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Prayer and Action

A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent
By Sr. Nancy Barshick, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030721-YearB.cfm

Something was wrong. I was feeling it. I could name it. I could not understand it.

Jesus and I together had been through tense weeks the past several months. Like so many, I was daily asking HIM for help for so many causes: worldly hatred, pandemic, ethnic clashes, lies about the US election, etc. etc.  Asking what HE was going to do about them.  Daily I felt his presence. But after those intense weeks His presence had begun to fade.  We were “losing contact.” But WHY?

A morning, a few weeks ago, found me walking the hallways of the Mission Helper Center having a one-way conversation with Jesus while carrying a piece of paper with a name on it.  I wandered into chapel.  Standing in front of the tabernacle still clutching the paper asked “Look, Jesus, what is causing this loss? Are you mad at me? What has gone wrong?  Oh, I knew what many would have said if consulted.  “You need to have quiet time with Jesus.”  “Need to humble yourself before Him.  “Need….” I knew these were not the answers for Jesus and me, but neither was I prepared for HIS answer that day.

It came loud and strong- “YOU, like so many lately, have been asking for MY help, MY intervention, MY inspiration.  Tell me, what MORE are YOU, Nancy Barshick, going to do about these causes and wants besides prayers for MY help?  MHSH Sisters /Staff, Family/Friends, MEMBERS of this world’s population, how are they going to HELP ME with their actions? Inspiration needed?  Check Luke 2: 13-25 for what I had once to do for MY Father”:

“HE MADE A WHIP OUT OF CORDS AND DROVE THEM ALL OUT OF THE TEMPLE AREA…. “TAKE THESE OUT OF HERE AND STOP MAKING MY FATHER’S HOUSE A MARKETPLACE.”

SO how can one respond to Jesus request for help besides prayer?  For some this will first mean looking deep within asking why there is fear to act about issues included in their prayers. Time and tears will rank high.

For others who are ready BUT…  Commonly told to me: 1, “I don’t know what to say.”   2, “I’d be embarrassed if someone heard /read what I had done and laughed at me.”  3, “My prayer group believes in the power of prayer leaving action to those who enjoy it.”   4, “Me, I’m not an action person.”

Remember the paper I mentioned above that I had clutched while addressing Jesus?  It contained the name of a man I encourage people to hire so he can get supplemental income.  Jesus, that morning, used it to remind me, Nancy Barshick, there was so much more to be done and some of it was going to take a lot of courage and nerve.  Was He reminding YOU also?  Encouraging to overcome Your FEARS and BUTS?

The choices of action with prayer are ours.  The world and Jesus await.

 

 

The Things We Do for Love

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Lent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022821.cfm

Long ago, in Brockway, Pennsylvania, a substitute teacher was about to begin a day of teaching second grade in public school.  The children had free time before school started.  Tow-headed Michael had gathered most of the class into a huddle.  The substitute drifted over to see whether trouble was brewing.  Michael was saying, “Alright you guys.  We are in Lent.  Jesus died on the cross for you.  What are you going to do for him?”

We do things for people we love.  Every winter morning, Pat would scrape ice off her husband’s car and warm it up.  Joe is long dead.  Without a doubt, Pat still loves him and misses him.  I miss him, too.  He prayed the Rosary every day and had an intention for every bead.  He prayed the third Hail Mary for me.

There was a day of Lenten Retreat at Church of the Holy Spirit in Joppa.  We had Mass and prayed the Rosary, but the retreat director still hadn’t come.  I asked the pastor if I could say a few words about the Rosary.  I told the almost full church about driving Sister Annette to see her family in St. Mary’s County when I was a young Sister.  Sister Annette said, “Would you like to pray a rosary?”  I did not particularly want to pray a rosary, but I did not have the courage to admit that.  We began.  Sister announced, “The First Joyful Mystery, for whom shall we pray?”  My sister-in-law Barb was pregnant.  We would pray for her.  Sister Annette added all women with difficult pregnancies who were considering abortion.  We named our intentions for each mystery.  It was a powerful and positive experience.  I told the retreatants about Sister Annette and intentions for each mystery and about Joe and his many intentions.  That evening, an army wife who made the day with her husband wrote that he was jotting down the intentions for each Hail Mary on his rosary.

