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Celebrating the Feast of St. Francis and the Devotional Renewal
of the Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago - October 5, 2019
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

We came together for Mass to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis during which there is an annual devotional renewal 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. John Nowak, CR.

The first reading was from Habakkuk 2: 2-4. In the reading, Habakkuk cries out to God about the terrible things he sees and experiences. Habakkuk thinks that God doesn’t hear him because God hasn’t done anything about the violence, destruction and misery.

The Gospel from Luke 17: 5-10 was a familiar one. The apostles asked the Lord to increase their faith. The Lord replied to them "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ' Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you."

From the readings, Fr. John was reminded of the movie 'Bruce Almighty'. The movie is about a news reporter named Bruce Nolan, played by Jim Carrey. Bruce feels like his life is going nowhere. He is needled by his co-workers, doesn’t get the anchor position and is fired from his job. Bruce becomes angry and blames God for all of the bad things that happened to him.

Bruce is paged and calls the phone number. There’s a message from someone who seems to know everything that is happening in his life. Bruce drives to the address given to him in the message where he meets a man dressed as a janitor (played by Morgan Freeman) mopping the floor. Bruce asks for directions to the 7th floor. When Bruce gets to the 7th floor, he sees Morgan Freeman in a white suit sitting behind a desk. Morgan Freeman plays God in the movie.

God had a plan for Bruce. Since Bruce doesn’t think that God is doing a good job, God gives Bruce his powers. At first Bruce doesn’t believe what happened then he begins to enjoy his new powers, granting all of his desires. Bruce keeps hearing voices (people praying) and tries to ignore them. God appears and tells Bruce that he has to answer people’s prayers. Bruce creates chaos answering prayers. Finally Bruce gives God back His powers.

After providing us with a summary of the movie, Fr. John’s message was to let God be God. The first reading and Fr. John’s homily were timely reminders that God is listening when we pray, but the answer may not always match the request. After listening to the first reading, the message I received from the Gospel was "don’t give up". Even with a tiny bit of faith, anything can be accomplished with God’s help.

Following Fr. John’s homily, the Associates were called to the front of chapel where we renewed our commitment. Afterwards, the Sisters promised the support of their prayers and community to all of the Associates. The statement of support from the Sisters has always been one of my favorite parts of the Associate renewal.

Each Associate received a gift from the Sisters in honor of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. My gift is a little picture of a bird with the saying "Enjoy Life’s Blessings". Being an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago is something I would definitely consider as one of the blessings in my life.

FSC Associate Day of Reflection - August 24, 2019
Who is God? Who am I? Who are we? - Sr. Joyce Shanabarger, OSF
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall. Our August Day of Reflection prepares us for the October Devotional Renewal as Associates of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago.

Sr. Joyce used bio-poems to help us answer the question - Who am I? A bio-poem is a poem written to describe a person. We received a handout with instructions on how to write a bio-poem and a sample bio-poem about Rosa Parks.

Each line of the bio-poem tells something about the person:

Line 1: First name
Line 2: Three or four adjectives that describe the person
Line 3: Important relationships
Line 4: Two or three things, people or ideas that the person loved
Line 5: Three feelings that the person experienced
Line 6: Three fears that the person experienced
Line 7: Accomplishments
Line 8: Two or three things the person wanted to see happen or wanted to experience
Line 9: His or her residence
Line 10: Last name

Associates and Sisters attending the reflection day were divided into three groups. Each group had an assigned bio-poem subject of God, St. Francis of Assisi or Brother Leo. Sr. Joyce read a story from The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi. I was part of the group writing a bio-poem about St. Francis. Our task was to listen for characteristics of St. Francis of Assisi from the story and, as a group, create a bio-poem about him.

When the groups finished creating their bio-poems, we shared them with Sr. Joyce and the other participants. One line from my group’s bio-poem stayed in my thoughts the rest of the day. It was the line that explained what St. Francis wanted to see happen or experience. Francis wanted to know
who God was and what he was in God’s sight.

