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.

On Holy Ground: A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH

(Click here for Mass readings)

Long, long ago when I was in college at Notre Dame of Maryland (now a university), we had a three-day silent retreat every year. I had never been silent for three days in my entire life. During those days I experienced God’s call to be a Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart. My reply to God was, “Here I am.”  I thought I was the only one since Creation who had answered God so simply. When I read the Bible, I found amazing people using those very words repeatedly.

Today, in the reading from Exodus, Chapter 3, God speaks from the burning bush, “Moses! Moses!”  Moses replies, “Here I am.”  I think in this historic reading, we can find many ways to continue to enter into the season of Lent. Moses was tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Most of us are busy, even in Lent. The desert would have been quiet. Can I find five or ten minutes to set aside for quiet time? God told Moses to take off his sandals because he was on Holy Ground. Would taking off my shoes for this amount of time help me realize that this is holy time? Hear God call your name and just be present to the One who loves you. If you choose, you can say, “Here I am.”  The absolute best thing you can do is be quiet and let God love you.

Blessings on your Lenten journey.

 

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.

 

 

 

“Syncing Up” Ourselves: A Reflection for the First Sunday in Lent

By Jessica Williamson

Click here for the Mass readings

 

Overwhelmingly, the themes that strike me in this Sunday’s Mass readings are those of belief and faith. While closely intertwined, our beliefs are doctrine. Our faith is more intangible: a feeling, a relationship, our personal way in which doctrine colors our life experiences and how we view the world.

The Psalm response is “Be with me Lord, when I am in trouble.”  This is one of my favorite Psalms, also made into the beautiful hymn, “On Eagles Wings.”  This hymn often brings a tear to the eye, perhaps bringing to mind those we have lost. We are assured that God “has us” just as he has those who have gone before us, and with whom we will be reunited because of our faith in the Resurrection. While life is full of challenges, heartache, and hardship, knowing I have God to call on any second of any day helps me through those difficult times. I don’t know what I would do without my faith, in both difficult and joyous times. (Thanks, mom and dad!)

The second reading says, “the word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart.”  We can be good Catholics in outward appearance, as we attend Mass, receive Eucharist, recite prayers – but are we really practicing what we say we believe? Do our words and actions in our daily lives line up with our beliefs and faith? This can be a challenging undertaking. As Jesus fasted and was tempted for forty days in the desert, we too encounter temptation every day in testing the “unity” of our faith with how we live our lives. Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect, and to recalibrate ourselves in “syncing” our hearts, words, and actions.

-Jessica Williamson is the Business Manager for the Mission Helpers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lord, Make Us Turn to You.

A reflection for the fourth Sunday of Advent.

By Noreen Douglas

Click here for readings

 “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.” (from the responsorial psalm).

In a forever changing world, we have this truth in our hearts. We humble ourselves through the wars of life, while being full of hope through the obedience of our faith. We rely on our faith to lead, to guide, to help, even to comfort us in all the details of our lives.

Therefore, we surrender our understanding, our time, our feelings, even our lives to allow our faith in God to be seen in this forever changing world.  We, too, cry out “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

Through our love one to another we reflect God’s promises. We show his long-suffering and patience as we take on the trials of this conformed world with the compassion and understanding of our faith. We celebrate the newness and freshness of each day with gladness in our hearts.

We stand ready and willing to surrender to his will…ready to heed the mandate to “love your neighbor as yourself,” as we, too, cry out “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

We celebrate God’s promises with every breath of our lives through our obedience to our faith in God. Like Mary in today’s Gospel acclamation, we respond in this forever changing world, “I am yours, Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Alleluia!

(Noreen Douglas is employed as the housekeeper at the Mission Helper Center. She and her husband, Rob, serve as Campus Life Directors at the Loch Raven campus of Metro Maryland Youth for Christ.)

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.

 

Statement of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart on the Violence in the Nation’s Capitol

“For the love of God…” were the words that launched the founding of our congregation, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.  It is this same love of God that compels us to condemn the acts of violence against truth and democracy that we witnessed in our nation’s Capitol.

As citizens of the US, we were shocked but not surprised, that the rhetoric of hate that shapes the leadership of our country, permeated its very marrow, resulting in the needless death of 6 people and acts of domestic terrorism against the democracy we cherish.

Since 1890, we have partnered with people of color, with immigrants, refugees, and those seeking asylum in our country.  Engraved in our hearts is the suffering they have endured and the hope they cling to – to live in a democracy supported by a constitution and a rule of law that sees all people as God sees them.

Words and behavior matter.

We call on all elected leaders, by voice and by vote, to condemn the violence and vandalism that erupted in our cherished institution and the hateful rhetoric that incited it.

We call on all Church leaders, by voice and behavior, to guide us to our best selves. Speak the truth of the gospel, offering hope that God is indeed with us.

We call on ourselves to look closely at our words and actions, to repent of complicity that leads to division, to seek transparency in our witness.

The way forward is not clear. We grapple with much that divides us. “For the love of God”, let us begin anew the conversation.

-January 11, 2021

 

 

 

The Stations of the Cross Chaplet: Journeying Together During Holy Week

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D. Min.

 

Several years ago, while in Assisi, Italy with my University of Dayton students, I encountered the Stations of the Cross Rosary, or Chaplet, as it is to be called.  We were waiting to enter the Carceri (St. Francis’ Hermitage in the mountains above Assisi).  There on the side of the road was a stand vending religious articles.  There, on the mountain, I discovered the beautiful Chaplet that has become central to my daily prayer particularly during Covid-19.  