On Sunday, St. Paul will affirm, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”  God is definitely for us and Jesus will take every loving thing we do for each person in our lives as if we did it for him.

Hidden Riches

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022121.cfm

Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that we have been in “Lent” for over a year already? What more can we say about such a cold, grim season? It has been our own desert, just as Jesus had his –and yet, when he emerged, he had a surprising message, upbeat and hopeful: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.”

Can we come up with anything like that, as we look ahead to the end of the Covid 19 pandemic? Jesus had angels ministering to him: do we? Where do we see the “riches hidden in Christ” that the opening prayer (Collect) of today’s Mass refers to?

My first response is “First Responders” – the truly heroic, selfless folk who do the dangerous ministry of health care, transportation to hospitals, phone calls to next of kin, handholding and cellphone displaying as loved ones breathe their last. How many times in one day can one’s heart break? Who has the courage to step up to do that, not for their own loved ones but for complete strangers? Those are the “riches, in part, anyway.

Mr. Rogers always advised children to “look for the helpers”, a wise piece of advice.  As we ponder the enormous need all around us, we would do well to look for the helpers in these perilous times. Perhaps instead of sacrificing chocolate or ice cream or other treats for Lent, we might donate to the Red Cross, local food banks or hospitals to express our gratitude for the gift that they are. If not a monetary gift, maybe it would be even more meaningful to say some heartfelt words of thanks to a person who has cared so well for our own dear ones?  No matter how halting or unpolished, such words would be received as golden: “hidden riches” brought to light, offered, and received with gratitude.

A Lenten Journey of the Heart

By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

With these words from today’s first Mass reading from Joel, we commence another season of Lent. The passage invites us to a journey of the “whole heart”, with our destination being the God who offers us forgiveness, mercy, and kindness.

The following poem from Jan Richardson invites us to spend these forty days exploring the inner chambers of our fractured hearts, trusting that our loving God accompanies us during this time and will restore us, and our broken world, to wholeness.

Rend Your Heart

A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

To receive this blessing,
all you have to do
is let your heart break.
Let it crack open.
Let it fall apart
so that you can see
its secret chambers,
the hidden spaces
where you have hesitated
to go.

Your entire life
is here, inscribed whole
upon your heart’s walls:
every path taken
or left behind,
every face you turned toward
or turned away,
every word spoken in love
or in rage,
every line of your life
you would prefer to leave
in shadow,
every story that shimmers
with treasures known
and those you have yet
to find.

It could take you days
to wander these rooms.
Forty, at least.

And so let this be
a season for wandering,
for trusting the breaking,
for tracing the rupture
that will return you

to the One who waits,
who watches,
who works within
the rending
to make your heart
whole.

—Jan Richardson

From Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Blessings on your Lenten wandering.

 

Statement of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart on the Violence in the Nation’s Capitol

“For the love of God…” were the words that launched the founding of our congregation, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.  It is this same love of God that compels us to condemn the acts of violence against truth and democracy that we witnessed in our nation’s Capitol.

As citizens of the US, we were shocked but not surprised, that the rhetoric of hate that shapes the leadership of our country, permeated its very marrow, resulting in the needless death of 6 people and acts of domestic terrorism against the democracy we cherish.

Since 1890, we have partnered with people of color, with immigrants, refugees, and those seeking asylum in our country.  Engraved in our hearts is the suffering they have endured and the hope they cling to – to live in a democracy supported by a constitution and a rule of law that sees all people as God sees them.

Words and behavior matter.

We call on all elected leaders, by voice and by vote, to condemn the violence and vandalism that erupted in our cherished institution and the hateful rhetoric that incited it.

We call on all Church leaders, by voice and behavior, to guide us to our best selves. Speak the truth of the gospel, offering hope that God is indeed with us.

