Love Remains

A Reflection for Easter Sunday
By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

Readings: Easter Sunday Readings

Today’s Gospel tells us that on the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning.  Mary saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them.  They ran to the tomb and saw the burial cloths there. They all saw and believed.  For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

All of the readings for Easter are so rich and full of meaning.  We  need to pause for a moment and to wonder at the marvel of the news. Jesus fulfilled his promise, rose from the dead, but, more than that, he rose to stay with us.

We meet Jesus along the way of our daily lives.  We meet Jesus in the dark times and in the light. We meet Jesus in our quiet moments.  Jesus came to us as a companion with only one purpose: to teach us how to love as he loved, quietly, carefully, tenderly and with great forgiveness.

Love vanquished death… love is our strength for those of our brothers and sisters who here too have suffered prejudice and indignities, mistreatments and persecutions.  But while all of these pass away, LOVE REMAINS!

LET US BE A WITNESS OF HIS LOVE!

HAPPY EASTER!

 

 

Life Overcomes Death

A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032121-YearA.cfm

 

The story of Lazarus is a glimpse into the climax of Jesus’ life.  After escaping his opponents’ attempt at stoning him, Jesus learns that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, is ill. Lazarus is not yet dead so Jesus waits two days knowing the one he loves will die, then decides to return to Bethany.

Jesus is showing us a deep understanding of what we, even today, try to accept. Death is a part of life, and Jesus can and does overcome death.

Jesus comes to the tomb and calls Lazarus out. Lazarus comes forth and is helped with the unwrapping of his bindings. Jesus has used the death of his friend to witness the power of God. Lazarus is brought back to life, which gives us a view of death in its totality. The voice of Christ is obeyed and new life is the result for Lazarus. The call here is to hear the voice of God and obey it, then we can rejoice in new life. Jesus’ own Passion ends in having obeyed the Father, and he is given new life. Lazarus’ obedience of Jesus resulted in his coming back to life. Jesus’ obeying his Father made the Resurrection possible and gave us the Risen Christ.

 

Today let us consider two questions:

How do you understand death today in light of Jesus’ Passion and death?

What role does obeying Jesus play in your daily life?

 

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 1

week_of_prayer_logo_216wBackground:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives Christians an annual opportunity to continue their quest for the unity they already share in Christ. It is also a time to gather in praise of the Triune God and to deepen the understanding of the ecumenical movement. By joining in this annual celebration Christians raise their voices, hands and hearts to God seeking the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God, “that they all may be one.”

The Week of Prayer also invites those who participate to use it as an opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the ecumenical movement in seeking to end the divisions among Christians. From the smallest to the largest communities, from all cultures, races and language groups, from all the baptized to all those in ordained ministry, the Week of Prayer is also an opportunity to ask examine the level of support they have given to this important movement in the life of the Church. An accounting of each Christian’s discipleship and faithfulness to the proclamation of the Gospel—the good news of reconciliation—can be taken every year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This year’s theme is, “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord”. During this week, we will post daily scripture selections, meditations and questions for your reflections.  We invite you to enter into dialogue with other readers by posting comments and commenting on the thoughts that others post.

Day 1, Let the stone be rolled away

Scripture

  • Ezekiel 37:12-14, I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
  • Psalm 71:18b-23, Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.
  • Romans 8:15-21, We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
  • Matthew 28:1-10, He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

Meditation

In our world today there is much grief and pain; wounds inflicted which are difficult to forgive. All of this is like the large stone which covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Wounds such as these imprison us in a spiritual grave.

But if, in our suffering, our pain is united to his pain, then the story does not end here, locked in our graves. The earthquake of the Lord’s resurrection is the earth-shaking event that opens our graves and frees us from the pain and bitterness that hold us in isolation from one another. This is the mighty act of the Lord: his love, which shakes the earth, which rolls away the stones, which frees us, and calls us out into the morning of a new day. Here, at this new dawn we are re-united with our brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned and hurting too. And like Mary Magdalene we must “go quickly” from this great moment of joy to tell others what the Lord has done.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.

For reflection:

  • What are the events and the situations of our lives and the circumstances that make us lock ourselves in the grave—in sadness, grief, worries, anxiety and despair?
  • What keeps us from accepting the promise and joy of the resurrection of Christ?
  • How ready are we to share the experience of God with those whom we meet?

