A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

advent-week-4-peace_without-wordsBy Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial Psalm: 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

The time is near. Our celebration of Christmas 2016 is now just days away. Are you ready? Have you made the necessary preparations?

Can you reflect on the reality of this historic event as we imagine Mary and Joseph getting ready to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem? What last minute preparations did they think were necessary?

There may have been a discussion—perhaps concerned, even a little worried between the thoughtful Joseph and the soon-to-be young mother, Mary.  The caring father-guardian Joseph knew Mary’s faith was deep and strong.  He placed his trust in the goodness of the God of Life.  I imagine Joseph wore a smile as together they gathered the few things they would need for their journey.

getting-ready-at-nazareth-to-bethlehemCarefully, they placed bundles of small blankets for the infant to come (just in case).   Mary may have gathered together strips of white cloth, which would tie the coverings bringing warmth and a feeling of security to the infant.  Although Joseph was a skilled craftsman, thoughts of bringing a cradle on this trip (just in case) was not a practical consideration.

It was time.  It was time to to leave Nazareth if they were to arrive before the darkness of night.   On their journey, they met fellow travelers.  They heard talk of crowded inns, people being turned away for lack of space.   Joseph and Mary probably traveled with a bit of anxiety.

As they journeyed on, they most likely shared whatever food and drink they had with their fellow travelers.  Their thoughts and hearts turned to prayers requesting the Father to bring them to a safe haven – a place of safety, a place of peace. The Father would surely provide.

You and I live centuries from that time-honored trip to Bethlehem that changed our world and our journey in this life.  That moment in time changed everything.  The responsorial Psalm echoes what our hearts want to sing: “Let the Lord enter….”

The Gospel reaffirms the angel’s words of assurance: “Do not be afraid.”  What is your heart’s prayer for Christmas 2016?

A world at peace? A place of safety on the streets of our towns and cities?   A life journey that speaks good wishes to friends and strangers alike?

Lord, grant us all a merciful heart, a peaceful heart, and an earth honoring your Son!

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" -Luke 2:11

A Reflection for Christmas by Sr. Loretta Cornell, MHSH President

Merry Christmas, and blessings during this Holy Season of Christmas and all through the New Year.

Cards, good wishes, ads, parties, television specials—they have all led up to this special holiday of Christmas.  It is easy to get caught up in all the hustle and bustle.  One of the Christmas stories that I like to watch is a Christmas Carol.  Within the story it shows how mercy and forgiveness can lead us into compassionate relationships with others, and especially with our God.  The greatest story of this Holy Season is the Nativity – the birth of Jesus.

 

jesus-christmas

He broke forth in birth to shine the love of God on all.  In the spirit of Christmas we are shown how we can be for one another.  Ebenezer Scrooge has an encounter with his former business partner, Jacob Marley.   While in business together they were caught up in greed and not looking out for others.  When his business partner came to him tormented and dragging heavy chains, Scrooge asks why he is tormented because Jacob was a good businessman.  Jacob in a raised voice says that the human race was his business and he was not charitable, merciful, or loving.  Jacob tells Ebenezer that he has a chance to redeem himself.  Thus begins a long night of revisiting the past, the present and what the future may hold if he does not change his ways.  He journeys into the dark night of the soul and finds redemption and is reborn.

Jesus does the same; he journeys with us into time and leads us to look at what we could have done better and leads us to forgiveness of self and others leading to compassion, mercy, joy and love.  Jesus calls us to be the light that brings the love of our God to all of humanity.

Let us remember our loved ones near and far.  The Mission Helpers have Sisters in Venezuela who, although they are in the midst of their darkness of not having a Church in which to celebrate Christmas, still bring the love and light of Jesus, who knows what it means to be born in a stable.  The people in Manzanita, Venezuela, will meet in another location to celebrate the Christmas joy and goodwill, which gives cheery warmth to all the people who are the candle in the night to shine the love of Jesus and spread it throughout humankind.  Merry Christmas and blessings in the New Year.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

                                                     –John 1:14 

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?

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 2

2015_WPCU_Poster_inner_240x349Day 2, Tired of the journey, Jesus sat down facing the well (John 4:6)

SCRIPTURE:

  • Genesis 29:1-14, Jacob and Rachel at the well
  • Psalms 137, How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
  • 1 Corinthians 1:10-18, Each one of you says, I am for Paul, or I am for Apollos
  • John 4:5-6, Jesus was tired out by his journey

 

MEDITATION:

Jesus had been in Judea before his encounter with the Samaritan woman. The Pharisees had begun to spread the word that Jesus baptized more disciples than John. Perhaps it is the reason behind Jesus’ decision to leave. Arriving at the well, Jesus decides to stop. He was tired from his journey. While he was resting, a Samaritan woman came near the well to fetch water. This meeting took place at Jacob’s well: a symbolic place in the life and spirituality of the people of the Bible.

