God was with me through them. Recently I was sitting at a prayer meeting and the thought came to me that we should give Jesus all the hurts and broken pieces of our lives and those around us. Jesus, Immanuel, would bring healing and wholeness. He can fix lives in ways that we cannot. When we seek God each day and ask Him to show us who we can reach out to, we become a part of God’s plan to love the world into wholeness. The prayers, the giving, the visits, the encouragement will change the face of the earth. It is in those acts of kindness that we see the face of God who is always us with us. When we say yes to God’s presence in us, our lives can be filled with joy and thanksgiving the way Mary’s life was.
Reflection for March 1 by Madeline Longacker
“Ask, and you will receive, seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”Matt7:7
This was a favorite scripture of mine since I was a child in elementary school. I had been given a holy picture card with this as part of a Novena of Childlike Trust. I would say the prayer if a family member were sick or I needed help on a test or just needed help. It seemed like a formula to get God’s attention. As I got a little older I wondered why that prayer didn’t always work. A priest once spoke about this scripture and said that the words meant ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. I like this interpretation. Jesus invites us to come to the Father with our needs even though He already knows them and ask Him for what we think we need. Jesus invites us to be persevering in those prayers and trusting in the loving will of the Father. There are times recently when my heartfelt prayers were not answered as I wished them to be. In the asking and seeking and knocking, however, other answers and strength were given. I like to remember a special prayer that was answered many years ago after much seeking. The remembering encourages me to persevere in prayers for today. It also reminds me that there is a power in God’s Spirit to meet my deepest needs and the needs of those I love when I don’t know what to pray for.
After my father passed away, my mom struggled for years with grief. One evening her home was broken into and she was terrified. When she told me on the phone what had happened, I said we would come down to visit. When I hung up the phone, I said to God that You have told me how powerful prayer is but I have prayed and prayed for my mom and nothing is happening, in fact, things are worse.. In the next moment a quiet firm thought came into my mind to pray with her. It wasn’t a thought I would have thought at that time. Now I think of that moment as the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When we visited my mom and discussed what she wanted to do, I asked her if my husband and I could pray with her before we left. I said a simple prayer for help. My mother said that while we were praying she saw in her mind a picture of Jesus with one hand pointing at His heart and the other hand pointing at her. She said she felt a warmth go through her. When my dad died she felt that Jesus had turned his back on her. After the prayer, she said that she no longer felt that she was crying on the inside. Very shortly after that time she met someone whom she would eventually marry and spend many happy years with. The remembrance of this time reminds me that God is always more involved in my life and the lives of those I love than I can possibly imagine, and He is always giving us His Holy Spirit to meet the challenges of life.
“My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior because He who is mighty hath done great things and holy is His name…”
When I read the words of Mary, I can sense the intense joy that she is experiencing as she shares with Elizabeth what God has done. I remember the joy it was when I was expecting and how joy filled I was to share that news with family and friends. I think how much more intense her joy was. For generations the Jewish people waited for God to send the promised messiah, and God’s promise was to come about in Mary’s time and within her very self. She must have been so open to the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit and filled with faith and confidence in God that the Word He spoke became flesh. Jesus came to her in a special way.
I can imagine her visiting Elizabeth to help and share her news. How happy she must have been to hear of Elizabeth’s pregnancy! She must have been overjoyed that the sorrow that had burdened Elizabeth was lifted. What a wonderful meeting this must have been! How grateful and filled with praise they were! Just reading these words in scripture make me want to join in praise of God for all the mighty things He has done.
I think my prayer this Advent is to ask Mary to visit our families, friends, and parish community with the good news of Jesus ‘birth. I ask her to bring Jesus into our hearts so we may be delivered from our failings and sorrows and filled with His love. I ask her to remind us that the Holy Spirit has already overshadowed each of us bringing Jesus to dwell within us. Jesus is already saving us, healing us, loving us and sharing His peace with us.I ask Mary to pray for us that we may praise and thank God for the gift of Jesus. I pray that we may share in Mary and Jesus’ great joy in the Father’s plan.
Madeline Longacker is a parishioner at St. Edward’s and is a member of the Hosanna Prayer Group. Hosanna meets weekly, on Thursdays at 7pm, in the Faith Formation wing. All are welcome.