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Archive for the ‘reflections’ Category

“A working man was strongly drawn toward a beautiful vase that he saw in the town market. He bought the vase and brought it home. The vase was so beautiful that it made his living room look drab, dull and indeed, plain ugly. So he got bright paints, and transformed the whole room. He got colorful curtains to match the paint, a brightly patterned carpet, and he even stripped down and varnished the furniture. Because of the beauty of the vase, the whole room was totally transformed.”

Each of us is like the drab room…longing for transformation! Each of us can also be like the vase…so beautiful in God’s grace that we help the transform the world! On this feast of Pentecost, we are invited to let God’s light (the fire of his love) and the wind of the Spirit (his breath of new life) so transform us that we will make a difference in our world this week. What can I do this week…to be an agent of transformation for others? Can I give a little time to a lonely neighbor?  Can I spend a little more time in prayer for those in need? Can I give of myself in kindness and tolerance and patience to those who cross my path at work, in the neighborhood, in my family? This is what Pentecost transformation is all about…living what I believe as a follower of Jesus, giving the Holy Spirit room to act through me, being open to the will of the Father! May the rooms of our heart be transformed this week as we welcome in a new way the beauty of God’s gift of the Spirit!

– Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Yellow rose in garden of Notre Dame CenterHappy Mother’s Day to all of our moms, grandmothers, mothers-to-be, and all those women who treat everyone they meet with motherly love and compassion!

I encourage all of us on this special day to take a few minutes away from the normal hustle and bustle of life to thank in word or thought our moms and/or women who have been like moms to us, living and deceased, for all that has been possible in our lives because of them. How much laughter has been shared? How many tears wiped away? How many school projects cheered on? How often did mom “save the day” when all looked dark and grim? How much time did mom give me, time that could have been spent in so many other ways?  In his book, The Little Prince, Saint Exupery writes: “It’s the time you’ve wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important.” In one way or another, our moms gave us time, love, and nurturing, treating us as beautiful roses in their personal gardens. This is important to remember and celebrate. And if our moms are already resting in eternity, their rest is probably filled with the work of taking care of us!

Even if we do not have a close relationship with our biological moms, Jesus gave us His from the cross:  “Behold your Mother.” This is perhaps one of the greatest signs of God’s love for us!  Let us ask Mary, our Mother, to guide and protect all mothers on the continuing journey!

– Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Author Robert Fulgum’s book All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten perhaps touches one of the deepest parts of our being…the part that wants, that yearns to be a child again. One of the gifts of being child-like is the ability to be creative in an uninhibited way…without concern for what others may think. This freedom might allow me to dance on a patch of grass, to sing a song of my youth out loud, to daydream in the middle of a busy day, to take the time to really smell the roses. God wants this freedom for us; God calls us to use the senses he gives us to enjoy his world, his creation, his many gifts to us! Martha Graham writes:

“There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action. And because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not our business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions.  It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open….”

For us, as followers of Jesus, in this time and in this place, the CHANNEL we want to keep open is the channel of God’s loving grace. With God all things are possible; with God we can be our best selves and be instruments of his love and peace to others. Our lives are richer when we “translate” our dreams into action. We might say, “I should pray more”—so do it! We might say, “I could do X or Y to help someone”—so do it. We might even say, “I need a bit of time to just BE”—so do it! The foundress of my community, the Sisters of Notre Dame, had as her motto in life Do the Next Thing! What is God asking me to DO next? How can I show that I have child-like trust in the God who calls me? How can I make the dreams of my heart a reality?

– Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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The other morning as I washed breakfast dishes, one of my community members, Cecilia sat at the table reading the newspaper. Suddenly I heard her ask, “Will there be anyone left to love?” I was surprised by her question, wondering what had prompted it. She explained she had just read an article in the newspaper entitled, “Anti-Semitism on rise in Europe, survey finds.” Just a few days before a gunman murdered a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in France. With all the violence that plagues our world it seems as though we are narrowing our possibilities for loving.

As disciples of Jesus this should concern us. After all, on the night before he died, Jesus removed his outer garment and washed the feet of his disciples, even those of the one about to betray him. When he sat down, he began his last discourse.  He talked about returning to the Father but promised not to leave us orphans. And then he said it, as plain as could be, “This is my commandment: that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15:12). If this seems too hard, then God’s grace is there for the asking because on that night Jesus also said, “Anything you ask in my name I will do.” (Jn. 14:14) But, if we hesitate to ask for that grace, then we have to wonder, “Do we really want to love that much?” If we are overwhelmed by the thought of loving, we can start with small steps. As we enter into the sacred Triduum, let us shed thoughts that exclude: judgments, biases, resentments, vengeance and hatred; one by one, so there is more room in our hearts for loving.

