The Peace and Joy of Easter

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

 On Easter Sunday, we are gathered in contemplation of the risen Christ.
We feel imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus had deceived themselves that they had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We can understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed!

Two-thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.” … “La Paz sea contigo.”

Even now we have this same desire, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying unjustly.  We all struggle with the question of suffering. God sees and understands what we cannot. Not only is God in control, we can trust in God’s goodness even in the midst of our suffering. God says to us:

“I am with you, and I will not leave you.” His promise is that one day suffering will end, but until then God will be with us. One day it will all make sense. But in the meantime, we do not suffer alone.

Today is the day of Easter joy. This is the day on which Jesus
appeared to people who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our hearts, souls, and minds, and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life.

MAY WE EMBODY  THE PEACE OF THE RISEN CHRIST!

Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas de Resurreccion!

 

Watching and Waiting in Chaotic Times

A reflection for the first Sunday in Advent

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

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/112920.cfm

 

Our Advent season opens with Jesus saying to his disciples, “Be watchful! Be alert!”  Again, at the end of our Gospel reading Jesus says, “What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”   Watch for what?  Watch for who?  This Advent season is like no other as we live in this time of Covid-19 with great unrest and division in our country and in the world.  We wait for healing, we wait for peace, we wait for a vaccine.  We focus our Advent waiting and watching on the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.  In faith, we trust that Emmanuel God is with us.  In St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we are reminded of the grace of God given to us in Christ Jesus.  We are reminded that as we wait, we are not lacking in any spiritual gift.  We have all that we need to prepare.  This time of Advent – this time before Christmas, we are given the invitation to deepen our awareness of God’s love for us and for all the world.  Just as Mary prepared for the birth of Jesus, we are invited to ready that space within us for something new to be born.  As we wait to welcome the Light of the world, we are called to be light for the world.  What does that mean in your life?  What would a deeper awareness of God’s love look like in your life?

 

We know that we come to discover our selves in and through our relationships.  Advent is an opportunity to take some time, to make some space in our busy lives to sit in quiet and deepen our relationship with God.  Tell God what it is you hope for, ask God to help you let go of whatever keeps you from loving with an open heart.  Confide your fears and concerns to God who loves and cares for you more than you can imagine.  Become aware of who you are becoming during this Advent season, not just about what you are doing.  As you wait, you may want to invite Mary and/or Joseph to wait with you.  Try to imagine their preparation, their hopes and dreams, their fears and concerns.

 

We pray, ‘Come Lord Jesus, come into our waiting, keep us alert and watching as we awaken anew to your presence within us and all around us.  Thank you for this time and may we use it to deepen our commitment to follow you and be instruments of your peace.’

 

 

 

 

 

Upper Rooms – Then and Now

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

During this Easter season we, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, send you prayers and blessings for you and your family. Here we are, like the apostles, in our “upper rooms” -many of us since mid-March until today  – and most likely for a while longer.  How much longer, Lord?

How often the apostles left that room during those 40 days from Good Friday night to Pentecost, is not so important. They were in the Upper Room pondering and wondering what had happened, how it happened and why it happened. How the journey with Jesus ended was not what they imagined and hoped for?  In the Upper Room, they waited, carried on conversations, tried to strategically plan for what to do next. Jesus left no clear strategic plan that they understood with their imperfect, partial or inadequate faith.  I am sure they tried to support one another as one or the other began to flounder into worry, distress, or darkness.  I like to imagine Mary, the Mother of Jesus, holding her own amongst them as ‘mother’ soothing their fears.  Her faith was strong enough to carry them into the events they were about to encounter in the coming 40 days.

The Upper Room soon became an encounter with the Risen Jesus Christ.  The closure did not prevent the ‘light of the world’ to seep through into their presence. When Jesus suddenly appeared he understood their hearts. He first says to them: “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid. It is I.” How unbelievable those moments must have been. Were their minds and eyes tricking them?  Could it be he was there in their midst?  I try to ponder what their diverse emotions were.

The Upper Room was to become the ‘place’ – a ‘sacred place’ where the apostles were to enter a new missionary formation experience.  Here they were being tested and strengthened with a new or deeper faith and hope for the task ahead of them.  Jesus had promised his Spirit would come to them. The Upper Room experience was a maturing period for each one to reimagine their vocation/ mission.

