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Gospel According to St. John - Part 2 - The Book of Signs
Presenter: Dawn Mayer - February 16, 2019
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day. Dawn is presenting three sessions on the Gospel of St. John. During the first session in January, Dawn set the stage for us. We learned about historical events that affected Jesus and His early followers. Dawn also compared the Gospel of John to the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

A key topic Dawn covered in her February presentation was how Jesus reinterprets Jewish institutions like Pentecost, Passover and the Temple. One example is the story of Jesus in the temple where he drives out the money changers and the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. Answering a question posed to Him, Jesus said, "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up." Jesus wasn’t talking about the Temple building. He was talking about Himself as the Temple of God.

People of Jesus' time were expecting the Messiah to be a king like David, a warrior, someone to drive the current oppressor out of Israel The signs recorded in John’s Gospel are meant to reveal the identity of Jesus as the Messiah. The seven signs are: Jesus turns water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus cures the official’s son, Jesus cures the paralytic, multiplication of loaves and fishes, Jesus walks on water, Jesus cures the man born blind and Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

The first sign in the Gospel of John is the wedding feast at Cana. This is a familiar story of Jesus and his mother Mary at a wedding feast in Cana. Mary tells Jesus that their hosts have run out of wine. It was not Jesus’ time to start His ministry, but He did as His mother requested and turned jars of water into wine.

God’s glory was revealed when Jesus turned the water into wine. The wine Jesus created was better than the wine that had been previously served at the wedding. This was a sign that something new was beginning. It was a sign that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Jewish faith, but to re-define it.

John's Gospel also talked about how many people came to believe in Jesus because of the signs He performed. The faith of Mary brought about Jesus' revelation in Cana. Mary had perfect faith in Jesus. At the wedding, she told the servants "do whatever He tells you to do".

When Jesus was in Cana a second time, there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. The official went to Jesus and asked Jesus to heal his son, who was near death. Jesus did not go to Capernaum, but healed the boy from afar because of his father's faith. The official and his household came to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

Nicodemus, a Pharisee, believed in Jesus because of the signs He performed. Nicodemus was mentioned several times in the Gospel of John. In the first instance, we heard that Nicodemus followed Jesus in secret and visited Him at night. In the second occurrence, we heard that other Pharisees, chief priests and guards were discussing arresting Jesus. Nicodemus stated the law about not passing judgement on someone without giving them a fair hearing. After Jesus died, Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for burial.

Another familiar story is the Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus at the well. The
Samaritan woman was skeptical at first. As Jesus talked to her, she began to believe in Him. Because of what Jesus told her, she left the well to tell others in the town about Jesus. The Samaritan woman didn’t need a sign. She believed in Jesus because of what He had told her.

One thing that stayed with me after Dawn’s presentation was the different examples of faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus' Mother Mary had perfect faith that Jesus could help the couple at the wedding feast who ran out of wine. The official whose son was ill had faith that Jesus could cure his son. These are great examples to remember when one has doubts about asking Jesus for help.

The Samaritan woman and Nicodemus are examples of people who either didn’t have faith or whose faith was weak. The Samaritan woman’s conversation with Jesus starts with questions, but as her discussion with Him continues, her belief grows. Not only does she come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but she goes back to her town and tells people about Him. Next, there’s Nicodemus who isn’t ready to be seen as a follower of Christ by others, but at the end of Jesus’ life, Nicodemus helped to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. These two examples show me that Jesus is patient with those who may need a little more time for our faith in Him to mature.


Gospel According to St. John - Part One
Presenter: Dawn Mayer - January 26, 2019

by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day. Dawn is presenting three sessions on the Gospel of St. John. The next two sessions are in February and March. In this first session, Dawn set the stage for us.

We learned about historical events that affected Jesus and His early followers and heard how Jesus was perceived among the people of His time. Jesus was a devout Jew who observed the law and visited the temple. Jesus lived during a time of oppression by the Romans. His message of love and tolerance challenged accepted social and religious rules of the day.

One of the handouts we received showed a map of the land from Jesus’ time. Dawn talked about the familiar story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus traveled through Samaria on His way from Judea to Galilee. From the story, I picked up on the fact that Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. The map clearly shows that traveling through Samaria is the most direct route, but most Jewish travelers went around Samaria. Seeing the map gives emphasis to how much the Jews disliked the Samaritans.

John’s Gospel was written approximately 90-100 years after the death of Jesus. Since John never met Jesus, it makes one wonder how John became knowledgeable about Him. We learned that information about Jesus was passed on thru the liturgy, table fellowship, hymns, prayers and stories.

Another source of information about Jesus was St. Paul’s letters. Prior to his conversion, Paul (known as Saul) had been persecuting Christians. The Apostles were suspicious of Paul in the beginning, but he became an important person in the early Church. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles (non-Jews). He wrote letters and preached to them.

After Jesus died, His followers continued abiding by Jewish traditions. These early Christians faced many struggles. Some of them were non-Jews so they had not been circumcised. It was questioned if they were allowed to follow Jesus' teachings.

