The Peace and Joy of Easter

By Sr. Onellys Villegas, MHSH

 On Easter Sunday, we are gathered in contemplation of the risen Christ.
We feel imbued with the same wonder as Mary Magdalen and the other women who went to Christ’s tomb on Easter morning and found it empty. That tomb became the womb of life. Whoever had condemned Jesus had deceived themselves that they had buried his cause under an ice-cold tombstone. The disciples themselves gave into the feeling of irreparable failure. We can understand their surprise, then, and even their distrust in the news of the empty tomb. But the Risen One did not delay in making himself seen and they yielded to reality. They saw and believed!

Two-thousand years later, we still sense the unspeakable emotion that overcame them when they heard the Master’s greeting: “Peace be with you.” … “La Paz sea contigo.”

Even now we have this same desire, as our Ukrainian brothers and sisters are suffering and dying unjustly.  We all struggle with the question of suffering. God sees and understands what we cannot. Not only is God in control, we can trust in God’s goodness even in the midst of our suffering. God says to us:

“I am with you, and I will not leave you.” His promise is that one day suffering will end, but until then God will be with us. One day it will all make sense. But in the meantime, we do not suffer alone.

Today is the day of Easter joy. This is the day on which Jesus
appeared to people who had begun to lose their hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his father’s glorious presence. May the risen Lord breathe on our hearts, souls, and minds, and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of the bread and follow him in his risen life.

MAY WE EMBODY  THE PEACE OF THE RISEN CHRIST!

Happy Easter!! Felices Pascuas de Resurreccion!

 

Statement of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart on the Violence in the Nation’s Capitol

“For the love of God…” were the words that launched the founding of our congregation, the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.  It is this same love of God that compels us to condemn the acts of violence against truth and democracy that we witnessed in our nation’s Capitol.

As citizens of the US, we were shocked but not surprised, that the rhetoric of hate that shapes the leadership of our country, permeated its very marrow, resulting in the needless death of 6 people and acts of domestic terrorism against the democracy we cherish.

Since 1890, we have partnered with people of color, with immigrants, refugees, and those seeking asylum in our country.  Engraved in our hearts is the suffering they have endured and the hope they cling to – to live in a democracy supported by a constitution and a rule of law that sees all people as God sees them.

Words and behavior matter.

We call on all elected leaders, by voice and by vote, to condemn the violence and vandalism that erupted in our cherished institution and the hateful rhetoric that incited it.

We call on all Church leaders, by voice and behavior, to guide us to our best selves. Speak the truth of the gospel, offering hope that God is indeed with us.

We call on ourselves to look closely at our words and actions, to repent of complicity that leads to division, to seek transparency in our witness.

The way forward is not clear. We grapple with much that divides us. “For the love of God”, let us begin anew the conversation.

-January 11, 2021

 

 

 

The Passion in Real Time: A Triduum Reflection in a Global Pandemic

By Sr. Clare Walsh, MHSH

Holy Week is more palpable this year than most of us imagined possible. We are experiencing the passion played out in real time.

We are confined, masked, distanced as health care workers offer themselves so others may live, while essential workers help to carry the cross thus making the way less burdensome. Neighbors being neighborly, looking out for the most vulnerable. A Holy Week where we “keep watch”.

This is an anxious time, “a night different from all other nights”. Questions arise from deep inside our being. Throughout scripture, Jesus posed questions to engage us, perhaps none with more urgency than those questions asked during his passion and death.

His questions probe, drawing from life as it emerges, and looking for a response hidden within us. The questions of Jesus are where prayer has always been valid. The initiative is always His. The graced response is ours. In his questions, Jesus holds us within his gaze.

We cannot use Holy Week to escape COVID19…this global pandemic calls us to solidarity as we share suffering with our sisters and brothers around the world.

Jesus’s deepest desire is to be in relationship with us.

Would you want to spend some time these days allowing Jesus to lovingly ask you the questions he voiced in the darkest of times?

