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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Hope and Light of Easter

 

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

We struggle this year for thoughts of Easter and songs of Alleluia.  Perhaps more than ever, we enter into the emotions of that first Easter as we gather in solidarity, pain and hope.

We hope in God who frees us from the burden and illusion that we are control.  Hope in God who calls us out of darkness into Light – into the knowledge that we are God’s and there is so much more to the story than we, in our limited vision can see.

The Light of Christ risen from the dead dispels the darkness and brings peace.  Just as on the evening of that first Easter when the disciples gathered in a room, isolated, grieving and fearful, Christ offers us the gift of hope, the gift of peace.  We hear Jesus invite us to give Him our despair, for we have been promised Light – the Light that shines in the darkness and will not be extinguished.

The Christian symbol for hope is an anchor, and the cross is our anchor.  Amidst the storm we ground ourselves in the hope of new life.  For us, the cross is not a symbol of defeat, no, it is a symbol of the triumph of God’s love over death.  By the cross of Christ, we have been saved and nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God.  Jesus is risen and walks with us.

We hope together and like any friend, God desires our happiness.  More than any friend, God accompanies us in our sorrow.  God will never leave us to face our fears alone.  We can rest in God who will never abandon us.  God who gifts us with God’s own Spirit of hope, a hope that resounds in the words of the poet, Emily Dickinson:

“Hope is the thing with feathers –

that perches in the soul –

and sings the tune without the words –

and never stops – at all -”

It is hope, ‘the thing with feathers,’ the anchor upon which we lean and are grounded, that gives us assurance of the unsurpassable, inexhaustible love and goodness of God who brings new life from death.  God who gives hope amid tragedy and loss.  It is God who is both the meaning of our hope and the way to attain it, who summons us and calls us by name.  Hope marks us with resilience, trust, confidence, and perseverance.  Hope gifts us with ways in which to live boldly in the unwavering conviction that Paul proclaims in Romans: “If God is for us who or what can be against us?… nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:31, 39 italics added)

How then does Hope change us? How are we to be People of Hope?  How are we to be Resurrection – to be Justice – to be Compassion?

We thank each of you dear friends for your witness of hope especially during this global pandemic.  We hold you in our hearts and prayer this Easter season like no other we’ve known.  Let us stand together in Light and Hope sustained by our faith — an Easter people.  


The Passion in Real Time: A Triduum Reflection in a Global Pandemic

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

Holy Week is more palpable this year than most of us imagined possible. We are experiencing the passion played out in real time.

We are confined, masked, distanced as health care workers offer themselves so others may live, while essential workers help to carry the cross thus making the way less burdensome. Neighbors being neighborly, looking out for the most vulnerable. A Holy Week where we “keep watch”.

This is an anxious time, “a night different from all other nights”. Questions arise from deep inside our being. Throughout scripture, Jesus posed questions to engage us, perhaps none with more urgency than those questions asked during his passion and death.

His questions probe, drawing from life as it emerges, and looking for a response hidden within us. The questions of Jesus are where prayer has always been valid. The initiative is always His. The graced response is ours. In his questions, Jesus holds us within his gaze.

We cannot use Holy Week to escape COVID19…this global pandemic calls us to solidarity as we share suffering with our sisters and brothers around the world.

Jesus’s deepest desire is to be in relationship with us.

Would you want to spend some time these days allowing Jesus to lovingly ask you the questions he voiced in the darkest of times?

Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?

 

  Do you know what I have done for you?

 

 And, what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour?

 

 Whom are you looking for?

 

 Shall I not drink the Cup given to me by my Father?

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

God Bless us all these holy and frightening days. We wait in faith-filled Hope.

Saintly Snark – A Reflection for the Feast of St. Joseph

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Know any Christmas-y songs about St. Joseph? No? Well, I know only one, and I cherish it because it’s midrash-like: it goes behind the scene, and evokes a rich line of thought (one of the purposes of midrash).

Actually, the scene is set after Christmas, when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are fleeing to Egypt to evade Herod’s soldiers, coming to execute all baby boys who could pose a threat to Herod’s power (think “the Holy Innocents”, whom we celebrated a couple of days after Christmas, bringing us back with a thud from all the holiday sweetness and light).

It’s one long trek to Egypt by foot and donkey, so the family takes a break when Mary sees a cherry tree up ahead. Some juicy cherries sound wonderful to her, so the song reports her request of Joseph to pick some for her.

Snarkily, Joseph replies, “Let the father of the baby pick cherries for you.” Wow! Was he ruminating during that whole long trip over Mary’s pregnancy- without-his-involvement, and the resultant upending of all their happy plans together? (Unexpected pregnancies and other life-altering events have been known to make good, even saintly, people snarky and then some!).

There’s no record of Mary’s reply – perhaps she was stunned to silence by her spouse’s uncharacteristic testiness. But someone else does reply: that “father of the baby” causes the cherry tree to bend down far enough for Mary to pick her own cherries!

I suspect the stunned silence shifted to Joseph, who had to rejoice in such an emphatic affirmation of the baby boy’s true origin, putting to rest all Joseph’s anger, hurt and bitterness.