 

 

Our Journey to Jerusalem

 A Reflection for Good Friday by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH    

three crossesWhen we look at Jesus today, Good Friday, we must look at death. There is no escaping that today. We cannot deny that Jesus died.

Death itself is difficult to face for all of us, and especially difficult for so many of us who are relatively young, healthy and focused on the future . The reality of our own death may seem remote, far off, almost unreal or something we don’t want to think about.

We are often tempted to ask why. Why does God allow death? Why did God allow Jesus to die?   We just don’t know why. And Jesus didn’t explain–he just did it. All he said to the apostles was that the Son of Man must suffer and die. He didn’t say why.

Early on Jesus knew his life was headed to Jerusalem–to suffering and death. In the Gospels we hear Jesus instruct his disciples many times that “the Son of Man must suffer and die.” And, if we follow Jesus, our own life is pointed that way also. Human living is a journey to Jerusalem.

Now there is more to life’s journey than death at the end:

Like Jesus’ journey, our journey has lights and shadows along the way,
beginning with the miracle of our own Bethlehem–our own birth;
the growing pains of our own Nazareth–our youth;
the joys of our own accomplishments;
public life in its different dimensions;
the wilderness and its temptations;
Peter, John, Magdalene and even Judas intersecting our lives;
an occasional transfiguration;
the joy of communion with a living God.

And then there are the experiences of letting go–
letting go of family, home, childhood;
letting go of friends and colleagues;
letting go of good health;
letting go of outmoded ideas and limited perceptions;
and finally, letting go of the sheer miracle of being alive.

Our life’s journey always leads to Jerusalem where death is inevitable.

How does this reality of death affect our life right now? Karl Rahner, the Jesuit theologian who so influenced Vatican II, has an insight for us: “for Christ, death was the expression of loving obedience, the free transference of his entire created existence to God.” In other words, Jesus knew his life was a free gift of God and he freely gave it back to God, little by little, day in and day out by the way he served others.

We, too, can be formed in the pattern of Jesus’ life and death as we grow in acceptance of our life as a free gift of God and follow Jesus’ example of service. What could be a more appropriate response to God’s gift of life than to give back that life in service to others as we travel our life’s journey?

On this Good Friday, a day of impasse between Jesus’ life on earth and his life of fullness with the Mystery we call God, let us contemplate our own death as that unique moment when the “yes” we have been saying to God all along will reach its climax in that extraordinary experience when Christ who is life, who has been our life, will fashion us finally and fully to his life and in his image.

 

 

 

 

 

GREAT SOULS – A reflection on the death of Maya Angelou

By The Rev. F. M. “Buddy” Stallings, Rector,
St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City*

Maya Angelou died this week. Over the years, I have read her work and heard her rich, sonorous voice at various events, never once failing to be inspired by what she had to say. I have quoted her poem, When Great Souls Die, as part of All Saints’ Day sermons, probably more often than permissible. The poem begins: 

Maya AngelouWhen great souls die,
The air around us becomes
Light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
See with
A hurtful clarity.

And it ends:

And when great souls die,
After a period peace blooms,
Slowly and always
Irregularly. Spaces fill
With a kind of
Soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
To be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
Better
For they existed. 

And now she is one of those great souls gone from us. Our world is diminished for that, not quite as actively good as it was when more than her spirit prevailed: when her voice, even if only through Twitter, as it was a few days ago, could still be heard.

This week I have contemplated what it was about her that moved me so. A woman and a person of color, Maya Angelou and I don’t/didn’t have much in common—though the power of common southern-ness should never be completely discounted. But it was more than our regional connection…that made her so profoundly compelling.

She knew me—without even knowing that I existed. She knew what hurt inside me, the part that I never wanted to share with anyone; she knew what held me back, what gave me hope, what enraged me and what made me laugh. To be known like that is an amazing thing and the rare gift of a great soul, particularly one who can do it through her words from afar. I will miss her, but even as I do I shall give great thanks that because she existed, I can “be and be better.”

*This reflection first appeared in Fr. Stallings’ weekly e-letter, “From my Heart to Yours.”

 

Come Aside and Rest

A Reflection by Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty

It is a cold, brisk winter day.  I have paused at this bench in the courtyard of our Mission Helper Center.  Not too long ago, I sat on this bench as I grieved the death of Sister Helen Hiehle, my dearest friend of 43 years.  The bench became a special place for me in the deepening realization of Helen’s joy in seeing the face of God.