After we created the bio-poem as a group, we were challenged with creating a bio-poem about ourselves. First, we were to spend time listening, to see if we could discern who we were in God’s eyes. For a change of scenery, I walked outside around the Motherhouse to the opposite side where there was a place to sit and reflect. Answers for each of the bio-poem lines came to mind quickly. The bio-poem I wrote about myself is below.

Fun-loving, logical, determined
Daughter of Ray and Marlene, sister, aunt, Associate
Loves family, Sisters and all things dessert
Who is happy, relieved and proud of the last 2 years’ work and a successful launch of a major work project last weekend
Who fears getting stuck, not knowing what to do next and being too old to
pick up something new
Who takes much joy in writing for the Sisters’ website, supporting her Compassion-sponsor children and doing the little things that bring joy and make people feel special
Who wants to continue growing and learning in her faith and all parts of her life
Born in Chicago and still living in Chicago

Who am I? Creating a bio-poem was an interesting way to answer this question. Connected to that question is the one St. Francis of Assisi asked - Who am I in God’s sight? For me, an important part of writing the bio-poem about myself was listening for God’s voice. It was a good reminder to take time to reflect and listen to God at other points in my life.

Who is God? At the beginning of our reflection day, Sr. Joyce explained that our view of God changes over our lifetime. Sr. Joyce asked us how we experienced the presence of God that day. Some of the answers from the group were: God of peace, God of wisdom, God who inspires and God who listens. My favorite answer was God the navigator. The main entrance to the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago Motherhouse was blocked on the day our group met. The road and parking lot were being repaved so we had to follow signs to a different entrance. Additional signs guided us along the route that led to the upstairs parking lot at the Motherhouse.

Who are we? Sr. Joyce asked for our thoughts on what God’s presence brought to our group’s reflection day. The answers were insightful. God brought unity and diversity among the unity. God gave people the gift and the strength to share. Sr. Joyce also asked what our hopes were for God’s help for the group in the future. Our answers were for God to help bring new members to the group and for us to deepen our relationship with God and with our fellow Associates.

Our August day of reflection was a meaningful time to ponder some important questions. As part of creating the bio-poem about myself, I listed important relationships in my life. One of those relationships is being an Associate of the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago. Being an Associate has brought me to a place where I hope that God would want me to be; praying daily, learning about the Bible and other spiritual topics and being given opportunities to serve.

Teilhard de Chardin - "His-story/our story"
Sr. M. Francis Clare Radke, OSF - June 29, 2019
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher, paleontologist and Jesuit priest, was the topic for our FSC Associate Group Day. Sr. Francis Clare, our guest speaker, used a poem by Chardin called "Trust in the Slow Work of God" as our opening prayer. Sister asked us to close our eyes while she read the poem to us. The beginning of the poem is below.

Trust in the Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown, something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

As Sr. Francis Clare read the poem to us, it reminded me of myself, especially the part about being impatient to reach the end. The poem applies to many stages of our lives. As children and teenagers, many of us were impatient to reach a certain age so we could have the privileges associated with that age. As an adult, I have encountered many situations that I would have gladly fast-forwarded through to get to the end. However, I doubt that I would have retained the lesson or the new skill without the learning process.

Sr. Francis Clare gave us several sheets of photos from Chardin’s life and walked us through the pictures. One of the pictures that caught my attention was Chardin and several other men having breakfast in the trenches from World War I. All men in France had to join the military. Normally, priests were appointed as chaplains and remained relatively safe from harm. Chardin requested to be a stretcher bearer. In this role, he brought wounded soldiers to medical assistance and comforted those who were dying. From serving in World War I, Chardin realized that we are all connected. There is no difference between a rich man and a poor man during war time; each is a man who serves.

Chardin’s professional life was often challenging. Restrictions were placed upon him because some of his teachings were contrary to the accepted doctrine of the time. After one confrontation with his superiors, Chardin was told that his theological work must stop and he was limited to his scientific work. Because of this, Chardin was forced to return to China where he had previously gone for a paleontological and geological mission. From another confrontation, Charin realized that he would never be allowed to teach or publish philosophical work during his lifetime. Chardin then moved to New York. When he requested permission to return to France permanently, it was denied.

