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!

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.

Being Advent People…for Life

By Sr. Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH

Growing up in a tight knit Catholic, (Polish/German) faith community, I came to understand and appreciate the message, awe and beauty of the Advent season. 

The Advent wreath was the center of our homes, classrooms and parish. There was anticipation with lighting of each new Advent candle during the four weeks of Advent. Our religious imagination remained kindled with expectation, hope and the awareness that Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birthday was near.  I am delighted when I visit a family to discover the Advent wreath as the center of their home and Advent prayers become the fabric of their faith journey.

Many years ago I discovered the Advent homilies of Fr. Karl Rahner,SJ, a leading Catholic Theologian of the 20th Century.  His homilies enriched my understanding of the breadth and depth of the meaning of Advent. He reminded me that Advent is not only about the past but the present and future.

He wrote, “Advent demands that we look to the future: we are people of expectation and hope.”

Today we all need to embrace ‘hope’.  Advent brings a fresh perspective amidst the angst, stress, distractions and polarization we experience in our world today. If we embrace that we are ‘Advent people of expectation and hope’, this makes all the difference how joyfully we experience the Christmas Season. Contemplate that each of us can be a beacon of hope and promise during these Advent days within a world that experiences darkness instead of light.

 By reading select biblical narratives during Advent, we remember and celebrate God’s unconditional love for each one of us. This is one of the great mysteries we live each day: God with us ‘now’ but ‘yet to come’. 

How wonderful is this? It is only through the eyes of faith that we believe (embrace) the ‘newness of God’.  In one sense, we are referring to what we call is a Theology of Presence – a sense of sacredness to the now – the present moment.  With this awareness, we are people of expectation and hope. We live, move and breathe in a ‘sacred world’ of God’s spirit – alive, dynamic and energizing – inspiring us forward. 

Pope Francis consistently invites us to prepare for and experience an encounter with Jesus Christ. This is what Advent is all about. It is preparing our minds and hearts to be open to receive Jesus’ presence in our lives.

Fr. Rahner reminds us Advent means that every person and every Christian is and should be an Advent person- not just in this part of the church year, but also in his or her entire life. 

Therefore, there are many ways we can prepare our minds and hearts for living as Advent persons.  Prayer, sacraments, scripture reading, meditation, Lectio Divina and the study of our faith. It is in this spirit the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation offers a broad spectrum of online  e-courses and e-seminars to prepare us during the year to celebrate with depth, wonder and expectation the Advent Season.

Yes, we are women and men of expectation and hope. We are Advent People. Let us rejoice! 

Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH, D.Min, is the Director of The Institute for Pastoral Initiatives. IPI oversees many university and global projects, including the Virtual Learning Community for Faith Formation, a distance learning program serving 88 (Arch)dioceses worldwide for adults who want to enrich their faith, for religious educators, Catholic teachers,catechists, youth ministers or those interested in faith formation.  To see the complete online e-course list in English, Spanish & Arabic, go to VLCFF.UDayton.edu

 

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.

Forgiving, Grateful Heart

 

 

By Sr. Barbara Baker, MHSH

(This post is part 4 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 2 weeks, 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?

Ever since Pope Francis became our Church leader, I have been struck by his constant reminder to us that we are called to be people of mercy and forgiveness.   He is urging us to let go of grudges, hurts, and slights – anything that keeps us at odds with others.     My reflection on the Litany of the Heart focuses on the last stanza, that asks us to have mercy, to develop a  gracious heart that leads us to gratefulness and tenderness towards all that comes into our lives—even through our dark days and difficult challenges.

The encyclical “Laudato Si” has captured my attention since it was published.  In the parish where I minister, we are trying to raise awareness that we each of us has been entrusted with the care of our common home.  We are people who like convenience to the point where we sometimes lose consciousness of how we ‘use’ things and even people for our own gain. Can we hear God’s invitation to think about where all good gifts come from? Can we cultivate gratitude for the generosity of the Giver of them?

 Once we realize the source of all our blessings, we begin to relate to our God differently.  We are called to treat people and things with respect and gratitude and to approach life with a tenderness that we would show to a newborn baby.  It is a process of conversion over a period of time.  It leads us to an insight that we are all connected and need to relate with one another.  We are called to ‘disconnect’ from our technologies more so that we can ‘connect’ with people and experiences.  With all the ‘isms’ displayed in our world (racism, sexism, etc.), how do we get in touch with how each of us embraces any of them so that we can rid ourselves of these biases?  How can we learn to love all ‘because’ of their differences and not in ‘spite’ of them?

We call upon the Heart of Jesus to hear us in our plea to learn how to love as He loves!  Take a long and loving look at your heart and hopefully you will see a love that indeed reflects His love a bit more each day.

A Reflection for the 6th Sunday in Lent

By Sister Dolores Glick, MHSH

As our Lenten Journey continues on this Palm/Passion Sunday, we look back to the beginning of our journey—the promises and resolutions we made on Ash Wednesday (almost like our New Year’s resolutions). We promised to spend more time in prayer, entering into a deeper relationship with Jesus. That relationship would lead us to others—to feel the hurts and pain of those around us. Perhaps we promised to help others by almsgiving—sharing our gifts of plenty with a homeless shelter, a food pantry, an aging neighbor, one suffering an addiction.

journey travelHow are we doing with those promises? Have we learned that fasting is so much more than just not eating or drinking certain things? Have we thought about fasting from unkind thoughts about another person, or fasting from buying something for ourselves so that we might contribute financially to those in need?

