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

 

Preparing the Way

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120620.cfm

During Advent in the northern hemisphere, we observe a shortened span of daylight.  For many people, this can bring on a downturn in mood, and some even suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder.  This darkness can extend to our spiritual lives as well.  How then do we bring more “light” into our lives and the lives of others?  Lighting our Advent candles is one way of keeping vigil as we await the birth of Jesus, and the rituals we observe around the candle can bring a sense of hope and joy.  During this season we might also try to rid ourselves of egotistical tendencies and some of the “busyness” in our lives and spend some quality time in prayer and reflection, calling to mind who we really are in the sight of God.

In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist say:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In his book, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent, Richard Rohr, OFM states:

“John the Baptist’s qualities are most rare and yet crucial for any reform or authentic transformation of persons or groups.  That is why we focus on John the Baptist every Advent and why Jesus trusts him and accepts his non-temple, offbeat ritual, while also going far beyond him.  Water is only the container; fire and Spirit are the contents, John says. Yet if we are not like the great John, we will invariably substitute our own little container for the real contents.  We will substitute rituals for reality instead of letting the rituals point us beyond themselves.

John the Baptist is the strangest combination of conviction and humility, morality and mysticism, radical prophecy and living in the present. This  son of the priestly temple class does his own thing down by the riverside; he is a man born into privilege who dresses like a hippie; he is a superstar who is willing to let go of everything, creating his own water baptism and then saying that what really matters is the baptism of “Spirit and fire”!  He is a living paradox, as even Jesus said of him: “There is no man greater than John…but he is also the least” in the new reality that I am bringing about (Matthew 11:11). John both gets it and does not get it at all which is why he has to exit stage right early in the drama.  He has played his single and important part, and he knows it.  His is brilliantly a spirituality of descent, not ascent.  “He must grow bigger; l must grow smaller.”  (John 3:30).

The only way such freedom could happen is if John learned to be very empty of himself already as a young man, before he even built his tower of success.  His ego was out of the way so much so that he could let go of his own ego, his own message and even his own life.  This is surely the real meaning of his head on a platter.  Some have cleverly said that ego is an acronym for “Edging God Out”.  There’s got to be such emptiness, or we cannot point beyond ourselves to Jesus, as John did.  Such emptiness doesn’t just fall into our laps; such humility does not just happen. It is surely the end product of a thousand letting-goes and a thousand acts of devotion, which for John the Baptist gradually edged God in.”

For Reflection:

How do you manage to schedule some down time in your day? Can you make this a priority during Advent?

How are you bringing more “light” into your own life, and the lives of others during this season?

Do you keep a journal to help you track your progress?

How is your spiritual life one of “ascent” or “descent”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

“Create A Clean Heart in Me, O God” – A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:3-4, 2-15; Jn 12:20-33

Last spring, during the Easter season, we enjoyed the beauty and fragrance of several hyacinth plants. After they had bloomed and then gradually wilted and dried, I continued to water them in the hope of a second bloom.  Nothing happened and after a while I gave up and put the pots aside. Almost a year has passed and the other day something in the neglected flower pots caught my eye.

What was that yellowish, white thing? Could it be? Yes, it was a tender shoot pushing through the earth saying, “I died and was buried, but now, here I am emerging from the earth alive and new.” It took time, but the transformation happened. Another and another bud pushed through and I was awed at the miracle and determination of life over death.

We hear about such surprise and transformation in the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  Jesus tells us that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Being the servant, the follower of Jesus means that we understand the story of the seed, the lesson of the plant. Those periods of death, darkness, loss, doubt and confusion that every one of us experiences in our lives, are the environment, the incubation period from which faith, enlightenment and rebirth emerge.

And where is the nurturing place for such a faith? In the first reading we hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

God has placed the seed of faith in our hearts. Our hearts are that place of incubation for renewal, discovery, transformation, birth. Our Lenten discipline enables us to clarify the direction of our lives, to face and deal with the dark places within and to accommodate the challenges of daily dying and rising.

May we nurture in our hearts during this “season of incubation” new stirrings of hope, possibilities and responsiveness to the call of the one who “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

We pray in the words of the responsorial psalm:

“Create a Clean Heart in Me, O God”