Sr. Francis Clare read us a story by Jean Houston. Jean called Chardin "Mr. Tayer". Her story is about herself, a 14-year old girl living in New York and her meetings with Mr. Tayer. Jean was running to school one day, ran into Chardin and knocked him down. Shortly after that, Jean met Chardin again when she was walking her dog. After that, they met regularly and would walk in Central Park. Jean’s story of Mr. Tayer shows a man full of wonder of the world around him. This was not a man who was bitter over things that had happened to him. Below is part of Jean Houston’s story about Mr. Tayer.

The walks were magical and full of delight. Not only did Mr. Tayer seem to have absolutely no
self-consciousness, but he was always being seized by wonder and astonishment over the simplest things. He was constantly and literally falling into love. I remember one time when he suddenly fell on his knees, his long Gallic nose raking the ground, and exclaimed to me, "Jeanne, look at the caterpillar. Ahhhh!" I joined him on the ground to see what had evoked so profound a response that he was seized by the essence of caterpillar. "How beautiful it is", he remarked, "this little green being with its wonderful funny little feet. Exquisite! Little furry body, little green feet on the road to metamorphosis." He then regarded me with equal delight. "Jeanne, can you feel yourself to be a caterpillar?" "Oh yes." I replied with the baleful knowing of a gangly, pimply faced teenager.

Towards the end of her presentation, Sr. Francis Clare gave us a sheet of paper listing quotes from Chardin and reflection questions. We were given time to read the quotes and choose one or more that spoke to us. One quote I reflected on was: We are one, after all, you and I. Together we suffer, together we exist; and forever will recreate each other.

Reflection: What is in our being that makes us "one" with everyone else? If I really believed that, how does my thinking and my acting change? At first, I looked at this question cynically, thinking that I don’t see many people today acting like we are "one" with everyone else. But then I took a step back and realized that the question and my first reaction to it was a good reason for learning about Chardin.

When serving in World War I, Chardin realized that serving in a war connects all people towards a common goal, no matter what their status in life. Reflecting on Chardin's experience, I realized that I am connected to all as a member of the Body of Christ. With this image in mind, I need to remember that my thoughts, words and actions towards others should reflect this connection.

FSC Associate Group Day - Saturday, May 18, 2019 - Morning of Prayer
Presenters: Elizabeth Pienta and Deacon Brian Nosbusch, FSC Associates
by Jill Kachin, FSC Associate

Sister M. Bernadette and the FSC Associates met at Marian Village for our morning of prayer and reflection. As we gathered for morning coffee and refreshments Elizabeth gave us an overview of the schedule for the morning. She and Brian based their presentation on the book, My God and My All: Praying the Rosary with Francis and Clare by David Haas.

For the first part of the morning we went into the Chapel where Elizabeth led us in praying the Rosary of Francis and Clare. The mysteries of Francis and Clare are:

  • We follow Christ with joyful simplicity and ongoing discernment in prayer.
  • We act in justice and advocacy for the poor and the oppressed.
  • We are eager to love.
  • We care for the earth and all creatures.
  • We engage in courageous peacemaking.

Each decade was ended with the words of Francis, "My God and my all, how I long to love you, and give you my heart, and give you my soul".

Following the praying of the rosary we had time for reflection. It was a beautiful day so many of us took advantage of the beautiful grounds at Marian Village and went outside. We then gathered once more in the Chapel for a guided meditation from the writings of Francis and Clare. I am going to include two of Clare’s and will explain why I chose these two a bit later in this article.

Return to Yourself
Return to yourself; enter into your heart;
ponder what you were, are, should have been called to be...
Plow this field, work on yourself;
strive for freedom within yourself,
the blessed freedom
that leads to a most deep relationship with God
knowing that God will never force us to love...
if you are not able to understand and accept yourself,
you will not be able to understand or accept what is beyond you.

Keep Doing What You are Doing
Keep doing what you are doing:
may you keep on doing and do not stop.
But with swiftness, agility, and steady feet
may you go forward with joy and in safety,
knowing that you are on the path of wisdom and happiness.