– Sr. Kathleen Hine, SND Chardon

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Today’s first reading from Exodus spells out the commandments that serve as the foundation of the Old Testament covenant between God and his people. God clearly delineates His expectations and what is needed for Israel to remain faithful. These commandments are not the punishing restrictions of One who inflicts His will on others, but rather the guidelines of a loving parent who knows His children well. In His jealous love, God passionately desires to be in relationship with us, His children. He knows the tendencies that draw us away from Him, and He longs to bring us into right relationship with Him and with one another – a relationship that is truly healthy and holy.

The righteous anger of Jesus in the Gospel stems from seeing those who would thwart this holy and healthy relationship with the Father. Rather than the helpful guidelines of the commandments, the rules, restrictions and idolatrous practices imposed by some hinder people from seeing the loving God who so desperately desires to be close to His people. He knows human nature well and He continues to draw us back to His loving heart.

It is the law of Jesus’ love that will truly free us to enter into a loving relationship with our God. In the words of the Psalmist, “God’s laws, God’s words are more precious than gold, than a heap of purest gold” (Ps. 19:11)

Sister Marilyn Marie Ellerbrock, SND (Toledo)

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For many of us in California, the image of the desert has multiple meanings and sometimes contradictions. The desert is quiet. The desert is stark. The desert is hot.

But the desert is also filled with sounds of nature, dotted with the smallest of flowers, and can be very cold. For me, the desert is a place of discovery. It is a sacred space where emptiness is really fullness. Perhaps it was such for Jesus.

In entering the desert, Jesus opened himself to whatever the desert had to offer…even the temptations. Jesus faced his humanity there…in a place devoid of human companionship, comfort, security. In doing so, Jesus teaches us an important lesson about the desert of Lent. We are called to face ourselves in the emptiness. We are called to be in covenant with the God who loves us unconditionally. Who is God for me? What are the terms of the covenant I have with my God?  Do I find myself honest enough to admit my weaknesses and frailties?  Do I find myself courageous enough to fight my personal temptations, whatever they might be?  Do I recognize God’s hand in my daily life? What more do I need to do this Lent to be able to affirm with the psalmist, “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.”

Jesus tells us that “this is the time of fulfillment.” In our desert experience of Lent, may we find the richness of God’s goodness, celebrating what God has given us and repenting for where we have failed to acknowledge God’s action in our lives. Let us enter the desert of Lent courageously, prayerfully, confidently, knowing that this is a sacred time, a time of grace.

Sister Marie Paul Grech, SND

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Written by Sr. Kathleen Burns

Thorns and Snail on a rose bush

How do you share your thorns, your suffering with Jesus ?

Once during Lent, I was reflecting with a group in a parish on the passion of Jesus. A woman came up to me and asked me why she had not been healed if in the scriptures it says that if you have faith you will be healed. She had been to many healing Masses and still she did not experience healing. I had a little conversation with her and then I asked her, “Whom are you following, those who were healed by Jesus, or Jesus who embraced suffering for the salvation of others?”

This is pivotal for us Christians. Unlike our popular culture, we believe that suffering has value. There is no sin, no darkness, no crime, no tragedy that cannot be turned to good, that cannot be redemptive. And our proof of this is in the crucifixion itself. Jesus’ death and resurrection changes everything. By uniting our own sufferings to the cross of Christ, we have the tremendous power and privilege to participate in the transformation of the world.

Holy Week is not merely a time to sit back and admire Jesus or to feel sorry for him as he suffers. It is a time to gather our own sufferings, our own weaknesses, our darkness, our struggles, the things we just don’t understand or cannot accept and bring them to the Cross. This is the transformative power of the Paschal Mystery. We may not understand why we suffer, we may not receive any clarifying insight, but in our embracing our crosses, placing them in His open side, we participate in His redemption of the world. Only in heaven will we see the fruit of our offering in the lives of people we have never met.

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Written by Sr. Lisa Megaffin, SND

Inspired by John 11:1-45

Yellow rose in garden of Notre Dame Center

Where are the roses of friendship in your life? How do they bring you closer to God?

The story of Lazarus and the words “Jesus wept” reveal God’s invitation to intimate friendship.

In John 15, Jesus indicates “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you.”  This divine revelation includes familiarity, care, forgiveness, hope, delight and joy—all that describes authentic friendship. Through no effort on their part, the disciples experienced Jesus’ friendship and unconditional love. In turn, they must share this love.

