Dear Sisters, Associates and Friends,
This Advent we are called to hope, peace, joy.
Our candidates and professed sisters in our formation community in Jinja, Uganda, have gifted us with eyes to see, ponder and practice the Scripture messages this year. We are grateful to them for sharing their insights, reflections and questions to draw us into deeper prayer, conversation and action ourselves.
We are, like Mary, encouraged to ponder on our world throughout these days, not only waiting but living the experience of Jesus.
In the crushing violence of natural disasters or war’s overwhelming destruction of life, culture, relationships worldwide, what message is there to give, better yet, to BE for others? In taking time to assimilate the experience of Jesus, we become more attuned to Jesus’ dwelling in us and in others. Courage and perseverance strengthen us in challenging times. Love for others, as God has shone in Jesus’ incarnation, frees us to give all.
In practicing, living the Gospel, our just acts, our compassionate listening, our concrete networking to bring change not only witness to our hope for an inclusive, just world but, in those who suffer, build hope and trust that God is near, and change is possible.
We can BE hope-filled because God IS near.
In Holy Cross,
Sister Mary Tiernan, CSC
First Sunday of Advent
As we hope for the coming of the Messiah, we need to be vigilant, to read the signs of the time, to love and repent for the sake of the kingdom.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells us that during the final days there will be no nation waging war against another, and that universal peace will be the fruit of practicing justice and the word of God.
St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds us not to conform to the world by giving us a glance of the end times. In doing so, he calls us to denounce worldly pleasures and vices, examine our daily conduct, watch our words and actions, and to live like children of light.
The Gospel also reminds us to be vigilant at all times. Waiting is not something we anticipate or experience with great joy and gladness. Most of us consider waiting as a waste of time, perhaps because the culture in which we live is saying, “Get going!” Let this Advent season be a time of change and new beginnings. Let there be hope, love, joy and peace so that, as the psalmist tells us, we may all rejoice on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the city of God.
—Sister Beatrice Driwaru, CSC, and candidates Justine Busingye
and Annitah Mulongo Nyongesa
Second Sunday of Advent
Theme: A World of Peace
This Sunday we are reflecting on peace in the world. The prophet Isaiah reminds us of the importance of peace. Peace can be attained through sharing, love for one another, caring, forgiving one another and respecting one another. When peace dwells in our hearts the entire community will be at peace. Therefore, as we are yearning for eternal peace, we have to live in peace now.
We should prepare ourselves for the second coming of Jesus with hope. St. Paul encourages the Romans to have hope and perseverance during trials. In our lives as Christians, we face many difficulties in our faith and in our communities. We have wars, calamities, epidemics, conflicts, tribalism, etc. With hope in Christ, who endured all challenges, we also shall overcome.
According to the Gospel, John advises us to prepare the way for the world by repenting of our sins and affirming our resolution to prepare for a world of peace. If we deny God in our lives, we deny others. Without true love of others there is no peace; without justice there is no peace. Therefore, we must strive to give God the best place in our heart and follow his example of bringing peace to us.
—Candidates Janet Masika, Theresa Atite and Racheal Nakakeeto
Third Sunday of Advent
Theme: Rejoice, Your Salvation is Near
This is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” Rejoice because of the word from the entrance antiphon from Philippians 4:4-5. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” Therefore, we mark our Advent wreath with a pink candle instead of purple because this joyful Sunday reminds us that our salvation is near.
The prophet Isaiah portrays the joy of those ransomed by the Lord, saying they will sing a Zion song. Our Lord will change our sorrows to joy. In this world, we have many challenges. But the word of God helps us to see the salvation promise as well as our challenges. We should not let our problems overshadow us. Amid our challenges, let us continue having joy because when we are weak, we become stronger.