Believe nothing and agree with nothing
that will turn you away from this commitment.

Nothing should be allowed to keep you
from offering yourself to the Most High
in the perfection
to which the Spirit of God has called you. Amen

Following this period of guided meditation we were again given some time for private reflection.

Upon returning to the Chapel Brian led us in Eucharistic Adoration. Brian provided three periods for silent reflection. Each reflection began with a silent reading followed by time to ponder and/or journal. Following our personal reflection time with the third reading (Keep on Doing What You are Doing) we were asked to read it aloud. Brian ended the morning with Benediction.

Now for the reason that I included two of the eight quotes Elizabeth gave us during her guided meditation. Brian and Elizabeth both got their inspiration for this morning from My God and My All: Praying the Rosary with Francis and Clare. They did not confer with each other prior to this day (except to choose the common source). I mentioned that Brian provided three readings for silent meditation. To everyone’s surprise, he chose the two quoted above which were included in Elizabeth’s selections.

Thank-you Brian and Elizabeth for being the instruments that God chose for us on this day to prove that the Spirit is alive and living within each of us! May we seek to return to ourselves and keep on doing what we are doing!

We Walk in Hope - The Journey of Holy Week and Beyond
Sister Janice Keenan, OSF - Saturday, April 13th
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day. Sr. Janice asked us to recall a walk we had taken. The walk that came to mind wasn’t a significant event in my life, but it was memorable. In the Fall of 2017, I flew to Dallas for work. After checking into the hotel, I glanced at my email and saw a notice for a Sister who had passed away that morning. Without making a conscious decision to do so, I found myself praying for Sister as I walked from the hotel to my company’s office building nearby.

As part of the opening prayer service, Sr. Janice played a song called "Sometimes By Step". I really like this song and it fit well with the day’s topic. Lyrics from the song reminded me that God is always there, walking with me throughout my life. "And step by step, You’ll lead me and I will follow you all of my days”.

(Above) Sister Janice played a song called "Sometimes by Step" by Rich Mullins.
Click above to listen.

Sr. Janice had given us several handouts that we used during our Associate day. After the opening prayer service, questions on one of the handouts gave us the opportunity to reflect upon our faith life as it related to a walk. On the back of this handout were pictures of shoes to help us with one of the questions.

One question was - where are you on your walk with Jesus? When I think about my faith life, the first image that came to mind was someone who needed to "catch up" in learning about her faith. During our reflection time, I thought about this image. Thanks to our Associate day presentations and attending several of the Sisters’ retreats, my knowledge of our faith has grown. I especially appreciate recent topics that were focused on the Bible - the Gospel of John, Psalms and the Wisdom books.

Another question from the handout was - what kind of shoes are an image for you of your walk? Looking at the shoes on the back of the handout, I would choose the low heel pumps as the image of my faith walk. They’re "grown up" shoes signifying that I’ve grown in my faith. There’s always room for improvement, but I can see progress. Recently, someone I’m close to was hospitalized for a few days. To my surprise, I didn’t get upset, which would have been my reaction in the past. I prayed often and knew that God would take care of my friend.

Sr. Janice moved the discussion to what we need for our walk in hope. Some examples were of things we’d probably want to leave behind. These things are the "rocks" or obstacles in our path that take our focus off God. One example would be excessive time spent on social media or using a smart phone.

We also reflected on items or people to take with us for our walk in hope. For example, we would probably want to take our "spiritual shoes" - the things that ground us or give us peace. We might want to bring along snacks for the journey - the things that give us joy. We also may want to have a guide and/or companions along for this walk.

Several people came to mind as companions I’d want to take along for my walk in hope. I liked the image of taking along "snacks" for a spiritual walk. A couple of the "snacks" for my walk would be laughter and music.

After lunch, we focused on hope. Sr. Janice had us each read one of the sayings or quotes on the handout titled FINDING HOPE, BEING "LIGHTS OF HOPE". We were asked to reflect on these hope-filled pictures, sayings and readings and choose one that “spoke” to us.

