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.

 

 

Upper Rooms – Then and Now

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

During this Easter season we, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, send you prayers and blessings for you and your family. Here we are, like the apostles, in our “upper rooms” -many of us since mid-March until today  – and most likely for a while longer.  How much longer, Lord?

How often the apostles left that room during those 40 days from Good Friday night to Pentecost, is not so important. They were in the Upper Room pondering and wondering what had happened, how it happened and why it happened. How the journey with Jesus ended was not what they imagined and hoped for?  In the Upper Room, they waited, carried on conversations, tried to strategically plan for what to do next. Jesus left no clear strategic plan that they understood with their imperfect, partial or inadequate faith.  I am sure they tried to support one another as one or the other began to flounder into worry, distress, or darkness.  I like to imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holding her own amongst them as ‘mother’ soothing their fears.  Her faith was strong enough to carry them into the events they were about to encounter in the coming 40 days.

The Upper Room soon became an encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ.  The closure did not prevent the ‘light of the world’ to seep through into their presence. When Jesus suddenly appeared he understood their hearts. He first says to them: “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. It is I.” How unbelievable those moments must have been. Were their minds and eyes tricking them?  Could it be he was there in their midst?  I try to ponder what their diverse emotions were.

The Upper Room was to become the ‘place’ – a ‘sacred place’ where the apostles were to enter a new missionary formation experience.  Here they were being tested and strengthened with a new or deeper faith and hope for the task ahead of them.  Jesus had promised his Spirit would come to them. The Upper Room experience was a maturing period for each one to reimagine their vocation/ mission.

Perhaps, as we are in our “upper rooms” (homes), this is what is being asked of us.  Jesus says to us today: “Peace be with you.  Do not be afraid. I am here. It is I!”  Let us rest our minds and hearts in/on the Risen Jesus.  Let us keep our focus clear for our mission.  Let us not falter. May these be days of new religious imagination, courage, compassion, and service to all those we are called to serve in a COVID-19 milieu.

 

 

A Reflection for the First Sunday in Advent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 2:1-5
Responsorial Psalm: 122: 1-2, 3-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Reading II: Romans 13:11-14
Gospel: Matthew 24:37-44

advent wreath one candle The readings for this first Sunday in Advent present us with a number of contrasts.  In the first reading, Isaiah offers the nation of Judah, facing threats from within and without, a vision of unity, peace and justice.  What might it have been like for those beleaguered people to hear the words: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.  O house of Jacob, come, let us walk In the light of the Lord?”

Paul presents the contrasts of darkness and light, wakefulness and sleep, destructive behavior versus putting on Christ. His urging of preparation and watchfulness echo the Gospel’s message of vigilance and preparation for the coming of the Son of Man, “at an hour you do not expect.”  The message seems to have an ominous tone, but could it have been a message of hope for Matthew’s listeners, and can it offer hope for us?

To enter into Advent is not to deny the darkness, divisions and threats that face us, but to embrace the opportunities to trust in God’s promises and to be bearers of God’s love, light, peace and justice in our world.

In his poem, Advent, the late Daniel Berrigan, SJ, offers us these words of hope and challenge:

Advent

It is not true that creation and the human family are doomed to destruction and loss – This is true: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It is not true that we must accept inhumanity and discrimination, hunger and poverty, death and destruction – This is true: I have come that they may have life, and that abundantly.

It is not true that violence and hatred should have the last word, and that war and destruction rule forever – This is true: For unto us a child is born, and unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder, And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting, the Prince of Peace.

It is not true that we are simply victims of the powers of evil who seek to rule the world – This is true: To me is given authority in heaven and on earth, and lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world.

It is not true that we have to wait for those who are specially gifted, who are the prophets of the Church, before we can be peacemakers – This is true:  I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young shall see visions, and your old shall have dreams.

It is not true that our hopes for the liberation of humanity, for justice, human dignity, and peace are not meant for this earth and for this history – This is true: The hour comes, and it is now, that true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

So let us enter Advent in hope, even hope against hope. Let us see visions of love and peace and justice.

Let us affirm with humility, with joy, with faith, with courage: Jesus Christ — the Life of the world.

(Source: Testimony: The Word Made Fresh, by Daniel Berrigan.  Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004).

 

For Reflection:

How do you find yourself at the beginning of this Advent season?

What graces will you pray for during this season: trust in God, maintaining hope in the face of challenges, compassion for suffering people, other things?

How will you be a bearer of God’s love, light, peace and justice?

 

 

 

 

 

“…Your Kindness should be known to all… The Lord is near. Have no anxiety…”

A Reflection for the Third Week in Advent by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Readings:
Zephaniah 3:14-18A
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18

You may have read (or heard it more than once) that when Pope Francis was on his American visit, he brought an indescribable sense of joy and excitement that touched hearts; cheering crowds felt a presence. As we enter the third week of “waiting” for Christ’s coming, we read and listen to the Word of Scripture with a sense of excitement that recalls simplicity and joy.

3rd Sunday of Advent WreathHe, the Christ, is coming. We prepare for the coming of the anniversary of his birth. Our longing does not leave us empty or bereft, as if we had been deprived of being present at his historic coming. For we know he comes still. He comes to us in a multitude of mysterious graces. He comes in the Eucharist to share our life’s journey. He comes in mystery of the stranger and of the beloved ones who are his face and voice.