Perhaps, as we are in our “upper rooms” (homes), this is what is being asked of us.  Jesus says to us today: “Peace be with you.  Do not be afraid. I am here. It is I!”  Let us rest our minds and hearts in/on the Risen Jesus.  Let us keep our focus clear for our mission.  Let us not falter. May these be days of new religious imagination, courage, compassion, and service to all those we are called to serve in a COVID-19 milieu.

 

 

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 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.

A Reflection Moment

By Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

This morning I am once again being entertained by my hummingbirds. This is the first time in my life I ever had a summer off (if one imagines recovery from surgery as a summer off) to spend quality time in the mornings or evenings during prayer observing hummingbirds dive between the feeders.

I discovered the opportunity has been a kind of inner healing experience for me.  I have heard that simply surrendering time to observe hummingbirds is a healing opportunity but now I understand and embrace it.

Several years ago while in Trinidad a friend invited me to a hummingbird sanctuary. I had never imagined how many kinds of hummingbirds there are or how many could be in one location each morning and evening at the feeders. I mean hundreds and hundreds. I felt I was in the middle of a hummingbird circus which was amazingly delightful. Thus, my love for hummingbirds grew.

Last week I even purchased (via Amazon) another Shepherd’s Hook and feeder since so many hummingbirds are fighting over the two feeders I have.  I know that soon the hummingbirds will be headed south. Thus, offering me another glance at the meaning, value, and preciousness of time. Or, how and where do we focus our time and energy along life’s journey? How many major initiatives or activities have I allowed myself to be absorbed in, worthy as they were, yet to miss perhaps the ‘little moments’ that may offer the greatest insights in life. Or, render the richest and deepest meaning and impact on life and the life of those around me.

As the early fall days draw upon us, there is now a rush of hummingbirds on the balcony each morning. They are delightful as they scatter, chase and swiftly zoom to and fro guarding their Shepherd’s Hook domain.  (Click on link below to see video). Their numbers are increasing each day simply indicating the arrival of those who are migrating from the north headed south. There, I understand, they spend our winter and prepare for their migration north once again in early summer. The hummingbirds have become a daily reminder for me of all humans who are migrating around the world today. I hold them all in prayer.  I wonder and ponder who is willing to care for them during their migration or exile? (Text continues below video).

So, during these few short weeks, my balcony is one of their ‘resting & feeding’ stopovers.  I really have found these meditative moments not only healing but bringing inner comfort peace and joy into my life.  This is what we need today in our lives. There is too much hecticness.  I hope I can bring my new inner harmony and peace into the lives of those I will encounter when I return to campus September 4th when my medical leave is over.

 

(Sr. Angela Ann is the Director of the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton).

 

Becoming Bearers of God

A Reflection for Christmas

By Sr. Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) was a German mystic, theologian and philosopher.  He was a member of the Dominican order.  He spoke of the Feast of Christmas and the Eternal Birth borne by God and which God never ceases to bear in all eternity.  He says, “but if it takes not place in me, what avails it? Everything lies in this, that it should take place in me.”

During this year’s Advent time, I have been “sitting with” the words and meaning from the Christmas story:  “…and there was no room in the inn.” Of course, that phrase calls to mind and heart all those in our world who are seeking refuge, acceptance and inclusion.  How welcoming and inclusive am I/are we?

I reflect upon our Mission Helper outreach to women, men and children seeking asylum.  Those who flee from unspeakable, unimaginable persecution to save their lives.  They are bearers of the suffering, persecuted face of God.  They are bearers of hope and incredible courage as they leave all to begin anew.  What of my inclusion of those who may perhaps think or believe differently then I /we do? Can I/we make room for those people and life events that sometimes disappoint, exclude or dismiss me/us?  Can I/we make room for God’s surprises?

The phrase further calls me to reflect on how open my heart is to make room for God.  Do I welcome God into all of who I am?  Do I sometimes try to hide from God and clutter my life, thus leaving little room for that still, small voice of a God? Have you noticed, usually in retrospect, how people and situations come into our life and stretch or challenge us to make room for a new way of being?  We are all called to be bearers of God and to open ourselves to those many God bearers all around us.  Do I allow the Light of Christ to illuminate those dark, fearful, broken parts of myself that can only be healed by the love and compassion of God?

This Christmas may we truly experience the awesome gift of God’s very self coming to dwell within and among us!  May we welcome the Light of Christ that dispels the darkness and calls us to be light bearers. Let us celebrate Emmanuel – God with us!

