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Reflection for the Fourth Week of Lent

Reflection for the Fourth Week of Lent

from the Catholic Health Association of America

“I will get up and go to my Father and shall say to him:
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.”
Luke 15:8

When asked, Mark Twain named Jesus Christ as the greatest storyteller of all time, and when pressed, Twain suggested that the Prodigal Son was his best work. The story is full of the elements of good fiction: family drama, bad decisions, suspense, reconciliation and ultimately, a happy ending. As in any good story, we can relate to each character and find bits of ourselves mirrored in them.

More often than we want to admit we have been the prodigal younger son. We’ve been wasteful and reckless with material goods – we spend too much and recycle too little. While money and possessions are one thing, the ways in which we are wasteful and reckless with the affections of others are more serious. Things can be replaced, but heartache and pain are not so easily overcome and must be honestly dealt with.

Lent is a time for each of us to consider what relationships we take for granted, assuming that they will remain, and also, the hurts we have inflicted on others that require forgiveness.

Just as often as we’ve been the younger brother, we have been the self-righteous older one. We’ve been diligent, sure to do what has been asked. We’ve been faithful to the letter of the law, even if we resented it. We’ve lined up our virtues and accolades and have taken credit for our own successes and salvation. We’ve judged others by our rules and values. We’ve resented second chances and mercy given to others, particularly when we aren’t able to give the same to ourselves.

Lent asks us to shed our close-mindedness as well as the structures of virtue that keep us from loving others and seeing them as children of God and true brothers and sisters.

Many believe, Pope Francis among them, that this story should be called the Parable of the Merciful Father. For it is the mercy of the father that provides all the plot twists, reconciliation and driving action of the story. He runs out to each of his children and is, in turn, consoling and welcoming and affirming and reassuring. The father meets their needs as a loving parent and forms the family around mercy and forgiveness. In our best moments, we emulate the love and mercy of the Father by seeing others beyond their failings or accomplishments.

Lent is long for a reason. The six weeks of Lent give us a sustained amount of time to consider our relationships with God and others.
How are you the elder son, fixated on accomplishments and justice?
How are you the younger son, squandering both material goods and the affections of others?
How are you the merciful father?

Copyright 2019 Catholic Health Association of the United States.

Reflection for the Third Week of Lent

Reflection for the Third Week of Lent

from the Catholic Health Association of America

“Repent, says the Lord; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Matthew 4:7

On a cold morning in November, Leigh Ann Tuohy and her husband, Sean, were driving when they spotted a young man walking alone along the side of the road in only shorts and a cotton T-shirt. As they drove past, Leigh Ann said two words to Sean that would change their lives forever. She told him to “turn around,” and he did. The two invited the young man into their warm vehicle and eventually their home and family. The young man was Michael Oher, who with the love and support of the Tuohy family, went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick and Superbowl champion with the Baltimore Ravens.

Turn around …
two simple words that changed the course of several lives in one moment.
Turn around …
two simple words that call us to retrace our steps and see what we may not have seen before.
Turn around …
a call to change and conversion.

Lent’s call to repentance is a call to turn around. When we repent, much like running into our home for forgotten keys or turning around on the interstate due to mixed up directions, we seek something we’ve forgotten and reorient ourselves to get back on track.

The Greek work for repent is “metanoia.” It means “to think differently after,” and indicates a change of mind, heart or consciousness. Repentance requires the willingness and humility to recognize we have lost our way and to change. All of us have something for which we need to repent: a person we have wronged, a good we have neglected to do, a cruel or unkind word we have spoken. We have been less than lovely, less than faithful and less than gracious from time to time with others and with ourselves. And the call gently comes into the muddled space of discord, with a voice that tells us to simply turn around.