Could you not keep watch with me for one hour?

 

  Do you know what I have done for you?

 

 And, what shall I say?
Father, save me from this hour?

 

 Whom are you looking for?

 

 Shall I not drink the Cup given to me by my Father?

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

 

God Bless us all these holy and frightening days. We wait in faith-filled Hope.

Taking the Long View

By Sr. M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Quick!  What do O.J. Brigance, the Baltimore Ravens football player; Michael J. Fox, the movie actor; and Joseph, son of Jacob from the Old Testament, have in common?  No idea?  I didn’t know either, until I recently (July 13) read a portion of the book of Genesis (49: 29-32, 50: 15-26a) and the connection became clear.

Joseph wanted to comfort his brothers, who feared his vengeance for selling him into slavery.  They were envious that their father Jacob preferred him over all his other sons (remember the Technicolor Dreamcoat?).  To reassure his family that he intended no harm, Joseph said, “Even though you meant to harm me, God meant it for good, to achieve God’s present end, the survival of many people.” What a great attitude on Joseph’s part!

So – Brigance and Fox:  Brigance, after a successful career in football, developed ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which quickly or slowly paralyzes its victims to death.  In his case, and with much medical care, it has progressed slowly, and with the help of his wife, Chanda, he has developed an enormous second career, counseling and supporting other players through the struggles of their playing days. His “street cred” is huge, because everyone in the Ravens organization has witnessed his and Chanda’s efforts on behalf of the Ravens – not as players but as people.

O.J. and Chanda Brigance

 

Michael J. Fox had a successful career, too, as an actor.  Drinking and partying were close to destroying it (see his memoir, ironically titled Lucky Man) until he awoke one morning and noticed his little finger oddly twitching on its own.  Medical investigation led to a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.  It’s hard to say which (Parkinson’s or ALS) is worse.  Gradually, Michael took up the cause of Parkinson’s research, again encouraged mightily by his stalwart wife, Tracy Pollan.

Michael J Fox and Tracy Pollan

 

Like O.J. Brigance, Michael Fox lives on, doing great good for many people because of the misfortune that befell him long ago.

 It seems God takes a very long view when “permitting” harm to happen and is cleverly creative in eventually drawing good out of what certainly seems evil or tragic to us.  “God meant it for good,” Joseph explained.  Let’s pray for a similar long view, especially for the many who are suffering all around us.

“Lent is no fun…” A Reflection for the Second Sunday of Lent by Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

I have never liked Lent.  Where I come from, it’s a season of mountains of dirty snow obscuring every intersection, making just crossing a street a death-defying drama.

slushy snow 0

Even getting on or off a city bus was fraught, as the stops were usually at corners where clogged storm drains filled with slushy water, daring the bus rider to either plunge a booted foot into the abyss (hoping to land on anything solid and supportive), or to launch herself beyond the icy stew to the steps of the bus, if boarding, or to the hill of scuzzy snow if disembarking.

Add to all that trouble was the required “sacrifices” of no candy and no desserts for 40 days: Tell me, what’s to like?

station of the crossWell, you might say, not every liturgical season has to be likable. Let’s settle for meaningful.  From little up, I understood about the Way of the Cross (also mandatory on Friday afternoons; all the school children in heavy coats and wet wool scarves, hats, mittens, in the pews in our church, genuflecting repeatedly—Catholic calisthenics, some call that—recalling and honoring all that Jesus suffered for us.

I can’t remember if any of our Sisters told us to offer our chapped lips, windburned faces, raw wrists and shins in union with Jesus’ agony.

Maybe that would have made a good religion class, especially if she encouraged us to unite our suffering with His for some special intention.

Maybe I can’t remember because that lesson has sunk too deeply into my psyche to be dredged up at will.  I still do believe in “offering it up”—as much my mother’s instruction as any religion teacher’s—and offering it for particular intentions—take your pick, they are myriad in our world, and offering gives our small and larger pains some positive purpose—or so I hope.

