On Holy Ground: A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH

(Click here for Mass readings)

Long, long ago when I was in college at Notre Dame of Maryland (now a university), we had a three-day silent retreat every year. I had never been silent for three days in my entire life. During those days I experienced God’s call to be a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart. My reply to God was, “Here I am.”  I thought I was the only one since Creation who had answered God so simply. When I read the Bible, I found amazing people using those very words repeatedly.

Today, in the reading from Exodus, Chapter 3, God speaks from the burning bush, “Moses! Moses!”  Moses replies, “Here I am.”  I think in this historic reading, we can find many ways to continue to enter into the season of Lent. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Most of us are busy, even in Lent. The desert would have been quiet. Can I find five or ten minutes to set aside for quiet time? God told Moses to take off his sandals because he was on Holy Ground. Would taking off my shoes for this amount of time help me realize that this is holy time? Hear God call your name and just be present to the One who loves you. If you choose, you can say, “Here I am.”  The absolute best thing you can do is be quiet and let God love you.

Blessings on your Lenten journey.

 

Hidden Riches

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022121.cfm

Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that we have been in “Lent” for over a year already? What more can we say about such a cold, grim season? It has been our own desert, just as Jesus had his –and yet, when he emerged, he had a surprising message, upbeat and hopeful: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.”

Can we come up with anything like that, as we look ahead to the end of the Covid 19 pandemic? Jesus had angels ministering to him: do we? Where do we see the “riches hidden in Christ” that the opening prayer (Collect) of today’s Mass refers to?

My first response is “First Responders” – the truly heroic, selfless folk who do the dangerous ministry of health care, transportation to hospitals, phone calls to next of kin, handholding and cellphone displaying as loved ones breathe their last. How many times in one day can one’s heart break? Who has the courage to step up to do that, not for their own loved ones but for complete strangers? Those are the “riches, in part, anyway.

Mr. Rogers always advised children to “look for the helpers”, a wise piece of advice.  As we ponder the enormous need all around us, we would do well to look for the helpers in these perilous times. Perhaps instead of sacrificing chocolate or ice cream or other treats for Lent, we might donate to the Red Cross, local food banks or hospitals to express our gratitude for the gift that they are. If not a monetary gift, maybe it would be even more meaningful to say some heartfelt words of thanks to a person who has cared so well for our own dear ones?  No matter how halting or unpolished, such words would be received as golden: “hidden riches” brought to light, offered, and received with gratitude.

What’s New?

A reflection for the fifth week in Lent.
By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Thus says the LORD…
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.

-Isaiah 43:16-19

 

Is God doing anything “new” in your life?  Putting water into any of your personal deserts, or rivers in whatever might be a wasteland for you?  Perhaps more importantly, would you notice any of this “newness” if it were happening?

Many aspects of our lives conspire to prevent us from being able to see things anew, or to believe that anything new is possible.  We become overly accustomed to the same people, places, activities and events.  We become jaded by apparent corruption in institutions that we formerly esteemed and trusted.  Fixation on our mobile devices literally prevents us from seeing what is around us.  How can we believe that anything new and good is possible?

The late Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, captured this phenomenon well in an article she wrote titled “Windexing the Eyes”.  She described a monk who, after his 30-day retreat, said “It was as if my eyes were Windexed.”  The hours of prayer, meditation and silence were “the knife that excised the ‘cataracts’ formed by years of biased, habitual ways of seeing and refusal to see”.  Now, he was able to see beyond externals to a deeper reality. He felt that nothing stood between him and the other.

You may not be able or even inclined to undertake a 30-day retreat, but spending even some time in prayer, meditation and silence each day will provide you with the time and space with which to withdraw from the “externals” that consume you. It will allow you to get in touch with your authentic self and see what God is doing in your life.  During these final weeks of Lent and into Holy Week (and beyond), why not give it a try?

With God in the Wilderness

A reflection for the third week of Lent (written on the Feast of St. Joseph)

By Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH

I’ve been reading a publication called “A Lenten Pilgrimage: Journeying with Jesus.”   One of the reflections is titled: “In the desert we cling to essentials.”  It says: “A trek into the desert wilderness is no simple matter.  There are hazards, privations and loneliness, uncertainties, fickle weather, wild animals, and the frightening prospect that overnight the wind could alter the landscape beyond recognition.  It is easy to lose oneself in the wilderness.”

Joseph and Mary had to go through the desert, the wilderness, to get to Bethlehem and then out again into the wilderness to escape Herod’s soldiers who would slaughter the innocent. Both Joseph and Mary were examples of listening to God speak to their hearts, experiencing God with them.  They nurtured and protected Jesus, guiding him all through his life, and taught him how to survive the wilderness in all its forms.

“After his Baptism in the Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he fasted for forty days and nights and was tempted.  The desert wilderness is that place where what is essential (food, clothing, and shelter) is made abundantly clear”.

The wilderness is where God “I Am” nurtures us.  “The wilderness is that place where we enter to be reminded of the One, “I Am”, who is truly essential in our lives. It is where we stand before God,” I Am.”  It is the place where we stand in the light of God,” I AM’s” strength.  Our God says “I alone give you life and I give it to you fully.  Cling to me and I will care for you.  Trust in me and you will find freedom.”

Did you know…

Fig trees can grow in the desert!  Mary and Joseph may have come across one in their travels.  The beautiful fig tree yields two harvests per growing season and produces deliciously sweet fruit. Fig trees might take about 3 or more years to start producing a viable crop, but when they really start to produce you will have all the figs you can eat! Figs, one of the oldest cultivated crops, were a favorite of some early societies. The ancient Greeks, Romans, and even Egyptians enjoyed figs.

For reflection:

What is essential for me to live?
What will nurture me?
Can I meet God in the wilderness?

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.

THE STRENGTH OF GOD’S LOVE

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

Lent invites us to turn down the volume of all that clutters our daily lives and enter into the silence that lies deep within our hearts.  It is there that we will hear more profoundly the voice of God and experience the strength of God’s love.

In the Gospel of the first Sunday of Lent, we are given an example of what happens when we make an exerted effort to live a life focused on Gospel values.  In this account, we see Jesus going into the desert, a place of silence and profound solitude.  He is seeking strength and courage and clarity as he begins his mission of salvation.  For 40 days he has prayed and fasted.  His body surely must have been weakened and obviously, he was hungry.

It is at this point that the evil spirit enters.  He attacks where he perceives Jesus must be most vulnerable—a need for security, ease, comfort, success, control, power.  To all of these temptations, Jesus turns to the strength and power of God’s love and word and repels the evil one.

Despite his weakened condition, Jesus faced the enemy fearlessly.  As we enter this sacred time of Lent, do not be afraid to venture into the desert of your heart.  And, do not be afraid to ask how these comforts, pleasures, relationships or powers may have begun to possess you.

Allow yourself to look at the excesses that may have crept into your life. As you do, don’t be surprised at the reluctance you may experience in letting these go.  The inner struggle of good and evil will continue to make its presence felt.  But, the power of love and the strength of God’s word will not fail you.