This stunning portrait, “Into the Light*” was painted by Sr. Pat Willems, CSJ, of the Sisters of St. Joseph, LaGrange, Il. (courtesy of Ministry of Arts). Sister Pat gave permission to share it with the Ladies of Charity. We find the tomb and the stones that marked the grave of the Risen Lord ‘transformed’ into Light, into a new Life of budding, emerging Springtime. “ Alleluia!” is the song of the desert. “The Lord has Risen”! Jesus emerges from the tomb and visits Mary Magdalene, the apostles by the sea shore, the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Our Risen Savior prepares us for His Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. “Into the Light” captures the beauty, the hope of the message of the Readings for us in the Gospel- time of Resurrection to Pentecost.
For St. Louise de Marillac, ‘light’ and the time of Ascension to Pentecost, had particular significance. A powerful mystical moment was experienced on the Feast of Pentecost (1623) for St. Louise, which she called her ‘Lumiere experience’. She wrote: ”I would be in a small community where others would do the same. I, then, understood where I could help my neighbor, but I did not understand how this would be possible because there was much coming and going.” (L.Sullivan DC, (1995) Classics: Vincent DePaul and Louise de Marillac. Paulist,p.226). Working to establish the Daughters of Charity and assisting the Confraternities of the Ladies of Charity was to be her work in meeting the Will of God for her. In the spirit of St. Louise de Marillac, let us enter into the prayer of the Paschal Mystery and Pentecost Springtime, so that we, too, may find the Will of God in our lives and go “Into the Light.”
- Sr. Fran Ryan, DC , LCUSA Sister Moderator
*“Into the Light”
Artist: Pat Willems, CSJ
Courtesy of www.Ministryofthearts.org
Congregation of St. Joseph
As we enter this final week of Lent, the holiest of the liturgical year, our two Gospel passages for this Sunday bombard us with activity: untying, helping, riding, spreading, praising, proclaiming, rebuking; eating, drinking, sharing, debating, arguing, telling, professing; praying, sleeping, kissing, betraying, striking, healing, arresting; following, denying, remembering, weeping; beating, questioning, charging, sending, mocking, accusing, shouting; carrying, lamenting, crying, crucifying, forgiving, watching, sneering; offering, calling, believing, promising, commending, dying; asking, taking, wrapping, laying, following, seeing, preparing, resting.
This up-and-down movement is enough to exhaust me, to make me ache with incredulity, grief, remorse.
The readings invited us to ponder: what would I have been doing? What would I have been holding, carrying on those critical days? The colt’s tether? A palm branch? A cloak? A shout? A sneer?
Bread? The cup? An argument? A protest? A prayer? Drops of blood? A closed eye? A grieving heart?
A kiss? A sword? A club? A tear? A broken heart?
A whip? A question? An insistence? Silence?
A scream? A cross beam? A child? A rebuke? Paradise? Darkness? A cry? A final breath? A witness? A plan? The body? A cloth? Spices? Oils? A heavy heart?
And what do I hold today in my service with and for Christ in persons who are poor?
In 1617, St. Vincent urged the Ladies in the Charity of Châtillon-Les-Dombes to “ … bring the patient a picture of the Crucifixion, … place [it] where he can see it so that, by looking at it sometimes, he may reflect on what the Son of God suffered for him.” (Coste, Vol. 13b, #126, page 12) Perhaps, holding, gazing and praying with a crucifix this week may bless and strengthen us as well.
PRAYER: Gentle, loving Jesus, You emptied Yourself becoming human like us and then gave Your all that we might live. We, in turn, offer our deep thanks and our sincere efforts to walk with our poor sisters and brothers. Free us to accompany You during this Holy Week and teach us Your way of generous, unconditional kindness and care. We ask all this in Your name through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.
TRY THIS TODAY: Sit in God’s presence, with a crucifix, and ask:
- As a Lady of Charity, what am I doing, holding in this story of the last week of Jesus’ life?
