“See, I Am Doing Something New” – A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Click here for Mass readings

The woman central to today’s Gospel reading seems submissive, if not defeated. She had to feel embarrassed at best, clearly not hopeful of forgiveness. How befuddling that Jesus offers that very thing, forgiveness, without being asked. How long did it take her to realize that she was free to go?

Jesus had in fact “opened a way in the sea…a path in mighty waters,” as Isaiah had predicted. She could forget about her past, about “the things of long ago.” Amazing! It seems that Jesus really does come to set us free, to liberate us from all that holds us back, and weighs our spirits down.

As we observe our current world situation, we may see no way out for us, or for our country or indeed our world. There seem to be so many complications that we feel overwhelmed. God says, “See, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers.” We may reply, “No, I do not perceive it, God.  I cannot imagine how you will make a way in this wasteland. Give me a hopeful spirit and some sort of booster shot for my imagination. I want to trust in your promises and keep my spirits up and my hopes alive.” This is not a matter of feeling jolly or optimistic as much as it is of keeping within me a determination to trust God’s promise through Isaiah.

Soon we will commemorate Jesus’ crucifixion and death. We need not lose sight of his resurrection and glorification – which, as a long-time radio host used to say – truly is “the rest of the story.”

 

The Immense Love of God

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Lent

By Thomas Mackin

For Mass readings, click here.

 

The compassionate love of God in Christ is always ready to forgive sinners and welcome them home.  This is the challenging truth that Jesus proclaims to the tax collectors and sinners, and the Pharisees and scribes who were his audience.  Today we are Jesus’s Lenten audience.

Paul tells us, “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.”  When a sinner comes to Christ, that sinner is made new.  “(A)nd all of this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

The readings today give us the opportunity to place ourselves in the midst of the sinner.  It is one thing to welcome a sinner back into the fold, but an entirely different experience to go out into the world, our neighborhoods, parishes, communities and share space with sinners.  This is the ministry of reconciliation, so that we, like the father in today’s gospel, can see someone coming from a long way off.

During Lent, the church calls us to remember the gifts of God that we have squandered and that have led us into the small or greater mess of our spiritual life.  With great wisdom, the church also knows that we need this time of heightened awareness of our compassionate Father who embraces us in the outstretched arms of the Crucified.

Loving God, our needs are no surprise to you.  In your love and mercy forgive us of our sins, that we might always grow deeper into relationship with you.  Amen.

Tom Mackin is the IT coordinator for the Mission Helpers.

The Transforming Presence of God: A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent

By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

Click here for the Mass readings.

 

 

The readings of the Second Sunday of Lent are a like a roadmap, guiding us and grounding us in hope. At times we may feel like Abram in the first reading, unsure how things will unfold.

But the Lord made a covenant with Abram, promising that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. We can be comforted that even when we cannot see what lies beyond, God walks with us in our fears and doubts.

Then we turn to the Transfiguration account in the Gospel and watch Peter, James and John take the journey to Mount Tabor. There had to be some soul searching going on in them about who this Jesus was. Perhaps they were even hesitant as they journeyed. Imagine reaching the top of the mountain and seeing Moses and Elijah conversing with Jesus. Like Peter, we might want to memorialize this encounter. The encounter is nonetheless memorialized with the proclamation from the clouds “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” Silence follows this event.

The words from the clouds were enough to ponder in their hearts. Possibly they left in fear or in confusion regarding the meaning of what transpired. Even so, Jesus was with them though they did not fully understand what it all meant. We can be comforted that no matter what we face, whatever we do not understand or whatever struggles we confront, we can be certain that Jesus is with us. May we always listen to the beloved Son of God. Amen.

 

 

 

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.

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!

Hidden Riches

A Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022121.cfm

Does it seem to you, as it does to me, that we have been in “Lent” for over a year already? What more can we say about such a cold, grim season? It has been our own desert, just as Jesus had his –and yet, when he emerged, he had a surprising message, upbeat and hopeful: “This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.”

Can we come up with anything like that, as we look ahead to the end of the Covid 19 pandemic? Jesus had angels ministering to him: do we? Where do we see the “riches hidden in Christ” that the opening prayer (Collect) of today’s Mass refers to?

My first response is “First Responders” – the truly heroic, selfless folk who do the dangerous ministry of health care, transportation to hospitals, phone calls to next of kin, handholding and cellphone displaying as loved ones breathe their last. How many times in one day can one’s heart break? Who has the courage to step up to do that, not for their own loved ones but for complete strangers? Those are the “riches, in part, anyway.