A few of the reflections spoke to me. One was a picture of a dandelion with the caption Some see a weed, I see a wish. As young children, we were told that we could pick a white, fluffy dandelion, make a wish then blow the dandelion seeds into the air. The smallest thing, like wishing on a dandelion can put a smile on one’s face and bring hope that wishes and dreams can come true.

The topic of walking in hope was very appropriate for the season, especially with Holy Week starting the next day. On Good Friday, we commemorate Jesus' death. On Easter Sunday, we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and the hope it brings. Jesus’ resurrection brings us a promise of eternal life with God and all of our loved ones in Heaven.

In the closing prayer service, there was a quote from Pope Francis that truly summed up the theme of this Associate day."Today, amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others. If we walk in hope, we have joy in our hearts.  Let us be lights of hope."


Gospel According to St. John - Part 3 - Presenter: Dawn Mayer - March 16, 2019
by Mary Mosser, FSC Associate

After Mass, we met in Marian Hall for our Associate Day. In March, Dawn gave her 3rd and final presentation on the Gospel of John. During the first session in January, Dawn talked about historical events that affected Jesus and his early followers.

In the February presentation, Dawn explained how Jesus reinterprets Jewish institutions like Pentecost, Passover and the Temple. At the beginning of our March Associate day, Dawn gave us a handout and described how Jesus re-interprets the major Jewish feasts. Two of the feasts we looked at were Passover and Yom Kippur.

Passover commemorates when God passed over the Israelite children and killed the firstborn of every Egyptian family. In Jesus’ time, Jews traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration. Each family brought a spotless lamb to the Temple for sacrifice. Jesus died on the cross at the exact moment of the Passover sacrifice. Like the Passover Lamb, none of His bones were broken and His blood made the final atonement for the sins of the world.

Yom Kippur is a day for the nation to seek forgiveness. On the feast day, the high priest would perform a specially prescribed service. One of the highlights of this service would be the high priest placing his hands on the head of a scapegoat, symbolically transferring the sins of the people onto the goat. The scapegoat was taken out into the wilderness to die symbolizing that God had forgiven the people’s sins. The death of Jesus fulfilled the ancient role of the scapegoat. Through Jesus’ death, sins are truly forgiven.

During the February presentation, we heard about the signs in the first chapters of John’s Gospel. The signs Jesus performed brought people to the realization that He was the Messiah. In March, Dawn talked about the signs in the remaining chapters of the Gospel of John which are: Jesus cures the paralytic, multiplication of loaves and fishes, Jesus walks on water and Jesus cures the man born blind.

The final sign in the Gospel of John is Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It's a familiar story; Martha and Mary send word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus is sick. Jesus waited two days before going to Bethany to see Lazarus. By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was dead and had been in the tomb for four days.

Dawn posed an interesting question to our group. Why did Jesus weep? He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. One answer was that maybe Jesus wept because after all this time, Martha and Mary still didn’t understand. Both Martha and Mary told Jesus that if He had been there, Lazarus would not have died. They had faith in Jesus as a healer, but didn’t understand that Jesus had power over death.

A difference between John's Gospel and the Synoptic Gospels was the final incident before Jesus was arrested. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus clearing the Temple was the turning point that led to His arrest. In John's Gospel, it was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. If Jesus could raise someone from the dead, He must truly be the Messiah.

Having heard the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection many times since childhood, I assumed all of the Gospels were the same. The four Gospels do have many common elements. However, knowing now that the Gospels were written at different times, it didn’t surprise me to hear that there were differences. One example is Jesus' cross. In the Synoptic Gospels, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross. In the Gospel of John, Jesus carries the cross by Himself.

After attending Dawn's three presentations on the Gospel of John, I’ve come away with a better understanding of the history that surrounds many familiar Bible stories. I've also learned the significance of different facts in the stories and their meaning to the people of Jesus’ time.

Questions popped up several times in Dawn's presentations directed to the people who lived in the time of Jesus. They were witnesses to Jesus' life. Did they believe He was the Messiah? Would they choose to follow Him? I think the questions stayed in my mind because even though the dilemma was for people of Jesus' time, these are valid questions for people of our time too.

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.