- What do I experience now during these heartrending final days of Lent?
- How do all these poignant events impact my accompaniment of persons living in poverty?
Prepared for the Ladies of Charity USA by Sr. Carol Schumer, DC
Under the general Lenten theme of judgment and reconciliation, John has created for us in this brief Gospel a complex one–act drama in which the Scribes and Pharisees seek to destroy Jesus by “using” another human person. The characters are few; the dialogue is limited; the setting is the public temple area which ironically offers little respect for Jesus or for the adulterous woman. While there is little spoken dialogue, many messages are communicated by the placement, postures and actions of the principals.
The drama opens as after a night of prayer on the Mount of Olives, Jesus comes to the temple area and “all the people started coming to him and he sat down and taught them”. The pharisees and scribes seeing a chance to trap Jesus force the woman caught in adultery to “stand in the middle” alone and without defense. They demand that Jesus comment on the Mosaic Law’s dictate that an adulterous woman be stoned. Jesus ignores their verbal challenge, their plot collapses and Jesus merely “bends down” and writes in the dust. Failing to move his opponents, Jesus then straightens up and reminds all that the criterion for judging others is to be “without sin,” an impossible state in the human condition. “Again he bent down and wrote on the ground”. As they went away, “the elders first”, Jesus again “straightened up” and approached the woman with respect. Jesus is now alone standing eye to eye with her, the true posture of reconciliation which literally means to be again situated eye to eye with another). “Go and from now on do not sin anymore.” The curtain falls leaving us to consider:
1. Which of my sins or dispositions would Jesus have urged me to leave behind in the sand so I might go forward in freedom and love?
2. John has Jesus assume different physical positions. How do those positions reflect humility which calls us to stay close to the common soil of solidarity and to simplicity which urges us to speak the truth, and to act honestly with no artifice or treachery.
Prayer: After each prayer line repeat slowly the refrain “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner.”
Help me to recognize my weakneses and sins so that I “may go and sin no more.”
Strengthen me so that I do not “use” others to advance my own agenda.
Deepen my respect for all persons and deepen my gratitude for your unbounded mercy.
This reflection was prepared for LCUSA by Sr. Margaret John Kelly, DC
St. John’s University Ladies of Charity
This familiar gospel story is one of three in a row that Jesus tells – all with the same message. I think it’s fair to assume that Jesus considered this message important!
In the first story, a shepherd leaves 99 perfectly good sheep alone in the desert, prey to whatever wild animals liked mutton, and went after a single obstreperous stray that didn’t have the good sense to follow as a sheep should. Then the shepherd rejoiced, because the flock was whole again.
The second story finds a woman who has lost a coin from a set of ten. She finds the coin and throws a party because her set of coins is whole again. The return on investment is questionable; surely the party cost more than the coin was worth.
The story we hear today speaks of a son who leaves the family for the wild life. When funds run out and he returns hungry, the father rushes out to meet him and rejoices because, “This son of mine was lost and has been found.” The family is whole again (except for an upset older brother who doesn’t get it).
In Corinthians we hear that God has reconciled us to Godself and given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are called to pull together the disparate factions of humankind, indeed, of all creation.
Consider Vincent and Louise – and Jesus. Weren’t they unusual in that they valued and hobnobbed with sinners and poor and important and everyday people? Didn’t their very lives preach that every person is a miracle of God? May our lives do the same.
Good and gracious God,
we celebrate our connectedness with one another
and our need of each other.
We enjoy a caring universe, come from your hand,
and we rejoice that you call us to build up that caring.
May all whose lives we touch find in us a welcoming spirit.
In our presence may they feel at home and worthwhile.
We ask through your Son and in the power of your Spirit.
Try this today
Listen to God in the voices you rarely hear. Spend a gathering in the company of those you don’t know well. Visit with that family who sits in the next pew. Share faith stories with a non-Christian family. Learn from someone of a different socio-economic or ethnic background. See the world through the eyes of someone who is other-abled or of a different culture. Learn about the issues involved in immigration.