Well, clearly, Lent is no fun, but I guess it’s useful to put the sad and sore and negative in our lives to some hopeful, positive use before God.  At least, that’s my hope.  And spring and Easter are only a few weeks away!

Day 2: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

week_of_prayer_logo_216wDay 2, Called to be Messengers of Joy

Scripture

  • Isaiah 61:1-4, The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.
  • Psalm 133, How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
  • Philippians 2:1-5, Make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
  • John 15:9-12, I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

Meditation

The joy of the Gospel calls Christians to live the prophecy of Isaiah: “The spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has appointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed.” We long for Good News to mend our broken hearts and to release us from all that binds us and makes us captive.

When we are saddened by our own suffering, we may lack the vigor to proclaim the joy that comes from Jesus. Nevertheless, even when we feel unable to give anything to anyone, by bearing witness to the little that we have, Jesus multiplies it in us and in the people around us.

In the Gospel Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love” and “love one another as I have loved you.” It is in this way that we discover his joy in us, so that our joy may be complete. This mutual love and mutual joy is at the heart of our prayer for unity. As the psalmist says, “How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

Prayer

God of love, look upon our willingness to serve you despite our spiritual poverty and limited abilities. Fulfil the deepest longings of our hearts with your presence. Fill our broken hearts with your healing love so that we may love as you have loved us. Grant us the gift of unity so that we may serve you with joy and share your love with all. This we ask in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

For Reflection:

  • What smothers joy in the world and in the churches?
  • What can we receive from other Christians so that Jesus’ joy may be in us, making us witnesses of the Good News?

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute

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?

 

 

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Day 3 Prayer and Reflection

Day 3: Changed by the Suffering Servant.

Scripture
Isaiah 53:3-11, The man of sorrows accustomed to suffering.
Psalm 22:12-24, He did not despise the affliction of the afflicted.
1Peter 2:21-25, Christ suffered for us.
Luke 24:25-27, Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things?
Meditation
The divine paradox is that God can change tragedy and disaster into victory. He transforms the enormity of history’s pain into a resurrection that encompasses the whole world. While appearing to be defeated, He is the true Victory whom no one and nothing can overcome.
Isaiah’s prophecy was completely fulfilled in Christ. After suffering enormous agony, the Man of Sorrows shall see His offspring. We are that offspring, born from the Savior’s suffering. In this way we are made one family in Him.
Psalm 22 is not only about Jesus. The Savior Himself prayed this psalm on the cross. In the second part of the psalm the lamentation changes into praise of God for God’s works.
Peter presents to us as an example: Jesus did not curse God, but submitted to the one who judges righteously. His wounds have healed us, and returned us all to the one Shepherd.
As with the disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus is our constant companion on the stony road of life, stirring our hearts and opening our eyes to the mysterious plan of salvation. The power of the cross draws us into unity. Here we encounter Christ’s suffering as the source of compassion for and solidarity with the entire human family. In our shared solidarity with all who suffer we learn from the crucified suffering servant the lessons of self-emptying, letting go and self-sacrifice. These are the gifts we need from His Spirit on our way to unity in Him.

For Your Reflection

This day calls us to reflect on the suffering of Christ. Following Christ the Suffering Servant, Christians are called to solidarity with all who suffer. The closer we come to the cross of Christ the closer we come to one another.

  1. How can our faith help us in our response to long-lasting suffering?
  2. What areas of human suffering are unnoticed and belittled today?
  3. How can Christians bear witness together to the power of the cross?

Prayer
God of consolation, you have transformed the shame of the cross into a sign of victory. Grant that we may be united around the Cross of your Son to worship Him for the mercy offered through his suffering. May the Holy Spirit open our eyes and our hearts, so that we may help those who suffer to experience your closeness; You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

Source: Greymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute