These Holy Days

A Reflection by Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

wi0821bi_4c1[1]Pange Lingua, the smell of incense, The Stabat Mater, ” Were you there…?”, crucifixes draped in purple cloth…. just a few of the sights and sounds of a Holy Week long embedded in memory.

When we are familiar with something, it can lose its edge, its ability to disturb us, move us to action, or rest in its solace. The scriptures of Holy Week are not immune from this familiarity. We know the narrative, we know how it ends. At least, we think we do.  Familiarity can lead us to dismiss the mystery, to fail to let it engage us, and to escape from “going the distance” with Jesus.

When Columbian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez was asked about his relationship with his wife, Mercedes, he replied, “I know her so well that I have not the slightest idea who she really is.”  For Marquez, rather than dismiss, familiarity contained an invitation. An invitation to adventure, intimacy, and mystery.

Marquez’s words challenge us to enter these holy days more porous, more vulnerable, more willing to render our hearts.   Do we know Jesus so well that we have not the slightest idea who he really is?

How can we accompany Jesus through Holy Thursday and Good Friday? How can we experience these days as if for the first time? How can we console Jesus for the betrayal, the loneliness, the feeling of abandonment? How can we be with Jesus at the table, walk with him in his suffering, and companion him in death?

As scripture scholars remind us – Jesus’ passion for the Kingdom of God led to the passion of his death. We cannot separate them.

Does my life story reflect the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Caesar?  With whom does Jesus stand today? Are we at his side?

What if, as Jesus did, we let the stranger break our heart and enter our prayer? The refugee, the prisoner, the person brought low by poverty, the neighbor who annoys us, the one burdened by life?  What would it take for us to wash the feet of the stranger, to accompany the one forsaken, to be Simon of Cyrene?

What if our prayer these Holy Days led us from the beauty of a Holy Week liturgy to the streets where Jesus lives?

You're Invited…

A Reflection on Lent by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

InviteHave you recently received an invitation from a friend or relative to attend a get-together?  The invitation may have been to a dinner party, a birthday or anniversary celebration, a wedding, a baptism or some other special event. Whatever the occasion, it is clear that the host wants friends and loved ones to share in a celebration.  At the bottom of the invitation you may have seen the words “regrets only.”  Your optimistic host seems to assume that most people will want to come, so she asks only those few who cannot attend to let her know.  What seems at first a perfunctory postscript belies a welcoming, hospitable stance.

Can you imagine receiving such an invitation from God?  In this case, God invites you to get together over the 40 days of Lent to renew and deepen your mutual love and friendship, to ponder what it means to be in relationship with God, and with all of God’s creation.  How do you feel about receiving such an invitation? Do you immediately put the dates on your calendar and look forward to them with eager anticipation?  Or does this invitation fill you with doubt or guilt, or even fear and dread?   Is it just one more thing to schedule into an already overloaded calendar? Are you tempted to send your “regrets?”

“Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.”  These words of today’s Gospel acclamation, taken from Joel, assure us of God’s desire that we put aside whatever is holding us back from accepting God’s invitation to greater love and intimacy.  Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, our loving God stands ready to forgive, to mend rifts, and to embrace us as cherished members of the family.  All we are required to do is show up with an open mind and heart.

Remember that “prayer” is conversation with God.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t have to involve stilted, formal language.  Sometimes, as with good friends or a couple who has been together for many years, it does not have to involve words at all – just a profound “being with” the other. But if you need some help to get started, a list of Lenten prayer resources is found below.

Blessings on your Lenten journey from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Selected Lenten prayer resources:

Creighton University Lenten Prayer Resources: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/

Moved to Greater Love:  (9 week Lenten/Easter prayer experience produced by the Jesuits) http://www.jesuits.org/story?TN=PROJECT-20140128033207

Pray As You Go Lenten Retreat: http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/

Sacred Space Retreat for Lent: http://retreats.sacredspace.ie/