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!

 

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

 

We Need a Little Advent

By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Maybe we need more than a little Advent this year. Although we have come through the worst of the pandemic, we are not out of the woods. There are yet concerns about the spread of the virus and its variants, along with the associated disruptions in our lives. The anger, stress and at times, outright violence that have been displayed by some among us are disturbing, to say the least. Bitter partisan political divisions still rage.  Who among us would not ask for some hope, some faith, some joy, or some peace/justice right now?

As we consider the Advent wreath, with candles representing hope, faith, joy and peace/justice, we are invited into a place of stillness where we ponder the promise of this season. On this second Sunday, we have lighted the candles representing hope and faith.

If you’re wondering what to pray with this week, some of the responsorial psalm refrains from the liturgies remind us of God’s saving presence and action in history. These same promises are made to us – both now and into the future.

Sunday: The Lord has done great things for us, we are filled with joy. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120521.cfm)

Monday: Our God will come to save us. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120621.cfm)

Thursday: The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120921.cfm)

Friday: Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121021.cfm)

Saturday: Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved. (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121121.cfm)

Spend some time with these psalms.  Do you believe in these promises?  Do you find hope and/or faith?  Joy and/or peace?  Ask God for what you need this Advent.

Maranatha!

Let’s Talk This Over

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.

By Sr. Dolores Glick, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/031421-YearB.cfm

 We hear in our entrance antiphon today “REJOICE, BE JOYFUL, EXULT” (Is. 66:10-11.)

What is there to be joyful about with so many suffering in this pandemic, so many atrocities in our world being carried out by dictators against their own people, so much evil versus good, lies versus truth?  Pause and ask yourself: What impact for GOOD has the pandemic had on me?

When we reflect on the reading today in the Book of Chronicles we read,: “The wrath and the MERCY of the Lord are revealed in the plight of the exiles and the LIBERATION of God’s people”. The infidelity of the people, the evils of the nation, polluting the Lord’s temple, are finally brought to an end by King Cyprus of Persia. He restores truth, freedom and mercy to the people whom God loves!

In Pope Francis’ book Let Us Dream he says “in the COVID 19 crisis we have seen the cruelty and inequity of our society more vividly exposed than ever before. We have also seen the resilience, generosity and creativity of so many people, the means to rescue our society and our planet. In the trials of life, we reveal our own heart: how solid it is, how merciful, how big or small. In making our choices we reveal our heart. I see an overflow of mercy spilling out in our midst. We are called forth in some new courage and compassion. We must come out of our present crisis better.  Let’s allow God’s words to Isaiah to speak to us: “Come, let us talk this over.” May we remember the Truth that God put in our hearts that we belong to God and each other as we journey together on this plant”.

Today, St. Paul reminds us again in Ephesians, God is rich in MERCY because of the great love God has for us…this is the gift of God. We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that we do for and with each other. God is always with us even in our painful confusion, in our worried sleep, in various difficulties in life.

John’s Gospel tells us again “God so loved the world that God gave us Jesus so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” indeed the world has been saved through him. The Gospel is GOOD NEWS/GOD’S NEWS. It is the news worth sharing and shouting, God loves us and calls us to come closer!

Take some time today to hold and gaze upon Jesus on the cross. Bring to him your neediness, your cares and let Jesus restore you.

Are there obstacles in your life preventing you from living with greater LOVE and JOY?

Where do you see HOPE rising up in you today?

Will you let God do something new in you today? REJOICE. We will come out of this Lent into the Easter Mysteries.

LORD SHAPE OUR HEARTS!

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.  


The Passion in Real Time: A Triduum Reflection in a Global Pandemic

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

Holy Week is more palpable this year than most of us imagined possible. We are experiencing the passion played out in real time.

We are confined, masked, distanced as health care workers offer themselves so others may live, while essential workers help to carry the cross thus making the way less burdensome. Neighbors being neighborly, looking out for the most vulnerable. A Holy Week where we “keep watch”.

This is an anxious time, “a night different from all other nights”. Questions arise from deep inside our being. Throughout scripture, Jesus posed questions to engage us, perhaps none with more urgency than those questions asked during his passion and death.

His questions probe, drawing from life as it emerges, and looking for a response hidden within us. The questions of Jesus are where prayer has always been valid. The initiative is always His. The graced response is ours. In his questions, Jesus holds us within his gaze.

We cannot use Holy Week to escape COVID19…this global pandemic calls us to solidarity as we share suffering with our sisters and brothers around the world.

Jesus’s deepest desire is to be in relationship with us.

Would you want to spend some time these days allowing Jesus to lovingly ask you the questions he voiced in the darkest of times?

Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?

 

  Do you know what I have done for you?

 

 And, what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour?

 

 Whom are you looking for?