Mr. Rogers always advised children to “look for the helpers”, a wise piece of advice.  As we ponder the enormous need all around us, we would do well to look for the helpers in these perilous times. Perhaps instead of sacrificing chocolate or ice cream or other treats for Lent, we might donate to the Red Cross, local food banks or hospitals to express our gratitude for the gift that they are. If not a monetary gift, maybe it would be even more meaningful to say some heartfelt words of thanks to a person who has cared so well for our own dear ones?  No matter how halting or unpolished, such words would be received as golden: “hidden riches” brought to light, offered, and received with gratitude.

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.

 

An Examen for Holy Week

The Word

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

—Mark 14:22-26

Reflect

When we receive the Body and Blood of the Redeemer with reverence, we enact a holy yearning. Our reverence and devotion do not make us worthy to have Him under our roof. Yet He comes. So our way of welcoming Him is to keep good order in what’s under the roof.

1. Give Thanks. I thank God for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word.

2. Pray for Light. I ask the Father to let me see my day as the Holy Spirit sees it, and to show me what I need to see.

3. Find God. I look at my day in the light of the Spirit.

I look at what I have done and not done.
Am I putting up with a bad habit?
Have I found God in the quiet?

4. Anything Wrong?

Have I ignored God? Have I neglected God’s gifts?
Where have I pleased others instead of pleasing God?
Before the crucifix, I express my contrition to God and repent of my sins.

5. What Now?

I look forward in hope.
What am I to do now? What do I have to avoid?

Prayer

That You would narrow down Your love,
Lord God of heaven and earth,
and find Your way into a billion souls
singly, to visit there and even stay,
amazes me and makes me wonder
whether my mind and heart
can stretch enough to grasp
that You are here, and to keep alive
to Your steady, unremitting love.
My heart is intermittent at best, Lord,
so I beg You to help me
keep loving You longer and longer,
until my whole mind and heart are filled
with You, even before You come.
Amen.

Source. “From Ashes to Glory”, Ignatianspirituality.com.  Joseph Tetlow, SJ

 

Examen for the Fifth Week of Lent

The Word

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.”

—John 12:26

Reflect

Even when we are trying to shake off a bad habit, the Examen should leave us content and even joyful. It will, if we remember that the good that we set ourselves to, we do for love—of Jesus Christ, of those He gives us, and of ourselves. This is “where” Jesus of Nazareth was, every day. This is where we find the honor given by the Father. We are called; we are Jesus’ servants for love.

1. Give Thanks. I thank God for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word.

2. Pray for Light. I ask the Father to let me see my day as the Holy Spirit sees it, and to show me what I need to see.

3. Find God. I look at my day in the light of the Spirit.

I look at what I have done and not done.
Am I putting up with a bad habit?
Have I found God in the quiet?

4. Anything Wrong?

Have I ignored God? Have I neglected God’s gifts?
Where have I pleased myself instead of pleasing God?
Where I have fallen short, I repent and offer thanks.

5. What Now?

I look forward in hope.
What am I to do now? What do I have to avoid?

Prayer

To be in love in my life world, Lord of Love,
means many warm and charming things
like close hugging and intimate talk.
It lasts as long as a day lily in sun.
To be in love in your reign, my Lord of Love,
means joy in winter as rich as in spring.
It cherishes the precious dignity of friends
and looks for a good spirit in strangers.
Let me love as You love, my Lord,
and make my every action radiate
compassion and contentment.
And may every word I say
echo the words that You have said.
Amen.

What’s New?

A reflection for the fifth week in Lent.
By Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Thus says the LORD…
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
Wild beasts honor me,
jackals and ostriches,
for I put water in the desert
and rivers in the wasteland
for my chosen people to drink,
the people whom I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.

-Isaiah 43:16-19

 

Is God doing anything “new” in your life?  Putting water into any of your personal deserts, or rivers in whatever might be a wasteland for you?  Perhaps more importantly, would you notice any of this “newness” if it were happening?

Many aspects of our lives conspire to prevent us from being able to see things anew, or to believe that anything new is possible.  We become overly accustomed to the same people, places, activities and events.  We become jaded by apparent corruption in institutions that we formerly esteemed and trusted.  Fixation on our mobile devices literally prevents us from seeing what is around us.  How can we believe that anything new and good is possible?

The late Rose Mary Dougherty, SSND, captured this phenomenon well in an article she wrote titled “Windexing the Eyes”.  She described a monk who, after his 30-day retreat, said “It was as if my eyes were Windexed.”  The hours of prayer, meditation and silence were “the knife that excised the ‘cataracts’ formed by years of biased, habitual ways of seeing and refusal to see”.  Now, he was able to see beyond externals to a deeper reality. He felt that nothing stood between him and the other.

You may not be able or even inclined to undertake a 30-day retreat, but spending even some time in prayer, meditation and silence each day will provide you with the time and space with which to withdraw from the “externals” that consume you. It will allow you to get in touch with your authentic self and see what God is doing in your life.  During these final weeks of Lent and into Holy Week (and beyond), why not give it a try?