Life Overcomes Death

A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032121-YearA.cfm

 

The story of Lazarus is a glimpse into the climax of Jesus’ life.  After escaping his opponents’ attempt at stoning him, Jesus learns that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, is ill. Lazarus is not yet dead so Jesus waits two days knowing the one he loves will die, then decides to return to Bethany.

Jesus is showing us a deep understanding of what we, even today, try to accept. Death is a part of life, and Jesus can and does overcome death.

Jesus comes to the tomb and calls Lazarus out. Lazarus comes forth and is helped with the unwrapping of his bindings. Jesus has used the death of his friend to witness the power of God. Lazarus is brought back to life, which gives us a view of death in its totality. The voice of Christ is obeyed and new life is the result for Lazarus. The call here is to hear the voice of God and obey it, then we can rejoice in new life. Jesus’ own Passion ends in having obeyed the Father, and he is given new life. Lazarus’ obedience of Jesus resulted in his coming back to life. Jesus’ obeying his Father made the Resurrection possible and gave us the Risen Christ.

 

Today let us consider two questions:

How do you understand death today in light of Jesus’ Passion and death?

What role does obeying Jesus play in your daily life?

 

 

Easter Blessings!

A message for Easter

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH
President, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

 

The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart extend warmest wishes to you and all your loved ones this Easter Season. We give thanks for the many ways you share life with us. Be assured of our prayerful remembrance.

May the miracle of Easter fill your heart and all your being with renewed hope, abiding joy and everlasting love. As creation awakens to the majesty of Springtime, may you be reminded of God’s awesome love that endures forever. ALLELUIA! He is Risen…the tomb is empty!

Let me share with you a shortened version of what has become a treasured Easter story – a tender story of an eleven-year-old boy named Philip, a Down’s syndrome child who was in a Sunday School class with eight other children.

Easter Sunday the teacher brought an empty plastic egg for each child. They were instructed to go out of the church building onto the grounds and put into the egg something that would remind them of the meaning of Easter.

 All returned joyfully. As each egg was opened there were exclamations of delight at a butterfly, a twig, a flower, a blade of grass. Then the last egg was opened. It was Philip’s, and it was empty! 

Some of the children made fun of Philip. “But, teacher,” he said, “teacher, the tomb was empty.”

A newspaper article announcing Philip’s death a few months later noted that at the conclusion of the funeral eight children marched forward and put a large empty egg on the small casket. On it was a banner that said, “The tomb was empty.”

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

“The earth will bloom with abundant flowers and rejoice with joyful song!” –Isaiah 35:2

A Reflection by Sister Mariel Rafferty, MHSH

Cactus 2 closeupA cactus plant!
A single flower…its first!
A dry desert can bloom,
Its flower a sign…
…of promise
…of hope
…of resurrection
…of new life!

As the spring rains of the month of May water God’s world,
Nature springs forth in the awesome beauty of new life!

As we experience the life of God’s Spirit within us,
The winter deserts of our lives give way
To the graced flowering of springtime…

Detail of a cherry tree --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We ponder:

What can I do to bring to new life the desert areas in my own heart?
How can I extend God’s compassion and love to others to transform
their desert experiences into springtime peace and love?

 

Waiting for Resurrection

By Sister Joanne Frey, MHSH

Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Ps 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Jn 10:1-9 

We live much of our lives in waiting, most of it waiting in hope:

…For the birth of a first child, or of a second child
…For white smoke over the Vatican
…For word we’ve been accepted at our preferred college
…To hear we got the job
…To be tenured in our position

All these periods of waiting can be completed in joy, in exultation; in a fullness of life that we had hoped for. All positive waiting is seeking new life, enriched life, fulfilled life.

The celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection is all about life—life that overcame the greatest of losses—death of the self—of his very being.

Looking at Jesus’ life among us in one way is all about causing resurrections:

  • The man blind from birth is given sight; surely he rises to a new life.  He knows, he experiences resurrection. (John 9:1-41)
  • The woman touches the garment of the Lord with faith in what Jesus can do for her and she is cured of a hemorrhage she has suffered for years and years.  Surely she rises to a new life among her family and friends.  She experiences resurrection. (Luke 8:44-49)
  • The paralytic takes up his bed and walks at the word of Jesus.  Surely he rises to a new life among his comrades.  He experiences resurrection. (Matt 9:1-8)
  • The woman at the well, searching with a determined perseverance for happiness, she feels deeply that happiness is her right.  The Lord offers her “living water” and she accepts discipleship.  She surely experiences resurrection.

Alright, Jesus, we get the message. It isn’t meant that we wait until this body “gives up the ghost.”  We are meant to experience resurrections as we travel the journey of this life.

I experience a taste of resurrection when the word comes that my friend’s pathology report finds “no cancer.”  The word is shared among family and friends, life is shared and resurrection is experienced.

My friend phones after a long wait.  She has been overly busy.  I hear her voice and loving greeting.  She has missed me as much as I have waited for her call.  I delight in new life.  I experience resurrection.

All of this waiting and all the joys of resurrection won’t hold a candle to the great day of our rising to new life in Christ.  In the meantime, let’s wait in joyous expectation.

For your reflection:

It may be a good start to take your New Testament and read the stories in the sections mentioned in the above text.

Now, just sit quietly and recall the experiences of resurrection to new life that you can truly call your own.

A reading of John, chapter 20, will describe for you the Resurrection of our Savior. Spend time with Jesus to describe for him your experiences.


