The Peace and Joy of Easter

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

 On Easter Sunday, we are gathered in contemplation of the risen Christ.
We feel imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus had deceived themselves that they had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We can understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed!

Two-thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.” … “La Paz sea contigo.”

Even now we have this same desire, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying unjustly.  We all struggle with the question of suffering. God sees and understands what we cannot. Not only is God in control, we can trust in God’s goodness even in the midst of our suffering. God says to us:

“I am with you, and I will not leave you.” His promise is that one day suffering will end, but until then God will be with us. One day it will all make sense. But in the meantime, we do not suffer alone.

Today is the day of Easter joy. This is the day on which Jesus
appeared to people who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our hearts, souls, and minds, and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life.

MAY WE EMBODY  THE PEACE OF THE RISEN CHRIST!

Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas de Resurreccion!

 

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!

 

 

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.

 

 

The Hope and Light of Easter

 

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

We struggle this year for thoughts of Easter and songs of Alleluia.  Perhaps more than ever, we enter into the emotions of that first Easter as we gather in solidarity, pain and hope.

We hope in God who frees us from the burden and illusion that we are control.  Hope in God who calls us out of darkness into Light – into the knowledge that we are God’s and there is so much more to the story than we, in our limited vision can see.

The Light of Christ risen from the dead dispels the darkness and brings peace.  Just as on the evening of that first Easter when the disciples gathered in a room, isolated, grieving and fearful, Christ offers us the gift of hope, the gift of peace.  We hear Jesus invite us to give Him our despair, for we have been promised Light – the Light that shines in the darkness and will not be extinguished.

The Christian symbol for hope is an anchor, and the cross is our anchor.  Amidst the storm we ground ourselves in the hope of new life.  For us, the cross is not a symbol of defeat, no, it is a symbol of the triumph of God’s love over death.  By the cross of Christ, we have been saved and nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God.  Jesus is risen and walks with us.

We hope together and like any friend, God desires our happiness.  More than any friend, God accompanies us in our sorrow.  God will never leave us to face our fears alone.  We can rest in God who will never abandon us.  God who gifts us with God’s own Spirit of hope, a hope that resounds in the words of the poet, Emily Dickinson:

“Hope is the thing with feathers –

that perches in the soul –

and sings the tune without the words –

and never stops – at all -”

It is hope, ‘the thing with feathers,’ the anchor upon which we lean and are grounded, that gives us assurance of the unsurpassable, inexhaustible love and goodness of God who brings new life from death.  God who gives hope amid tragedy and loss.  It is God who is both the meaning of our hope and the way to attain it, who summons us and calls us by name.  Hope marks us with resilience, trust, confidence, and perseverance.  Hope gifts us with ways in which to live boldly in the unwavering conviction that Paul proclaims in Romans: “If God is for us who or what can be against us?… nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:31, 39 italics added)

How then does Hope change us? How are we to be People of Hope?  How are we to be Resurrection – to be Justice – to be Compassion?

We thank each of you dear friends for your witness of hope especially during this global pandemic.  We hold you in our hearts and prayer this Easter season like no other we’ve known.  Let us stand together in Light and Hope sustained by our faith — an Easter people.  


An Examen for the First Week in Easter

The Word

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”

—Mark 16:1-7

Reflect

The first sign of love is interest. Jesus’ friends wanted to know what happened to Him. They wanted to know for themselves, at first—for we do not love others if we do not love ourselves, and we cannot love ourselves if we are not interested in ourselves. Finding Jesus serves our deepest self-interest, as it did for the first disciples. Finding Him also brings to life, as nothing else can, our destiny to love one another as He loved us. And finally, truly finding Jesus brings us to spread this Good News by the way we live.

1. Give Thanks. I thank God for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word.

2. Pray for Light. I ask the Father to let me see my day as the Holy Spirit sees it, and to show me what I need to see.

3. Find God. I look at my day in the light of the Spirit.

I look at what I have done and not done.
Where have I found God?

