A Reflection on Reality for Palm Sunday

palm sunday jesusSister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH 

Somewhere in one of the Gospel accounts, the observation is made that Jesus “knew what was in man.” That sounds ominous, but I think it’s simply stating the fact the he knew our flawed, fallible human nature and didn’t trust our rather irrational exuberance.

So, as he lurched along through the crowd on the back of that donkey, I suspect his enthusiasm for all the hoopla was muted by the awareness that “this too shall pass,” and the same folks who were cheering wildly for him could at any time shift to booing—and worse.

palm sunday crowd 2 hands onlyJesus was a realist; we—not so much, or at least not consistently. We want so badly for stories all to happy endings. Where do we get that almost irrational hope? Childhood happily-ever-after storybooks?

It would take a major revamping of our culture to alter our expectations.

What do other cultures, other countries teach their children to hope for?

I guess in many places it would be pointless to hope at all, even for a safe and quiet place to sleep, or something—almost anything—to eat. Happily-ever-after is a dream for white, middleclass Americans, for ourselves and our children.

As we lurch along through life, can we widen our perspective on the future, consider others who might need our help, and try to be more grateful for all we already have (and take for granted as our “birthright!)—something to eat, enough to wear, a safe place to live, a comfortable bed to sleep in, a worthwhile occupation to fill our days?

Compared to most in this world, and to many even in our own city, we are so very wealthy. What can we spread around so others may have a reason to rejoice, if only for a bit?

For Reflection:

Watch the local and national news every day. Rather than tsk-tsking about the events you see, ponder how you might make a difference somehow, somewhere.

Listen to conversations around you, your own and those of others. Do you hear attitudes of criticism or entitlement? Are any of them yours?

“Create A Clean Heart in Me, O God” – A Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Lent

By Sister M. Martha Pavelsky, MHSH

Jer 31:31-34; Ps 51:3-4, 2-15; Heb 5:7-9, Jn 12:20-33

Last spring, during the Easter season, we enjoyed the beauty and fragrance of several hyacinth plants. After they had bloomed and then gradually wilted and dried, I continued to water them in the hope of a second bloom.  Nothing happened and after a while I gave up and put the pots aside. Almost a year has passed and the other day something in the neglected flower pots caught my eye.

What was that yellowish, white thing? Could it be? Yes, it was a tender shoot pushing through the earth saying, “I died and was buried, but now, here I am emerging from the earth alive and new.” It took time, but the transformation happened. Another and another bud pushed through and I was awed at the miracle and determination of life over death.

We hear about such surprise and transformation in the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.  Jesus tells us that “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat.  But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

Being the servant, the follower of Jesus means that we understand the story of the seed, the lesson of the plant. Those periods of death, darkness, loss, doubt and confusion that every one of us experiences in our lives, are the environment, the incubation period from which faith, enlightenment and rebirth emerge.

And where is the nurturing place for such a faith? In the first reading we hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts. I will be their God and they shall be my people.”

God has placed the seed of faith in our hearts. Our hearts are that place of incubation for renewal, discovery, transformation, birth. Our Lenten discipline enables us to clarify the direction of our lives, to face and deal with the dark places within and to accommodate the challenges of daily dying and rising.

May we nurture in our hearts during this “season of incubation” new stirrings of hope, possibilities and responsiveness to the call of the one who “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

We pray in the words of the responsorial psalm:

“Create a Clean Heart in Me, O God”

The “Sticky Fingers of Divine Providence” – A Reflection for the Fourth Week of Lent

By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH

[2 Chr 36:15-16, 19-23; Ps 137:1-6; Jn 3:14-21]

“Gutsy” might best describe Nicodemus:  gutsy, but not stupid. It seems he had to meet with Jesus, but he took care to come in the dark so fewer people would see—although, as part of a small population, he certainly knew that even the night has eyes and word travels fast.

So his status as a respected religious leader might have been jeopardized by his visit to a questionable “wonder worker.”  Nevertheless, he went, impelled by a hunger to understand.

Cyrus, too, seems daring. Yes, he may have wanted to deport a troublesome ethnic group, but they were also one of his main sources of labor (why does this sound familiar?), and their exodus left the country in significant need of workers.  Credit—or blame?—is attributed to God for inspiring Cyrus’ decree.

In our time, God gets less credit or blame for the decisions of humans.  Only when we look back from some decades’ distance do we perceive the sticky fingerprints of divine providence and mutter to ourselves, “So that’s where God was going,” or “So that’s why that evil was allowed to happen.”

Hands_of_God_and_Adam

We need to learn and relearn, all through the span of our days, that life can be drawn even from darkest death.  We need to be patient, giving God time to draw dazzling good out of deep evil.

–What “deep evil” do you see—in our world or in yourself—that you are hoping God can heal?

–How might your patient waiting and working toward that healing be in itself a work of God?

–Do you see any sticky fingerprints as you look back?

Were You There? A Reflection for the Third Week in Lent

By Sister Natalie DeLuca, MHSH

[Readings: Ex 20:1-17; Ps 19:8-11; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25]

We are at the half-way mark.  Lent’s goal of deepening one’s relationship with Christ challenges each of us to answer the haunting question:  Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Paul was not present at the Crucifixion.  He did not literally witness Christ’s death on the cross.  But Paul’s faith has given him the strength of conviction.  In his lifetime, he has experiences that seem, to the people of his time to be obstacles or madness.

In this first letter to the Corinthians (from which the Second Reading for this Sunday is taken), Paul admits that faith in Jesus Crucified is beyond understanding.

What gives Paul that assurance, that unshakeable conviction in Jesus Crucified is not an obstacle, not nonsense, not madness?  It is the gift of the Spirit.  He accepts this gift of wisdom.  God’s wisdom is not the wisdom of the world.  The wisdom of the world is alien to things of God.  God’s wisdom, Paul asserts is holiness, virtue, freedom.

Was Paul there when they crucified my Lord?  No. Paul was not a physical eye witness. He was a witness in Faith.  And Paul realizes that with this gift comes the realization that this Spirit of God that dwells within him must reach out to others.  And so that is what he does.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?  No. Yet, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and like Paul, you come to realize that with this gift comes the realization that the Spirit of God dwells within you and me and we are compelled to reach out to others.