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Easter Blessings!

A message for Easter

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

 

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart extend warmest wishes to you and all your loved ones this Easter Season. We give thanks for the many ways you share life with us. Be assured of our prayerful remembrance.

May the miracle of Easter fill your heart and all your being with renewed hope, abiding joy and everlasting love. As creation awakens to the majesty of Springtime, may you be reminded of God’s awesome love that endures forever. ALLELUIA! He is Risen…the tomb is empty!

Let me share with you a shortened version of what has become a treasured Easter story – a tender story of an eleven-year-old boy named Philip, a Down’s syndrome child who was in a Sunday School class with eight other children.

Easter Sunday the teacher brought an empty plastic egg for each child. They were instructed to go out of the church building onto the grounds and put into the egg something that would remind them of the meaning of Easter.

 All returned joyfully. As each egg was opened there were exclamations of delight at a butterfly, a twig, a flower, a blade of grass. Then the last egg was opened. It was Philip’s, and it was empty! 

Some of the children made fun of Philip. “But, teacher,” he said, “teacher, the tomb was empty.”

A newspaper article announcing Philip’s death a few months later noted that at the conclusion of the funeral eight children marched forward and put a large empty egg on the small casket. On it was a banner that said, “The tomb was empty.”

 

The Sounds of Silence

A reflection for the Triduum

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

 

Each of these three days – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday –  brings us face to face with the intimacy of being with Jesus at his most vulnerable. Sometimes words diminish, and silence is the only appropriate response.

What if this year we don’t try to “keep up” with all the events of this sacred week?  Instead, we could allow the enormity of the experience to wash over us until we are led to the center of quiet within ourselves where we come face to face with Jesus.

What if we choose one of the silences of each day and let it envelop us?

On Thursday…

Perhaps the humbling silence that must have followed the foot washing… or the tense silence after Judas’ betrayal?

Maybe the awe that led to silence as Jesus gives himself in bread blessed, broken, and shared.

Arguably, most challenging of all, the silence in the garden after Jesus begged, “Watch with me while I pray.”

On Friday…

Let Jesus catch our eye as he is arrested, brought before the Sanhedrin, and is brought low by Peter’s denial. Stay with the gaze.

In the silence of accompanying Jesus on the way of the cross, we each ask, “what makes my heart tremble”?

As we stand with the women at the foot of the cross, and hear Jesus forgive those condemned with him, is our silence challenged or disturbed?

 On Saturday…

How can we console Jesus for what we do to one another?  Will the silence of these holy days lead us to action for justice for our sisters and brothers who Jesus calls us to accompany in his name?

The Paradox of the Cross

A reflection for Palm Sunday

By Sister Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

 

The Palm Sunday Gospel is long and provides much to ponder.

Jesus begins with the Passover meal and goes on to speak of a betrayer in his midst. What do I do when I feel betrayed?

Jesus then listens to his disciples quarreling over who among them is the greatest. Jesus proclaims to the disciples that the one who serves is the greatest and calls Himself a servant. How does this call to service sit with me? Do I feel “above” this call of service? 

 Jesus withdraws to the Mount of Olives and prays for the strength to do the will of His Father. Then Jesus had to face the courts and undergo the Passion that was His destiny. Let us remember the injustice and suffering that Jesus would face.

On Calvary, it was a criminal who defended Jesus as He hung on the cross.  In a few words he proclaimed in faith, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised him the reward of paradise.  Before He died, Jesus uttered forgiveness and commended Himself to God.

The pain and agony of the cross did not prevent Jesus from reaching out in this profound action of love. Let us remember that Jesus’ actions on the Cross shows there is “No Greater Love.”

 

 

 

What’s New?

A reflection for the fifth week in Lent.
By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Thus says the LORD…
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
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.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.

-Isaiah 43:16-19

 

Is God doing anything “new” in your life?  Putting water into any of your personal deserts, or rivers in whatever might be a wasteland for you?  Perhaps more importantly, would you notice any of this “newness” if it were happening?

Many aspects of our lives conspire to prevent us from being able to see things anew, or to believe that anything new is possible.  We become overly accustomed to the same people, places, activities and events.  We become jaded by apparent corruption in institutions that we formerly esteemed and trusted.  Fixation on our mobile devices literally prevents us from seeing what is around us.  How can we believe that anything new and good is possible?

