The Color of Joy

A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

By Sr. Susanne Bunn, MHSH

Readings:

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121221.cfm

When I was a little girl and a teen, pink was my favorite color.  On the third Sunday of Advent, the rose vestments, the Advent candle and the readings still lift my heart.

I can picture the teen-aged Mary reading the first reading, listening to God speak to her:  “Shout for joy, O daughter Zion. Sing joyfully, O Israel….The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty Savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness and renew you in his love…”.Maybe those words were singing within Mary when the Angel Gabriel came.

It is a challenge to carve out time to read Scripture.  If I read the Sunday readings a few days before Mass, the message comes alive as I listen to the Word proclaimed.  When the bread and wine are brought forward, I put my week on the altar with those gifts.  Jesus is present offering himself completely to Abba God, and he takes me with him.

I feel sad when people say, “I don’t get anything out of Mass.” Doing the work of preparing the readings and of offering ourselves with Jesus to the Father will make it possible for us to get a whole lot out of every single Mass.  Someone once said that if we make the effort to remember one single word from the readings, the Holy Spirit can feed us all week with spiritual food from that Mass.

After my years in Colorado and Arizona, green became my favorite color.  Most Sundays of the year, the vestments are green.  Father Caimi, a former pastor of a church where I served, said that colors mark out special celebrations, but when the priest wears green, it is ‘growing time’.”  Rose is worn only twice a year.  Today is special.  We continue with Advent, Christmas, Holy Family Sunday, Epiphany, and Baptism of Our Lord. Stay connected to Mass as we celebrate each joy.  Stay connected when we return to green vestments and ‘growing time’.

 

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!

Rejoice!

A reflection for Gaudete Sunday, the Third Sunday in Advent

By Sr. Amarilis Flores Arrioja, MHSH and Sr. Rosa Sofia Toledo, MHSH

Readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121320.cfm

The Third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete” Sunday, which in Latin means “Rejoice” — be joyful, be hopeful, be cheerful and glad.  The Canticle of Mary (“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”)  invites us to recite our own canticle of praise and joy to God, our Savior.

Liturgically, this Sunday of Advent is a joyous celebration flowing from the Spirit into our own hearts as we prepare to celebrate that the coming of our Savior and our Redeemer, in human flesh, is near.  In a world faced with so many threats in our times, particularly the Pandemic crisis, where some of our loved ones have died “alone,”  the Word of God comes to console the brokenhearted; to lift the sorrowful and neglected, to bring healing to the sick and hope to the hopeless. The Prophet Isaiah invites us to rejoice in the Lord with our whole heart and to find in our God the joy of our soul.

In the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians, we are reminded to rejoice in the Lord always, at all times, no matter what the circumstances of our lives are. He shares with us key exhortations on how to live the Christian life joyfully, as we prepare to celebrate the first Christmas, as well as being vigilant to the ongoing manifestation of the Lord who continues to come, and who will come in glory at the end of times.  Let us, then, pause to ponder on the message of Saint Paul in this Advent season:

  • Rejoice at all times.
  • Never cease to pray
  • Be grateful in all circumstances
  • Do not extinguish the fire of the Spirit
  • Do not underestimate the prophetic utterances
  • Examine all and keep what is good
  • Renounce any kind of evil

Like Paul, let us claim this prayer as our own:  “May the God of peace make you perfectly holy and may you entirely, spirit, soul, and body, be preserved blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As we enter more fully into the Advent joyful season, let us reflect on the following questions:

  1. What am I most grateful for to the God of my life?
  2. At this time, where is our world crying out for true joy?
  3. In Saint Paul´s letter to the Thessalonians, which exhortation stands out challenging me to live more fully in Christ during this Advent season?

(Srs. Amarilis and Rosa Sofia minister to  people in Manzanita and surrounding areas in Venezuela)

 

 

 

Love. Changes. Everything.

A reflection for the fourth week in Lent.

By Sister Elizabeth Langmead, MHSH

“Prodigal Son” by Kristi Valiant

 

Today marks the fourth Sunday of Lent, traditionally known as Laetare Sunday, from the word ‘”rejoice,” be joyful.  We are halfway into Lent and Easter is fast approaching.  Our readings this Sunday speak of love, mercy, reconciliation and forgiveness. 

