“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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life Overcomes Death

A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent
By Sr. Princess Mary Dawson, MHSH

Readings:
https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/032121-YearA.cfm

 

The story of Lazarus is a glimpse into the climax of Jesus’ life.  After escaping his opponents’ attempt at stoning him, Jesus learns that Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, is ill. Lazarus is not yet dead so Jesus waits two days knowing the one he loves will die, then decides to return to Bethany.

Jesus is showing us a deep understanding of what we, even today, try to accept. Death is a part of life, and Jesus can and does overcome death.

Jesus comes to the tomb and calls Lazarus out. Lazarus comes forth and is helped with the unwrapping of his bindings. Jesus has used the death of his friend to witness the power of God. Lazarus is brought back to life, which gives us a view of death in its totality. The voice of Christ is obeyed and new life is the result for Lazarus. The call here is to hear the voice of God and obey it, then we can rejoice in new life. Jesus’ own Passion ends in having obeyed the Father, and he is given new life. Lazarus’ obedience of Jesus resulted in his coming back to life. Jesus’ obeying his Father made the Resurrection possible and gave us the Risen Christ.

 

Today let us consider two questions:

How do you understand death today in light of Jesus’ Passion and death?

What role does obeying Jesus play in your daily life?

 

 

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.  


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!

 

“Bustin’ Through” –A Post-Easter Reflection

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Have you ever risen from the dead?  If you’re an overworked, underpaid, weary-to-the-bone person who nevertheless hauls out every morning to take on another day, you have.

garden blossomIf you live in the eastern half of this country and have struggled with and struggled against the winter of 2016, you may be rising again just about now, finding your grimly-set jaw softening as you notice the blooms coming to life in your garden, or shiny maroon buds fattening on a tree.

Spouses, parents and others buy into resurrection when we choose a bit of amnesia relative to last night’s argument or bedtime tantrum, and speak a quiet “good morning” as the new day begins.

rock garden 1Resurrection is more common than believed—unless we’re speaking of “Jesus bustin’ through them rocks,” as a second grader in Mobile, Alabama, once defined it for me.

“Bustin’ through” is what’s significant in that description.  Reflect for just a moment on what you may need to “bust through,” and ask our risen Lord to empower you to do it!

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 1

week_of_prayer_logo_216wBackground:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity gives Christians an annual opportunity to continue their quest for the unity they already share in Christ. It is also a time to gather in praise of the Triune God and to deepen the understanding of the ecumenical movement. By joining in this annual celebration Christians raise their voices, hands and hearts to God seeking the fulfillment of the prayer of Jesus, the Son of God, “that they all may be one.”

The Week of Prayer also invites those who participate to use it as an opportunity to examine the effectiveness of the ecumenical movement in seeking to end the divisions among Christians. From the smallest to the largest communities, from all cultures, races and language groups, from all the baptized to all those in ordained ministry, the Week of Prayer is also an opportunity to ask examine the level of support they have given to this important movement in the life of the Church. An accounting of each Christian’s discipleship and faithfulness to the proclamation of the Gospel—the good news of reconciliation—can be taken every year during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

This year’s theme is, “Called to Proclaim the Mighty Acts of the Lord”. During this week, we will post daily scripture selections, meditations and questions for your reflections.  We invite you to enter into dialogue with other readers by posting comments and commenting on the thoughts that others post.

Day 1, Let the stone be rolled away

Scripture

  • Ezekiel 37:12-14, I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
  • Psalm 71:18b-23, Your power and your righteousness, O God, reach the high heavens.
  • Romans 8:15-21, We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
  • Matthew 28:1-10, He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said.

Meditation

In our world today there is much grief and pain; wounds inflicted which are difficult to forgive. All of this is like the large stone which covered the mouth of Jesus’ tomb. Wounds such as these imprison us in a spiritual grave.