We call on ourselves to look closely at our words and actions, to repent of complicity that leads to division, to seek transparency in our witness.

The way forward is not clear. We grapple with much that divides us. “For the love of God”, let us begin anew the conversation.

-January 11, 2021

 

 

 

The Gifts of Christmas

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

Growing up in my family, Christmas Eve meant gathering around the Christmas tree, house lights dim, tree lights glowing, the scent of logs burning, the fragrance of pine needles, as my Dad read with great fanfare The Night Before Christmas. His boisterous rendition was always followed with our attention turned to the creche as my mother proclaimed, with more hush than gusto, Luke’s Infancy Narrative. From an early age, I learned that the sacred and the secular go hand and hand.

This is the time of Christmas. This is the time of a global pandemic. Perhaps there has never been a time when we were more in need of God entering our chaos and becoming human in Jesus.  The Incarnation is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds and almost by the sheep.

The troubadour of Christmas. G.K. Chesterton, helps us to uncover the spiritual center of the secular:

THE OTHER STOCKING

 What has happened has been the the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.  It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good ~ far from it.  And the experience was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. Of course, most people who talk about these things get into a state of some mental confusion by attaching tremendous importance to the name of the entity.  We called him Santa Claus because everyone called him Santa Claus, but the name of a god is a mere human label. His real name may have been Williams. It may have been the Archangel Uriel. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.  I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking, now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking.  Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.

                                                                          

                                                                                             

For our pondering

 Where in my life is God inviting me to enlarge my heart and to love a bigger God?

Recall a moment of Wonder/Amazement in your life.  Revisit.  What happened inside of you?

Does the Incarnation provide an invitation to live your life differently post-COVID?

 

 

 

 

Who’s In Charge Here, Anyway?

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Advent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/122020.cfm

In today’s first Scripture reading (2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 12A, 16), we see God issuing something of a course correction to the king.  David somehow had come to think that he had created his own success (“Settled in his palace”, “rest from his enemies”) and he wanted to share his prosperity with God.  As soon as you read that, you may think, “isn’t that backwards?” and in fact God instructs the prophet Nathan to remind King David of how he made it to the top – namely, with the power of God, not on his own merits.  Put more bluntly, God asks David, “Who do you think you are? I called you from herding animals.  I made you commander of my people.” In contemporary parlance, in other words, God is saying to David, “Get over yourself!”

Most of us have gotten such treatment at least once in our lives, maybe not from a prophet but from life itself.  We are shocked – SHOCKED – that thus and such is happening to us!  A pandemic – herenow? Businesses shutting, opening, shutting again? People who never could have imagined needing any kind of public assistance, forced by lack of funds to stand in line at a food bank? We are not citizens of a third-rate dictatorship – ah, but haven’t you heard that very term used recently, and repeatedly?

Here we are, folks – look in a mirror and confront your own need, then turn to God and express just what God has been hoping to hear from you: your longing for a savior.  Jesus’ coming to save us was not just centuries ago.  He will come again and again, in all sorts of disguises and through all sorts of people and agencies, whenever we humble ourselves to ask, and accept what has made available.

For reflection:

In what ways are you serving as God’s surrogate in reaching out to others’ needs? Think beyond the material to the emotional and spiritual. Take note of the expressions of longing in so many Advent and Christmas hymns, such as “O come, O Come, Emmanuel”. Make those songs your true prayer.

 

 

 

 

 

Rejoice!

A reflection for Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Amarilis Flores Arrioja, MHSH and Sr. Rosa Sofia Toledo, MHSH

Readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121320.cfm

The Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday, which in Latin means “Rejoice” — be joyful, be hopeful, be cheerful and glad.  The Canticle of Mary (“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”)  invites us to recite our own canticle of praise and joy to God, our Savior.

Liturgically, this Sunday of Advent is a joyous celebration flowing from the Spirit into our own hearts as we prepare to celebrate that the coming of our Savior and our Redeemer, in human flesh, is near.  In a world faced with so many threats in our times, particularly the Pandemic crisis, where some of our loved ones have died “alone,”  the Word of God comes to console the brokenhearted; to lift the sorrowful and neglected, to bring healing to the sick and hope to the hopeless. The Prophet Isaiah invites us to rejoice in the Lord with our whole heart and to find in our God the joy of our soul.