As I reflected upon today’s reading a song repeated in my heart, “Love Changes Everything!”  Love, the song tells us, “will turn your world around….”  Each of our readings speak of changed worlds – changed hearts.  The Israelites have reached the promised land of Canaan and Paul reminds us in the second reading that “whoever is in Christ is a new creation…the old things have passed away….”  I wonder what has passed away for me/you these four weeks of Lent or where have we found the newness that comes in our returning to or deepening our friendship with God?  It is through that deepening friendship that we bear fruit (remember the barren fig tree from last week).  What is the fruit we are bearing – tending?

Again, the lyrics of the song, “Love changes everything, brings you glory, brings you shame. Nothing in the world will ever be the same.”  How have we been reconciled to God these weeks and what is the call we have received to be reconcilers?  When Paul implores us on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God, to whom else do we need to be reconciled?  The parable of the Prodigal Son shows that through love everything is changed.  It is love that restores and brings us to our senses.  Who is it in this parable that speaks to you today?  Is it the loving, forgiving and merciful father?  Is it the young son who went off to do his own thing only to find he lost it all and needed to find a way back home?  The young son who was, most likely, expecting a reprimand (maybe even a dismissal) and instead was greeted by a loving father who ran out to meet him on his return and threw a party in his honor. 

Have you experienced that kind of love and acceptance that goes beyond humiliation at mistakes and uplifts and restores to life?  Some would say the father was a fool and perhaps that’s even what the older son was thinking, yet, “love does change everything…and love makes fools of everyone.”    Has love ever made a fool of you or made you do seemingly foolish things?  Can you relate to the older son’s upset – the absence of his joy in serving – his feelings of being unnoticed and unappreciated? The older son’s understanding of the limitlessness of the father’s love is revealed in his jealousy.  Don’t you wonder if the older son’s heart was changed by the love of his father who left the celebration of his younger son to go out and plead with this older son?  I do think love changes everything and as the song says,  it changes everyone and “love will never, never let you be the same.”

A Reflection on Reality for Palm Sunday

palm sunday jesusSister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH 

Somewhere in one of the Gospel accounts, the observation is made that Jesus “knew what was in man.” That sounds ominous, but I think it’s simply stating the fact the he knew our flawed, fallible human nature and didn’t trust our rather irrational exuberance.

So, as he lurched along through the crowd on the back of that donkey, I suspect his enthusiasm for all the hoopla was muted by the awareness that “this too shall pass,” and the same folks who were cheering wildly for him could at any time shift to booing—and worse.

palm sunday crowd 2 hands onlyJesus was a realist; we—not so much, or at least not consistently. We want so badly for stories all to happy endings. Where do we get that almost irrational hope? Childhood happily-ever-after storybooks?

It would take a major revamping of our culture to alter our expectations.

What do other cultures, other countries teach their children to hope for?

I guess in many places it would be pointless to hope at all, even for a safe and quiet place to sleep, or something—almost anything—to eat. Happily-ever-after is a dream for white, middleclass Americans, for ourselves and our children.

As we lurch along through life, can we widen our perspective on the future, consider others who might need our help, and try to be more grateful for all we already have (and take for granted as our “birthright!)—something to eat, enough to wear, a safe place to live, a comfortable bed to sleep in, a worthwhile occupation to fill our days?

Compared to most in this world, and to many even in our own city, we are so very wealthy. What can we spread around so others may have a reason to rejoice, if only for a bit?

For Reflection:

Watch the local and national news every day. Rather than tsk-tsking about the events you see, ponder how you might make a difference somehow, somewhere.

Listen to conversations around you, your own and those of others. Do you hear attitudes of criticism or entitlement? Are any of them yours?

“I Rejoice Heartily in the Lord”

A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Advent

By Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

Readings:
Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1: 46-48, 49-50, 53-54
Thess. 5:16-24
Jn. 1: 6-8, 19-28

advent 3 candlesThe Church designates the third Sunday of Advent “Gaudete” Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice.” At the midpoint in this Advent season of expectant waiting and watching, we are called to reflect on the joy of God’s presence and promise.   As we hear Isaiah exult in the mission he has been given by God, Mary brimming over with gratitude and praise in her Magnificat, and Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice always,” we are led to the Gospel’s joyous promise of “the one who is coming.”

We invite you to pray with the passage of Isaiah, found below, using the technique of “lectio divina” (holy reading). In this approach, you first settle yourself in a quiet, comfortable posture, acknowledging the presence of God. Read the passage slowly and reflectively, noticing if any words of phrases stand out for you. Allow those words or phrases to sink in. You might repeat them a few times. Don’t try to analyze them, just allow them to be with you.

