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’.

 

Saintly Snark – A Reflection for the Feast of St. Joseph

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Know any Christmas-y songs about St. Joseph? No? Well, I know only one, and I cherish it because it’s midrash-like: it goes behind the scene, and evokes a rich line of thought (one of the purposes of midrash).

Actually, the scene is set after Christmas, when Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus are fleeing to Egypt to evade Herod’s soldiers, coming to execute all baby boys who could pose a threat to Herod’s power (think “the Holy Innocents”, whom we celebrated a couple of days after Christmas, bringing us back with a thud from all the holiday sweetness and light).

It’s one long trek to Egypt by foot and donkey, so the family takes a break when Mary sees a cherry tree up ahead. Some juicy cherries sound wonderful to her, so the song reports her request of Joseph to pick some for her.

Snarkily, Joseph replies, “Let the father of the baby pick cherries for you.” Wow! Was he ruminating during that whole long trip over Mary’s pregnancy- without-his-involvement, and the resultant upending of all their happy plans together? (Unexpected pregnancies and other life-altering events have been known to make good, even saintly, people snarky and then some!).

There’s no record of Mary’s reply – perhaps she was stunned to silence by her spouse’s uncharacteristic testiness. But someone else does reply: that “father of the baby” causes the cherry tree to bend down far enough for Mary to pick her own cherries!

I suspect the stunned silence shifted to Joseph, who had to rejoice in such an emphatic affirmation of the baby boy’s true origin, putting to rest all Joseph’s anger, hurt and bitterness.

Of course, “The Cherry Tree Carol” is made up: there’s no mention of cherries in the scriptures, as far as I know. But in the department of “be careful what you wish for”, could this be any better a response?

So many conversations could grow from this rich, imaginative carol! What could you say to Joseph? To Mary? Even to baby Jesus?

Begin Your Journey to Jerusalem – A Reflection for Lent by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

“TO LIVE IN HEARTS WE LEAVE BEHIND IS NOT TO DIE”

                                                                                                                            –Thomas Campbell

Lent 2017 lights our hearts with the realization that Christ suffered, died and is with us!  Thomas Campbell’s quote is a song of praise, a hymn of joy, an alleluia of faith and hope and truth.  As the Lenten journey begins, invite the presence of Christ to fill your heart.  That is the grace He wants to give us. Build your relationship in silence with Scripture – His Word of this season with an attitude of thankfulness,

lent-2017Approach Him with thanks for all His goodness bestowed on you.  Count the ways:  parents, loved-ones, family, health, sickness, friends, and all the hardships –your journey to your Jerusalem, your losses, struggles—your life as you live now.

Besides living in our hearts, Jesus is alive—risen with an incorruptible body and spirit.  Lent gives us space out of our busy and noisy lives to stop and ask: “What have I done for those I love?  What have I done lately for Christ?”

Matthew 25:35-37 goes to the heart of our reality check:  “…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, sick and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me…”

05 School mealAt the beginning of Lent, try to live in the present moment with the Christ.  He will go to Calvary, Yes.  But He is risen and wants to walk with us—with you—on this 2017 trek to Jerusalem, a time that will never come again!

He is not dead. He lives. He lives in the broken lives and silent cries of our brothers and sisters who make up the mystical Body of Christ.

Find a quiet space.  Read or remember your favorite Scripture story of Christ.  Place yourself in the scene.  Notice His gestures, His expressions.  Hold a conversation with Him about your hopes for this Lent.   Remembering our brothers and sisters, share with the Lord your Lenten plan.

Suggested Scripture: Matthew 25:31-41

An Advent Gift "From the Heart of God"

heart-lydia-cho-rscj“From the Heart of God…” was the theme that captured the attention of nearly 80 people who gathered on Saturday, December 3, 2016, at the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart for an Advent Day of Prayer.

Mission Helper Sr. Clare Walsh, facilitator of the day, began with a quote from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” inviting us to look at where our hearts might be “two sizes too small.”  Dr. Seuss gave way to reflecting on Advent Scriptures from Isaiah and Luke, followed by Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy challenge – to enter the chaos of our world with Jesus, Mercy Incarnate.