Step back into your colleagues’ office and clear up a misunderstanding. Sign up to volunteer. Recommit to your practice of prayer and meditation. Prioritize date night with your partner, family time with your children, weekly calls or visits to your aging parents. Set down old ways of being and doing that aren’t serving you, and simply turn around. Follow more faithfully the path of goodness and love, service and truth. Listen to the still, small voice in your heart and simply, without shame, turn around.
There is a promise in God’s call to conversion. Repent; turn around! For the reign of God is at hand. The reign of God is a time of fulfillment and flourishing, when there is no distinction between heaven and earth. Jesus promised us it is closer than we think; indeed, it is just around the corner. Our repentance and reconnection to God and others brings it about. For as theologian Walter Rauschenbusch reminds us, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of getting individuals into heaven, but of transforming the life on earth into the harmony of heaven.”

What needs to be turned around in your life? What do you need to seek again?

Copyright Catholic Health Association of the United States.

Reflection for the Second Week of Lent

Reflection for the Second Week of Lent

from the Catholic Health Association of America

“From the shining cloud the Father’s voice is heard: This is my beloved Son, hear him.”
Matthew 17:5

How many times have we, upon witnessing a colleague’s or friend’s response to a situation, thought quietly to ourselves of the myriad ways we would have responded differently, or played out what we would do in his or her place?

The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is so remarkable. It invites us to consider what we would do if we were Peter, James and John. Pulled away from the crowd to pray with Jesus on their mountaintop, when suddenly he appears clothed in “dazzling white,” conversing with Moses and the prophet Elijah, what would you do? Then, when a shadow is cast, and a cloud envelopes them and the voice of God calls Jesus beloved and commands that they listen to Jesus, in their place, what would you do?

Perhaps we would have departed immediately to spread the Good News. Or like the disciples, would we fall silent, be afraid and not tell anyone what we had seen? It is tempting to believe that we would have responded differently. However, like them, we, too, might have needed some time to consider what we had been told. While we don’t often find ourselves enveloped in a cloud, hearing the direct words of God, God does continue to speak, telling us to listen to Jesus.

Our interactions with friends, family, colleagues and the natural world are all offering us glimpses of God’s grace. Indeed, any of these can be experiences of God communicating with us. Are we using that grace, that communication of God, to discern how God’s life might be known through us? Are we making ourselves vulnerable, stepping out of our comfort zones and into the light? Or is it safer, easier to close ourselves off and remain in the silence of darkness? We know that the disciples do eventually come down from the mountain. And so we should ask how, in our own lives, have we been called down from the mountain to serve as conduits of God’s grace.

More specifically, in our health care setting, are there ways in which we might better accompany patients as they, too, seek to step out of the darkness into the light? We know that our ministry is about caring for the whole person, if we aren’t careful, however, patients can seem instead, like mere groupings of symptoms to be treated. Do patients seeking help feel as though they can bring their whole selves to the care process? Or are there facets of themselves that remain hidden? Do we make assumptions about individuals seeking care based on how they look or sound, or based solely on the symptoms they present?
The Lenten season calls us to share our vulnerability and darkness with one another such that we all might step out of our comfort zones and into the light. Whether we need time to consider or are ready to respond, whether we are seeking care or offering it, the voice of God calls each of us to bear witness to the beloved Son and to hear him.

How is God speaking to you in your daily life?

Copyright 2019 Catholic Health Association of the United States.

Reflection for the First Week of Lent

Reflection for the First Week of Lent

from the Catholic Health Association of America

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4

On a hillside by the Sea of Galilee, Jesus taught his disciples the only prayer he would teach. It is deceptively simple and familiar enough that most Christians may not even notice the words as they rattle them off. The last line asks that God keep us from temptation and deliver us from evil.

Temptation is a human experience, in and of itself, not inherently problematic. Scripture makes a deliberate point to let us know that Jesus himself was tempted. As he prepared for his ministry in prayer and fasting alone in the desert, Satan set before Jesus the same things that may tempt us: power, glory and the illusion of control. Jesus rebukes him each time, quoting Scripture and affirming over and again the power and glory of God.

We are not often tempted to turn stones into bread or command angels, our temptations are more subtle. In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is writing to his nephew, a junior tempter named Wormwood. Screwtape steers his protégé away from more flamboyant temptations. He writes, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape.” 

Our greatest temptations and most dangerous temptations are not spectacularly sinful, they are cumulatively destructive. Little by little we buy into the belief that by doing, buying or achieving we can add to our own value, dignity and worth. Little by little we convince ourselves that some small thing isn’t that big of a deal.