A dialogue begins between the Samaritan woman and Jesus about the place of worship. “Is it on this mountain or in Jerusalem?” asks the Samaritan woman. Jesus answers, “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem… the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.” (John 4: 21- 24).

It still happens that instead of a common search for unity, competition and dispute mark the relations between the churches. Communities extol their own virtues and benefits in order to attract new members. Some think that the bigger the church, the larger its number of members, the greater its power, the closer they are to God and present themselves as the only true worshippers. As a result there has been violence and disrespect to other religions and traditions. This type of competitive marketing creates both distrust between the churches and a lack of credibility in society towards Christianity as a whole. As competition grows the “other” community becomes the enemy.

Who are the true worshippers? We need “wells” to lean upon, to rest and let go of disputes, competition and violence, places where we can worship “in Spirit and in Truth.”

PRAYER:

Gracious God, often our churches are led to choose the logic of competition. Forgive our sin of presumption. We are weary from this need to be first. Allow us to rest at the well. Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer. May your Spirit who hovered over the waters of chaos bring unity from our diversity.
Amen.

Celebrating Around the Throne – All Saints


By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS on November 1 is one that can really fire our imaginations, have cosmic dimensions and resonate down to the nitty-gritty of our lives.

We celebrate the triumph of Jesus and our salvation through the blood of the Lamb.  The Feast of All Saints joins all who have been saved in a spectacular way in a universal celebration of the unfathomable love of God for us.

Imagine…All creation, people of every nation and tongue proclaim the glory of God’s graciousness to us.  Angel choirs, patriarchs and prophets, martyrs and saints of every age join in the chorus of praise and thanksgiving.

As we reflect on this panorama, do we see murals on a wall and statues on pedestals to be admired from afar?  Or, do we allow this heavenly array to surround us and welcome us into their company?  They were once where we are now, striving to make their way through life’s journey.  Their challenges were most likely not the same ones we face today, but their lives were filled with choices and decisions.

They elected to say “yes” to the journey with Jesus in the death/resurrection mystery of life. Now, they inspire us to strive for ideals of love and service, reconciliation and healing beyond what we ever imagined we could do.  They show us that sinfulness, reluctance and unworthiness can be overcome.  It can be done!

As we live our lives today, the saints stand with us as friends, advocates and models of response to the One who shed his blood for us and loved us to his death.  No, we are not spectators, but part of the company of the holy people who surround the throne giving glory and unending praise to God.  Holy! Holy! Holy!

Who are the Saints you look to for help and guidance?

 

The Divine Spark Within

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

As I reflect on my journey of faith, a tune from my youth pops into my head:  “Everything is beautiful, in its own way….” And I muse, “Yes, everything, even those twisted, thorny times when life seemed a blur.”

This gives me pause because I see at those very times the “divine spark” that exists in each of us provided the energy and focus that ultimately brought renewed vision.

I grew up in a culture where the neighborhood, the church and ethnic roots provided communal solidarity and gave a sense of direction.  As a child of six or seven, I recall being lively, carefree and somewhat undisciplined.  By the time I was Confirmed, I was making a more conscious effort to pray and to overcome faults.  It was also a time that sparked a desire to learn and to excel. But it was also a time when I had grown very, very shy.  It was a shyness that continued into my adult life.

In high school, I wanted to choose a college preparatory program, but my counselor said that my immigrant parents would hardly be able to provide a college education. This was a real blow to me and left me with feelings of inadequacy and poor self-image.

But in my teens, I met a seminarian who saw some sort of giftedness in me.  He thought that I might have the qualities needed to bring peace, joy and growth in people.  He encouraged me to investigate a group of Sisters whom he described as dedicated and exuding warmth and joy.

“Yes, I Can…”

This began a new phase in my life.  After meeting the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, I knew that life for me could never be the same. I wanted to be a part of whatever it was  that inspired this group of women to give themselves so totally to God.

With them, I found people who believed in me. I recall how shocked I was when I was assigned to work toward a college degree. I was frightened and didn’t think I could do it, but the love and support of the Mission Helpers seemed to crack the wall that had been constructed around me and caused it to crumple. With their help, I made it and I made it with A’s and could say, “Yes! I can do it!”

My superiors also assigned me to tasks for which I considered myself unqualified. But, once again, their confidence in me gave me the courage to go forth. Somehow in my own growth, I had reached a point where Jesus was now at the center of my being, someone with whom and through whom I derived meaning. I discovered the truth of, “in him I can do all things.”

The divine spark remains eternally within us.  All it needs is an awakening. And then, what marvels it can do!

Reflection:  Who or what awakens the divine spark in you?

Read more about Sister Agnesine’s journey in the Fall/Winter issue of The Mission Helper magazine.

The Lesson of the Recycle Bucket

By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

When I first began to work with clay, the instructor explained that we do not control the clay but we unite with it.  The clay will teach us how to shape it.