 Covid-19 is preventing us from being physically present for our Catholic Services and particularly our Lenten Traditional Stations of the Cross. I remember when growing up that no one in the parish ever missed 7:30 Friday evening Stations Devotion during Lent.  The entire parish was present. This Lenten Catholic Tradition was woven into the fabric of our Catholic spiritual lives.  

Today, more than ever, the Stations or Way of the Cross prophetically speak to us as we listen or view daily news. We are experiencing a living Way of the Cross in the lives of millions of people around the world. It is imperative now for us to daily embrace afresh journeying the Way of the Cross as a means of daily connecting with and supporting one another.

 During the 2000 Jubilee Pope John Paul II guided us through a moving Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum for Good Friday. It can be found with this link: http://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/speeches/2000/apr-jun/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20000421_via-crucis.html

 I treasure praying the Stations of the Cross Chaplet each day as a way toward connecting spiritually with all who are experiencing effects from Covid-19, related illnesses, suffering from angst, distress, ambiguity, despair, and death of loved ones in their lives. Each one of us is journeying through our own personal difficulty brought on by Covid-19. Yet, together, especially during this Holy Week, while we are isolated in our own personal spaces, we can spiritually reach out supporting one another along each of our Way of the Crosses with Jesus by our side.

 For how to pray the Stations of the Cross Chaplet, click on this link:

https://www.blessedbeadsrosaries.com/stations-of-the-cross-chaplet-prayers

 Throughout this Holy Week, we invite all to join our Mission Helper of the Sacred Heart family united in prayer for recovery and end of Covid-19. Our Sisters hold each of you in prayer.

 

 

St. Joseph: Witness and Mentor During the Christmas/Epiphany Season

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min.

 

St. Joseph is one of the patron saints of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. A careful read through our MHSH archives reverberates with attention St. Joseph receives through the gradual unfolding of MHSH history. Our prayer manual contains a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph.

 

 

 

Dear St. Joseph, man of God.

You, whose heart was always on fire

with love, and whose life was a

constant prayer and continual

contemplation, teach us the

perfection of the interior life.

Teach us how to model our hearts in

accord with the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Teach us how to live and labor for God

and our neighbor in the faithful

observance of our vows and commitments.

May we, after having honored and

imitated you on earth, eternally sing

with you, the mercies of Jesus, and

Mary.

St. Joseph, pray for us. Amen.

During these days of the Christmas/Epiphany Season we are reconnected with the two direct solitary references to St. Joseph by name in all of scripture. He does not speak. He listens. Both times it is in a dream that he encounters a call. Scriptures simply indicates he acts upon the call within the dream. He is the silent one in the crèche’ scene but the strength of his presence is the anchor for the early years of Jesus and Mary’s life.

St. Joseph demonstrates the power of listening, silence and acting upon the inner voice that calls us each and every day of our lives.

Pope St. John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation “Redemptoris Custos: On the Person and Mission of Saint Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church.” The Pope writes: “He (Joseph) took her (Mary) in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.” (#3) Through moments of ambiguity and unsettled questions, the Holy Family’s exodus into Egypt, and the remaining silent years, Joseph represents one who is open in deep listening to the movement of God and with complete confidence responds in faith.

Pope Francis’s pre-Christmas (December 23, 2019) reflection on the vocation of St. Joseph said: “The example of this meek and wise man calls us to raise our gaze and press ahead. The surprising logic of God isn’t about making calculations of what people will accept, but of opening their hearts “to new horizons, to Christ and his word.”

As Mission Helpers move forward into a new period of our history, we discover the silent, firm faith and presence of St. Joseph modeling for us the way into the future.

A Heart That Gives Life

By Sr. M. Judith Waldt, MHSH

(This post is part 5 in a six part series on “To Love Like Jesus: A Spirituality of the Heart”.  Each week, we will post a reflection based on the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright.  To read the Litany, click here.  As Women of the Heart, the Mission Helper Sisters invite you to pray and reflect with us during the next week, as we publish one reflection each week on this rich and inviting spirituality).With us, ponder:

What would it mean to love like Jesus?
What would it mean to have a heart like his?

 

 

Heart of Jesus, Hear our prayer!    

Womb of Justice

Birthplace of peace

Our dearest hopes

Longing of our lives

 

I am often reminded of the words of Meister Eckart who said, “Unmovable disinterest brings man (woman) into the likeness of God.  To be full of things is to be empty of God; to be empty of things is to be full of God. We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Taking to heart these words shown at the top of this post from the Litany of the Heart by Wendy M. Wright, I am challenged to ask myself, “What am I bringing to birth in the world today?”  Do I reflect the mercy of God in the womb of justice? What would that look like for you? In a reflection by Pope Francis he states, “Lord, let me be just, but just with mercy. In God justice is mercy and mercy is justice.”

What if each of us were to bring justice to birth? Can we strive to create a birthplace of peace in ourselves, in our homes, our borders, places torn apart by violence?

My dearest hope is that we will turn our swords in to plowshares. That our efforts to be a womb of justice, a birthplace of peace be woven into the longing of our lives.  That our efforts will bear fruit and will have a “pay it forward effect” in the lives and place of our world most in need of God presence.

“We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born.”

Heart of Jesus, hear our prayer.