Anchored in Hope

 

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

This Advent we were invited to a place of stillness as we lit the candles representing hope, faith, joy, and peace/justice.  In this stillness we pondered the promises of this season.  Last week on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Noreen reminded us that: “We celebrate God’s promises with every breath of our lives through our obedience to our faith in God.”  We desire to be rooted in the example of Mary by responding in this forever changing world, “I am yours, Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

My pondering this Advent takes me to one of the Christian symbols of hope (one of my favorites), the anchor.  Our anchor – that which keeps us grounded is of course Emmanuel, God with Us.

The following passage from Isiah is traditionally read on the night of Christmas Eve:

 

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

Upon those who dwell in the land of gloom

on them, a light has shone.

-Isaiah 9:1 (NAB)

These words were spoken to a specific time and situation – these words and this message are given to us as well — as we stand in this moment – at this time in our lives – anchored in a God who delights in us and desires to come to us in the flesh – the Word.  May we experience the hope of this message and bear witness to the Light – the Light that has already arrived and is yet to come!

 

 What is the hope that has been planted in your heart this Christmas?

What is it that you ask God to bring to birth in you?

Christmas Blessings to you and your loved ones.  May your hearts be touched with deep joy during this holy season!

Your sisters, The Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart

 

Preparing the Way

A Reflection for the Second Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Donna Fannon, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/120620.cfm

During Advent in the northern hemisphere, we observe a shortened span of daylight.  For many people, this can bring on a downturn in mood, and some even suffer from a condition known as seasonal affective disorder.  This darkness can extend to our spiritual lives as well.  How then do we bring more “light” into our lives and the lives of others?  Lighting our Advent candles is one way of keeping vigil as we await the birth of Jesus, and the rituals we observe around the candle can bring a sense of hope and joy.  During this season we might also try to rid ourselves of egotistical tendencies and some of the “busyness” in our lives and spend some quality time in prayer and reflection, calling to mind who we really are in the sight of God.

In the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist say:

“One mightier than I is coming after me.
I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals.
I have baptized you with water;
he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

In his book, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent, Richard Rohr, OFM states:

“John the Baptist’s qualities are most rare and yet crucial for any reform or authentic transformation of persons or groups.  That is why we focus on John the Baptist every Advent and why Jesus trusts him and accepts his non-temple, offbeat ritual, while also going far beyond him.  Water is only the container; fire and Spirit are the contents, John says. Yet if we are not like the great John, we will invariably substitute our own little container for the real contents.  We will substitute rituals for reality instead of letting the rituals point us beyond themselves.

John the Baptist is the strangest combination of conviction and humility, morality and mysticism, radical prophecy and living in the present. This  son of the priestly temple class does his own thing down by the riverside; he is a man born into privilege who dresses like a hippie; he is a superstar who is willing to let go of everything, creating his own water baptism and then saying that what really matters is the baptism of “Spirit and fire”!  He is a living paradox, as even Jesus said of him: “There is no man greater than John…but he is also the least” in the new reality that I am bringing about (Matthew 11:11). John both gets it and does not get it at all which is why he has to exit stage right early in the drama.  He has played his single and important part, and he knows it.  His is brilliantly a spirituality of descent, not ascent.  “He must grow bigger; l must grow smaller.”  (John 3:30).

The only way such freedom could happen is if John learned to be very empty of himself already as a young man, before he even built his tower of success.  His ego was out of the way so much so that he could let go of his own ego, his own message and even his own life.  This is surely the real meaning of his head on a platter.  Some have cleverly said that ego is an acronym for “Edging God Out”.  There’s got to be such emptiness, or we cannot point beyond ourselves to Jesus, as John did.  Such emptiness doesn’t just fall into our laps; such humility does not just happen. It is surely the end product of a thousand letting-goes and a thousand acts of devotion, which for John the Baptist gradually edged God in.”

For Reflection:

How do you manage to schedule some down time in your day? Can you make this a priority during Advent?

How are you bringing more “light” into your own life, and the lives of others during this season?

Do you keep a journal to help you track your progress?

How is your spiritual life one of “ascent” or “descent”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hope and Light of Easter

 

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

We struggle this year for thoughts of Easter and songs of Alleluia.  Perhaps more than ever, we enter into the emotions of that first Easter as we gather in solidarity, pain and hope.

We hope in God who frees us from the burden and illusion that we are control.  Hope in God who calls us out of darkness into Light – into the knowledge that we are God’s and there is so much more to the story than we, in our limited vision can see.

The Light of Christ risen from the dead dispels the darkness and brings peace.  Just as on the evening of that first Easter when the disciples gathered in a room, isolated, grieving and fearful, Christ offers us the gift of hope, the gift of peace.  We hear Jesus invite us to give Him our despair, for we have been promised Light – the Light that shines in the darkness and will not be extinguished.

The Christian symbol for hope is an anchor, and the cross is our anchor.  Amidst the storm we ground ourselves in the hope of new life.  For us, the cross is not a symbol of defeat, no, it is a symbol of the triumph of God’s love over death.  By the cross of Christ, we have been saved and nothing and no one can separate us from the love of God.  Jesus is risen and walks with us.