We wish each of you a blessed Christmas and a New Year of peace and joy.  We extend our deepest gratitude to all our dear friends, donors and families who assist and support us in our efforts to give birth to Christ—the true Light of the World! Let us continue to raise our hearts and voices in prayers for Peace.

Let me end this Christmas greeting by sharing the following reminder of the Divine’s call to become the bearers of God:

Not to one
but to many you have called:
on the dancing wind
come
from the deepest forest
come
from the highest places
come
from the distant lands
come
from the edge of darkness
come
from the depth of fear
and become
the bearer of God.”

                                                  
–Jan Richardson, Night Visions

The Change That Changes Everything – A Reflection for Easter

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

We live in a world and in a time of rapid change.  All avenues of social media keep us aware moment by moment of how quickly things change all around the world.  Closer to home, “in the blink of an eye” as they say, our lives change.  It could be a phone call, a medical diagnosis, news about a loved one and life is never the same.  Perhaps it’s the death of one we hold dear or the birth of a child, a grandchild, a niece or nephew.  Change is all around us; change is the one constant in life.

Recently I was struck by a phrase that I heard and shortly thereafter read in an article. The phrase – “the change that changed everything.”  I kept coming back to that as I prayed about this Easter blog.  Truly, Easter is THE change that changed everything for us who today proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Risen!” 

 Our Lenten preparation and opening to the love and grace of God that is all-surrounding, have perhaps changed our hearts to see even more clearly the awesome mystery that from death comes new life.  We come to embrace in a deeper way what the great mystics knew, that resurrection is how reality is – that nothing dies, everything is transformed.  These forty days have invited us to grow more fully into being a resurrection people.  Our faith is meant to witness a message of hope.  How does this hope allow us to stand with others in their deepest sorrow – in their deepest joy?

 

 May we, like the women at the tomb and those first disciples be surprised by the mystery of resurrection.  May we, like them, experience new freedom as the children of a God who calls us from all that entombs, entraps and keeps us bound.  May our despair, doubt and disappointment be transformed in the light of the resurrection as we find new life, hope and the gentle breath of presence and peace.  For truly Easter is THE change that changes everything!

 

A Reflection for Christmas 2016

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH President

Readings:
Isaiah 52:7-10;
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6 ;
Hebrews 1:1-6;
John 1:1-18

God comes among us in total helplessness, dependency and all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God!  What a mystery!

Our second reading on Christmas Day from the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us: “In times past, God spoke … through the prophets….” Now it’s a new day and God speaks to us through Jesus – the Word made flesh; the very imprint of God.  The Word that John reminds us is God – the Word became flesh and dwells among us.

20 days old baby sleeping in a christmas nativity crib

The Savior of the World – the Prince of Peace – the Light of the World – a baby!  Recently I was with some of my family and marveled as I watched my nieces, nephews and their spouses tend to their babies.  Besides wondering how quickly the years have passed, I was filled with gratitude and tenderness as those parents tended to the vulnerability, the dependency, the preciousness of their little ones.   How awesome that our God chose to come to us by becoming one of us!  Doesn’t that just turn everything upside down?

The heart of God bursts forth to come and be among us – to be the true Light that enlightens everyone, and the darkness will never overcome it.  What a radical hope is ours!  Can we this Christmas accept the Word within us and among us – the Word around us that continues to depend on us to be light in a world that often seems to be on the brink of being overcome by darkness?  Can we be light in the darkness of injustice, of poverty, of mental illness, of broken relationships, of war, of our own shortcomings and failures?

We gather this Christmas fed by the hope and promise of our Advent waiting and longing.  With mercy and in joy, may we truly awake to a new dawn of a promise fulfilled – a Love so deep that it cannot be contained and must dwell among us and be a Light to all peoples.  Can we accept the gift?  Can we embrace the Light of the World and the promise that the Light will fill us and be with and among us always?

light-has-shoneWhat might it look like as we gather with others this Christmas and into the New Year if we truly accept the gift given us – the gift of God’s very self to share with all the world and to recognize in all our sisters and brothers; the gift we have received through the promise of God’s Spirit poured out on all flesh?

It is the Spirit that frees and empowers each of us to take up the challenge offered us by Howard Thurman (1899-1981), an African American theologian, educator and civil rights leader in his reflection, The Work of Christmas, found below:

“When the song of the angels is stilled,
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.”

Thank you from your sisters, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, for joining with us in our efforts to give birth daily to the Reign of God and “to make music in the heart,” especially this Christmas as we sing: Glory to God in the highest and on earth PEACE!

img_1383

 

 

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?