Back in the 11th century, St. Bernard had charge of many monasteries. He traveled from one house to the other to encourage the monks to live holy lives. He said to them: “If you do not have a problem monk among you, you must go immediately to the nearest monastery and import one!”
We are not whole without all of us.
There is much food for thought for us to ponder in today’s first reading. God reveals himself to Moses in the burning bush, which Moses was curious to explore. How different salvation history might have been had Moses not given in to his curiosity! Moses responds with “Here I am.” Are we as readily available to God’s invitations to us? Then, God instructs Moses to remove his shoes for he is standing on holy ground. We can see in this encounter how God and Moses are entering into an ever deepening relationship, culminating in God’s revelation to Moses that he is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” Moses hides his face in awe and fear. God now has Moses’ attention and wants to entrust a mission to him, that of leading his chosen people out of the slavery of Egypt into the promised land of Canaan. Despite his initial reluctance and resistance, Moses accepts his mission and God promises to be with him. Like Moses, do we sometimes hesitate in responding to God’s calls to us? When have we experienced God’s presence with us, even in difficult situations?
In today’s Gospel Jesus clarifies that suffering and death are not related to individual sinfulness but are part of the human condition. Nevertheless, he is telling us that as the end of life can come unexpectedly, there is an urgent need to repent, that is, to change our way of life, our mindset, or perspective.
Prayer: Spend some time today praying with this picture of Moses painted by Seger Koder.
Try These This Week: Here are some Lenten practices to consider during the coming week.
Su Be conscious of how you are a blessing from the Father to everyone you meet today.
M Try to identify a rough edge in your life; put it under God’s loving gaze to enable healing.
T Today reflect on your relationships and how you are being called to conversion in your life.
W Be calm and quiet for a time, just trying to experience Christ.
Th Offer a prayer of acceptance for something you can’t change right now.
F What do you worry about most? Make an act of trust in God.
Sa Determine if you are limiting anyone and give her/him the freedom to be what she/he ought and not what you want.
Prepared for LCUSA by Sr. Elyse Staab
The readings for the second Sunday of Lent are rich in meaning. The Church presents to us the transfigured Christ who is our Model and Inspiration, the One whom we must imitate if we are to be true followers of Christ. In the first reading Abram’s faith is praised because he believed God’s promise that he would have descendants even though his wife Sarah was barren. Abram believed nothing was impossible to God. In the letter of Paul to the Philippians, Paul admits he is far from perfect but he continues to follow the path of Jesus in fidelity, step by step. Finally, in the Gospel of Luke we catch a glimpse of the future glory of Christ in his risen humanity. Jesus understood the human weakness of the three disciples present with him. Realizing that his followers would struggle in the near future to the tragedy of his passion and crucifixion, He strengthens them with a glimpse of the future glory which will be theirs if they are faithful.
Ever present and loving God, you are with us in our Lenten journey. We want to be faithful, but so often our busy schedules get in the way of our efforts to follow the path you provide for us, the path that will lead us to a deeper relationship with you. Help us to understand that it is one step at a time; sometimes two steps back and one step forward, but help us to also understand that it is the faithful effort to make these steps which is the important thing. Each Lent we are offered a time to deepen our relationship with you and to follow Your Son. Each Lent we struggle many times with the same obstacles, but what we fail to see is that you understand and you take us where we are. Help us to believe this and to appreciate how much you embrace us in your loving heart and that you appreciate our efforts. Keep anew in us the desire to keep on trying. Let us proclaim from the housetops: Lord, it is good for us to be here! You are Here with us on our Lenten journey! We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
TRY THIS TODAY
Find a few moments of quiet time and invite Vincent, Louise, and Elizabeth Ann to sit with you. Talk to them about the efforts they made to discover EACH DAY how much God loved them and how much God was present to them. Ask them to help you be more faithful to your Lenten journey and find God in the recesses of your own heart, your family and your ministry to those who are poor. Each of our Vincentian saints discovered God in these day to day realities of their lives and so can we. God is in OUR EVENTS, God is in our Lenten journey and in our desire to grow more deeply during this Lenten season! Ask yourself each day where God has been in the moments of your day THIS VERY DAY!
