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

 

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?

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

Watching and Waiting in Chaotic Times

A reflection for the first Sunday in Advent

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

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm

 

Our Advent season opens with Jesus saying to his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!”  Again, at the end of our Gospel reading Jesus says, “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”   Watch for what?  Watch for who?  This Advent season is like no other as we live in this time of Covid-19 with great unrest and division in our country and in the world.  We wait for healing, we wait for peace, we wait for a vaccine.  We focus our Advent waiting and watching on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.  In faith, we trust that Emmanuel God is with us.  In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are reminded of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus.  We are reminded that as we wait, we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  We have all that we need to prepare.  This time of Advent – this time before Christmas, we are given the invitation to deepen our awareness of God’s love for us and for all the world.  Just as Mary prepared for the birth of Jesus, we are invited to ready that space within us for something new to be born.  As we wait to welcome the Light of the world, we are called to be light for the world.  What does that mean in your life?  What would a deeper awareness of God’s love look like in your life?

 

We know that we come to discover our selves in and through our relationships.  Advent is an opportunity to take some time, to make some space in our busy lives to sit in quiet and deepen our relationship with God.  Tell God what it is you hope for, ask God to help you let go of whatever keeps you from loving with an open heart.  Confide your fears and concerns to God who loves and cares for you more than you can imagine.  Become aware of who you are becoming during this Advent season, not just about what you are doing.  As you wait, you may want to invite Mary and/or Joseph to wait with you.  Try to imagine their preparation, their hopes and dreams, their fears and concerns.

 

We pray, ‘Come Lord Jesus, come into our waiting, keep us alert and watching as we awaken anew to your presence within us and all around us.  Thank you for this time and may we use it to deepen our commitment to follow you and be instruments of your peace.’

 

 

 

 

 

St. Joseph: Witness and Mentor During the Christmas/Epiphany Season

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min.

 

St. Joseph is one of the patron saints of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. A careful read through our MHSH archives reverberates with attention St. Joseph receives through the gradual unfolding of MHSH history. Our prayer manual contains a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph.

 

 

 

Dear St. Joseph, man of God.

You, whose heart was always on fire

with love, and whose life was a

constant prayer and continual

contemplation, teach us the

perfection of the interior life.

Teach us how to model our hearts in

accord with the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Teach us how to live and labor for God

and our neighbor in the faithful

observance of our vows and commitments.

May we, after having honored and

imitated you on earth, eternally sing

with you, the mercies of Jesus, and

Mary.

St. Joseph, pray for us. Amen.

During these days of the Christmas/Epiphany Season we are reconnected with the two direct solitary references to St. Joseph by name in all of scripture. He does not speak. He listens. Both times it is in a dream that he encounters a call. Scriptures simply indicates he acts upon the call within the dream. He is the silent one in the crèche’ scene but the strength of his presence is the anchor for the early years of Jesus and Mary’s life.

St. Joseph demonstrates the power of listening, silence and acting upon the inner voice that calls us each and every day of our lives.

Pope St. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation “Redemptoris Custos: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.” The Pope writes: “He (Joseph) took her (Mary) in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.” (#3) Through moments of ambiguity and unsettled questions, the Holy Family’s exodus into Egypt, and the remaining silent years, Joseph represents one who is open in deep listening to the movement of God and with complete confidence responds in faith.

Pope Francis’s pre-Christmas (December 23, 2019) reflection on the vocation of St. Joseph said: “The example of this meek and wise man calls us to raise our gaze and press ahead. The surprising logic of God isn’t about making calculations of what people will accept, but of opening their hearts “to new horizons, to Christ and his word.”

As Mission Helpers move forward into a new period of our history, we discover the silent, firm faith and presence of St. Joseph modeling for us the way into the future.

The Christmas Encounter

By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

 

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.

 

The birth of Christ into the world was not one filled with the comforts one would expect.

The evening was cold and in some ways empty of joyous celebration – at least to the eyes of onlookers. The child came into the world with much love from his parents and with the air of mystery in their hearts.

 The infant Jesus’ birthing was bringing many gifts to the world. The gifts could not be wrapped, but instead would grow as Jesus would and be given to all who opened their hearts.

 Jesus is the loving gift of God to the world. The very son of God became small in the taking on of our flesh. Jesus in his humanity would feel our pain, grief, hunger and more. This child Jesus, born into the world, was given in love and was destined to teach us how to love.