The late Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, captured this phenomenon well in an article she wrote titled “Windexing the Eyes”.  She described a monk who, after his 30-day retreat, said “It was as if my eyes were Windexed.”  The hours of prayer, meditation and silence were “the knife that excised the ‘cataracts’ formed by years of biased, habitual ways of seeing and refusal to see”.  Now, he was able to see beyond externals to a deeper reality. He felt that nothing stood between him and the other.

You may not be able or even inclined to undertake a 30-day retreat, but spending even some time in prayer, meditation and silence each day will provide you with the time and space with which to withdraw from the “externals” that consume you. It will allow you to get in touch with your authentic self and see what God is doing in your life.  During these final weeks of Lent and into Holy Week (and beyond), why not give it a try?

Love. Changes. Everything.

A reflection for the fourth week in Lent.

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

“Prodigal Son” by Kristi Valiant

 

Today marks the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, from the word ‘”rejoice,” be joyful.  We are halfway into Lent and Easter is fast approaching.  Our readings this Sunday speak of love, mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness. 

As I reflected upon today’s reading a song repeated in my heart, “Love Changes Everything!”  Love, the song tells us, “will turn your world around….”  Each of our readings speak of changed worlds – changed hearts.  The Israelites have reached the promised land of Canaan and Paul reminds us in the second reading that “whoever is in Christ is a new creation…the old things have passed away….”  I wonder what has passed away for me/you these four weeks of Lent or where have we found the newness that comes in our returning to or deepening our friendship with God?  It is through that deepening friendship that we bear fruit (remember the barren fig tree from last week).  What is the fruit we are bearing – tending?

Again, the lyrics of the song, “Love changes everything, brings you glory, brings you shame. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”  How have we been reconciled to God these weeks and what is the call we have received to be reconcilers?  When Paul implores us on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God, to whom else do we need to be reconciled?  The parable of the Prodigal Son shows that through love everything is changed.  It is love that restores and brings us to our senses.  Who is it in this parable that speaks to you today?  Is it the loving, forgiving and merciful father?  Is it the young son who went off to do his own thing only to find he lost it all and needed to find a way back home?  The young son who was, most likely, expecting a reprimand (maybe even a dismissal) and instead was greeted by a loving father who ran out to meet him on his return and threw a party in his honor. 

Have you experienced that kind of love and acceptance that goes beyond humiliation at mistakes and uplifts and restores to life?  Some would say the father was a fool and perhaps that’s even what the older son was thinking, yet, “love does change everything…and love makes fools of everyone.”    Has love ever made a fool of you or made you do seemingly foolish things?  Can you relate to the older son’s upset – the absence of his joy in serving – his feelings of being unnoticed and unappreciated? The older son’s understanding of the limitlessness of the father’s love is revealed in his jealousy.  Don’t you wonder if the older son’s heart was changed by the love of his father who left the celebration of his younger son to go out and plead with this older son?  I do think love changes everything and as the song says,  it changes everyone and “love will never, never let you be the same.”

With God in the Wilderness

A reflection for the third week of Lent (written on the Feast of St. Joseph)

By Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH

I’ve been reading a publication called “A Lenten Pilgrimage: Journeying with Jesus.”   One of the reflections is titled: “In the desert we cling to essentials.”  It says: “A trek into the desert wilderness is no simple matter.  There are hazards, privations and loneliness, uncertainties, fickle weather, wild animals, and the frightening prospect that overnight the wind could alter the landscape beyond recognition.  It is easy to lose oneself in the wilderness.”

Joseph and Mary had to go through the desert, the wilderness, to get to Bethlehem and then out again into the wilderness to escape Herod’s soldiers who would slaughter the innocent. Both Joseph and Mary were examples of listening to God speak to their hearts, experiencing God with them.  They nurtured and protected Jesus, guiding him all through his life, and taught him how to survive the wilderness in all its forms.

“After his Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he fasted for forty days and nights and was tempted.  The desert wilderness is that place where what is essential (food, clothing, and shelter) is made abundantly clear”.