Two significant events shook the foundation of the early Christians. During the First Jewish-Roman War, around 70 AD, the Temple was destroyed. Jews believed God lived in the Temple so when it was destroyed, they thought they had been abandoned by God. The second event took place around 85 AD when a blessing was added to the Jewish liturgy which condemned "minim". One interpretation of this blessing meant Christians were not allowed to take part in the Jewish faith.

Along with hearing about Jesus and His early followers, Dawn gave us some background information on the four Gospels. Dawn compared the Gospel of John to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are known as the Synoptic Gospels - meaning "seeing with the same eye". Mark’s Gospel was written first - late 60 AD. Mark’s Gospel was used as a core for Matthew’s Gospel which was written around 85-90 AD. Luke would have also had Mark’s Gospel when he wrote his Gospel (80s AD).

Our group did an exercise where we compared John’s Gospel to the Synoptic Gospels for many familiar stories. Having heard these stories over the years, one would assume they are in all 4 Gospels. Not true. I was surprised to find out that the stories of the Wedding Feast at Cana, Samaritan Woman, Rising of Lazarus and Washing of the Feet were only in John’s Gospel.

At the beginning of Dawn's presentation, one of the questions she asked was - What do we hope to learn about the Gospel of John? An answer from a Sister who joined us for the presentation was "everything". I’d definitely agree with that answer. Learning everything we can about Jesus’ time, historical events and about the four Gospels writers helps one to have a deeper understanding when reading John’s Gospel.

My other takeaway from Dawn’s presentation was related to how much turmoil there was after Jesus rose from the dead. In spite of so many obstacles and hardships - wars, persecutions, the destruction of the Temple and the early Christians being pushed out of the Jewish faith - the account of Jesus and His message continued to spread.


Enneagram: A Tool for Spiritual Transformation
Presenter: Sr. Mary Ellen Ryley, SCMM - December 1, 2018
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day. Sr. Mary Ellen Ryley (Sr. Mel) had given a previous presentation on dreams for the Associates. I enjoyed that presentation and was looking forward to this presentation on the Enneagram.

The Enneagram is a tool that shows how people view the world around them. The Enneagram categorizes people into nine different types. These types make up three groups.

  • Doing/Relating - "heart"; I am what I do and who I relate to - Types 2, 3, 4
  • Perceiving/Thinking - "head"; I am what I perceive - Types 5, 6, 7
  • Instinctual/Emotional - "gut"; I am what I feel - Types 8, 9, 1

With each type, we learned some identifying feature and gifts. We also found out what each Enneagram type tries to avoid in their life. A person may recognize parts from more than one of the nine different Enneagram types within himself or herself, but most often Identifies strongly with one specific type. A little about each of the nine Enneagram types follows.

Sr. Mel started with the "heart" or doing/relating Enneagram types. We learned that a person who identifies as a Type 2 is known as The Helper, The Caretaker, The Pleaser, The Special Friend. The worldview of a person who is a Type 2 is: People depend on my help. I am needed. A person who is a type 2 may possess great empathy. Because of this, he or she is tuned in to what others need and feel.

The second doing/relating Enneagram type is known as The Achiever, The Motivator, The Status Seeker, The Role Model. The worldview of a person who is Type 3 is: The world values a champion. Avoid failure at all costs. A person who is a type 3 is goal oriented and works tirelessly toward accomplishing goals. The last of the doing/relating Enneagram types is known as The Artist, The Romantic, The Melancholic, The Special One. The worldview of a person who is a Type 4 is: Something is missing. Others have it. I have been abandoned. A person who is a type 4 resonates with other people’s suffering and can stay with others during painful times.

Next, we learned about the "head" or perceiving/thinking Enneagram types. The first one is known as The Observer, The Thinker, The Investigator. The worldview of a person who is a Type 5 is: The world is invasive. I need privacy to think and to refuel my energies. A person who is a type 5 is a perceptive, insightful, clear thinker. In times of crisis, they are detached and objective.

The second perceiving/thinking Enneagram type is known as The Loyalist, The Doubter, The Traditionalist, The Cautious One. The worldview of a person who is a Type 6: The World is a threatening place. A person who is a type 6 is reliable, dependable and loyal.

The last of the perceiving/thinking Enneagram types is known as The Optimist, The Enthusiast, The Generalist. The worldview of a person who is a Type 7 is: The world is full of opportunity and options. I look forward to the future. A person who is a type 7 will work hard for good times, interesting projects and worthwhile causes.

Lastly, we learned about the "gut" or instinctual/emotional Enneagram types. The first one is known as The Challenger, The Leader, The Maverick, The Rock. The worldview of a person who is a Type 8 is: The world is an unjust place. I defend the innocent. A person who is a type 8 is capable of inspired leadership and can be very magnanimous. They will invest their whole self in a cause - body and soul.

The second instinctual/emotional Enneagram type is known as The Peacemaker, The Reconciler, Nobody Special. The worldview of a person who is a Type 9: My efforts won’t matter. Don’t make waves. Keep the peace. A person who is a type 9 can be a good diplomat and leader. He or she can see both sides of an issue.