I wonder how many people have sat here during the spring and summer months…a few teens preparing for confirmation, perhaps…someone receiving guidance from a spiritual director…a novice meditating on her call to serve God….A Sister Jubilarian reflecting on her sixty or more years as a Mission Helper…a mother concerned about her teenage children…. someone praying for the courage to approach another for reconciliation…a young man or woman discerning a call to become a missionary!

Countless people have sat here with others, or alone in silence, to experience God’s presence and the whisper of God’s voice.

Listen!  Is Jesus inviting you to “Come aside and rest awhile”?  Come!  In your imagination, sit awhile on this bench with Jesus.  Take a few minutes to speak with Him in this sacred place and be sure to listen.

You will be surprised at all that stirs within your heart!

Hospice Ministry – “How Can You Do That?”

By Sister Carole Ruland, MHSH

I am a Hospice Spiritual Counselor/Chaplain at the Casa de la Luz Hospice in Tucson, Arizona.  I’ve been in this very special ministry for about two years. Sometimes, when I tell people this, they say, “How can you to that?  Isn’t it sad?”

I tell them that for those who feel called to this ministry, it is a gift. In fact, as I walk with those who are dying, and their families, I find that I am learning how to live a more meaningful life, and also how to prepare for death in a more meaningful way.

Desert Sunset, Tucson, Arizona, © 2010 Lisa Suttman, www.suttmandesign.com

As I minister at the In-Patient Unit, I spend time listening to the stories of patients and families and sometimes I am able to provide an opportunity for them to share their fears and uncertainties. Sometimes they talk about their faith and how that provides comfort on this end-of-life journey that all of us will one day take.

I also do On-Call ministry and can be called to the home when a patient is near death or has already died and the family wants a chaplain to be with them and pray with them.

Personally, I am blessed to be able to be conscious of all of the life we have received from our God—both the years of growing and the time of returning to the God who promises us eternal life.  This ministry is somewhat more difficult when the person or family does not have a spiritual background to support them at this time. But, even then, I can listen, offer a pastoral presence and support them in their journey.

I treasure the many different experiences I have had so far and choose to continue opening myself to the beauty and intensity of life and death!

A Sense of New Life

Background: On April 27, 2011, a category EF4/EF5 tornado struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, killing 45 people and destroying homes and livelihoods in a six-mile-wide area in the heart of the city.  The hardest hit communities—such as Alberta City and Rosedale Court—were predominantly poor, black and Latino and included public and low-income housing.  The business district, which employed many neighborhood people, was also destroyed. In total, an estimated 7,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

 FEMA, the Red Cross, Catholic Social Services and state and local government agencies were on the scene assisting the victims, many of whom were homeless.  But for undocumented Latinos, and households sheltering them, the “establishment” agencies were not an option.  The people feared future investigation by the INS if they sought help from mainstream organizations.  (This occurred following Hurricane Katrina.)

 These Latinos, as well as others in the poor neighborhoods, turned to the nearest Catholic Church—Holy Spirit Parish—and Sister Celeste Burgos, MHSH, who is Pastoral Associate for the Hispanic Community.

By Sister Celeste Burgos, MHSH

Rosedale Court destruction

Alabama is noted for its tornadoes, but it has never experienced a tornado of this magnitude.  It is ironic that this happened during the first week after Easter, because Easter means rebirth, and suddenly there was total devastation and death.  It was a very sad and very traumatic thing, but at the same time, out of that chaos a sense of new life has arisen in the people who were affected.

The people came to the church, telling us that they had lost their homes, all their possessions and that the only things they had were the clothes they were wearing.

They lost loved ones; they all knew someone who had died and people who were in the  hospital.  All of this grief affected them; it affected me, also, as I listened to the stories of every person who came for help.

But something else affected me, too.  The parish hall was set up as an emergency shelter, where about 200 people spent the night.  They gathered together as a family to help one another.  People who were not affected by the tornado came; they shared food, clothes, everything that they had.

The unity there so impressed me.  We had Hispanics, African Americans as well as Anglos—everyone came.  There were people from other parishes and other religious groups that came to help.  This was a beautiful experience that has stayed in my mind and my heart.