The Peace and Joy of Easter

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

 On Easter Sunday, we are gathered in contemplation of the risen Christ.
We feel imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus had deceived themselves that they had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We can understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed!

Two-thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.” … “La Paz sea contigo.”

Even now we have this same desire, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying unjustly.  We all struggle with the question of suffering. God sees and understands what we cannot. Not only is God in control, we can trust in God’s goodness even in the midst of our suffering. God says to us:

“I am with you, and I will not leave you.” His promise is that one day suffering will end, but until then God will be with us. One day it will all make sense. But in the meantime, we do not suffer alone.

Today is the day of Easter joy. This is the day on which Jesus
appeared to people who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our hearts, souls, and minds, and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life.

MAY WE EMBODY  THE PEACE OF THE RISEN CHRIST!

Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas de Resurreccion!

 

Your Grace Is Sufficient: A Reflection for Palm Sunday

By Noreen Douglas

 

Give thanks unto God for the grace He has provided for us,

even when we don’t believe.

Every morning He has awakened us,

give thanks for His grace.

Each day we experience challenges, whether the same or new,

give thanks for His grace.

For personalities that are like ours, or not,

give thanks for His grace.

The hurt and pain we experience through our circumstances,

give thanks for His grace.

The sufferings we endure in our mind and body,

give thanks for His grace.

The choices we or others have chosen that cause pain or even death,

give thanks for His grace.

You Lord have given us the grace to repent and to forgive,

We give thanks for Your grace.

To be able to serve and meet the needs of the unlovable,

give thanks for His grace.

To accept what is difficult and still be content,

give thanks for His grace.

To smile when there seems to be nothing to smile about,

give thanks for His grace.

To speak encouragement even when it isn’t given,

give thanks for His grace.

Because of this day we have been given the grace to do all things

in You, through You and for You.

Therefore we give thanks for Your grace.

FOR YOUR GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!

 

-Noreen Douglas is the housekeeper for the Mission Helpers.

 

 

 

“See, I Am Doing Something New” – A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Click here for Mass readings

The woman central to today’s Gospel reading seems submissive, if not defeated. She had to feel embarrassed at best, clearly not hopeful of forgiveness. How befuddling that Jesus offers that very thing, forgiveness, without being asked. How long did it take her to realize that she was free to go?

Jesus had in fact “opened a way in the sea…a path in mighty waters,” as Isaiah had predicted. She could forget about her past, about “the things of long ago.” Amazing! It seems that Jesus really does come to set us free, to liberate us from all that holds us back, and weighs our spirits down.

As we observe our current world situation, we may see no way out for us, or for our country or indeed our world. There seem to be so many complications that we feel overwhelmed. God says, “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” We may reply, “No, I do not perceive it, God.  I cannot imagine how you will make a way in this wasteland. Give me a hopeful spirit and some sort of booster shot for my imagination. I want to trust in your promises and keep my spirits up and my hopes alive.” This is not a matter of feeling jolly or optimistic as much as it is of keeping within me a determination to trust God’s promise through Isaiah.

Soon we will commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We need not lose sight of his resurrection and glorification – which, as a long-time radio host used to say – truly is “the rest of the story.”

 

The Immense Love of God

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

By Thomas Mackin

For Mass readings, click here.

 

The compassionate love of God in Christ is always ready to forgive sinners and welcome them home.  This is the challenging truth that Jesus proclaims to the tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees and scribes who were his audience.  Today we are Jesus’s Lenten audience.

Paul tells us, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”  When a sinner comes to Christ, that sinner is made new.  “(A)nd all of this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

The readings today give us the opportunity to place ourselves in the midst of the sinner.  It is one thing to welcome a sinner back into the fold, but an entirely different experience to go out into the world, our neighborhoods, parishes, communities and share space with sinners.  This is the ministry of reconciliation, so that we, like the father in today’s gospel, can see someone coming from a long way off.