Well, in my pottery experience I have had many conversations with clay.  Sometimes we get along very well and other times the piece is off center, misshapen and destined for the recycle bucket.  Not very satisfying.  What did I have to learn?

In clay work as in life, there is a journey and a process and each stage is important and serves its purpose in getting to the desired end.  I tend to be impatient and want to get the job done and see immediate results.  But it is not like that with clay or in our life experience.  I learned this the hard way.  Clay too moist collapses; pieces not dried out explode in the kiln; improper glazing results in bubbling and crawling; and an interrupted cooling process causes (of all things) cracked pots!

Working with clay teaches many lessons, and I had to learn them all as I followed the process from kneading, throwing, drying, firing, glazing—each with its own discipline and all calling for patience, humility, perseverance, as well as a spirit of creativity and imagination.

There will always be days for the recycle bucket, but for me, as I learn to respect the journey and the process, I find working with clay my way of keeping centered and focused.
There is harmony between me and the clay; there is accommodation to my life and the stresses that come.  But more than that is the excitement and sense that God is working with me in my own creation story.  I take the clay of the earth and knead it and shape it to say what God wants me to say.  God is at work!  God is at play!  Clay is fun!  Clay is sacred!

Sister Jane’s creations are on  display at Mission Helper Center. They make great gifts!
       

A Journey with Jesus

The third in a series of reflections by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH, on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

The peace and beauty of the Sea of Galilee was stunning. The day was sunlit and the water sparkled. We boarded a boat and sailed around the Sea.  As the boat turned slowly, white seagulls circled above us and the crew played “Amazing Grace.”  It was a moment I will remember and cherish.

Later, on shore, we reflected on this lovely place where Jesus once walked on water and called his friends to be “fishers of men.” The water lapped softly at the shore, barely making a sound or causing a ripple.  Many of the pilgrims picked up “memory tokens”—small stones—along the shoreline.

I picked two small stones—a dark one for my continued journey that would probably include some dark times of struggle, and a small white stone to symbolize the sheer sparkle of the day and the future joy in continuing my journey with Jesus.

Mission Helpers Celebrate Jubilees

By Sister Loretta Cornell, MHSH, President

“Do not be afraid, I am with you.

I have called you each by name.  Come and follow me…”

On Saturday, June 18, we will sing these words by David Haas as part of our 2011 Jubilee Celebration honoring the ministries of four Mission Helpers of the Sacred heart.  Each was called by name to follow.  Each responded to the call.

Together, the four Sisters have served the people of God for a total of 220 years bringing joy, hope, consolation, and the words of the Scriptures to thousands of people.  We know they have touched hearts and changed lives, and our world is a better place because they answered that call so many years ago.  They continue to answer it today.

Take a few minutes to read about their lives and their ministries [see below] You will meet Sister Carrie Schindler, raised on a farm and working for the FBI when she answered the call to spread the word of God and be a pastor to His people.

Mission Helper Jubilarians: From the left, Sister María Luz Ortíz, celebrating 50 years; Sister Mary Louise Zaworski, 50 years; Sister Carrie Schindler, 60 years; Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty, 60 years

Sister Mariel Ann Rafferty wanted to be a “missionary of some sort” and spent more than 30 years traveling throughout rural Florida and West Virginia bringing pastoral care to poor parishes.

Sister Maria Luz Ortiz, born in Puerto Rico, knew from a very early age that she was meant to help people in need.  Her 50-year ministry has been one of great service in both the Hispanic and the English-speaking communities in North and South America.

Sister Mary Louise Zaworski was also drawn to religious life at an early age.  By the time she reached high school, her only question was which religious community to enter.

Four Sisters, all very different, all drawn to the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart where each was able to pursue her own, unique calling.

Please read their journeys and join me and the entire Mission Helper Community in gratitude for these outstanding women.  God has truly called them by name and they continue to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

CLICK HERE to read more about the Jubilarian Sisters.

The “Yes” that Changed the World

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Earlier this year I was invited on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.   I won’t forget the introductory words of Father Peter Vasko who was the group leader: “You did not decide to come on this journey,” he said.  “God Himself decided long ago that you would come on this journey.  It will change you; you will never be the same.  God will make Himself known to you, touch you in a special way, heal you where you need to be healed or call you to a special or renewed purpose. But you will never be the same.”

There were so many moments that touched me during this pilgrimage.  One was at the site of the Annunciation where the Incarnation became a reality—the place where Mary’s “Yes” changed the world and turned its values upside down.  Our group gathered there in silent awe, and I pondered this question:  “What has Mary meant to me throughout my life?”

Quietly, prayer filled the hallowed space at the site, and the strains of “Gentle Woman/Hail Mary” began softly then became our special American tribute and our heart-song.  We lingered, hesitating, not wanting to rush this moment, yet we knew that other groups of pilgrims were waiting and longing to enter this space.

What has Mary meant to you throughout your life?

NOTE:  More of Sister Natalie’s reflections on the Holy Land will be posted over the next several months.