He will come again—in Glory! The Word today cautions us: He is near. Have no anxiety. He is the Light who shatters the darkness; He is Mercy and Compassion who comforts in moments of darkness; He is Gentleness who fires our heart with love, understanding and courage. He will come to welcome each of us to His heavenly kingdom and death will be no more.

“…Your kindness should be known to all…The Lord is near. Have no anxiety.”

 

Take a few moments to reflect on Past Advents:

What Word of Advent Scripture lights your path to Christmas?

What present experiences of meeting Christ in Mystery do you cherish?

What Advent experiences of the past have shaped this Christmas celebration?

What persons from your personal history are enshrined in your heart and influenced you on your journey to meet the Christ of Glory?

We Stood Together on September 11

A Reflection on September 11, 2001

By Fr. Paul Wierichs, C.P., who was a chaplain in the New York Office of the FBI on that date.

Sept 11Everyone remembers, and will probably always remember, exactly where they were and what they were doing on Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

I was chaplain for the FBI’s New York office. After returning to my office after my morning run, but before I got to my desk, all of my phones began ringing – my beeper, my private line, my business phone – all ringing simultaneously. All were people alerting me to the horrific events that had begun to unfold, starting with a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers.

Traveling into New York City I was struck by the number of New York firemen and police being called back to work. Before I entered into the Queens Midtown tunnel, I stopped for a moment and looked over in the direction of the World Trade Center and saw nothing but billowing smoke. As I rushed into the FBI’s New York office, close to the World Trade Center, the office was frantic – faces were grim – something I had never seen in this office.Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see in person at Ground Zero: the dust that permeated the air, the acid smell, the carnage, workers putting their own lives at risk to find survivors. I had lived in a monastery while many of my generation served in Vietnam. I could never truly appreciate the horror they went through. When I talked to people at Ground Zero who had served in Vietnam, they said this was more horrific.

During the first couple of days, standing there with my FBI raid jacket with “chaplain” on the back, I was overwhelmed by the number of firemen, policemen and other rescue people who came up to me saying, “Chaplain, may I speak to you for a moment?” I heard more confessions in two weeks than I had in years.

As a Passionist, I am called to preach the passion of Jesus. For me that means entering into the passion of people’s lives, particularly when they are called to carry a cross. We offer them hope, consolation, and love. I am honored that I was able to be part of heroic people’s lives. Looking into the eyes of everyone around I saw an inner wound to the soul itself. God was also present in those eyes, giving us all the strength we needed to go that extra mile.

Most law enforcement and emergency workers do not express emotion. This was not the case that day. I was standing inside the American Express building when six firemen brought out the body of one of their own. I said, “Let me offer a prayer.” The lieutenant called them to attention, hats off, and brought those men but also myself to tears.

What struck me about the heroism of firemen, policemen, and rescue workers was their total dedication to the task at hand. When people were running out of harm’s way firemen were running towards the crisis, risking their own lives to help others who needed assistance.

Their unyielding hope in looking for survivors amid all the tons of rubble, dust, glass and steel for more than two weeks showed the true character of each of them. Their outpouring of generosity reflected the outpouring of generosity from all people of all faiths, with their prayers and donations. People came together in unity that day. We can all remember where we were on 9/11, because we were all together.

Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Doubt – A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Easter

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Acts 4:32-35; Ps 118:2-3,13-15,22-24; 1Jn 5:1-6; Jn 20:19-31

The first reading for the Second Sunday of Easter is taken from the Acts of the Apostles and gives an almost picture-perfect word sketch of those first followers of Jesus: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common….With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus….There was no needy person among them….

Full of conviction, the second reading from the first letter of Saint John, gives us the key to this legacy: “And the victory that conquers the world is our Faith.  Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” 

But the Gospel brings us back to the faith-struggle and gives us a reality check.

Remember when the risen Lord appeared to the disciples behind locked doors the first time? Thomas wasn’t there.  When he was told of the appearance, he was skeptical, to say the least!   Yes, he was still one of them—that motley group of followers, of weary fishermen, of common folk.  Thomas probably thought he would gather with these same believers to share memories, loss, grief, a need to mourn and to muster the courage and the will to “move on” in life.

It wasn’t going to be an easy task.  He seemed convinced his friends, perhaps stricken by grief, were imagining things.  The memory of a bloody Jesus, beaten and defiled filled his heart.  How could Jesus have stood in their midst and greeted them with “Peace”?  How could this be?   “We have seen the Lord.”  It was a declaration of certainty.  And no one could convince them otherwise.

“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week goes by.  The disciples have gathered together again.  And this time Thomas—with all his doubts—was with them.  Locked doors were hardly a barrier for Jesus.  Again, Jesus stood in their midst and said: “Peace be with you.”  And then he turned to Thomas.  “Put your finger here and see my hands and bring your hand and put it into my side and do not be unbelieving but believe.” 

“My Lord and My God!” Thomas replied with believing eyes and a humble faith. 

For reflection:

    • Where am I in my journey of faith? Skeptic? Infancy? Teen? Adult? Struggling believer
    • Faith does not preclude questions or even doubts.
    • Begin a dialogue with the resurrected Jesus about your faith journey.