All who would encounter Jesus would find they are loved completely without conditions and such loving would bring about transformation to many wounded hearts.

Jesus Christ, the infant born to us this day with a heart full of God’s love for each person, is the Christmas Encounter fully alive. There is no greater gift.

Becoming Bearers of God

A Reflection for Christmas

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) was a German mystic, theologian and philosopher.  He was a member of the Dominican order.  He spoke of the Feast of Christmas and the Eternal Birth borne by God and which God never ceases to bear in all eternity.  He says, “but if it takes not place in me, what avails it? Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.”

During this year’s Advent time, I have been “sitting with” the words and meaning from the Christmas story:  “…and there was no room in the inn.” Of course, that phrase calls to mind and heart all those in our world who are seeking refuge, acceptance and inclusion.  How welcoming and inclusive am I/are we?

I reflect upon our Mission Helper outreach to women, men and children seeking asylum.  Those who flee from unspeakable, unimaginable persecution to save their lives.  They are bearers of the suffering, persecuted face of God.  They are bearers of hope and incredible courage as they leave all to begin anew.  What of my inclusion of those who may perhaps think or believe differently then I /we do? Can I/we make room for those people and life events that sometimes disappoint, exclude or dismiss me/us?  Can I/we make room for God’s surprises?

The phrase further calls me to reflect on how open my heart is to make room for God.  Do I welcome God into all of who I am?  Do I sometimes try to hide from God and clutter my life, thus leaving little room for that still, small voice of a God? Have you noticed, usually in retrospect, how people and situations come into our life and stretch or challenge us to make room for a new way of being?  We are all called to be bearers of God and to open ourselves to those many God bearers all around us.  Do I allow the Light of Christ to illuminate those dark, fearful, broken parts of myself that can only be healed by the love and compassion of God?

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.

Let me end this Christmas greeting by sharing the following reminder of the Divine’s call to become the bearers of God:

Not to one
but to many you have called:
on the dancing wind
come
from the deepest forest
come
from the highest places
come
from the distant lands
come
from the edge of darkness
come
from the depth of fear
and become
the bearer of God.”

                                                  
–Jan Richardson, Night Visions

“It’s For Us!” An Epiphany Reflection by Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

“Hurry up and wait” isn’t just a sarcastic Army slogan.  We do it often when going to doctors’ offices, and for our Sisters, it seems like it is the standard practice at the podiatrist’s office.  So I was not surprised to be sitting and sitting while the Sister I had taken there was back in the treatment area.

The waiting room is the length of a train car, and it is narrow.  So those in the waiting area sit facing each other with about four feet from knee to knee.  I was across from the receptionist, and a young man she’d addressed as Timothy was discussing payment options with her.  When it was settled and he walked toward the other end of the room, I noticed that his gait was awkward, like someone with cerebral palsy.   He sat down opposite me and watched as I crocheted a top on a towel.

il_570xn-594290918_rmjx“What are you making?” he asked.  I held it up and replied, “One of those towels you can hang from a knob or a handle on a cupboard.

“Oh, that’s pretty!” he exclaimed.  Then he was called to the treatment area, leaving his jacket next to another young man and an older man I presumed was their driver.

It occurred to me that I could hide the finished towel inside his coat, so I hurried to finish it and tucked it into his jacket, cautioning the other young man, “You didn’t see anything.”  He nodded solemnly.

I returned to my seat and began reading a magazine, hoping to get out of there before he returned, but no such luck.  He came out and picked up his jacket.  Out fell the towel I’d rolled up and tied with red yarn.  He picked it up and showed it to the others, a big question mark on his face.  “That lady (pointing to me) put it there,” said his companion.  So Timothy walked it back to me and held it out.  “It’s for you,” I explained.  “It’s Christmas, it’s a present.”  His face lit up and he hurried back to the others, exclaiming, “It’s for us!  We can keep it! It’s a Christmas present for us!”

Maybe he doesn’t get many gifts, although he seemed well dressed and well groomed.  Maybe it was the surprise element that delighted him. Whatever, I was delighted by his reaction and later, walking to the darkened parking garage to retrieve the car, it occurred to me that he had repeatedly said, “…for uswe can keep it!” Not “…for meI can keep it!”

joy-of-giving-8What a rare treasure Timothy turned out to be, so in union with his living companions that there seemed nothing self-centered in his view of my simple gift.  He gave me a much richer gift, and I’m still cherishing it—and him.