Participants were asked to reflect on “Where in our lives is God inviting us to enlarge our hearts and to love a bigger God?” dsc_1735

The day of prayer provided an opportunity to slow down, linger, ponder, wonder…to step out of the rush of Christmas into the hush of Advent.

“From the Heart of God…” came reflection, silence, prayer, lively faith sharing, and a delicious lunch.

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Our gathering ended at 3pm with Rev. Robert Albright presiding at Liturgy during which Sr. Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH, renewed her vows.

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The Mission Helpers have sponsored days of prayer at their Center for the past 12 years. Sr. Jane Geiger, MHSH is the behind-the-scenes person that has made it all happen. Keep your hearts open for the next one…watch for the announcement.

(Heart image by Lydia Cho, RSCJ)

 

Simple Steps in Prayer

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

Many people are looking for real and practical ways to pray that help them pay attention to God in the midst of their busy lives.  A way that has proven helpful to me is to structure my prayer time around four movements: Reading, Reflecting, Responding and Remaining (in the Latin of the Middle Ages they would refer to Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio).

READING: The fundamental act of prayer is listening (paying careful, loving and alert attention): to Scripture, first of all, but also to the events of our lives. We are people to whom God speaks. That’s the heart of the art of prayer, the art of genuine attention.

REFLECTING: Digesting what we have slowly read, using imagination, paying attention to insights, noticing feelings and connections: all are essential aspects of understanding and integrating what we have heard in God’s speaking to us in Scripture and in the silence of our hearts.

RESPONDING: Saying words (our own or formal prayers) comes as a natural response to the first two elements of prayer.  Often, giving thanks—gratitude—is a first response to noticing God’s presence in the Scriptures and in the experiences of our lives.

REMAINING: A simple resting (in faith, hope and love) in the reality of the Triune God who speaks to us in order to draw us into a sharing in the Divine Life.  In this silence we offer ourselves as an empty vessel that God may fill with grace and love.

We will never acquire the art of prayer unless we give the time to practice prayer. A specific time of 20-30 minutes each day can be our gift to Christ, a time no longer at our own disposal, but a time that belongs to Christ and us together. Sometimes spent with others, sometimes in the company of Mary, this Christ-time in each day will become the place where we discover the depth, creativity andprofound human value in the living art of Christian prayer.

Prayer is communion and conversation with God.  We all know from our experience that a genuine conversation requires speaking and listening.  We are often ready to speak, but neglect to listen carefully and attentively.  Communion, or friendship, develops when both dynamics are present.

How do you pray? What works for you?

Renewal

By Eloise Downing

Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

There is comfort in the familiar. Our daily routines keep us from having to “re-invent the wheel” for each of our mundane endeavors. Over the years, the relationships we’ve built with our families and friends pave the two-way street of love, understanding and trust by which we support one another on our journeys. Yet, if we entrap ourselves only in the familiar (the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way” approach to life), we run the risk of being bored (and boring!) and cheating ourselves out of the wonder of discovery, the exciting potential for growth and spirited life.

I find the Scriptures call us from the comfort of the familiar to openness to the new. There are passages we’ve heard time and time again — so much so that we can recite them from memory. However, just when we hear a familiar proclamation, when it is easy to think, “Oh, I’ve heard this all before”, is perhaps just the time we’re invited to forsake the familiar and seek out the ever-renewing unfolding of the spirit-life.

Sometimes this openness to a renewed inspiration in Scripture is revealed in the simple turn of a phrase or in reading a different translation of the passage. Recently, I experienced this in the phrase from Ezekiel – “I will create a new heart in you and breathe into you a new spirit” — a passage I’ve heard, read and sung many times.

But for some reason, I found myself reflecting on a paraphrase: “I will create a new heart in me” — not in the sense that I am an ultimate creator — but rather in the sense that, because the new heart has already been bestowed on each one of us, we are responsible for how we continue the creation of the new heart, the enlivening spirit, in our midst.

So, my paraphrase of Ezekiel is my Lenten reflection, calling me to continue the creation of the new heart and spirit with which we’ve all been so richly blessed. May your Lenten inspirations be times of gratitude for all the gifts of heart and spirit in your life, whether they be familiar or new or some of both.