Ash Wednesday
S. Marcella Nachreiner

There are moments in our lives when our personal world is filled with darkness.

Tragedy, loss, bereavement, rejection and failure are all common experiences. There is no living human being who holds the power to avoid being touched by pain. There is no defense strong enough to make us invulnerable to the unpredictability of life’s challenges.

At times it is easy to believe that we have entered into an age of darkness and hopelessness. We are appalled by humanity’s capacity for violence and exploitation. We despair over the inevitable destruction of our planet and we become distressed by this age of endless conflict and destruction, greed and hypocrisy.

The insecurity born of these feelings can lead us to anger, blame and hostility. In times of such darkness we long for an ideal future to protect us from pain and conflict. It is hard to accept that there is no cure for living.

There is a knack to learning how to live with life’s challenges and hardships, to discover light amid darkness and to heal ourselves and the world around us. One of the first steps we must take is not to turn away from, not to shun the challenges in our lives, but to turn toward them. In turning, we cast away our fears, despair and self-doubt. It is in our greatest difficulties that we find what is everlasting light in the world.

As we enter into this season of “Lent,” let us remember that Jesus constantly met the hypocrisy of his day and turned toward his adversaries with openheartedness and compassion. He died on the cross to “cross out” all suffering. He tasted bitterness. He descended to its very roots to overcome it. Hanging on the cross, Jesus pleads with us “see me, feel for me, feel my pain. I am here because I saw your pain, and had it crucified with me.”

Jesus’ victory over the darkness of this world is our hope. He is the rising sun from heaven. We are his followers, and so must be bearers of light, bringing hope and joy to those who have forgotten the sun.

Our Vision Transfigured
S. Roberta Smith

“Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Matt.17:1)

And so begins the Gospel reading for the second Sunday in Lent. Lent is a season of grace and a renewed opportunity to see life through a more precise lens, the lens of light. If you ever had cataract surgery, you know what I’m talking about… after surgery, objects, faces and scenery have a much sharper focus and colors are more vibrant. God’s grace is like cataract surgery! What once was blurry and a tad gray, gives way to new vision. Our vision is transfigured and we in turn, are much more alive to the light of life surrounding us.

Many years ago, I was working in a New York City parish where I was invited to bring Communion to an elderly, bedridden woman. She was a retired teacher and still lived in her own Westside apartment not far from the parish church. I was told she was very deaf so I was prepared for limited conversation with her. What I wasn’t prepared for was her response to receiving the host, the body of Christ — her face was illuminated with a light that was truly holy! She radiated peace, deep joy and expansive happiness. To this very day, I have never forgotten this great grace that I witnessed in Molly’s apartment. Truly, “her face shone like the sun’!

So, let this Lent be different for you. Let this holy season of graces help you to recognize the many points of light in your life and fill you with joy and recognition that God is present and surrounding us in the light of love. May we radiate God’s light to others by our prayer, actions and sacrifices. We need to rely on the power of God within us.

Do we want to “Look for the Light this Lent”? Then let’s check out the suggestions of Pope Francis regarding fasting:

Fast from hurting words and say kind words

Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude

Fast from anger and be filled with patience

Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope

Fast from worries and trust God

Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity

Fast from pressures and be prayerful

Fast from bitterness and fill your heart with joy

Fast from selfishness and be compassionate to others

Fast from grudges and be reconciled

Fast from words and be silent so you can listen.

Matthew 20:17-23 “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

By Sister Marianne Ferguson

We all know people who have done outstanding service to others through institutions and personal efforts. However the aging process for many of us has curtailed some corporal activities. Nevertheless our Creator, whose Spirit runs through all His creatures, has endowed us with his own creative giftedness to find alternative ways to serve others.

Our desire has not declined, but our creative abilities to follow the example of Jesus are challenged. We were all impressed with the recent movie, “It’s a Wonderful Day” with the listening ability of Mr. Rodgers who often did not have to leave his movie set to be effective.  Our opportunities to serve may become more subtle, but likewise in the Spirit of the One Who came to serve, we may find opportunities to increase our awareness of the inconspicuous needs of others. We can see the person struggling with the doors, but what about the person struggling to remember a word or a name? Perhaps while watching the selfless efforts of others, we might recognize the opportunity to commend and encourage worthy actions.