But if, in our suffering, our pain is united to his pain, then the story does not end here, locked in our graves. The earthquake of the Lord’s resurrection is the earth-shaking event that opens our graves and frees us from the pain and bitterness that hold us in isolation from one another. This is the mighty act of the Lord: his love, which shakes the earth, which rolls away the stones, which frees us, and calls us out into the morning of a new day. Here, at this new dawn we are re-united with our brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned and hurting too. And like Mary Magdalene we must “go quickly” from this great moment of joy to tell others what the Lord has done.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, you have always loved us from the beginning, and you have shown the depth of your love in dying for us on the cross and thereby sharing our sufferings and wounds. At this moment, we lay all the obstacles that separate us from your love at the foot of your cross. Roll back the stones which imprison us. Awaken us to your resurrection morning. There may we meet the brothers and sisters from whom we are separated. Amen.

For reflection:

  • What are the events and the situations of our lives and the circumstances that make us lock ourselves in the grave—in sadness, grief, worries, anxiety and despair?
  • What keeps us from accepting the promise and joy of the resurrection of Christ?
  • How ready are we to share the experience of God with those whom we meet?

 

 

Look for Him in the Ordinary Events of Life

A Reflection for Easter Sunday by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

“Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples were bold enough to ask, “Who are you?” They knew quite well it was the Lord! Jesus then stepped forward, took  the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.”                                                                                                                                                             —John 21:12-14                

Jesus-meal-of-our-lord-and-the-apostles-747x481Easter Sunday celebrates our historic event when a relationship with Christ became transforming. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love.” These words might give us reason to speculate on the thoughts in the hearts and minds of the apostles. Who could possibly take the place of Jesus? The resurrection is the affirmation par excellence that the death of a loved one, the void in one’s heart, need not be permanent. For the apostles, this was the third time that Jesus’ appearance assured them that He would be always with them.

Though not recorded in any of the holy books, many believe that it certainly seems fitting that Jesus appeared to Mary. It seems more than probable that Jesus’ first appearance was to His mother, the woman who gave Him birth. With Mary, He visits and shares His rebirth.

Were there other unrecorded appearances? What do you think?   What do you believe?   On that brilliant, sun-drenched day, Jesus walked the earth in search of those He loved to reassure them, to comfort and encourage them.

The visit at the seashore is truly revealing. No questions asked. The breeze on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias was pleasant. The bonfire was a cheery welcome to the breakfast—a fish fry! Were the apostles startled? A bit in awe? The Lord Jesus was preparing them to look for Him in the common, ordinary events of life and to pass it on…to share the good news!

Easter Sunday is now…Easter Sunday is forever…Easter Sunday is forever! Come to the table, share your bread, believe, journey with Christ.

Reflection: What Gospel resurrection appearances are your favorites? Place yourself in the scene. What do you hear? What do you see?

 

LENT- A TIME FOR CREATIVE CONTEMPLATION

By Sister Agnesine Seluzicki, MHSH

[Ed. note: Sister Agnesine Seluzicki went home to God on February 13, 2015.

She was 95 years old and had been a member of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart Community for 74 years. A daughter of Russian immigrants, she once said that being a member of the Community, ‘enabled me to allow God to work through me. I discovered the truth of the phrase, ‘In him I can do all things.’”

 She shared the following reflection on Lent with us in February 2012. Her belief in the promises of new life and her view of Ash Wednesday and Lent as “movement toward the Resurrection” are both inspiration and comfort as we prepare for her wake and funeral. A wise and gifted teacher and counselor, Sister Agnesine will be greatly missed.]

As the days begin to lengthen, unfolding gradually the promises of new life, the Church enters into its movement toward the great feast of Life – the Resurrection – with the celebration of Ash Wednesday.  For the next forty days, we will be invited to enter into a virtual desert experience, an experience where one can hear more deeply, within one’s own heart, the voice of God.  How is this to be accomplished?  The readings and prayers at the Mass on Ash Wednesday set the tone.  The first reading for Ash Wednesday from the prophet Joel begins,

Even now, says the Lord,
return to me with your whole heart,
with fasting and weeping…
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
and return to the Lord your God.

Saint Paul, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, follows this up with the exhortation, “…We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God…Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

As you present yourself to be signed with ashes and hear the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” accept this invitation as a call by our God to a renewal of life.  Allow yourself to look at any excesses that may have crept into your life, which are blurring Gospel values.  Settle on the ways in which you are able to find your fasting and desert experiences.