An Easter Prayer

Lord, we believe we are here to be light, to bring out God’s hue, God’s color, in the world. Imagine the transformation if we make a commitment to flood our world with God’s brightness, with positive energy, with hope and compassion. We want to stand in the light and spill the amazing and astounding light of God at the center of all that we can hope to be  for our world.  Amen  (Edith Prendergast)

Simple Steps in Prayer

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Many people are looking for real and practical ways to pray that help them pay attention to God in the midst of their busy lives.  A way that has proven helpful to me is to structure my prayer time around four movements: Reading, Reflecting, Responding and Remaining (in the Latin of the Middle Ages they would refer to Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio).

READING: The fundamental act of prayer is listening (paying careful, loving and alert attention): to Scripture, first of all, but also to the events of our lives. We are people to whom God speaks. That’s the heart of the art of prayer, the art of genuine attention.

REFLECTING: Digesting what we have slowly read, using imagination, paying attention to insights, noticing feelings and connections: all are essential aspects of understanding and integrating what we have heard in God’s speaking to us in Scripture and in the silence of our hearts.

RESPONDING: Saying words (our own or formal prayers) comes as a natural response to the first two elements of prayer.  Often, giving thanks—gratitude—is a first response to noticing God’s presence in the Scriptures and in the experiences of our lives.

REMAINING: A simple resting (in faith, hope and love) in the reality of the Triune God who speaks to us in order to draw us into a sharing in the Divine Life.  In this silence we offer ourselves as an empty vessel that God may fill with grace and love.

We will never acquire the art of prayer unless we give the time to practice prayer. A specific time of 20-30 minutes each day can be our gift to Christ, a time no longer at our own disposal, but a time that belongs to Christ and us together. Sometimes spent with others, sometimes in the company of Mary, this Christ-time in each day will become the place where we discover the depth, creativity andprofound human value in the living art of Christian prayer.

Prayer is communion and conversation with God.  We all know from our experience that a genuine conversation requires speaking and listening.  We are often ready to speak, but neglect to listen carefully and attentively.  Communion, or friendship, develops when both dynamics are present.

How do you pray? What works for you?

Hospice Ministry – “How Can You Do That?”

By Sister Carole Ruland, MHSH

I am a Hospice Spiritual Counselor/Chaplain at the Casa de la Luz Hospice in Tucson, Arizona.  I’ve been in this very special ministry for about two years. Sometimes, when I tell people this, they say, “How can you to that?  Isn’t it sad?”

I tell them that for those who feel called to this ministry, it is a gift. In fact, as I walk with those who are dying, and their families, I find that I am learning how to live a more meaningful life, and also how to prepare for death in a more meaningful way.

Desert Sunset, Tucson, Arizona, © 2010 Lisa Suttman, www.suttmandesign.com

As I minister at the In-Patient Unit, I spend time listening to the stories of patients and families and sometimes I am able to provide an opportunity for them to share their fears and uncertainties. Sometimes they talk about their faith and how that provides comfort on this end-of-life journey that all of us will one day take.

I also do On-Call ministry and can be called to the home when a patient is near death or has already died and the family wants a chaplain to be with them and pray with them.

Personally, I am blessed to be able to be conscious of all of the life we have received from our God—both the years of growing and the time of returning to the God who promises us eternal life.  This ministry is somewhat more difficult when the person or family does not have a spiritual background to support them at this time. But, even then, I can listen, offer a pastoral presence and support them in their journey.

I treasure the many different experiences I have had so far and choose to continue opening myself to the beauty and intensity of life and death!

A Sense of New Life

Background: On April 27, 2011, a category EF4/EF5 tornado struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama, killing 45 people and destroying homes and livelihoods in a six-mile-wide area in the heart of the city.  The hardest hit communities—such as Alberta City and Rosedale Court—were predominantly poor, black and Latino and included public and low-income housing.  The business district, which employed many neighborhood people, was also destroyed. In total, an estimated 7,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

 FEMA, the Red Cross, Catholic Social Services and state and local government agencies were on the scene assisting the victims, many of whom were homeless.  But for undocumented Latinos, and households sheltering them, the “establishment” agencies were not an option.  The people feared future investigation by the INS if they sought help from mainstream organizations.  (This occurred following Hurricane Katrina.)

 These Latinos, as well as others in the poor neighborhoods, turned to the nearest Catholic Church—Holy Spirit Parish—and Sister Celeste Burgos, MHSH, who is Pastoral Associate for the Hispanic Community.

By Sister Celeste Burgos, MHSH

Rosedale Court destruction

Alabama is noted for its tornadoes, but it has never experienced a tornado of this magnitude.  It is ironic that this happened during the first week after Easter, because Easter means rebirth, and suddenly there was total devastation and death.  It was a very sad and very traumatic thing, but at the same time, out of that chaos a sense of new life has arisen in the people who were affected.

The people came to the church, telling us that they had lost their homes, all their possessions and that the only things they had were the clothes they were wearing.

They lost loved ones; they all knew someone who had died and people who were in the  hospital.  All of this grief affected them; it affected me, also, as I listened to the stories of every person who came for help.

But something else affected me, too.  The parish hall was set up as an emergency shelter, where about 200 people spent the night.  They gathered together as a family to help one another.  People who were not affected by the tornado came; they shared food, clothes, everything that they had.

The unity there so impressed me.  We had Hispanics, African Americans as well as Anglos—everyone came.  There were people from other parishes and other religious groups that came to help.  This was a beautiful experience that has stayed in my mind and my heart.