Perhaps our greatest challenge in trying to emulate the actions of Jesus, is to recognize the inconsistencies our motives. We might ask the Spirit to help us discern the real motives behind our good deeds, but at the same time appreciate the joy that accompanies the good deeds performed for the love of God and neighbor.

“Let There Be Light.”
By Sister Barbara Jean Wajda

Did you ever wonder what was in God’s mind when this word became reality? To the Creator, the past, present and future were THE NOW. What was the darkness that this light was dispelling? Was it the darkness that we associate with eyesight? Or persecution? Or suffering? Or abandonment? …or all of these? Certainly, those exiled to Kalaupapa as victims of Hansen’s Disease entered a darker phase of their lives as they were forcibly separated from family and friends, cast ashore in this desolate place to die. Today, first responders experience the darkness brought on by smoke, tear gas or chaos. And what about the darkness of those who are slaves of their own addiction, or depression or fears—imagined or real?

Consider an unhatched chick breaking its way to the light, or a baby as it moves from darkness into light as it is born, or a seedling that pushes through the earth toward the light. Nature attests to life in many forms struggling out of the darkness and pushing toward the light. As humans graced with the saving mercy of Christ’s resurrection, we are not only drawn away from darkness into the light but share in the ability to enable others to move toward the light. The possibilities of beginning are infinite.

Connecting ourselves to the suffering Christ is our avenue to sharing in the light of the resurrection. Christ went beyond himself for the sake of others in his suffering. Even as we carry our own burdens, we can truly being attentive to others — we can give the gift of time to one who feels alone, to be there as another seeks to understand the unfolding pathway into the future. Here on Kalaupapa, I find accounts of children suffering the ravages of leprosy revealing that even little children can console their caregivers with their longing to be united with the Jesus they love.

During these days of Lent, we pray for the grace to recognize the Dayspring that shines in our darkness, the grace to be guided to that light which is Christ himself, and the grace to bring that light into the lives of those whose true longing is the light of resurrection.

“Be it done unto me…”
By Sister Mary McCafferey

On this beautiful feast of the Annunciation, what more inspiring words can be our reflection than “Be it done unto me according to THY WORD.” At the moment of Jesus’ conception, our Blessed Mother started the work of our redemption and became the universal and constant model for each one of us.

Being attentive to God’s plan for us in the NOW moment is what makes us holy, happy, productive, and successful, both here and in eternity. . . AND. . . doesn’t this realization come to us in startling ways at times? Let’s practice living in the now moment this Lent. Our loving God delights in us and loves us to death even when we’re peeling an orange or attending a boring meeting or giving our full attention to someone who is talking with us. Our Lady is our model. We don’t have to be praying before the Blessed Sacrament, delivering a spectacular discourse at work, or even advising someone who thinks we “walk on water.” Pure love shows itself in the tiny, mundane activities of a common ordinary day. Our Lady is our model.
Living in the present can be hard. Our Lady is our model.

I doubt that when she woke up that morning, Our Lady expected to be saluted by an angel, to be told she would be a mother without knowing a man, to be told she was chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah. I also doubt that any of us will be confronted with these manifestations of the Will of God for us. But we can make each moment holy, for ourselves and others, by doing our best in every little action of “our” day. Our Lady is our model.

Unexpected Dimensions Lead us to Prayer
by Sister Ellen McClure

Lent and the coming Holy Week have taken on new and unexpected dimensions this year as the shadow of coronavirus looms over the world. A call to intercessory prayer for those who are ill has filled my consciousness. It is a great honor to be an intercessor for the people of God in so many time zones and places. As I see the numbers of the ill and the dying in our own country, I ask again for God’s unlimited mercy.

Fasting has taken on a meaning that is much bigger than thinking of food. The fast from travel away from our home here at The Waters has been a call to a new form of obedience. Our selection of food is limited and servers deliver it to our doors. What is the Lord asking of me as I choose and eat what they offer? The challenge is doing these things with a smile or a warm ‘thank you’ to whoever brings me my boxed meal. A little laughter with another sister or another resident also helps raise spirits in our present situation. This is my Lent, here and now.