Pope Francis designated this Lent as a time to foster mercy through the traditional corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Try one on each day and live it. Now that’s a challenge!

As Jesus walks through his passion this week, let us join him as he enters Jerusalem with loud jubilation. Let us be present with him at the last supper as he shares his very self with the disciples and with us. Let us be with him in his prayer and agony in the garden, in his cruel sufferings, and in his death on the cross. Let us be among his friends as they received his body. And let us know that all this was done for love of us.

jesus-walkingREFLECTION:

Sit with Jesus today as you would with someone you know is dying. Experience the heartache of Jesus as he leaves his mother and dearest friends and followers.

Fasting becomes a prayer when I intentionally let it draw me to change my ways so that I am more in touch with the mind and heart of Jesus.

Pope Francis calls us to “fast from ‘globalization of indifference’ and begin feasting in the ways of Jesus: nonviolence, forgiveness, solidarity, social justice and active, compassionate love for all who suffer.” We have only just begun…

 

“…Your Kindness should be known to all… The Lord is near. Have no anxiety…”

A Reflection for the Third Week in Advent by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Readings:
Zephaniah 3:14-18A
Philippians 4:4-7
Luke 3:10-18

You may have read (or heard it more than once) that when Pope Francis was on his American visit, he brought an indescribable sense of joy and excitement that touched hearts; cheering crowds felt a presence. As we enter the third week of “waiting” for Christ’s coming, we read and listen to the Word of Scripture with a sense of excitement that recalls simplicity and joy.

3rd Sunday of Advent WreathHe, the Christ, is coming. We prepare for the coming of the anniversary of his birth. Our longing does not leave us empty or bereft, as if we had been deprived of being present at his historic coming. For we know he comes still. He comes to us in a multitude of mysterious graces. He comes in the Eucharist to share our life’s journey. He comes in mystery of the stranger and of the beloved ones who are his face and voice.

He will come again—in Glory! The Word today cautions us: He is near. Have no anxiety. He is the Light who shatters the darkness; He is Mercy and Compassion who comforts in moments of darkness; He is Gentleness who fires our heart with love, understanding and courage. He will come to welcome each of us to His heavenly kingdom and death will be no more.

“…Your kindness should be known to all…The Lord is near. Have no anxiety.”

 

Take a few moments to reflect on Past Advents:

What Word of Advent Scripture lights your path to Christmas?

What present experiences of meeting Christ in Mystery do you cherish?

What Advent experiences of the past have shaped this Christmas celebration?

What persons from your personal history are enshrined in your heart and influenced you on your journey to meet the Christ of Glory?

Pope Francis' Address to Congress: Entering into Dialogue

francis at congress

 

Pope Francis’ address to the joint session of Congress was an historical milestone.  His message, not surprisingly, called on Congress and all Americans to be beacons of light and hope, especially for the poor, the elderly, the immigrant, the young – indeed, all God’s people.  He called on all of us to put aside the polarizing stances that we often adopt and work together for the betterment of all people and the environment. Francis invoked four influential Americans in communicating his message: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton.  The text of his address, as published by America Media, is linked below.

Leave a comment below telling us what most inspired or challenged you about Francis’s address to Congress.

http://papalvisit.americamedia.org/2015/09/24/full-text-of-pope-francis-speech-to-congress/

Experiencing God

A Reflection by Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Evry Creature Reflct God Pope

Isn’t this a wonderful statement from Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Si”?  When I came upon it I was struck by the many wonderful ways God uses to communicate to us, and how God uses all of creation as a revelation of Godself.

The Pope’s statement remind me of some of my favorite passages that have led me to ponder the care, love and largess of God’s involvement in the universe:

          “The world is charged with the grandeur of God…” [Gerard Manley Hopkins]
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God…” [Ps 18]

          “Seas and rivers, bless the Lord.
          You dolphins and all water creatures, bless the Lord.
          All you birds of the air, bless the Lord.
          All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the Lord…” [Daniel, chap. 3]

Grandeur of GOD 4What is the message that God is conveying to us? How do we avail ourselves to listen to that message? And how do we respond to what we hear?

Ernesto Cardenal, a Nicaraguan priest, poet and politician put it this way:

God communicates with us by way of all things. They are messages of love.

Grandeur of GOD 3How have you experienced God’s love recently?

  • Taking a moment to wonder at your capacity to love and be loved…
  • Gazing at the stars and experiencing a sense of awe at the vastness of the universe and, despite the minuteness of yourself, become aware of your capacity to appreciate your place in God’s grand design.
  • Experiencing a sense of gratitude and awe at being a part of this grand design 

God's love 3So, the next time you try to skip a rock on the surface of a pond, pet your cat, play with your dog, ponder the miracle or your spouse, children and friends, take a moment to thank God for revealing and sharing Love in such accessible ways…and share that love with another—any other on the face of the earth.