In Deuteronomy, there is a reminder from the Old Testament, where God has brought His Chosen people. “The Lord, God, brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders, and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.” And having set down the first fruits of these products of the soil before the Lord, you shall bow down in His Presence.
Psalm 91 gives us a universal prayer as we journey in Lent: “ Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble”.
The Second Reading of Romans centers us on the resources for Lent in the Word of God. What does Scripture say both, in your mouth and in your heart? For ,“if you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord’ you will be saved”. One must also believe with the heart.
Later, the reading from Romans remind us that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon Him. The inclusiveness of the call is for all.
The Gospel, according to Luke, reminds us of the encounter of Jesus with the devil as He goes to the desert to pray. The devil, knowing that Jesus is hungry from fasting, tempts Him by suggesting that He command this stone to turn to bread; the second temptation deals with power by showing Jesus kingdoms of the world, and having all the power and glory. The last temptation takes Jesus to Jerusalem to the parapet of the temple and the devil questions his Divinity by saying “if you are God, hurl yourself down, command the angels to guard and rescue you.” But Jesus answers, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test. With the devil trying every temptation, he departed from Jesus for a time.
O God, lead us this lent into the deserts
of our hearts.
Let these days be a time
of discernment and discovery,
of resolution and conversion
for each of us.
May your Words be our bread
during our wilderness journey;
may your light illuminate the treacherous
turns of the road we walk;
may your grace and wisdom minister
to us in our deserts of sadness and despair.
TRY THIS TODAY
Find a quiet space and reflect for a little while, on this time of Lent. During this season of Lent we are called to practice both FASTING and FEASTING in order to bring about true conversion of heart.
CHANGE OUR HEARTS, O GOD!
Prepared for the Ladies of Charity USA by Sr. Camille Cuadra, DC
The words of Joel capture the words and desire of the Lord, for us, in this season of Lent, when the Lord says: ‘Return to me with your whole heart!’ God is “rich in kindness”, “slow to anger” and “He will leave behind, a blessing.”
“Blow the trumpet in Zion; proclaim a fast! “Gather the people”; “notify the elders”; assemble the children.” “Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’ God heard the searching of their spirits for Him! “And the Lord took pity on His people!”
In 2 Corinthians, St. Paul reminds us that we are ‘ambassadors for God’. He reminds us that working together in community, there is an appeal not to receive the grace of God in vain. Lent is ‘the acceptable time for behold now is the day of salvation.
The Gospel of Matthew shares the words of Jesus with advice as to the “How of Lent.” Jesus doesn’t want us “shouting from the rooftops”that we are going into Lent, for then, we receive our reward of approval from others. Rather, go into your inner room, close the door, and pray to God. God will see you pray in secret, will see your efforts “not to be gloomy” and to ‘wash your face, and , in the inner prayer of your heart, “God will repay you.”
“Contemplative prayer is awakening and attentiveness. It is stepping back from our preoccupations and distractions and allowing God to transform our awareness, our hearts and our lives. It is making space to be with God in stillness and solitude. It is not withdrawing from the world to go into the desert or monastery to find undisturbed serenity and peace. It is allowing the Spirit to cultivate an inner stillness of heart that persists even in the busyness and challenges of our lives, and that allows us to face those challenges with focus and passion that comes from living with attentiveness to God.”
-Juliet Benner (2011) Contemplative Vision. p. 28
TRY THIS TODAY:
In our busy lives, as Ladies of Charity, let us choose for Lent, 2013, to have some ‘Tea time’ in prayer with the Lord. By sitting in a favorite chair or lighting a candle, let us for ten minutes, find stillness of heart and be attentive to the message in prayer God may give me for today.