The 1918 Spanish flu is the standard for comparison with the coronavirus pandemic. My father played trombone in a band for group funerals held in the West Virginia University stadium at that time. I pray our current situation does not become that intense here.

I ask myself, “What does God ask of me in prayer?” Spiritual masters tell us that whatever the circumstance, the Lord is in the middle of it, as is His life-giving love and care. The Lord grants communion and his presence without the limits of time, space or human restriction. May we receive him and be transformed. God’s very own Self-Communication to us is what Karl Rahner calls Uncreated Grace. Our generous God is ready to lead us beyond the limits we feel.

So we have hope. We are led, hand in hand with the Lord, through this time of the pandemic. We pray that we may be light to those around us. We may not be able to congregate but we can radiate the fullness of God with whomever we encounter. May we drink deeply of the Water of Life so that its spring within us will sustain us and be a sign of God’s presence to those we meet.

We are living in a redemptive time. May we respond to it whole heartily as we follow our governors’ directions to stay home and to be alone. May the spirit of the desert fathers and mothers touch us as we wait for the new life of the Risen Lord. This time of trial, indeed, will pass. In the interim, may we be a sign of both hope and the springtime of Resurrection.

A Better Understanding of Easter
By Sister Barbara Jean Donovan

Today we begin the holiest week of the Church calendar. For many, the upheaval in our lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has changed our Easter season traditions — Stations of the Cross at church on Good Friday and attending Easter Sunday Mass in our spring finery. Closed church doors and social distancing may change how we worship but do not prevent us from worshipping. We can attend Stations of the Cross virtually and take part in liturgies that are live-streamed online.

The message of Holy Week is particularly relevant at this time. Christ shows us that we can come through dark times of suffering to the light of life and that in life, there is death and in death, there is life. Like Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, we need to put our faith in God that all will turn out right. The many who will be lost before this pandemic has run its course will live on in God’s loving embrace.

Rejoice, we say at Easter and rejoice we should. Holy Week and Easter show us that in the darkness of the cave there is light and that we are loved beyond our comprehension.

May God bless you during this holy season and keep you safe during this difficult time.

Sister Barbara Jean Donovan

To Find Light or Be Light
By Sister Patricia Burkard

For most of us, Lent is a time of penance and a personal reshaping of our lives for good. But this year our lives are being reshaped by the world-wide force known as the Coronavirus. Everyone is experiencing fallout from the pandemic which has decidedly impacted our daily schedules, our ability to move freely, and has required that we learn how to keep up relationships from at least six feet away.

Daily news reports can have a sinister, fearful, and terrifying effect on us, so much that sooner or later, we need to determine how much we will allow this topic to impact our psyches.

These world events moved me to “Find the light” in these moments of darkness. I reached back into my memory to a spectacular experience of light strong enough to overcome darkness. The experience took place years ago in the Colorado Rockies. The group I was with on a warm summer night ventured high up into the mountains. We were greeted by a gazillion stars overhead that literally enfolded us in God’s splendor and beauty that was beyond words. In that summer sky darkness was overtaken by millions of stars that seemed low enough for us to touch them. Today, when I am overshadowed by darkness and fear, I return to that experience of God’s radiant love and find strength for my days. I remind myself that God’s love is like the stars — I can’t always see it but I know it’s always there!

Perhaps you can recall a past time when you experienced light that was stronger than darkness, light that carried you through a difficult time. Try to remember where you were when you found the light, what it felt like , and how it lifted you up. Think about how it can do the same thing for you in this time. Once we “find light,” we can share it and “be light” for one another. Even a tiny spark of light in our souls can give another strength in theirs.

Being light is not always a direct encounter with a person. It can be a word, or a smile, or a card thoughtfully sent, or errands done for another or _______ or ________. You fill in the blanks! If we look hard enough each of us can “Find light” in our past experiences and “Be light” for others so that we might strengthen one other and live as children of light; for “light produces every kind of goodness.”(Ephesians 5:8-14)

In the end, the question “To Find Light” or “To be Light” may not require choosing one over the other. The answer lies in both – finding light for ourselves and being light for one another not only in times of a pandemic but also in everyday times.