Slowly read the passage a second time. Reflect on what the significant words or phrases are touching in you. It might be your own experience of comforting someone who is brokenhearted, or of being comforted yourself. Whatever it is, trust that God speaks to you in your own personal experiences. Talk with God about this reaction, just as you would speak to a good friend. Then sit quietly and notice how God seems to be responding to you. That response may be a feeling of peace, or a sense of close presence. You may sense that God rejoices over you!

Read the passage a third time. What grace (gift) do you desire as a result of your prayer? Or, what might God be calling you to do, or to become?

Close your prayer time with the Lord’s Prayer or another prayer.

During the week, you might wish pray with the other readings, using lectio divina.

Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor,
to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and release to the prisoners,
to announce a year of favor from the Lord
and a day of vindication by our God.

I rejoice heartily in the Lord,
in my God is the joy of my soul;
for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation
and wrapped me in a mantle of justice,
like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem,
like a bride bedecked with her jewels.
As the earth brings forth its plants,
and a garden makes its growth spring up,
so will the Lord God make justice and praise
spring up before all the nations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Joyful Voices – A Reflection for the Third Week of Advent

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

On this third Sunday of Advent we are greeted with exalted cries of REJOICE! With voices from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, we are called to celebrate, to rejoice.  Isaiah proclaims, “I rejoice heartily in the Lord…”  We hear Mary sing out, “My soul rejoices in my God…”  And Paul joins this chorus with “Rejoice in the Lord always…again I say, rejoice” Why such jubilation?  Because, as Paul explains, “…the Lord is near.”

The promise has been fulfilled and yet in its fulfillments we still find unfinished business.  In Jesus, God came to be with us, to walk among us, to bring hope and peace and justice to an aching humanity.  Therein lies the agenda for each of us.  John the Baptist, in this Sunday’s liturgy responds to those who ask who he is by stating, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord.”  In our Baptism, each of us has been given a mandate.  We are to be a voice, a voice like that of John, announcing the day of the Lord.

All that God asks of us is to use the voice that is ours at this moment in our lives.  It can be a strong, vibrant voice, or that of someone who has borne the heat of the day and can hardly speak beyond a whisper.  All God asks is that you allow yourself to be the voice through which God enables someone to experience today that “the Lord is near.”

That voice can be a smile of affirmation, a nod of approval and encouragement.  It can be a kind word or act.  Then, there is that phone call or email that you have been putting off.  Whatever it is, allow yourself to be a voice that prepares the way for the peace, love, joy and hope that Jesus has come to bring.

Cause for Rejoicing

Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday)

By Marilyn Dunphy

 

We’ve all met them – people who just can’t or won’t be convinced or dissuaded of something no matter how strong the evidence.  Whether they cling to a deeply held personal bias, a conspiracy theory gone viral on the internet, or a belief system that leaves no room for questioning or a different interpretation, they (we?) can be a frustrating lot to deal with.

So it was for Jesus in today’s Gospel message wherein Jesus cures a blind man. His disciples assumed, as was commonly believed, that someone sinned and thus caused the man’s blindness. Then in almost comical fashion some of the crowd and the Pharisees engaged in an exercise in contortion to deny that Jesus healed the man. The man could not have been blind from birth, or he was an imposter, or if he was blind and Jesus healed him then Jesus was not “from God.”

What they had just seen with their own eyes was so incompatible with what they believed to be true, it had to be explained away.

A related theme is presented in the first reading when Samuel assumed that the king of Israel would be chosen from among the seven sons of Jesse who were presented to Samuel.  But God had other plans. In this case Samuel was open to the message of the Lord and sent for the youngest son, David, who had not even been brought to the ceremony. It was David, deemed unworthy by everyone else, whom the Lord chose.

“Not as people see does God see, because people see the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart”. (1 Samuel 16: 7)

On this Laetare Sunday we can rejoice that God indeed sees differently than we do. We can rejoice that we are created in God’s image and likeness; not the other way around. No matter how hard we try to force-fit God into our own worldview, God is waiting to open our eyes, minds and hearts to the mystery before us. God desires to free us from our tendency to distance ourselves from God when we perceive ourselves to be sinful or at least “not good enough.” God desires to shatter our shallow and sometimes self-serving notions of the worthiness or unworthiness of others. God desires to surprise and delight us with boundless love, life and light.  If only we will “see.”

For reflection:

In what area(s) of your life might you like God to heal any beliefs, attitudes or emotions that inhibit your acceptance of God’s unconditional love?

Do you sometimes find yourself judging others as “unworthy” because they do not meet your expectations in some regard?  Perhaps you can pray for the grace to see more as God sees.