4. Anything Wrong?

Have I ignored God? Have I neglected God’s gifts?
Where have I pleased others instead of pleasing God?
I express my contrition to God and repent of my sins.

5. What Now?

I look forward in hope.
What am I to do now? What do I have to avoid?

Prayer

Lord Jesus Christ,
You are the Victor over sin and death.
You already live and reign in Your kingdom,
surrounded by vast crowds of angels and archangels,
martyrs and saints.
Lord, we are still down here,
struggling, faltering, and failing.
Well, You have kept Your own wounds
and still know in Your own self
what it is to be wounded, as we all are.
Stay with us in our need,
glorious Lord with wounded hands and feet and side;
stay with us always.
Amen. Alleluia!

Source: From Ashes to Glory, Ignatianspirituality.com.  Joseph Tetlow SJ

Easter Blessings!

A message for Easter

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

 

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart extend warmest wishes to you and all your loved ones this Easter Season. We give thanks for the many ways you share life with us. Be assured of our prayerful remembrance.

May the miracle of Easter fill your heart and all your being with renewed hope, abiding joy and everlasting love. As creation awakens to the majesty of Springtime, may you be reminded of God’s awesome love that endures forever. ALLELUIA! He is Risen…the tomb is empty!

Let me share with you a shortened version of what has become a treasured Easter story – a tender story of an eleven-year-old boy named Philip, a Down’s syndrome child who was in a Sunday School class with eight other children.

Easter Sunday the teacher brought an empty plastic egg for each child. They were instructed to go out of the church building onto the grounds and put into the egg something that would remind them of the meaning of Easter.

 All returned joyfully. As each egg was opened there were exclamations of delight at a butterfly, a twig, a flower, a blade of grass. Then the last egg was opened. It was Philip’s, and it was empty! 

Some of the children made fun of Philip. “But, teacher,” he said, “teacher, the tomb was empty.”

A newspaper article announcing Philip’s death a few months later noted that at the conclusion of the funeral eight children marched forward and put a large empty egg on the small casket. On it was a banner that said, “The tomb was empty.”

 

The Change That Changes Everything – A Reflection for Easter

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

We live in a world and in a time of rapid change.  All avenues of social media keep us aware moment by moment of how quickly things change all around the world.  Closer to home, “in the blink of an eye” as they say, our lives change.  It could be a phone call, a medical diagnosis, news about a loved one and life is never the same.  Perhaps it’s the death of one we hold dear or the birth of a child, a grandchild, a niece or nephew.  Change is all around us; change is the one constant in life.

Recently I was struck by a phrase that I heard and shortly thereafter read in an article. The phrase – “the change that changed everything.”  I kept coming back to that as I prayed about this Easter blog.  Truly, Easter is THE change that changed everything for us who today proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Risen!” 

 Our Lenten preparation and opening to the love and grace of God that is all-surrounding, have perhaps changed our hearts to see even more clearly the awesome mystery that from death comes new life.  We come to embrace in a deeper way what the great mystics knew, that resurrection is how reality is – that nothing dies, everything is transformed.  These forty days have invited us to grow more fully into being a resurrection people.  Our faith is meant to witness a message of hope.  How does this hope allow us to stand with others in their deepest sorrow – in their deepest joy?

 

 May we, like the women at the tomb and those first disciples be surprised by the mystery of resurrection.  May we, like them, experience new freedom as the children of a God who calls us from all that entombs, entraps and keeps us bound.  May our despair, doubt and disappointment be transformed in the light of the resurrection as we find new life, hope and the gentle breath of presence and peace.  For truly Easter is THE change that changes everything!