The last instinctual/emotional Enneagram type is known as The Reformer, The Perfectionist, The Activist, The Teacher. The worldview of a person who is a type 1: The world is an imperfect place. I work toward improvement. A person who is a type 1 is passionate about life and the things they believe in. They are attracted to goodness and strive to make the world a better place.

Understanding the Enneagram types can help one know oneself better. One way is to recognize and learn how to manage one’s avoidance. I identify with most of the characteristics of type 7. Pain is the avoidance of a person who is type 7. When I was younger, my answer to someone else’s pain was to make a quick exit or to change the subject to something happier. Even if it makes me uncomfortable, I’ve learned that listening and being compassionate are better responses than walking away.

Being aware of the features and worldviews belonging to each Enneagram type is also helpful to understand others. Instead of seeing someone as "wrong" because they don’t share my view of a situation, I can show them understanding. Their view of the world is part of what makes them unique.


FSC Associate Group Day - Saturday, November 3, 2018

Gratitude

Presenter: Deb Scerbicke, FSC Associate
by Jill Kachin, FSC Associate


Our presentation took place in Marian Hall after Mass and morning coffee. Deb began the morning with the prayer, Lord of the Harvest. This prayer relates to the changing of seasons: from summer -> fall -> winter. In a very simplistic way one may also see the changing of the seasons as analogist to the practice of gratitude or gratefulness. One may envision gratitude as the conduit between the "good/happy times" and the "difficult times" in one's life once one accepts all as gift.

Deb defined gratitude as being threefold.

Gratitude is:

  • A series of complex emotions - life is first, love is second, and understanding is third
  • An ethical way of living - reciprocity (quid pro quo) or mutual reliance (open system in which gratitude flows freely because all is gift)
  • A disposition or habit - can be chosen or cultivated.

Deb suggested reasons for being grateful: getting up each morning, our friends and family, for our health, our home, and, as difficult as it may be, the hardships we face. In difficult times another definition of gratitude seems to be appropriate, Gratitude is the capacity to stare doubt, loss, chaos, and despair right in the eye and say, "I'm still here".

In order to cultivate the practice of gratitude we need to find ways to be mindful of the everyday opportunities we are given. Some aids in developing this practice are keeping a gratitude journal, prayer and meditation, and remembering that gratitude is not about repayment. It's about relationships.

One of the questions asked was, "What do you focus on...headwinds or tailwinds?" Headwinds are our barriers. Tailwinds are our blessings. We usually spend more time trying to figure out the barriers than giving thanks for our blessings. Scripture tells us to remember that where your treasure is, there your heart will be. Reflection on the gift (blessing) rather on the difficulty (barrier) will open our mind and heart to the practice of gratitude. This reminds me of a quote by Soren Kierkegaard, "We live our life forwards, but must be understood backwards." This means to me that one of our best tools for cultivating gratitude is prayerful reflection.

"Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now" is an article written by Mary Schmich after the death of her Mother. Ms. Schmich's interpretation of these words was that to experience the terrible as beautiful, "allows us to experience the full range of the most basic thing we give thanks for: being alive".

Remembering how natural it is to say 'thank-you' for the blessings in my life, I leave with the hope that I can find it as natural to be grateful for the barriers. Ms. Schmich, I believe, put this into perspective. "All of the best times in my life have grown directly out of the worst times. What feels like manure often turns out to be fertilizer".

We ended the morning as we began, with prayer of gratitude.

 



Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis And the Commitment/Devotional Recommitment
of the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago
October 7th, 2018 - by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate


On October 7st, we came together for Mass to celebrate the Commitment of a new Associate and the Devotional Recommitment of the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. Mass was celebrated in the Sacred Heart Chapel at the Motherhouse of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. Our celebrant was Fr. Paul Sims, CR.

The first reading at Mass was from Genesis 2: 18 -24. In this reading we heard how God didn’t want Adam to be alone so He set out to make a suitable companion for Adam. First, God created animals and birds, but none of them made a good partner for Adam. Then, God put Adam into a deep sleep, took out one of his ribs and formed the rib into a woman. In Eve, Adam found his mate.

We all need other people in our lives. This reading reminded me of the community I found in the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. The Associates meet monthly during the year to listen to a speaker or to have a day of reflection. We grow together in faith as a community.

Following Fr. Paul's homily, our new Associate was called to the front of chapel and made his commitment as an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. His pin was blessed and presented to him and he signed his Associate agreement. The current Associates were then called to the front of chapel where we renewed our commitment as a group. Afterw
ards, the Sisters promised the support of their prayers and community to all of the Associates.

After Mass, we joined the Sisters for lunch in Marian Hall. We received a gift from the Sisters in honor of the feast of St. Francis. Our gift was a statue of a bird perched on top of a small group of flowers. There were four Sisters and three other Associates at my table in Marian Hall. Each Associate at my table received a different bird statue.

When one of the other Associates saw her gift, it reminded her of a bird she had when she was little and she shared a story with us. Now, when I look at my bird, I remember recommitment day and her story. The joy of that day comes back to me and I am reminded how blessed I am to belong to this community of faith as an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.