 

 Shall I not drink the Cup given to me by my Father?

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

God Bless us all these holy and frightening days. We wait in faith-filled Hope.

Being Advent People…for Life

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

Growing up in a tight knit Catholic, (Polish/German) faith community, I came to understand and appreciate the message, awe and beauty of the Advent season. 

The Advent wreath was the center of our homes, classrooms and parish. There was anticipation with lighting of each new Advent candle during the four weeks of Advent. Our religious imagination remained kindled with expectation, hope and the awareness that Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday was near.  I am delighted when I visit a family to discover the Advent wreath as the center of their home and Advent prayers become the fabric of their faith journey.

Many years ago I discovered the Advent homilies of Fr. Karl Rahner,SJ, a leading Catholic Theologian of the 20th Century.  His homilies enriched my understanding of the breadth and depth of the meaning of Advent. He reminded me that Advent is not only about the past but the present and future.

He wrote, “Advent demands that we look to the future: we are people of expectation and hope.”

Today we all need to embrace ‘hope’.  Advent brings a fresh perspective amidst the angst, stress, distractions and polarization we experience in our world today. If we embrace that we are ‘Advent people of expectation and hope’, this makes all the difference how joyfully we experience the Christmas Season. Contemplate that each of us can be a beacon of hope and promise during these Advent days within a world that experiences darkness instead of light.

 By reading select biblical narratives during Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s unconditional love for each one of us. This is one of the great mysteries we live each day: God with us ‘now’ but ‘yet to come’. 

How wonderful is this? It is only through the eyes of faith that we believe (embrace) the ‘newness of God’.  In one sense, we are referring to what we call is a Theology of Presence – a sense of sacredness to the now – the present moment.  With this awareness, we are people of expectation and hope. We live, move and breathe in a ‘sacred world’ of God’s spirit – alive, dynamic and energizing – inspiring us forward. 

Pope Francis consistently invites us to prepare for and experience an encounter with Jesus Christ. This is what Advent is all about. It is preparing our minds and hearts to be open to receive Jesus’ presence in our lives.

Fr. Rahner reminds us Advent means that every person and every Christian is and should be an Advent person- not just in this part of the church year, but also in his or her entire life. 

Therefore, there are many ways we can prepare our minds and hearts for living as Advent persons.  Prayer, sacraments, scripture reading, meditation, Lectio Divina and the study of our faith. It is in this spirit the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation offers a broad spectrum of online  e-courses and e-seminars to prepare us during the year to celebrate with depth, wonder and expectation the Advent Season.

Yes, we are women and men of expectation and hope. We are Advent People. Let us rejoice! 

Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min, is the Director of The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. IPI oversees many university and global projects, including the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, a distance learning program serving 88 (Arch)dioceses worldwide for adults who want to enrich their faith, for religious educators, Catholic teachers,catechists, youth ministers or those interested in faith formation.  To see the complete online e-course list in English, Spanish & Arabic, go to VLCFF.UDayton.edu

 

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!

 

ANTICIPATING EASTER – A Holy Week Reflection

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

What are you doing this Saturday?
          Are you filling Easter Baskets?
                   …planning the Easter meal?
                             …decorating the Church?
                                      …cleaning the house?

Is there any time left for quiet reflection on the Paschal Mystery and the death of Jesus in particular?

Can you imagine yourself being with Mary Magdalene, sad, heartbroken, empty, in the garden wondering where the body of Jesus is?  Can you engage in a conversation with her about the difference Jesus has made in her life…and in yours?  Can you just be silent and grateful for Jesus’ friendship over the years?

Image result for mary magdalene at the empty tombPerhaps the tomb is too close.  Maybe you see yourself in the Upper Room with the disciples, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the others in fear of the Romans.  How does the silence speak to you there?  Whom might you choose to engage in conversation?

Or maybe you find yourself with the travelers on the Road to Emmaus, having found hope in Jesus and now in shock that Jesus has left them dejected and hopeless and lost.  Have you ever felt that way?  How does Jesus’ appearance (and vanishing) speak to you and strengthen your hope?

Related imageEach of these stories can offer us opportunities to contemplate the full spectrum of human emotion and experience, and they all have a joyful (and challenging) ending.  Each one invites us to be real (yes, Jesus did suffer and die for us), to ponder: what does this mean in my life; how do I follow someone who died and is risen and is present everywhere?

This Saturday—Holy Saturday—can you take some time to contemplate and put yourself into one of these scenes, imagining a conversation, then asking God to help you integrate the experience into your life?

  • What did you notice?
  • What do you appreciate about Jesus’ presence in your life?
  • What are you grateful for about being called to be a follower of Christ?

This Holy Week, prepare well and enjoy many Easter Blessings.

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?