A Reflection for Christmas 2016

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

Readings:
Isaiah 52:7-10;
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6 ;
Hebrews 1:1-6;
John 1:1-18

God comes among us in total helplessness, dependency and all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God!  What a mystery!

Our second reading on Christmas Day from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us: “In times past, God spoke … through the prophets….” Now it’s a new day and God speaks to us through Jesus – the Word made flesh; the very imprint of God.  The Word that John reminds us is God – the Word became flesh and dwells among us.

20 days old baby sleeping in a christmas nativity crib

The Savior of the World – the Prince of Peace – the Light of the World – a baby!  Recently I was with some of my family and marveled as I watched my nieces, nephews and their spouses tend to their babies.  Besides wondering how quickly the years have passed, I was filled with gratitude and tenderness as those parents tended to the vulnerability, the dependency, the preciousness of their little ones.   How awesome that our God chose to come to us by becoming one of us!  Doesn’t that just turn everything upside down?

The heart of God bursts forth to come and be among us – to be the true Light that enlightens everyone, and the darkness will never overcome it.  What a radical hope is ours!  Can we this Christmas accept the Word within us and among us – the Word around us that continues to depend on us to be light in a world that often seems to be on the brink of being overcome by darkness?  Can we be light in the darkness of injustice, of poverty, of mental illness, of broken relationships, of war, of our own shortcomings and failures?

We gather this Christmas fed by the hope and promise of our Advent waiting and longing.  With mercy and in joy, may we truly awake to a new dawn of a promise fulfilled – a Love so deep that it cannot be contained and must dwell among us and be a Light to all peoples.  Can we accept the gift?  Can we embrace the Light of the World and the promise that the Light will fill us and be with and among us always?

light-has-shoneWhat might it look like as we gather with others this Christmas and into the New Year if we truly accept the gift given us – the gift of God’s very self to share with all the world and to recognize in all our sisters and brothers; the gift we have received through the promise of God’s Spirit poured out on all flesh?

It is the Spirit that frees and empowers each of us to take up the challenge offered us by Howard Thurman (1899-1981), an African American theologian, educator and civil rights leader in his reflection, The Work of Christmas, found below:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.”

Thank you from your sisters, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, for joining with us in our efforts to give birth daily to the Reign of God and “to make music in the heart,” especially this Christmas as we sing: Glory to God in the highest and on earth PEACE!

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"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" -Luke 2:11

A Reflection for Christmas by Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH President

Merry Christmas, and blessings during this Holy Season of Christmas and all through the New Year.

Cards, good wishes, ads, parties, television specials—they have all led up to this special holiday of Christmas.  It is easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle.  One of the Christmas stories that I like to watch is a Christmas Carol.  Within the story it shows how mercy and forgiveness can lead us into compassionate relationships with others, and especially with our God.  The greatest story of this Holy Season is the Nativity – the birth of Jesus.

 

jesus-christmas

He broke forth in birth to shine the love of God on all.  In the spirit of Christmas we are shown how we can be for one another.  Ebenezer Scrooge has an encounter with his former business partner, Jacob Marley.   While in business together they were caught up in greed and not looking out for others.  When his business partner came to him tormented and dragging heavy chains, Scrooge asks why he is tormented because Jacob was a good businessman.  Jacob in a raised voice says that the human race was his business and he was not charitable, merciful, or loving.  Jacob tells Ebenezer that he has a chance to redeem himself.  Thus begins a long night of revisiting the past, the present and what the future may hold if he does not change his ways.  He journeys into the dark night of the soul and finds redemption and is reborn.

Jesus does the same; he journeys with us into time and leads us to look at what we could have done better and leads us to forgiveness of self and others leading to compassion, mercy, joy and love.  Jesus calls us to be the light that brings the love of our God to all of humanity.

Let us remember our loved ones near and far.  The Mission Helpers have Sisters in Venezuela who, although they are in the midst of their darkness of not having a Church in which to celebrate Christmas, still bring the love and light of Jesus, who knows what it means to be born in a stable.  The people in Manzanita, Venezuela, will meet in another location to celebrate the Christmas joy and goodwill, which gives cheery warmth to all the people who are the candle in the night to shine the love of Jesus and spread it throughout humankind.  Merry Christmas and blessings in the New Year.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

                                                     –John 1:14