Lent: Making All Things New

A Reflection for Ash Wednesday

By Bernadette A. Sahm

 

“Ash Wednesday is full of joy … The source of all sorrow is the illusion that of ourselves we are anything but dust.”
-Father Thomas Merton

It is that time of year when we anticipate more sunshine and the beauty, color, and newness that the spring season affords us. As I walk through my garden, I notice things that are dormant after months of winter weather. My hydrangeas seem to be dead and brittle and without life. My faith knows better. Looking closely, I see the burrowed closed ends of what I believe will return as hot pink and baby blue flowering hydrangeas.

“Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” –Pope Francis

Lent and spring are synonymous for me as they both represent the opportunity to make all things new again. We know what a garden can be with proper nurturing. and what it will look like after it receives water, sunshine, and food to grow. Lent affords us the opportunity to reflect on all our relationships and to grow them with love and in faith. God wants us to see His face in all living things.

We begin again in Lent; we witness signs of new life, and we too can create that new life when our hearts open and are birthed again. Even a heart that has been dormant can spring back to life.

There is nothing like the beauty in a flowering rose, yet it shows us; “non c’e rosa senza le sue spine’” (translation – there is no rose without its thorns). Lent does not have to be solely about giving up our favorite foods and drink, but it can remind us to forego hatred and lack of forgiveness and instead, build a pure and clean heart.

May your Lenten season be filled with an abundance of love, kindness, forgiveness, grace and all things beautiful.

Bernadette Sahm is the Director of Mission Advancement for the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

A Lenten Journey of the Heart

By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
slow to anger, rich in kindness,
and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
for the LORD, your God.

With these words from today’s first Mass reading from Joel, we commence another season of Lent. The passage invites us to a journey of the “whole heart”, with our destination being the God who offers us forgiveness, mercy, and kindness.

The following poem from Jan Richardson invites us to spend these forty days exploring the inner chambers of our fractured hearts, trusting that our loving God accompanies us during this time and will restore us, and our broken world, to wholeness.

Rend Your Heart

A Blessing for Ash Wednesday

To receive this blessing,
all you have to do
is let your heart break.
Let it crack open.
Let it fall apart
so that you can see
its secret chambers,
the hidden spaces
where you have hesitated
to go.

Your entire life
is here, inscribed whole
upon your heart’s walls:
every path taken
or left behind,
every face you turned toward
or turned away,
every word spoken in love
or in rage,
every line of your life
you would prefer to leave
in shadow,
every story that shimmers
with treasures known
and those you have yet
to find.

It could take you days
to wander these rooms.
Forty, at least.

And so let this be
a season for wandering,
for trusting the breaking,
for tracing the rupture
that will return you

to the One who waits,
who watches,
who works within
the rending
to make your heart
whole.

—Jan Richardson

From Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons

Blessings on your Lenten wandering.

 

With Joyful Voices – A Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

On this third Sunday of Advent we are greeted with exalted cries of REJOICE! With voices from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we are called to celebrate, to rejoice.  Isaiah proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord…”  We hear Mary sing out, “My soul rejoices in my God…”  And Paul joins this chorus with “Rejoice in the Lord always…again I say, rejoice” Why such jubilation?  Because, as Paul explains, “…the Lord is near.”

The promise has been fulfilled and yet in its fulfillments we still find unfinished business.  In Jesus, God came to be with us, to walk among us, to bring hope and peace and justice to an aching humanity.  Therein lies the agenda for each of us.  John the Baptist, in this Sunday’s liturgy responds to those who ask who he is by stating, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”  In our Baptism, each of us has been given a mandate.  We are to be a voice, a voice like that of John, announcing the day of the Lord.

All that God asks of us is to use the voice that is ours at this moment in our lives.  It can be a strong, vibrant voice, or that of someone who has borne the heat of the day and can hardly speak beyond a whisper.  All God asks is that you allow yourself to be the voice through which God enables someone to experience today that “the Lord is near.”

That voice can be a smile of affirmation, a nod of approval and encouragement.  It can be a kind word or act.  Then, there is that phone call or email that you have been putting off.  Whatever it is, allow yourself to be a voice that prepares the way for the peace, love, joy and hope that Jesus has come to bring.