Day 8: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 8, Hearts Burning for Unity

Scripture

  • Isaiah 52:7-9, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news.
  • Psalm 30, You have turned my mourning into dancing.
  • Colossians 1:27-29, How great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you.
  • Luke 24:13-36, Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

Meditation

The disappointed disciples who leave Jerusalem for Emmaus have lost their hope that Jesus was the Messiah and walk away from their community. It is a journey of separation and isolation.

By contrast, they return to Jerusalem full of hope with a Gospel message on their lips. It is this resurrection message that drives them back into the heart of the community and into a communion of fellowship.

So often Christians try to evangelize with a competitive spirit, hoping to fill their own churches. Ambition overrides the desire for others to hear the life-giving message of the Gospel. True evangelism is a journey from Emmaus to Jerusalem, a journey from isolation into unity.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have made our hearts burn within us, and have sent us back upon the road towards our brothers and sisters, with the Gospel message on our lips. Help us to see that hope and obedience to your commands always lead to the greater unity of your people. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What are the disappointments that isolate us from others?
  • What are the gifts (initiatives, methods, and programs) that we can receive from other Christian communities?

This concludes the 2016 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

Day 4: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 4, A Priestly People Called to Proclaim the Gospel

Scripture

  • Genesis 17:1-8, Your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.
  • Psalm 145:8-12, The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
  • Romans 10:14-15, And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?
  • Matthew 13:3-9, Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Meditation 

In today’s world more than ever, words flood into our homes: no longer just from our conversations, but from television, radio and now from social media. These words have the power to build up and to knock down. Much of this ocean of words seems meaningless; diversion rather than nourishment.

One could drown in such an ocean where there is no meaning to grasp. But we have heard a saving Word; it has been thrown to us as a lifeline. It calls us into communion, and draws us into unity with others who have heard it too. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people.

More than this, we are a priestly people. United with others who have received his Word, our words are no longer mere drops lost in the ocean. Now we have a powerful Word to speak. United we can speak it powerfully; Yeshua—God saves.

Prayer 

Lord Jesus, you said that everyone will know that we are your disciples if there is love among us. Strengthened by your grace, may we work tirelessly for the visible unity of your Church, so that the Good News that we are called to proclaim will be seen in all our words and deeds. Amen.

For  Reflection:

  • What personal ambitions, competitive spirits, false assumptions about other Christians, and resentments obscure our proclamation of the Gospel?
  • Who hears a life-giving word from us?

We encourage you to share your personal reflections in the comments section.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

 

 

We Can All Be Healers

A Reflection by Sister Rita Lynch, MHSH

The Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (John 11:1-45) involves many people besides Lazarus and Jesus. The family of Lazarus sends for Jesus and are saddened that He didn’t arrive in time; Lazarus dies.

Friends support the family but wonder why this has happened. Jesus healed others. Why didn’t he heal this one whom He obviously loved. The disciples fluctuate between wanting to be with Jesus and yet fearing where he is taking them.

Jesus asks family and friends where Lazarus is and they say, “Come and see.” They take Jesus to the tomb.

Is someone in our family, or among our friends, or in our community entombed because of some addiction, because of some emotional, physical or spiritual disease? Will we, like the family and friends of Lazarus, take Jesus to this person? Will we believe or doubt that Jesus can heal them?

depressed & down person 09 man in shadow_largeHow will we respond to Jesus’ direction, “Untie him and let him go?”

Jesus calls us to be a community of healers. Together with Jesus we can heal a broken person, a broken family, a broken world.

depressed & down person 08 woman & friend_largeAs we reflect upon and respond to the call of Jesus, we may find it helpful to listen to the hymn “We Need Each Other” by Carey Landry on his CD, “O Healing Light of Christ.”

 

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.

 

Entry Into the Paschal Mystery – A Reflection for Palm Sunday

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Mk 11:1-10 (At the procession); Is 50:4-7; Ps 22:8-19, 17-20, 23-24; Mk 14:1-72; Mk 15:1-39

Palm Sunday ushers us into Holy Week.  As we receive our palm branch and listen to the opening Gospel we are transported in our imagination to the scene of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, seated on a donkey.

The crowds are still looking for a triumphant hero who will release them from the treacherous rule of the Romans.  But, as we hear the Passion narrative—this year it’s from Mark—we remember that Jesus was alone in his suffering and death. The crowds did not get what they were looking for.

It is significant that Mark’s Passion narrative begins with the story of a woman who manages to break into a dinner party where Jesus is present.  She anoints Jesus’ body with expensive oil.  We are told that the oil was worth a year’s wages.  She breaks the jar and pours the oil on Jesus’ head.  Her action was not appreciated by the dinner guests.  However, Jesus commends her.  Immediately after that, Judas goes off to look for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to the authorities.

This story can inspire us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. We might think of how we spend a year’s wages (a sharing of our gifts) to soothe the pain of those who make up the suffering Body of Christ in the world today.

