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

A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent

advent-week-4-peace_without-wordsBy Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Reading I: Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial Psalm: 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

The time is near. Our celebration of Christmas 2016 is now just days away. Are you ready? Have you made the necessary preparations?

Can you reflect on the reality of this historic event as we imagine Mary and Joseph getting ready to make the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem? What last minute preparations did they think were necessary?

There may have been a discussion—perhaps concerned, even a little worried between the thoughtful Joseph and the soon-to-be young mother, Mary.  The caring father-guardian Joseph knew Mary’s faith was deep and strong.  He placed his trust in the goodness of the God of Life.  I imagine Joseph wore a smile as together they gathered the few things they would need for their journey.

getting-ready-at-nazareth-to-bethlehemCarefully, they placed bundles of small blankets for the infant to come (just in case).   Mary may have gathered together strips of white cloth, which would tie the coverings bringing warmth and a feeling of security to the infant.  Although Joseph was a skilled craftsman, thoughts of bringing a cradle on this trip (just in case) was not a practical consideration.

It was time.  It was time to to leave Nazareth if they were to arrive before the darkness of night.   On their journey, they met fellow travelers.  They heard talk of crowded inns, people being turned away for lack of space.   Joseph and Mary probably traveled with a bit of anxiety.

As they journeyed on, they most likely shared whatever food and drink they had with their fellow travelers.  Their thoughts and hearts turned to prayers requesting the Father to bring them to a safe haven – a place of safety, a place of peace. The Father would surely provide.

You and I live centuries from that time-honored trip to Bethlehem that changed our world and our journey in this life.  That moment in time changed everything.  The responsorial Psalm echoes what our hearts want to sing: “Let the Lord enter….”

The Gospel reaffirms the angel’s words of assurance: “Do not be afraid.”  What is your heart’s prayer for Christmas 2016?

A world at peace? A place of safety on the streets of our towns and cities?   A life journey that speaks good wishes to friends and strangers alike?

Lord, grant us all a merciful heart, a peaceful heart, and an earth honoring your Son!

Listening to Jesus – A Reflection for the Third Sunday in Lent

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

Exodus 3:1-8a, 13-15
Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12
Luke 13:1-9 

“…I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but found none…”  –Luke 13:6

tree_barrenMany years ago, in my childhood, I remember following my father outside in our backyard.  With watchful eyes, he would survey the vegetable garden and the fig tree planted there.  With the care it received, the fig tree would reward my father and his family with a harvest of fruit in due time.  When summer faded, my father would safeguard the tree from Pennsylvania’s wintry blast.  With shovel in hand, my father would dig around the tree, wrap it in sacking and cover it with soil.  There it would rest until it was time to resurrect it back to the warm, bright light of spring.

Today’s scripture poses a possible case of neglect or indifference.  Jesus searches for the fruit of the laborer’s work, but there is none.  The scene provokes a possible connection to our own relationship with Christ.

figtreeWhat care do I give to my relationship with Jesus?  Is there quiet time?  Time for listening, rather than reciting prayers or a litany of requests?

Quiet time in Christ’s presence nourishes the heart.  What does your relationship need in order to deepen, to grow?  The distractions of the world often deafen us, making it hard to hear the call of Christ that will nourish us.

Picture yourself in the scene with Jesus and the gardener.  What do you see?

Dry fruit?  No fruit?

Listen to Jesus.  He comes in search of fruit.   What do you hear from Him?

 

“…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?

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?

 

Amazing Grace

A Reflection by Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

What does non-violence, forgiveness and reconciliation mean to you? How can prayer move the “enemy”? Here is a story that Fr. Robert Hamm, S.J., told a group of Mission Helpers, illustrating the mysterious and empowering gift of God’s grace.

Fr. Hamm was a Jesuit missionary priest in South Africa for 25 years. He presently directs a House of Prayer in Baltimore, Maryland. I share this truth:

African Woman puzzle like“It took place in a courtroom trial in South Africa: a frail black woman about 70 years old slowly rises to her feet. Across the room and facing her are several white police officers. One of them is Mr. Van der Broeck, who has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman’s son and her husband some years before. Van der Broeck had come to the woman’s home, taken her son, shot him at point blank range and then set the young man’s body on fire while he and his officers partied nearby.

“Several years later, Van der Broeck and his men had returned for her husband as well. For months she knew nothing of his whereabouts. Then almost two years after her husband’s disappearance, Van der Broeck came back to fetch the woman herself. How well she remembers in vivid detail that evening, going to a place beside a river where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips as the officers poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame were, ‘Father forgive them….’

African Truth and Reconciliation Commission“Now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confession offered by Mr. Van der Broeck. A member of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission turns to her and asks, ‘So what do you want? How should justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?’

“‘I want three things,’ begins the old woman calmly…‘I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather up the dust and give his remains a decent burial.’

“She paused, then continued, ‘My husband and son were my only family. I want secondly, therefore, for Mr. Van der Broeck to become my son. I would like for him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend a day with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I still have remaining in me.’

She also said that she wanted a third thing. ‘This is also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van der Broeck in my arms and embrace him and let him know that he is truly forgiven.’

amazing grace 6As the court assistants came to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr. Van der Broeck, overwhelmed by what he had just heard, fainted. As he did, those in the courtroom – friends, neighbors, relatives – all victims of decades of oppression and injustice, began to sing, softly but assuredly, Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.’”

 Reflection: What does non-violence, forgiveness and reconciliation mean to you?