In the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, we are reminded to rejoice in the Lord always, at all times, no matter what the circumstances of our lives are. He shares with us key exhortations on how to live the Christian life joyfully, as we prepare to celebrate the first Christmas, as well as being vigilant to the ongoing manifestation of the Lord who continues to come, and who will come in glory at the end of times.  Let us, then, pause to ponder on the message of Saint Paul in this Advent season:

  • Rejoice at all times.
  • Never cease to pray
  • Be grateful in all circumstances
  • Do not extinguish the fire of the Spirit
  • Do not underestimate the prophetic utterances
  • Examine all and keep what is good
  • Renounce any kind of evil

Like Paul, let us claim this prayer as our own:  “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As we enter more fully into the Advent joyful season, let us reflect on the following questions:

  1. What am I most grateful for to the God of my life?
  2. At this time, where is our world crying out for true joy?
  3. In Saint Paul´s letter to the Thessalonians, which exhortation stands out challenging me to live more fully in Christ during this Advent season?

(Srs. Amarilis and Rosa Sofia minister to  people in Manzanita and surrounding areas in Venezuela)

 

 

 

Preparing the Way

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120620.cfm

During Advent in the northern hemisphere, we observe a shortened span of daylight.  For many people, this can bring on a downturn in mood, and some even suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder.  This darkness can extend to our spiritual lives as well.  How then do we bring more “light” into our lives and the lives of others?  Lighting our Advent candles is one way of keeping vigil as we await the birth of Jesus, and the rituals we observe around the candle can bring a sense of hope and joy.  During this season we might also try to rid ourselves of egotistical tendencies and some of the “busyness” in our lives and spend some quality time in prayer and reflection, calling to mind who we really are in the sight of God.

In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist say:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In his book, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent, Richard Rohr, OFM states:

“John the Baptist’s qualities are most rare and yet crucial for any reform or authentic transformation of persons or groups.  That is why we focus on John the Baptist every Advent and why Jesus trusts him and accepts his non-temple, offbeat ritual, while also going far beyond him.  Water is only the container; fire and Spirit are the contents, John says. Yet if we are not like the great John, we will invariably substitute our own little container for the real contents.  We will substitute rituals for reality instead of letting the rituals point us beyond themselves.

John the Baptist is the strangest combination of conviction and humility, morality and mysticism, radical prophecy and living in the present. This  son of the priestly temple class does his own thing down by the riverside; he is a man born into privilege who dresses like a hippie; he is a superstar who is willing to let go of everything, creating his own water baptism and then saying that what really matters is the baptism of “Spirit and fire”!  He is a living paradox, as even Jesus said of him: “There is no man greater than John…but he is also the least” in the new reality that I am bringing about (Matthew 11:11). John both gets it and does not get it at all which is why he has to exit stage right early in the drama.  He has played his single and important part, and he knows it.  His is brilliantly a spirituality of descent, not ascent.  “He must grow bigger; l must grow smaller.”  (John 3:30).

The only way such freedom could happen is if John learned to be very empty of himself already as a young man, before he even built his tower of success.  His ego was out of the way so much so that he could let go of his own ego, his own message and even his own life.  This is surely the real meaning of his head on a platter.  Some have cleverly said that ego is an acronym for “Edging God Out”.  There’s got to be such emptiness, or we cannot point beyond ourselves to Jesus, as John did.  Such emptiness doesn’t just fall into our laps; such humility does not just happen. It is surely the end product of a thousand letting-goes and a thousand acts of devotion, which for John the Baptist gradually edged God in.”

For Reflection:

How do you manage to schedule some down time in your day? Can you make this a priority during Advent?

How are you bringing more “light” into your own life, and the lives of others during this season?

Do you keep a journal to help you track your progress?

How is your spiritual life one of “ascent” or “descent”?