In the midst of challenges, we need to be happy, having hope and patience. “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.” Being a joyful person helps us focus less on our problems and endure what we are going through with hope. Happiness is a strong tool to confuse a devil—therefore, rejoice always in the Lord, no matter what, because our salvation is near.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us we must look at what we see before us and decide what we believe. Indeed, we have testified that the blind regain sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. Jesus’ message to John about the signs of the kingdom being performed recalls the salvation described by the prophet Isaiah. This passage is a reminder that salvation is already in our midst, as manifested in the miraculous deeds of Jesus and in the church. Even as we observe our world today, we can see glimpses of God’s work among us. Even more, we help to prepare the way for God’s kingdom by our words and our deeds. This message is indeed a cause for rejoicing.
—Candidates Maxensia Kamusiime and Meres Kabugho Mulemba
Fourth Sunday of Advent
Theme: Emmanuel is Faith
In the first reading, Isaiah shares, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.”
Isaiah is telling us that the Lord works in our circumstances even when we choose to disobey him. The Lord loved his people so much that he wanted to remind them that he was with them, so he decided to give them a sign. When we are troubled, God shows up in unexpected ways and we overcome the situation. This whole Scripture gives us the big picture and assures us that God was with us even before he sent Jesus Christ to Earth. So, we are invited to have faith, hope, pray and long for this revelation.
In the psalm, God is calling us to prepare for the coming of Christ, and we are reminded that salvation depends completely on God.
The second reading states, “…established as son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” It is through our obedient faith in the lord Jesus Christ, sent by God, that we are called to enlighten all who go through the darkness of the human condition. For instance, we all prayed to God to help us through the coronavirus pandemic, and God answered our prayers and we overcame the situation. So as Christians, we are called to belong to Jesus Christ and to live a holy life by the same power that raised Christ from the dead.
In the Gospel we read, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet. Behold the virgin shall be with child and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel,” meaning “God is with us.” This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, and this mystery is what we are going to celebrate at Christmas. Therefore, God is again showing us that the coming of Jesus into the world is the sign of God’s presence with us.
—Sister Edith Tumuhimbise, CSC, and candidate Flavia Masika
A Reflection on the Nativity of the Lord
Theme: Pondering the Birth of Christ
Our Advent preparations have been completed, and we are now invited to enter into the glorious celebration of the birth of our lord, Jesus Christ. Christmas is a time of spiritual reflection on the important foundations of the Christian faith. Jesus was born to pay the price for the things we have done wrong, our sins. God sent his only son to be the atonement for all our sins so that we would not be separated from God. Without Jesus, we would all die for our sins.
We inherited our sinful nature from the first human beings God created, Adam and Eve. While being fully God and yet fully man, Jesus came into the world as an infant to save us all. The Scriptures tell us that the child born to Mary would die on a cross and rise again so that all who believe in him may receive forgiveness for sin and eternity in heaven. Before Jesus, the world was covered by darkness and people were walking in darkness, as the first reading shares. Upon the coming of Jesus Christ, the world received light.
The second reading reminds us that if we want this light to be manifested in our lives, we must embrace change. We must change our lives. We must change from our bad behaviors to good behaviors.
In the Gospel, we read, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” One thing this tells us is that even Mary, the mother of Jesus and the mother of God, needed time to ponder and reflect on this most holy mystery. She never doubted, but her faith continually deepened, and her heart pondered something that was not easy to understand. And this is the mystery of the Incarnation. If we are to understand well the meaning of Christmas, we need to imitate Mary and take time to ponder, reflect on it. We do not need to hurry.
Another thing we learn from the Gospel about this day is that there is no end to the depth of the pondering to which we must commit ourselves if we want to enter more deeply into the mystery of the birth of the Son of God. Pondering and reflecting, especially during prayer in our religious communities and especially at the Christmas Mass, will have the effect of drawing us ever deeper into this mystery of our faith.
We pray for the graces we need, that God may draw us into an understanding of what we celebrate this day. May God help us to ponder this glorious event, to reflect upon the mystery of Christmas with respect, and to fully grasp the meaning of what he has done for us in giving us his own son.
—Candidates Cecilia Ajambo and Rosemary Kebirungi