Be creative!  Your most contemplative experiences might just occur on a crowded subway or while performing some unpleasant task.  Your fasting might come from five minutes of listening to that boring individual whom you usually tune out. And, what of a smile to that harried employee at the check-out counter?  Or, that effort to keep from judging others or from complaining.

As we commemorate the sufferings and death of Jesus during Lent, let us remember that Jesus lives and that in our remembering, returning, reconciling and repenting we are responding to the call of our living God who calls us to life in the risen Christ.

Is There a Cost to Us at Pentecost?

A Reflection by Sister Barbara Baker, MHSH

This weekend we celebrate the major feast of Pentecost. Just 10 days ago we celebrated the feast of the Ascension.  Now we all know how nervous the apostles of Jesus were that he was leaving them to do what He had prepared them to do—that is, to go forth and make disciples of all nations.  That’s a pretty tall order to fulfill.  However, we also know that Jesus was telling them for a long time that when He returned to His Father He would not leave them orphans.  He would give them someone to advocate for them—namely, the Holy Spirit.  I can only imagine how fearful they must have been when this moment actually arrived.

They gathered one more time in their comfort zone—the same Upper Room where they had shared in the Last Supper with Jesus, gathered after the resurrection to experience Jesus’ presence anew and now to find support and solace once more where so much had taken place.  They must have wondered, “What will happen to us next?”

holy-spiritThey got their answer very soon when a great wind blew in on them and the Holy Spirit settled upon them and filled them with His energy and new life.  It is the birthday of a new entity—the church.  Jesus fulfills His promise not to leave them orphaned.  They spoke in their native tongues and all at the same time.  It must have been a time of great emotion and perhaps confusion.  But, I believe that in a very short time they experienced a great peace come over them to reassure them that indeed God was with them.

teach all nationsWhat was and still is the cost for each of us to go forth to make disciples of all nations?  Since Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical about the New Evangelization around 40 years ago, the Church has put before us the need for each and every one of us to do something to initiate and/or deepen one’s connection to Jesus Christ.  In recent days everyone is talking about evangelization and our need to go forth and build our Church on relationships to one another and ultimately to Jesus Christ.  To carry it one step further, Pope Francis is calling our attention to this responsibility by his own actions and words.  Are we listening and watching?

Let’s Think About:

  1.  Do I listen to the Spirit in reaching out to family, friends, co-workers or neighbors to introduce or continue a conversation about Jesus and how He invites all to befriend him?
  2. Are we ready to have a new fire lit within us with the coming once again of this Holy Spirit who will breathe new life into us?
  3. What real difference does the coming of the Holy Spirit mean in our own life?

“The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience” –Emily Dickinson

An Easter Reflection by Sister Clare Walsh, MHSH 

A missing plane from Malaysia, a mudslide in the state of Washington, countless Syrian refugee children, school violence…sometimes our soul and the season seem out of sync.

Yet the tomb is empty.

Jesus' Tomb empty2When our ‘soul stands ajar’, we catch a glimpse of resurrection.  Resurrection joy is not simply the joy of satisfaction that follows a productive day, or happiness in scoring well on an exam.  Resurrection joy is experienced when our hearts are drawn to God.


When our ‘soul stands ajar’, faith may not change the story, but it may change the way we see the story, and that in itself can make all the difference.

When our ‘soul stands ajar’, our attention is focused outside and beyond ourselves and lifts our hearts so we can participate in the joy and sorrow of others.  Whenever joy enters into those who are in pain, sorrow, and distress, it is experienced as consolation; God consoling.

When our ‘soul stands ajar’, we notice that the Risen Jesus listened to the disciples’ stories and then named the story of God that ran under and through their story.  They were so close to their story they could not see the fullness of it.  Jesus longs to do the same for each of us.

open soul_2When ‘our soul stands ajar’, we recognize the fire that burns within.

When ‘our soul stands ajar ready to welcome the ecstatic experience’, Easter holds far more for us than we can ask or imagine.

If Mary Magdalene had been given what she desired, what she begged for, she would have been given the dead body of Jesus.  Instead, she came face-to-face with the living Christ and heard him speak her name.

What would it take for your ‘soul to stand ajar ready to welcome the ecstatic experience’ of Easter?

Easter Blessings galore, one and all!