Seeing From the Heart – A Reflection for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

child 01I would guess that she was about five years old.  The parish hall was filled with people eagerly awaiting the performance of the Irish dancers.  The music makers were ready to strum their guitars and at that first strum, the dancers raised their feet in rhythm as they faced their audience.  About four feet away, to the left of the dancers, was the five-year-old little lady facing the stage.  Oblivious to all on-lookers, it was clear her focus was on the professionals.  She was in her zone.  She was a delight.  Her little body moved as quickly as it could.  Sometimes, the dance was hard work and she lifted her small hand to brush aside a curl as she continued with unabashed freedom and all the dignity of a child of God.  Her round happy face shone with brilliant, intense and serious joy.

Sunday’s first reading (Sam.16:1b, 6-7,10-13a) always stops me short.  Perhaps, like some, I need this strong, clear reminder that what we see is not necessarily what God sees:  “Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is here before him.”  But the Lord said to Samuel: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature…. not as man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart.”  The Gospel is about “seeing”— asking God to heal our blindness.

Our culture often dictates the opposite of our values.  Does our need for acceptance sometimes translate to choices based merely on appearances?

The dancers that night so long ago received the applause of the people of God assembled to give recognition and enjoy the talent.  I wondered how many were delighted by the sight of that small child, not in the spotlight, who gave so many so much delight.

“Unless you become as a little child….”  Not childish.  Not losing dignity or responsibility.  But freedom to share our gifts.   And the greatest of gifts is love–a love that does not judge on appearances…on cultural criteria…on what’s in it for me…or on what or who is out of favor.

During these last days of Lent, we are called to assess if and/or why we exclude.    In turn, we will be given evidence of Christ’s great love for each and all of us.  He paid the ultimate price.  Let us ask for the great gift of “seeing with our hearts.”

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A Personal Relationship with God – Questions for Reflection

By Sister Donna Fannon, MHSH

This Sunday we hear the very familiar story of the “Woman At The Well” (John 4: 5-42).  Surely it is one of the most beautiful (and powerful) stories of personal encounter with Christ in all of the Gospels. This story offers us a treasure trove of points to deepen our reflection and contemplation.

Jesus-Samaritan Woman at Well

As we ponder this story we notice that Jesus encounters a woman who is isolated and alienated in many ways—in her personal life, within the community, devoid of a meaningful purpose to her life.  Jesus invites himself into her life, moving her beyond the bondage of her past history, and asks her to do something for him.  With that simple action of giving the Lord water, and in conversation with Jesus, she realizes a deeper hunger she has for Living Water.  She is empowered to move beyond her personal concerns to announce the Good News, inviting others to come and see for themselves. 

For reflection:

My graced history—Along with Jesus I look at the history of my life. Can I recognize the presence of God at some points in my life? When have I experienced transformation? When has God led me beyond my failures and shortcomings? How has God been inviting me to develop some of my gifts? For what purpose? When have I asked for God’s grace? How has God responded? How do I express thanks to God for creating me and revealing God’s self to me?

mindfulmeditationMoving from isolation to relationship—Can I recall a time when I felt isolated and lonely? How has God invited me into relationship? How is God fashioning me into a loving and generous person? Who are some of the people who have been examples of loving service in my life? Where do I go to drink deeply from the springs of living water that revive and refresh my soul?

Experiencing the Call of Christ— How does Jesus refresh me and reveal Himself to me? When have I recognized Jesus’ voice calling me to discipleship? How have I responded? Do I experience myself “seeing Jesus in the poor, the hungry, the downtrodden?”

random-acts-kindness-workCo-laboring with Christ—How do I experience joy in participating in Jesus’ ongoing redemptive work in the world? What motivates me to pour out my gifts on the “little ones”… to desire to alleviate suffering… to feed the hungry? Do I ever hear the voice of Jesus saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant?” Have I ever been a transforming presence in another person’s life? How do I express my gratitude to God for this validation?

May we hear this gospel with new ears this weekend.