We hope together and like any friend, God desires our happiness.  More than any friend, God accompanies us in our sorrow.  God will never leave us to face our fears alone.  We can rest in God who will never abandon us.  God who gifts us with God’s own Spirit of hope, a hope that resounds in the words of the poet, Emily Dickinson:

“Hope is the thing with feathers –

that perches in the soul –

and sings the tune without the words –

and never stops – at all -”

It is hope, ‘the thing with feathers,’ the anchor upon which we lean and are grounded, that gives us assurance of the unsurpassable, inexhaustible love and goodness of God who brings new life from death.  God who gives hope amid tragedy and loss.  It is God who is both the meaning of our hope and the way to attain it, who summons us and calls us by name.  Hope marks us with resilience, trust, confidence, and perseverance.  Hope gifts us with ways in which to live boldly in the unwavering conviction that Paul proclaims in Romans: “If God is for us who or what can be against us?… nothing can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:31, 39 italics added)

How then does Hope change us? How are we to be People of Hope?  How are we to be Resurrection – to be Justice – to be Compassion?

We thank each of you dear friends for your witness of hope especially during this global pandemic.  We hold you in our hearts and prayer this Easter season like no other we’ve known.  Let us stand together in Light and Hope sustained by our faith — an Easter people.  


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?

 

 

 

 

 

"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 

Our Advent Journey: A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

Readings:

MI 5:1-4A
HEB  10:5-10
LK 1:39-45

Our readings this Fourth Sunday of Advent are a great reminder of how God uses the ordinary in extraordinary ways!  The prophet Micah prophesizes that from small, ordinary, even insignificant Bethlehem will come one who is to be the ruler of Israel, and St. Paul reminds us that rather than desire extraordinary efforts by us, God desires us…our willingness to say, “Here I am, use me as you will.”  Luke’s Gospel then shows that the one that seems insignificant, even barren some said, can be fruitful in ways unimaginable and the one who says “Let it be done to me according to your word” will bring forth the Good News of our salvation.  In these two women reside “the Word made flesh” and the Voice who will herald that Word!  Extraordinary, indeed!

advent-4th-sunday-wreath4Actually, our readings today give us the story of Christianity – our story – that was unfolding even before the birth of Christ – and at the center of this story are Elizabeth and Mary.  Last Sunday, Gaudete Sunday, we were invited to rejoice for the Lord is in our midst; today we hear of a manifestation of that joy that comes from the presence of the Lord.

Mary and Elizabeth visit with Joy 1Mary teaches us that we are meant to bring Christ to others, and Elizabeth shows us that we are to welcome Christ and look for Christ in others.  We are called today to experience the joy of this Visitation encounter; a joy that was conceived alone but came to fulfillment in relationship with the other.  Often, that ordinary, unknown, seemingly insignificant other.  Pope Francis in his first encyclical, “Lumen Fidei” (Light of Faith), highlights for us that “Persons always live in relationship.  We come from others, and we belong to others, and our lives are enlarged by our encounter with others.”


So what can we take away from these readings that speak of relationship, of encounter?   One suggestion might be to ask ourselves:  How might we, like Mary, strive to be faithful, in our work, our relationships, our lives.  How can we recognize that we, too, bear Christ?  In the midst of our current times, how are we being called to recognize and welcome the Christ and how might we learn from Elizabeth’s patient waiting?  How are we being invited to become and be used as instruments in spreading the message of hope and joy?  Isn’t spreading joy with others what our Christmas gift giving, our visiting, our singing, our praying, and our traditions all about?

Mary’s journey to the Visitation comes with risks.  She sets out and travels to the hill country, a difficult terrain, away from the comfort of home.  How might her journey help us get in touch with our journey to Christmas; our journey to Christ?

crosslightWhere are the rugged terrains of our lives, our neighbors, and our world?  Might it be that as we journey to the Light of Christ, it is together that we name the darkness and learn how to live together so it doesn’t overcome us?  When we recognize and name our inner poverty, our emptiness, our longing, our darkness then we ready ourselves to receive the light of Christ.  Our Advent journey has been a time of waiting, of trusting that God is with us, and that God will continue to show us the way.  Let us journey on praying to do so as Mary and Elizabeth have shown, in relationship, full of faith, hope, love and joy.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 3

Today (Thursday, January 20) marks the third day in the eight day Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.  During this week, daily scripture references, meditation and prayer will be offered for readers’ reflection.  (Material provided courtesy of the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, Garrison, New York.)

Day 3, Devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching…
Scripture

Isaiah 51:4-8, Listen to me, my people.
Psalm 119:105-112, Your word is a lamp to my feet.
Romans 1:15-17, Eagerness to proclaim the gospel.
John 17:6-19, I have made your name known.

Meditation
The apostles’ teaching was their witness to the life, teaching, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. The apostles’ teaching is exemplified by St. Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost and his use of the prophet Joel. He connects the Church with the biblical story of the people of God.

The Word of God gathers and unites us despite divisions. The apostles’ teaching, the good news in all its fullness, was at the center of unity in diversity. It is not simply the “apostles’ teaching” that united the earliest church, but devotion to that teaching. Such devotion is reflected in St. Paul’s identifying the gospel as “the power of God for salvation.”

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God’s teaching is inseparable from God’s “justice for a light to the peoples.” Or as the psalmist prays, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Your decrees are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.”

Prayer
God of Light, we give you thanks for the revelation of your truth in Jesus Christ which we have received through the apostles’ teaching. May your Holy Spirit continue to sanctify us in the truth of your Son, so that united in him we may grow in devotion to the Word, and together serve your Kingdom in humility and love. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.