Of course, “The Cherry Tree Carol” is made up: there’s no mention of cherries in the scriptures, as far as I know. But in the department of “be careful what you wish for”, could this be any better a response?

So many conversations could grow from this rich, imaginative carol! What could you say to Joseph? To Mary? Even to baby Jesus?

Heart on Fire

By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

(This post is the last in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we have posted a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us.) With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

 

Warmth of our hearts
Transforming fire
Cosmic furnace
Enflamer of hearts
(Fifth stanza of Litany of the Heart)

 

The picture of the heart on fire that we have used as the icon for this series has captured my imagination since I first beheld it.  It evokes a number of images for me, including:

·         The energy of the “big bang” of eons ago that gave rise to all life forms – the creation into which Jesus was incarnated, the dynamic cosmos that God sustains still;

·         Jesus’ zeal as he continuously traveled, taught, reconciled and healed during the years of his public ministry;

·         The profound compassion of Jesus, as expressed in his sorrow for the widow of Nain, his weeping at the death of Lazarus, and as he was “moved by pity” for the dejected crowd;

·         Jesus’ white hot anger as he confronted injustice and abuse of power and stood up for the marginalized (for example, when he was opposed by the Pharisees as he healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, when he chased the dishonest money changers from the Temple);

·         The warmth of the friendships between Jesus and his companions: Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the beloved disciple, the other apostles and more;

·         Jesus’ courage and his love for all people that impelled him to accept torture and death, in the ultimate act of fidelity and solidarity with his Father and with God’s people;

·         The movement from despondency to soaring hope and new life that Mary Magdalene at the tomb (“Rabboni!”)  and the disciples on the road to Emmaus (“Were not our hearts burning within us…”) experienced when they realized that Jesus had indeed risen, and

·         The enflamed hearts of the apostles and disciples after Pentecost that enabled them to carry the Good News to the ends of the earth and which continue to burn in many present day disciples.

We, too, are invited to adopt the heart of Jesus in our own lives, to try to love as he loved, to have a heart like his.  As Jesuit James Martin says: “For in the end, the Sacred Heart is about understanding Jesus’s love for us and inviting us to love others as Jesus did.”

Will we embrace this invitation and resolve to imitate the heart of Jesus? If we do, perhaps the prediction of Teilhard de Chardin will come to fruition: “The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.”

A Heart That Gives Life

By Sr. M. Judith Waldt, MHSH

(This post is part 5 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next week, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

 

 

Heart of Jesus, Hear our prayer!    

Womb of Justice

Birthplace of peace

Our dearest hopes

Longing of our lives

 

I am often reminded of the words of Meister Eckart who said, “Unmovable disinterest brings man (woman) into the likeness of God.  To be full of things is to be empty of God; to be empty of things is to be full of God. We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Taking to heart these words shown at the top of this post from the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright, I am challenged to ask myself, “What am I bringing to birth in the world today?”  Do I reflect the mercy of God in the womb of justice? What would that look like for you? In a reflection by Pope Francis he states, “Lord, let me be just, but just with mercy. In God justice is mercy and mercy is justice.”

What if each of us were to bring justice to birth? Can we strive to create a birthplace of peace in ourselves, in our homes, our borders, places torn apart by violence?

My dearest hope is that we will turn our swords in to plowshares. That our efforts to be a womb of justice, a birthplace of peace be woven into the longing of our lives.  That our efforts will bear fruit and will have a “pay it forward effect” in the lives and place of our world most in need of God presence.

“We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Heart of Jesus, hear our prayer.

Forgiving, Grateful Heart

 

 

By Sr. Barbara Baker, MHSH

(This post is part 4 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next 2 weeks, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

Ever since Pope Francis became our Church leader, I have been struck by his constant reminder to us that we are called to be people of mercy and forgiveness.   He is urging us to let go of grudges, hurts, and slights – anything that keeps us at odds with others.     My reflection on the Litany of the Heart focuses on the last stanza, that asks us to have mercy, to develop a  gracious heart that leads us to gratefulness and tenderness towards all that comes into our lives—even through our dark days and difficult challenges.

The encyclical “Laudato Si” has captured my attention since it was published.  In the parish where I minister, we are trying to raise awareness that we each of us has been entrusted with the care of our common home.  We are people who like convenience to the point where we sometimes lose consciousness of how we ‘use’ things and even people for our own gain. Can we hear God’s invitation to think about where all good gifts come from? Can we cultivate gratitude for the generosity of the Giver of them?

 Once we realize the source of all our blessings, we begin to relate to our God differently.  We are called to treat people and things with respect and gratitude and to approach life with a tenderness that we would show to a newborn baby.  It is a process of conversion over a period of time.  It leads us to an insight that we are all connected and need to relate with one another.  We are called to ‘disconnect’ from our technologies more so that we can ‘connect’ with people and experiences.  With all the ‘isms’ displayed in our world (racism, sexism, etc.), how do we get in touch with how each of us embraces any of them so that we can rid ourselves of these biases?  How can we learn to love all ‘because’ of their differences and not in ‘spite’ of them?

We call upon the Heart of Jesus to hear us in our plea to learn how to love as He loves!  Take a long and loving look at your heart and hopefully you will see a love that indeed reflects His love a bit more each day.