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.

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.

 

How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

college open house 1A few months ago I accompanied my nephew on a campus tour geared to prospective college students. The tour was led by an upper class student who belonged to a group called “College Ambassadors.” The student was welcoming and enthusiastic.  He was trying to give a positive impression of his college as he walked backwards leading us through the campus in hopes that some young people in our group would be moved to apply for admission.  My nephew seemed impressed and was listening to every word.

As the tour continued, I wondered what kind of an impression I have made on the people I have encountered over the years.  In particular I was remembering the many international students I met as a campus minister.  I recalled how my experience with them had helped to broaden my understanding of so many cultures around the world as well as how interconnected we are within the global marketplace.  Then I remembered the times I have traveled abroad, and I wondered what kind of an impression I had given others about the United States. Continue reading “How are we doing as Ambassadors for Christ?”

LENT- A TIME FOR CREATIVE CONTEMPLATION

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

[Ed. note: Sister Agnesine Seluzicki went home to God on February 13, 2015.

She was 95 years old and had been a member of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Community for 74 years. A daughter of Russian immigrants, she once said that being a member of the Community, ‘enabled me to allow God to work through me. I discovered the truth of the phrase, ‘In him I can do all things.’”

 She shared the following reflection on Lent with us in February 2012. Her belief in the promises of new life and her view of Ash Wednesday and Lent as “movement toward the Resurrection” are both inspiration and comfort as we prepare for her wake and funeral. A wise and gifted teacher and counselor, Sister Agnesine will be greatly missed.]

As the days begin to lengthen, unfolding gradually the promises of new life, the Church enters into its movement toward the great feast of Life – the Resurrection – with the celebration of Ash Wednesday.  For the next forty days, we will be invited to enter into a virtual desert experience, an experience where one can hear more deeply, within one’s own heart, the voice of God.  How is this to be accomplished?  The readings and prayers at the Mass on Ash Wednesday set the tone.  The first reading for Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel begins,

Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting and weeping…
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord your God.

Saint Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, follows this up with the exhortation, “…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

As you present yourself to be signed with ashes and hear the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” accept this invitation as a call by our God to a renewal of life.  Allow yourself to look at any excesses that may have crept into your life, which are blurring Gospel values.  Settle on the ways in which you are able to find your fasting and desert experiences.

Be creative!  Your most contemplative experiences might just occur on a crowded subway or while performing some unpleasant task.  Your fasting might come from five minutes of listening to that boring individual whom you usually tune out. And, what of a smile to that harried employee at the check-out counter?  Or, that effort to keep from judging others or from complaining.

As we commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus during Lent, let us remember that Jesus lives and that in our remembering, returning, reconciling and repenting we are responding to the call of our living God who calls us to life in the risen Christ.

You're Invited…

A Reflection on Lent by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

InviteHave you recently received an invitation from a friend or relative to attend a get-together?  The invitation may have been to a dinner party, a birthday or anniversary celebration, a wedding, a baptism or some other special event. Whatever the occasion, it is clear that the host wants friends and loved ones to share in a celebration.  At the bottom of the invitation you may have seen the words “regrets only.”  Your optimistic host seems to assume that most people will want to come, so she asks only those few who cannot attend to let her know.  What seems at first a perfunctory postscript belies a welcoming, hospitable stance.

Can you imagine receiving such an invitation from God?  In this case, God invites you to get together over the 40 days of Lent to renew and deepen your mutual love and friendship, to ponder what it means to be in relationship with God, and with all of God’s creation.  How do you feel about receiving such an invitation? Do you immediately put the dates on your calendar and look forward to them with eager anticipation?  Or does this invitation fill you with doubt or guilt, or even fear and dread?   Is it just one more thing to schedule into an already overloaded calendar? Are you tempted to send your “regrets?”

“Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.”  These words of today’s Gospel acclamation, taken from Joel, assure us of God’s desire that we put aside whatever is holding us back from accepting God’s invitation to greater love and intimacy.  Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, our loving God stands ready to forgive, to mend rifts, and to embrace us as cherished members of the family.  All we are required to do is show up with an open mind and heart.

Remember that “prayer” is conversation with God.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t have to involve stilted, formal language.  Sometimes, as with good friends or a couple who has been together for many years, it does not have to involve words at all – just a profound “being with” the other. But if you need some help to get started, a list of Lenten prayer resources is found below.

Blessings on your Lenten journey from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Selected Lenten prayer resources:

Creighton University Lenten Prayer Resources: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/

Moved to Greater Love:  (9 week Lenten/Easter prayer experience produced by the Jesuits) http://www.jesuits.org/story?TN=PROJECT-20140128033207

Pray As You Go Lenten Retreat: http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/

Sacred Space Retreat for Lent: http://retreats.sacredspace.ie/

Lent—A Time for Creative Contemplation

Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

As the days begin to lengthen, unfolding gradually the promises of new life, the Church enters into its movement toward the great feast of Life – the Resurrection – with the celebration of Ash Wednesday.  For the next forty days, we will be invited to enter into a virtual desert experience, an experience where one can hear more deeply, within one’s own heart, the voice of God.  How is this to be accomplished?  The readings and prayers at the Mass on Ash Wednesday set the tone.  The first reading for Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel begins,

Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting and weeping…
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord your God.

Saint Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, follows this up with the exhortation, “…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

As you present yourself to be signed with ashes and hear the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” accept this invitation as a call by our God to a renewal of life.  Allow yourself to look at any excesses that may have crept into your life, which are blurring Gospel values.  Settle on the ways in which you are able to find your fasting and desert experiences.

Be creative!  Your most contemplative experiences might just occur on a crowded subway or while performing some unpleasant task.  Your fasting might come from five minutes of listening to that boring individual whom you usually tune out. And, what of a smile to that harried employee at the check-out counter?  Or, that effort to keep from judging others or from complaining.

As we commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus during Lent, let us remember that Jesus lives and that in our remembering, returning, reconciling and repenting we are responding to the call of our living God who calls us to life in the risen Christ.