As Holy Week unfolds and leads us to Easter joy, we come to a deeper realization that although there may not be many earthly rewards for us as disciples, Jesus promises to be with us now and “he prepares a place for us so that where he is, we also may be.” (Jn 14:3)

Questions for reflection:

  • Do you feel confident enough in your relationship with God to trust your life with him?
  • How does God trust you?  Who are some of the people that God entrusts to your care?
  • What graces do you need in order to live in this trust?

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.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: January 18-25, 2012

Preparation: Observing the Week of Prayer

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.

What follows are some suggestions that we hope can assist Christians in the experience of observing the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and celebrating the 2012 theme of “We Will All Be Changed by the Victory of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” (cf. 1Corinthians 15:51-58). This is by no means a comprehensive listing. We hope that as you create your own opportunities of prayer for Christian unity you will share those with others. Each new experience of prayer and gathering provides the Christian faith community with opportunities to grow in our understanding of one another as we celebrate our unity and common mission.

From Wednesday, January 18 through the following Wednesday, January 25, “From The Heart” will post daily scripture passages, commentary and questions for reflection.  We invite all of our readers to pray daily in communion with Christians worldwide.

(Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute)

Community Days – The Mission Helpers Gather

By Sister Elizabeth (Liz) Langmead, MHSH

“What the Lord wants for us is infinitely more than we could ask or imagine.”                                                                                       –Ephesians 3:20

From the evening of June 9, 2011, through the afternoon of June 14, 2011, the Mission Helpers from near and far will gather for our annual Community Days.  This is a time for us to gather in prayer, meet about community matters, join together in community celebrations, enjoy each other’s company and plan for the future.  The above quote from Ephesians will serve as our theme this year as we continue our preparation for Chapter.

Our Community Constitutions, which “recognize the gospel as the basis for all Christian living and describe the ideals and traditions that form the living heritage of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart,” state “The General Chapter is an assembly of elected members and ex-officio members who meet as a collegial body every four years…The first responsibility of the general chapter is to call the congregation to renewed fidelity to its mission in the church and to revitalize the life of the congregation and its members in the midst of constantly changing circumstances.” (Constitutions/Directory 58 & 60)

We will begin our Community Days (or June Days) with Eucharistic liturgy followed by a dinner celebration.  The following day we will be invited by our facilitator, Pat Flynn, SSND, on “A Journey Engaging the Future.”  What better way to begin that engagement than by carving out stillness in our lives to encounter the living God?  Following our retreat day, we will continue with our full schedule of days which will conclude with a Sending Forth ritual.

Each and every voice is a valuable voice to be heard and so this year we continue our endeavor to have more and more Sisters involved in preparation for Community Days and Chapter.  Our Formation/Spirituality Circle of Leadership has been guiding us in a Discernment Process by periodic mailings throughout the year.  Regular meetings with Circles of Leadership Animators have helped to shape our planning and assure a continuous flow of conversation and dialogue with the Circles.

Truly, our God is doing for us infinitely more than we could ask or imagine!  Perhaps some of us can relate as well to Catherine the Great when she said (no doubt with a grin) “A great wind is blowing and that gives you either imagination or a headache!”

Cause for Rejoicing

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday)

By Marilyn Dunphy

 

We’ve all met them – people who just can’t or won’t be convinced or dissuaded of something no matter how strong the evidence.  Whether they cling to a deeply held personal bias, a conspiracy theory gone viral on the internet, or a belief system that leaves no room for questioning or a different interpretation, they (we?) can be a frustrating lot to deal with.

So it was for Jesus in today’s Gospel message wherein Jesus cures a blind man. His disciples assumed, as was commonly believed, that someone sinned and thus caused the man’s blindness. Then in almost comical fashion some of the crowd and the Pharisees engaged in an exercise in contortion to deny that Jesus healed the man. The man could not have been blind from birth, or he was an imposter, or if he was blind and Jesus healed him then Jesus was not “from God.”

What they had just seen with their own eyes was so incompatible with what they believed to be true, it had to be explained away.

A related theme is presented in the first reading when Samuel assumed that the king of Israel would be chosen from among the seven sons of Jesse who were presented to Samuel.  But God had other plans. In this case Samuel was open to the message of the Lord and sent for the youngest son, David, who had not even been brought to the ceremony. It was David, deemed unworthy by everyone else, whom the Lord chose.

“Not as people see does God see, because people see the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart”. (1 Samuel 16: 7)

On this Laetare Sunday we can rejoice that God indeed sees differently than we do. We can rejoice that we are created in God’s image and likeness; not the other way around. No matter how hard we try to force-fit God into our own worldview, God is waiting to open our eyes, minds and hearts to the mystery before us. God desires to free us from our tendency to distance ourselves from God when we perceive ourselves to be sinful or at least “not good enough.” God desires to shatter our shallow and sometimes self-serving notions of the worthiness or unworthiness of others. God desires to surprise and delight us with boundless love, life and light.  If only we will “see.”

For reflection:

In what area(s) of your life might you like God to heal any beliefs, attitudes or emotions that inhibit your acceptance of God’s unconditional love?

Do you sometimes find yourself judging others as “unworthy” because they do not meet your expectations in some regard?  Perhaps you can pray for the grace to see more as God sees.

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.