 

Litany of the Love of Christ

 sunrise easter

In our loneliness, the love of Christ embraces us

In our desire for love, the love of Christ overwhelms us

In our brokenness, the love of Christ heals us

In our emptiness, the love of Christ fills us

 

 In our longing for community, the love of Christ gathers us

In our hesitation to reach out, the love of Christ missions us

In our need to minister, the love of Christ provokes us

In our desire to serve, the love of Christ compels us

 

 In our witness to the Gospel, the love of Christ speaks to us

In our enthusiasm for the mission, the love of Christ impels us

 –Tim Brown, SJ

Happy Easter!
He is Risen!
On behalf of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart,

Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH

“Lent is no fun…” A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent by Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

I have never liked Lent.  Where I come from, it’s a season of mountains of dirty snow obscuring every intersection, making just crossing a street a death-defying drama.

slushy snow 0

Even getting on or off a city bus was fraught, as the stops were usually at corners where clogged storm drains filled with slushy water, daring the bus rider to either plunge a booted foot into the abyss (hoping to land on anything solid and supportive), or to launch herself beyond the icy stew to the steps of the bus, if boarding, or to the hill of scuzzy snow if disembarking.

Add to all that trouble was the required “sacrifices” of no candy and no desserts for 40 days: Tell me, what’s to like?

station of the crossWell, you might say, not every liturgical season has to be likable. Let’s settle for meaningful.  From little up, I understood about the Way of the Cross (also mandatory on Friday afternoons; all the school children in heavy coats and wet wool scarves, hats, mittens, in the pews in our church, genuflecting repeatedly—Catholic calisthenics, some call that—recalling and honoring all that Jesus suffered for us.

I can’t remember if any of our Sisters told us to offer our chapped lips, windburned faces, raw wrists and shins in union with Jesus’ agony.

Maybe that would have made a good religion class, especially if she encouraged us to unite our suffering with His for some special intention.

Maybe I can’t remember because that lesson has sunk too deeply into my psyche to be dredged up at will.  I still do believe in “offering it up”—as much my mother’s instruction as any religion teacher’s—and offering it for particular intentions—take your pick, they are myriad in our world, and offering gives our small and larger pains some positive purpose—or so I hope.

Well, clearly, Lent is no fun, but I guess it’s useful to put the sad and sore and negative in our lives to some hopeful, positive use before God.  At least, that’s my hope.  And spring and Easter are only a few weeks away!

Look for Him in the Ordinary Events of Life

A Reflection for Easter Sunday by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

“Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples were bold enough to ask, “Who are you?” They knew quite well it was the Lord! Jesus then stepped forward, took  the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.”                                                                                                                                                             —John 21:12-14                

Jesus-meal-of-our-lord-and-the-apostles-747x481Easter Sunday celebrates our historic event when a relationship with Christ became transforming. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love.” These words might give us reason to speculate on the thoughts in the hearts and minds of the apostles. Who could possibly take the place of Jesus? The resurrection is the affirmation par excellence that the death of a loved one, the void in one’s heart, need not be permanent. For the apostles, this was the third time that Jesus’ appearance assured them that He would be always with them.

Though not recorded in any of the holy books, many believe that it certainly seems fitting that Jesus appeared to Mary. It seems more than probable that Jesus’ first appearance was to His mother, the woman who gave Him birth. With Mary, He visits and shares His rebirth.

Were there other unrecorded appearances? What do you think?   What do you believe?   On that brilliant, sun-drenched day, Jesus walked the earth in search of those He loved to reassure them, to comfort and encourage them.

The visit at the seashore is truly revealing. No questions asked. The breeze on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias was pleasant. The bonfire was a cheery welcome to the breakfast—a fish fry! Were the apostles startled? A bit in awe? The Lord Jesus was preparing them to look for Him in the common, ordinary events of life and to pass it on…to share the good news!

Easter Sunday is now…Easter Sunday is forever…Easter Sunday is forever! Come to the table, share your bread, believe, journey with Christ.

Reflection: What Gospel resurrection appearances are your favorites? Place yourself in the scene. What do you hear? What do you see?