Called by Circumstances

A Reflection by Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

In the first reading for the Second Sunday of Lent (GN 12:1-4A) God tells Abram:

“Go forth from the land of your kinsfolk and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you.”

Midrash is one of my favorite things.  (No, it’s not a terrible affliction akin to shingles, although that’s what it sounds like.)  Midrash is the practice of students of scripture who read a passage like the one above and wonder what happened before and after the event recorded.

What might have led up to it?  What outcomes were possible?  It’s all speculation, of course—none of it is verifiable in history—but pondering a reading in that way can be quite rich.

stars 2 Magic SkiesMy first thought on this little reading is, “God sure knows how to sweeten a deal!”  Certainly God realized how wrenching it would be for Abram to surrender his land.  Ownership of land in many (not all) cultures confers status, security, even the right to vote (as in our country at one time).  Abram should give all that up?

“You must be kidding, God.”

But then the sweetener:  God promises Abram a new great nation, a wonderful reputation, unlimited blessings.  Wow!  So “Abram went as the Lord directed him.”  Lucky for us he was so easily persuaded.  But, I have to wonder what his wife had to say!

Circumstances call us, (not divine voices exactly, but…) and we are rarely so compliant as Abram.  We dither, ponder, discuss, maybe dispute.  “Why should I do that, or go there or accept such-and-such or so-and-so?  Why me, now, here?  What if I had other plans?”

I think particularly of women I’ve known or heard about—mothers of young families whose husbands suddenly die—a car crash, a stroke, a heart attack.  Then what?  How to acquiesce to that?  How to go on?  Could I?

For Reflection:

 Is such a tragedy a call that can bring its own grace, making acceptance possible?  Are such experiences our transfiguring events?  How many such calls come to us in the course of one lifetime? How do we answer them?

You're Invited…

A Reflection on Lent by Sister Marilyn Dunphy, MHSH

InviteHave you recently received an invitation from a friend or relative to attend a get-together?  The invitation may have been to a dinner party, a birthday or anniversary celebration, a wedding, a baptism or some other special event. Whatever the occasion, it is clear that the host wants friends and loved ones to share in a celebration.  At the bottom of the invitation you may have seen the words “regrets only.”  Your optimistic host seems to assume that most people will want to come, so she asks only those few who cannot attend to let her know.  What seems at first a perfunctory postscript belies a welcoming, hospitable stance.

Can you imagine receiving such an invitation from God?  In this case, God invites you to get together over the 40 days of Lent to renew and deepen your mutual love and friendship, to ponder what it means to be in relationship with God, and with all of God’s creation.  How do you feel about receiving such an invitation? Do you immediately put the dates on your calendar and look forward to them with eager anticipation?  Or does this invitation fill you with doubt or guilt, or even fear and dread?   Is it just one more thing to schedule into an already overloaded calendar? Are you tempted to send your “regrets?”

“Even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with your whole heart for I am gracious and merciful.”  These words of today’s Gospel acclamation, taken from Joel, assure us of God’s desire that we put aside whatever is holding us back from accepting God’s invitation to greater love and intimacy.  Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, our loving God stands ready to forgive, to mend rifts, and to embrace us as cherished members of the family.  All we are required to do is show up with an open mind and heart.

Remember that “prayer” is conversation with God.  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  It doesn’t have to involve stilted, formal language.  Sometimes, as with good friends or a couple who has been together for many years, it does not have to involve words at all – just a profound “being with” the other. But if you need some help to get started, a list of Lenten prayer resources is found below.

Blessings on your Lenten journey from the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart.

Selected Lenten prayer resources:

Creighton University Lenten Prayer Resources: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/

Moved to Greater Love:  (9 week Lenten/Easter prayer experience produced by the Jesuits) http://www.jesuits.org/story?TN=PROJECT-20140128033207

Pray As You Go Lenten Retreat: http://pray-as-you-go.org/prayer-resources/lent-retreat/

Sacred Space Retreat for Lent: http://retreats.sacredspace.ie/