During Lent, the church calls us to remember the gifts of God that we have squandered and that have led us into the small or greater mess of our spiritual life.  With great wisdom, the church also knows that we need this time of heightened awareness of our compassionate Father who embraces us in the outstretched arms of the Crucified.

Loving God, our needs are no surprise to you.  In your love and mercy forgive us of our sins, that we might always grow deeper into relationship with you.  Amen.

Tom Mackin is the IT coordinator for the Mission Helpers.

On Holy Ground: A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH

(Click here for Mass readings)

Long, long ago when I was in college at Notre Dame of Maryland (now a university), we had a three-day silent retreat every year. I had never been silent for three days in my entire life. During those days I experienced God’s call to be a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart. My reply to God was, “Here I am.”  I thought I was the only one since Creation who had answered God so simply. When I read the Bible, I found amazing people using those very words repeatedly.

Today, in the reading from Exodus, Chapter 3, God speaks from the burning bush, “Moses! Moses!”  Moses replies, “Here I am.”  I think in this historic reading, we can find many ways to continue to enter into the season of Lent. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Most of us are busy, even in Lent. The desert would have been quiet. Can I find five or ten minutes to set aside for quiet time? God told Moses to take off his sandals because he was on Holy Ground. Would taking off my shoes for this amount of time help me realize that this is holy time? Hear God call your name and just be present to the One who loves you. If you choose, you can say, “Here I am.”  The absolute best thing you can do is be quiet and let God love you.

Blessings on your Lenten journey.

 

The Transforming Presence of God: A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

Click here for the Mass readings.

 

 

The readings of the Second Sunday of Lent are a like a roadmap, guiding us and grounding us in hope. At times we may feel like Abram in the first reading, unsure how things will unfold.

But the Lord made a covenant with Abram, promising that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. We can be comforted that even when we cannot see what lies beyond, God walks with us in our fears and doubts.

Then we turn to the Transfiguration account in the Gospel and watch Peter, James and John take the journey to Mount Tabor. There had to be some soul searching going on in them about who this Jesus was. Perhaps they were even hesitant as they journeyed. Imagine reaching the top of the mountain and seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus. Like Peter, we might want to memorialize this encounter. The encounter is nonetheless memorialized with the proclamation from the clouds “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Silence follows this event.

The words from the clouds were enough to ponder in their hearts. Possibly they left in fear or in confusion regarding the meaning of what transpired. Even so, Jesus was with them though they did not fully understand what it all meant. We can be comforted that no matter what we face, whatever we do not understand or whatever struggles we confront, we can be certain that Jesus is with us. May we always listen to the beloved Son of God. Amen.

 

 

 

“Syncing Up” Ourselves: A Reflection for the First Sunday in Lent

By Jessica Williamson

Click here for the Mass readings

 

Overwhelmingly, the themes that strike me in this Sunday’s Mass readings are those of belief and faith. While closely intertwined, our beliefs are doctrine. Our faith is more intangible: a feeling, a relationship, our personal way in which doctrine colors our life experiences and how we view the world.

The Psalm response is “Be with me Lord, when I am in trouble.”  This is one of my favorite Psalms, also made into the beautiful hymn, “On Eagles Wings.”  This hymn often brings a tear to the eye, perhaps bringing to mind those we have lost. We are assured that God “has us” just as he has those who have gone before us, and with whom we will be reunited because of our faith in the Resurrection. While life is full of challenges, heartache, and hardship, knowing I have God to call on any second of any day helps me through those difficult times. I don’t know what I would do without my faith, in both difficult and joyous times. (Thanks, mom and dad!)

The second reading says, “the word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart.”  We can be good Catholics in outward appearance, as we attend Mass, receive Eucharist, recite prayers – but are we really practicing what we say we believe? Do our words and actions in our daily lives line up with our beliefs and faith? This can be a challenging undertaking. As Jesus fasted and was tempted for forty days in the desert, we too encounter temptation every day in testing the “unity” of our faith with how we live our lives. Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect, and to recalibrate ourselves in “syncing” our hearts, words, and actions.

-Jessica Williamson is the Business Manager for the Mission Helpers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent: Making All Things New

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday

By Bernadette A. Sahm

 

“Ash Wednesday is full of joy … The source of all sorrow is the illusion that of ourselves we are anything but dust.”
-Father Thomas Merton

It is that time of year when we anticipate more sunshine and the beauty, color, and newness that the spring season affords us. As I walk through my garden, I notice things that are dormant after months of winter weather. My hydrangeas seem to be dead and brittle and without life. My faith knows better. Looking closely, I see the burrowed closed ends of what I believe will return as hot pink and baby blue flowering hydrangeas.

“Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” –Pope Francis

Lent and spring are synonymous for me as they both represent the opportunity to make all things new again. We know what a garden can be with proper nurturing. and what it will look like after it receives water, sunshine, and food to grow. Lent affords us the opportunity to reflect on all our relationships and to grow them with love and in faith. God wants us to see His face in all living things.

We begin again in Lent; we witness signs of new life, and we too can create that new life when our hearts open and are birthed again. Even a heart that has been dormant can spring back to life.

There is nothing like the beauty in a flowering rose, yet it shows us; “non c’e rosa senza le sue spine’” (translation – there is no rose without its thorns). Lent does not have to be solely about giving up our favorite foods and drink, but it can remind us to forego hatred and lack of forgiveness and instead, build a pure and clean heart.

May your Lenten season be filled with an abundance of love, kindness, forgiveness, grace and all things beautiful.

Bernadette Sahm is the Director of Mission Advancement for the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Anchored in Hope

 

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

This Advent we were invited to a place of stillness as we lit the candles representing hope, faith, joy, and peace/justice.  In this stillness we pondered the promises of this season.  Last week on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Noreen reminded us that: “We celebrate God’s promises with every breath of our lives through our obedience to our faith in God.”  We desire to be rooted in the example of Mary by responding in this forever changing world, “I am yours, Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

My pondering this Advent takes me to one of the Christian symbols of hope (one of my favorites), the anchor.  Our anchor – that which keeps us grounded is of course Emmanuel, God with Us.

The following passage from Isiah is traditionally read on the night of Christmas Eve:

 

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom

on them, a light has shone.

-Isaiah 9:1 (NAB)

These words were spoken to a specific time and situation – these words and this message are given to us as well — as we stand in this moment – at this time in our lives – anchored in a God who delights in us and desires to come to us in the flesh – the Word.  May we experience the hope of this message and bear witness to the Light – the Light that has already arrived and is yet to come!

 

 What is the hope that has been planted in your heart this Christmas?

What is it that you ask God to bring to birth in you?

Christmas Blessings to you and your loved ones.  May your hearts be touched with deep joy during this holy season!

Your sisters, The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

 

Lord, Make Us Turn to You.

A reflection for the fourth Sunday of Advent.

By Noreen Douglas

Click here for readings

 “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” (from the responsorial psalm).

In a forever changing world, we have this truth in our hearts. We humble ourselves through the wars of life, while being full of hope through the obedience of our faith. We rely on our faith to lead, to guide, to help, even to comfort us in all the details of our lives.

Therefore, we surrender our understanding, our time, our feelings, even our lives to allow our faith in God to be seen in this forever changing world.  We, too, cry out “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

Through our love one to another we reflect God’s promises. We show his long-suffering and patience as we take on the trials of this conformed world with the compassion and understanding of our faith. We celebrate the newness and freshness of each day with gladness in our hearts.

We stand ready and willing to surrender to his will…ready to heed the mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself,” as we, too, cry out “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

We celebrate God’s promises with every breath of our lives through our obedience to our faith in God. Like Mary in today’s Gospel acclamation, we respond in this forever changing world, “I am yours, Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Alleluia!

(Noreen Douglas is employed as the housekeeper at the Mission Helper Center. She and her husband, Rob, serve as Campus Life Directors at the Loch Raven campus of Metro Maryland Youth for Christ.)