So we listen to or share what we overheard about someone. We groom and fret and fuss about how our external appears without paying attention to the health of our minds, hearts and spirits. We treat ourselves with extra food and goods without considering those who don’t have the essentials. We focus on what the world has to say about us, forgetting that God has already called us good and beloved. And so it goes, the small cracks become chasms that in time become false separations from others and the love of God.

Lent invites us again to recall that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God in whose words and love we find our truest life.
What daily temptation is the most challenging for you?

Copyright 2019 Catholic Health Association of the United States.

Reflection for Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday Reflection from the Catholic Health Association of America

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your heart.
Psalm 95:8

In the days before refrigerators were common, many people used icehouses to keep their food cold. Essentially walk-in coolers, icehouses had thick walls, no windows and tightly-fitted doors. Ice was cut from frozen streams and lakes in the winter and brought into the icehouses, where large blocks were covered in sawdust to be used in the summer months.

A story is told of a man who lost a valuable watch while working in an icehouse. Though he and his companions searched thoroughly through the sawdust, the watch wasn’t found. The man’s daughter heard about the lost watch and knowing how much it meant to her father, she snuck into the icehouse. A while later she emerged, watch in hand, and returned it to her astonished father who asked how she managed to find it.
“I closed the door,” she replied, “lay down in the sawdust and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.”

Ash Wednesday begins the Christian celebration of Lent. Forty days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to prepare believers for the celebration of Easter. A part of Lent is the call to quiet and reflection. A call to still ourselves and consider our faith lives. We cease searching and striving for the external markers of success and fulfillment and settle in to listen to what the still, small voice of God is saying in our lives and in our hearts.
It’s an opportunity to ask ourselves: Am I able to hear the voice of God?

Our lives are filled with noise. From our televisions and computers, tablets, phones and radios, even some gas pumps feature built-in speakers and screens for advertisement. And it’s not just media. Our lives are packed to the brim with things that require attention. In our facilities, monitors are always flashing, often beeping. Residents call out for assistance or need comfort. Calls have to be made. Emails must be answered. Dashboards need attention. Codes, sirens and call lights all require immediate action. While our faith affirms that God is in all of these things, still, Lent calls us away.

Lent calls us to our inner room. To an extra moment of quiet in the car or our office. To linger in the chapel. To wander in the woods. To soften our hearts and listen for the voice of God. The still, small voice that whispers and waits inside of us. Calling us to return. Calling us to faithfulness. Calling us to begin our Lenten journey back home to the God who loves us.

How can you make space in your days this Lent to hear the still, small voice of God in your heart?

Like the watch in the icehouse, what treasure are you seeking on your Lenten journey?

Copyright 2019 Catholic Health Association of the United States.

Sisters Documentary

Sisters is a one-hour documentary film by Robert Gardner that takes us into the lives of five American Catholic Sisters.

It is a film about faith and hope, love and death, seen through the eyes of five women who have committed their lives to the service of others in the deepest way. Without narration, their stories are told in the honest words and actions of the women themselves.

The video is available to view online. To watch click HERE.

To purchase a DVD for group screenings contact Char Gardner at: char@gardnerfilms.com

Sisters march for racial equality

This last week in St. Louis, Missouri, Sr. Suzanne Stahl and Sr. Elaine Lange marched with fellow members of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in support of racial equality.

For more information on the Leadership Conference of Women Religious visit lcwr.org.

Sisters’ Jubilee

On July 1, 2018 Sister Marlyss Dionne and Sister Therese Celine Craven celebrated their 65th Jubilee.  A festive Mass, planned by Sister Marlyss and Sister Therese Celine, was held in the Maryvale Chapel with their Religious Community.  

In attendance was our Superior General, Sister Jacqueline Josse (pictured), and Sister Mary Jo Guivarch from France.  

After Mass, the celebration continued with a delicious brunch and a sharing of memories by their Sisters in religion.  Many cards, gifts, and good wishes were given to the celebrating Jubilarians.