The wilderness is where God “I Am” nurtures us.  “The wilderness is that place where we enter to be reminded of the One, “I Am”, who is truly essential in our lives. It is where we stand before God,” I Am.”  It is the place where we stand in the light of God,” I AM’s” strength.  Our God says “I alone give you life and I give it to you fully.  Cling to me and I will care for you.  Trust in me and you will find freedom.”

Did you know…

Fig trees can grow in the desert!  Mary and Joseph may have come across one in their travels.  The beautiful fig tree yields two harvests per growing season and produces deliciously sweet fruit. Fig trees might take about 3 or more years to start producing a viable crop, but when they really start to produce you will have all the figs you can eat! Figs, one of the oldest cultivated crops, were a favorite of some early societies. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and even Egyptians enjoyed figs.

For reflection:

What is essential for me to live?
What will nurture me?
Can I meet God in the wilderness?

View From the Mountaintop

A reflection for the second week in Lent

 By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

As I pray with the Gospel for the second Sunday of Lent, I wonder why Jesus took Peter, John and James to the top of a mountain to pray.  Wouldn’t a nice spot by the sea do? Or a secluded area off the beaten path?  As we look through the Gospels, we find Jesus choosing numerous places to pray and teach.  There is the desert, the hill overlooking Jerusalem, the mountain or plane to teach the Beatitudes, the rock where Jesus gathered the children, to cite a few.

 When I imagine being on a mountaintop, I experience a broader perspective on life.  I forget my problems as I take in the beauty of our world.  I am reminded of the diversity of God’s creation.  I am also reminded of the uneven distribution of resources, clean air and wealth, among other things, that afflict our planet.  A big challenge for me is to know when to come down the mountain and get to work.

 Suggested questions for reflection:

What are the places that help you encounter God?
How are you challenged by the uneven distribution of resources cited by the author?
Do you also have difficulty “coming down from the mountaintop?”

 

1st Week of Lent Reflection

Don’t Give Up
A reflection for the first week in Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:
Dt 26:4-10
Ps 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15,  
Rom 10:8-13,
Lk 4:1-13

“Lent”— I know it comes from an old English word that means “lengthen,” supposedly because days are lengthening, and that should make us happy. Winter is over (in some places), weather is improving (really?), inevitably (sooner or later) spring will show up (check the tops of trees for buds, even now.)

More encouraging might be this weekend’s (March 9-10) responsorial refrain: “Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.”  Do you remember the isolating terror of being “in trouble” as a child and wishing for someone to share your fear?  Recall the cold lump in your stomach as you sat in a “time out” chair awaiting your just desserts.  If some kind soul happened by with a warm word – what a boon!

Would that be a good Lenten practice for a change?  Forget giving something up.  Watch for an opportunity to give – a smile, a warm remark, an encouraging observation.  We can’t know when someone might be feeling as besieged as Jesus in the desert at the end of his forty days. We might make a small effort to let that person know “I’m with you!” in some gentle way – and pray that through us they sense God’s presence, “a refuge and a fortress.”

Christmas Reflection 2018

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart would like to share the following Christmas reflection with you:

MISSION
is going away
Bishop Helder Camara (1909-1999)

Going away above all,

going beyond myself

to make the universe the center,

instead of “me” and “myself”;

it is breaking through the crust of egoism

that encloses each one of us as in a prison.

Going away means I cease

putting my little world under a microscope;

I stop turning around myself

as though I were the center of life, of all that is

Going away is not about traveling miles

and reaching supersonic speeds

above all else, it means opening my eyes,

opening myself to others, reaching out to them

Finding someone who walks alongside me,

on the same road, not following me like my shadow

but seeing things I do not see

and pointing them out to me.

This Christmas may we truly experience the awesome gift of God’s very self coming to dwell within and among us!  May we welcome the Light of Christ that dispels the darkness and calls us to be light bearers. Let us celebrate Emmanuel – God with us!

We wish each of you a blessed Christmas and a New Year of peace and joy.  We extend our deepest gratitude to all our dear friends, donors and families who assist and support us in our efforts to give birth to Christ—the true Light of the World! Let us continue to raise our hearts and voices in prayers for Peace.

 

Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President