Jesus’ tears cannot be exclusively associated with his grief over the death of Lazarus; they reveal his affection for every human person. Jesus weeps in his frustration that his offers of spiritual intimacy, unconditional love and friendship will be misunderstood and rejected.

Our resurrection is an ongoing spiritual event as we are inspired to abandon sin and to accept God’s friendship. God’s invitation to intimacy comes in many ways, including Scripture, the Sacraments and, I like to believe, the “sacramental of friendship.” As all-embracing as our relationships can be, each friendship reveals the very heart of God and helps to make the resurrection a real-life experience.

In God’s providence, this reading of the raising of Lazarus coincides with the end of my own treatments for cancer. Since last July, I have journeyed through diagnosis, chemotherapy, surgery and radiation. I will always be humbled and grateful for the graces of the “sacramental of friendship” from relatives, Sisters and Associates of Notre Dame, colleagues, medical care-givers, and friends. The Sisters of Notre Dame believe that “where one of us is, all of us are.” The spiritual reservoir of community and friendship has been a source of great strength for me in moments of anxiety and physical weakness. Words are inadequate to thank all who have journeyed with me; I ask God to give you special graces as my gratitude.

“If you believe, you will see the glory of God…” May the glory of God, as seen in the raising of Lazarus and in the graces of divine and human friendship, strengthen our confidence in His provident care.

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Written by Sr. Antoinette Marie Moon, SND

Blossoms at Notre Dame Center

Blossoms, shadows, and blue skies... How does Christ help you overcome your blindness?

Inspired by John 9:1-41

Amid the crowds celebrates the Feast of Tabernacles a blind man sits in his usual corner of the marketplace his arm outstretched and his ears, hoping for the sound of pity, the clink of coins in his beggar’s bowl. He accepts his fate—born blind, he knows nothing different; he doesn’t even cry out but simply waits for the beggar’s pittance.

He senses a shadow invading his corner. The noisy crowd is oddly silent. The blind man hears someone spit on the ground and he recoils against the wall. A rough hand touches his face and smears mud on his closed eyes. Then he hears the gentle command:  “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam!”  The blind man drops his beggar’s bowl and allows himself to be led to the waters of the pool. He washes his face and opens his eyes.
Light pierces his blindness and he sees. Light pierces his spirit and the darkness, gloom and despair are shattered. He is filled with the LIGHT of day. And, as if one miracle isn’t enough, the one who lived in darkness is reborn into the LIGHT of God.

The sighted-man tells and retells the story of his gift of unasked for sight — his miracle. He speaks to those whose hearts are open to believe. He defends himself before those who desire only to remain in darkness of disbelief.

Once we see in the light of Christ, we can open our eyes and heart to God.  During this week may I prayerfully consider a time when my eyes were opened to see differently?  Where do I see the God’s light in the world today?

”To those who believe no explanation is necessary,
to those who refuse to believe no explanation suffices.”
Song of Bernadette by Franz Werfel

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Written by Sr. Louise Marie Hlavac, SND

Tulip in the garden of the Sisters of Notre Dame

Can you look past your own tears and imperfections to soak up the Living Water?

Inspired by John 4:4-42

The woman was a Samaritan – who would associate with her? Prejudice runs deep. Can she get past it?
Whom do I not want to associate with? Can I get past it?

Jesus was tired and thirsty. He experienced our humanity.“Give me a drink” seems so normal a request, yet it would render Jesus “unclean.”
How many times do I seek what I know is wrong because of my physical wants? How do I open myself to experience Jesus on a deeper level?

“Go and get your husband.” Jesus invites her to be honest. yet she is unable. Hence he reveals her truth, which opens her eyes to who he really might be.
I am so afraid to let others know who I really am, because of embarrassment, fear of rejection or shame. Jesus sees my heart, the “real” me and loves me because of that.

“Living water” seems to be a total impossibility yet that is when God makes his presence known.
How many times in my life God has revealed himself in unexplainable ways?

She desires this “living water” so that she won’t have to go to the well – a chore burdened with humiliation.
Sometimes I worry what others will think of me instead of operating from my heart. Who do I judge without looking at their heart?

She asks the deeper question. “Could you be the Messiah?”
Will I allow Jesus to share deeply in my life instead of adhering to the superficial culture that I live in?

The nameless woman sets off to proclaim whom she has encountered. Others are curious. Her witness drives them to investigate and come to experience and believe in Jesus from their own encounter.
How do I proclaim the love of Jesus? How do I invite others to encounter Christ?

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